Another Year…

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Another year has passed, and I am, once again, sitting here memorializing my mother. I’m going to try and do that each year, for as long as there is still some semblance of life left in me. One day my own children will be able to look back on what is written about their Grandmother, they will be able to see photos of her, and they will know. Maybe that’s what is most important, that they know, that her memory lives on through me.

I come from a very large family. On one side of my family, I’m one of the only girls. On each side of the family though, I’m like the female black sheep. I was looking at photos recently, from when I was a little girl, and my expressions and body language let me know that even then, I did not fit in with everyone else. Some people might say “That was your choice.”, but children KNOW exactly who loves them and who does not. I have always been highly intuitive. No one ever spoke baby talk to me. I was always spoken to like a little adult, from day one. There are photos of me looking at people oddly whenever they DID break out the “goobly goo” shit that was not used around me. There are photos of me where, when adults spoke in my presence, I was always listening. The other children were always playing and running around being kids, but not me, I was always paying attention to my surroundings and the people in it.

There’s a little bit of everything in my family. Doctors, therapists, lawyers, professional athletes, musicians, singers, politicians, photographers, jewelry designers, electricians, technological geniuses. And then there’s me. I’ve always been a highly creative individual. I started off as a gymnast, it was everything to me. My Mom encouraged this, as I jumped, leaped, tumbled, twisted, did back hand-springs, splits, and things that most normal people do not do from parallel or uneven bars. Somewhere in the middle of my journey, I became a writer.

My Mom turned my quiet, shy, introverted voice into a strong, “in your face”, confident human being, someone who was not afraid to speak up and speak out. She gave me rules, structure, and taught me boundaries that I use to this day. She always said I wrote with a supreme sense of fairness, but that I’d knock a person down with 50 words if I had to, or 100, however many it took. All of these things are still true.

She would always say “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Somewhere along the line, the pen became my sword. I became a living, breathing fencer of words. I don’t just write that way, I speak this way. Every once in a while I will look back on a letter I have written in a situation and I’m floored by my own way with words, or how I handled a particular situation in the moment. Occasionally I cringe at the words that come out of my mouth and how harsh they sound, and other times I know I am completely justified in my words, as well as my tone. Unfortunately, much like my mother, people often meet me and their perception is way off base. I’m not nice, sweet, passive, or gullible (my Mom was nice and sweet to a fault, but if you pushed her, she’d push back HARD.). I don’t play games and I don’t back down. I might take a step back so as not to end up in jail, but I have a supreme sense of right and wrong, and I will fight that to the death. That is exactly who she raised me to be.

In so many moments and situations, my mother would look at me in awe of how I handled myself, or she’d look at me with pride. I now see my brother look at me with similar awe in how I handle certain situations and people, and how I don’t back down or take no for an answer. I was born this way, it wasn’t something anyone taught me, but whenever I do it, whenever I am completely myself, I am reminded of who I am and how proud it always made her.

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These last six years have been torture without my mother. I still find myself thinking “I must tell her about this book…” or “I must tell her about this show.” and then I get emotional, because she’s not here. I made an immense deal during my move about the movers not breaking my Mom’s Tiffany lamp. I was obsessed with it. All of her other things I personally moved myself, lest I have anyone else to blame, but myself. A few months later, I bumped into it and banged it into a bookcase in my living room, leaving it partially damaged, but still in working order. I burst into tears, as if I’d just killed the woman. Not because it was a lamp, but because it was something that meant so much to her, and I’d ruined it. I was heartbroken. I later found out that since I’d saved all of the broken pieces, it can be repaired and I don’t need to agonize about it. One less thing to cry over. It still works just fine and even though I have yet to get it fixed, whenever it acts up, I know it’s my Mom looking out for me. Baby V has taken to watching it, so I know she can sense my Mom too, but that she doesn’t know who she is, so she becomes protective of me and gets angry at the lamp. It’s not easy explaining the spirit world to a kitten that doesn’t quite understand yet that I get a lot of visitors. I tend not to explain that to most people, or even say it, but it’s a huge part of who I am, so why pretend?

My Mom & I always had an agreement about “the other side” and getting messages to one another. I don’t think it took her three days after she passed away to let me know that she was ok. People can discredit that to their heart’s desire, but I know my mother and I know exactly what I experienced. I didn’t study what I studied for anyone to come along and say “I don’t believe in that.” That’s fine for you, don’t believe in it, but don’t try and take it away from those that know it exists, and know that it’s real. Because that is fucking rude and disrespectful. I wasn’t raised to be either, but was I encouraged to stand up for myself and speak up? Absolutely. Having a voice as a writer helped me overcome my shyness. I still have my quiet moments, but I am by no means shy.

Being a woman in this world can be incredibly empowering, and it can be an immense hindrance at times as well. The intense side of me is a fighter that can do anything, and the Fibromyalgia side says “I’m sick, I need help, I am staying in bed today.”

I’ve been sick for over two weeks from the stress of all that I am currently going through in my private life, and I can only say that I am truly grateful to the people that have kindly helped me through this disaster, and those that have listened to me bitch and moan. I’ve learned in the last month who is really with me and who can go screw themselves, and that extends to both WordPress and my daily life. Right now, I have a list and I’m checking it twice. If you’re not on the good side, I strongly suggest a trip to another planet where my reach simply isn’t that good. You might want to try one of the newer ones with the ridiculous names that are basically one alpha-numeric code away from being someone’s extremely bizarre password.

The song I posted today, The River, was read at my Mom’s funeral. It may not have been her philosophy for herself, but it was definitely a message for her children. It’s a reminder not to give up on yourself or your dreams, and not to let anything, not a single moment, fall by the wayside. I wish she had taken her own advice just this once.

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Six years ago, I lost my mother. She would have been 67 today, and it pains me that she is not here. Today is my mental health day to mourn her loss a bit, and take stock of where I am going and how I want to handle everything. I’m not having an easy time. I am slaying dragons and demons and sometimes I feel like my swords are dull, and I am too tired for this shit. But then I hear her voice in my head, and the blades are suddenly sharp again and the fierceness of my personality returns in full effect.

I’m my mother’s daughter. I’m going to LIVE. I don’t owe anyone anything, but I do owe it to myself to be the very best version of who I am supposed to be, who I am meant to be. My mother only ever wanted me to be myself, but she firmly believed that was a person who would succeed. On a day like today, I need to remind myself that the potential and possibility is there and always will be.

I love you Mom. Thank you, for everything.

“Seek the sweet surrender of simplicity. Listen to the sound of faith like a flute playing inside your chest. Go within. Serenity lives always within your reach.” -Ching Qu Lam

What Fibromyalgia Feels Like

What Fibromyalgia Feels Like

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http://www.fmnetnews.com/fibro-basics/symptoms

A lot of people are living with Fibromyalgia and are undiagnosed or not being treated for it. Men are much less apt to be diagnosed with it because it is considered a “woman’s illness”, but that’s total bullshit because I know more than 6 men that clearly have it.

I have never been formally treated for Fibromyalgia, and I’ve had it for more than 10 years. Initially all my doctors blew my symptoms off. They had an excuse for every single symptom I had, and chose to treat separate things. I’d be treated for the migraines, but not treated for everything else I was experiencing. At the start of it all, I had a crick in the left side of my neck for about 6-8 months that was so painful I wanted to die. An MRI showed an actual injury, I did not have a pinched nerve, so I was handed several different prescription pain medications and a prescription for muscle relaxers and informed that I would “have this for the rest of my life”. When Cymbalta was approved by the FDA and released in 2004, I demanded my doctor put me on it immediately. All of my local pharmacies didn’t even have it, they were literally calling other stores in other states to try to get it for me, but it took them months to get it in stock. My doctor went to a dinner for the drug, something he doesn’t usually do because he doesn’t have the time, and brought me back a ton of samples. For several years, Cymbalta made me feel almost normal again, until it stopped working. I tried Lyrica about five years ago and the first dose or two put me on the floor, I couldn’t even move on that stuff. I have not tried the newer drugs, but I do want to find a way to manage the pain better. I don’t know if there will ever be a cure for Fibromyalgia, but I certainly hope that the next generation gets to see one because life is way too long to suffer like this your entire life.

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Photo Credits: Shaun & Dawn

The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…

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The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…
Thanks to Shaun for asking me this question in July. He blogged about it, not knowing I was preparing to do the same today.

The world was irrevocably changed on September 11th,2001. Lives were affected globally. People cried and mourned, and unfortunately in certain countries, some people celebrated what they felt would be the demise of America. There’s a special place in hell for people like that, and I don’t even believe in a heaven/hell concept.

There’s really no one that can’t say that the events of 9/11 have had no effect on them whatsoever. You’d have to be completely heartless and brainless (I have a list of people that make the cut, as I am sure we all do.) to not react to what occurred and what continues to occur in this great big world of ours.

I will start by saying where I was that morning and how I look back on it.

As a native New Yorker, I watched a piece of my city be destroyed by pure evil, by unwarranted hatred. My mother had narrowly escaped the first bombing of the World Trade Center years before, so I already knew the towers were a target, but could I ever have expected to wake up one morning and watch the world change before my eyes in such a dramatic way? No. It still feels like it happened yesterday, except I know how much the world has changed and how much my own life has changed in the past 12 years since the attacks.

On that fateful morning, I woke up to take my Mom to work. She was returning to her job after a little over two months of being home recovering from failed back surgery. I was her primary care-giver/care-taker, so I was present for everything, including that morning’s events.

I am vividly reminded of that day because it started out like most people’s inevitably begin. I woke up and hit the shower. The key to my shower was that the radio was dead silence. Back then I normally listened to CD’s to drown out my own “mind noise”, but since I was in a bit of a rush after my CD fogged up on me, I switched on the radio mid-shower. The station I listen to is always rife with early morning talk and music. It freaked me out after a few minutes, because every single station I switched to was pure static, and the only brief thing I could make out through said static was that the World Trade Center had been hit by a “small plane”. I guarantee you that it was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken in my entire life, because I had to know what was going on, and if my family was safe. It was a total “What the FUCK?!” moment. Hearing those words repeated a second time on another radio station amidst all that static silence, I knew something was very wrong.

I remember throwing on clothes, going into the living room, turning on the TV, and watching the footage. Initially, I thought I was watching a trailer for a new Bruce Willis film, because that’s what it felt like. It was incredibly surreal and disturbing. This could not be happening on American soil! I was in disbelief.

Every channel was showing the footage, but they were claiming that a “small aircraft” had hit the World Trade Center. Surveying the damage, I knew that it hadn’t been a small anything, and that this was an act of terrorism, as opposed to an “accident”. Knowing the area well, I knew that a plane didn’t just swerve in that direction of its own volition.

I immediately called my father, who was working that morning in a government building in the city that had once been a target after the Oklahoma City bombings. He was asking me what happened because my view was different from his, despite his physical view being clearer and closer, and as we spoke, we both watched in horror as the 2nd plane hit the other tower.

We were both vehement in our belief that this was an act of terrorism on American soil, that it was Arab extremists, and we were both upset as all get out. We got off the phone briefly so I could take my mother to work. The devastation we were all feeling was so strong, you couldn’t have come at it with a sword. Anger, silence, worry, it was all in the air.

The news that the Pentagon has been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania were minor shocks at the time, yet all of it was terrifying. Planes entering U.S. airspace were now being re-routed to Canada to avoid further attacks via aircraft.

I returned home to make sure my Dad was still ok, and we talked for a while before an announcement was made that his building was being evacuated as a precautionary measure. The city was in chaos, and it took my Dad a while to get home, but once he was safe I was breathing a huge sigh of relief. My Mom called me throughout the day for updates on what was going on, did my Dad make it home safely, what else were we being told, etc. My brother and I were angry, and Americans were being warned that the attacks on our soil might continue, even after they closed all of the airports. Basically we were being told to watch our own skies. Living near major airports my entire life, the sheer silence of not hearing a plane go overhead for weeks on end was, and still is, freaky. Of course now, after all these years, I still watch planes very carefully.

Despite the phone lines being jammed in the tri-state area, I was lucky to spend part of the day mostly on the phone with my parents. My Mom was completely and utterly horrified after we’d watched everything that morning. When I picked her up from work later that day, as I did every single day until she left her company, that day had changed so much, and shifted the world and our view of it completely.

I was very lucky. I did not lose any friends or family members/loved ones. People I knew very distantly were affected, and for that I will always be sorry, even though I know full well that none of it was or is my fault. That level of tragedy is not something you can put into words, not really.

A week or so after the attacks, you could still see and smell the smoke heavy in the air. I cried seeing the wreckage, my city skyline destroyed, as I went over the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn. Watching trucks in a single file going over the bridge all the way out to Arthur Kill to bring in the debris was awful. Cars, physical pieces of the towers, you could physically feel the spirits of people in the air, and it sickened me to my core.

I will never forget the friends from all over the world that went out of their way to contact me to make sure that I was safe, that my parents were safe, to ask if I needed anything. I remember exactly who contacted me as if it just happened, because almost all of them were overseas. A friend who had visited me the year before and gotten the “Lisa Grand Tour” of New York City was mortified. Eerily enough, one of the charms she had purchased for her charm bracelet had broken the day before. She immediately thought of us buying them together during her visit, and the following morning she took the broken charm as a sign alerting her to my being in danger, and she sent me an e-mail to make sure everyone was ok.

One of the biggest things conveyed to me since 9/11 is people’s fears of flying, be it domestically or Internationally. I’ve been flying my entire life. I have never been afraid to get on a plane and go somewhere, or get on a return flight home. I’ve been lucky to mostly have very smooth travels, and only one or two flights during really bad weather where I was grateful the pilot knew what he was doing.

Do I worry about clearing security at the airport? No. I’ve been hassled once, at Dallas-Fort Worth International where I was screened four times while people who were actually visibly questionable walked right through with no problems. This was at a time when the TSA was being warned to “thoroughly search single white women traveling alone”. I watched as they tore apart my carefully packed carry-on bag, rifled through my books page-by-page (I kid you not!), questioned a pouch chock full of nickels, dime, and quarters acquired during my two week vacation, and asked where I was going, where I was coming from, what my travel intentions were, etc. Texas is one of my favorite places to visit, and the experience with TSA did not sour me in the least, but once they finally cleared me after an hour of unnecessary hassle, a man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots who’d been watching the entire thing go down told me how disgusted he was to have witnessed that, and that he came very close to intervening on my behalf. That was really sweet, but by that time I was exhausted, and honestly lucky to arrive at my gate to a two hour flight delay, as opposed to 30 minutes of time left before boarding.

Things have changed drastically since then, but my experiences at various airports have been fine clearing security. I’ve been subjected to one “hair search” due to a clip in my hair that had a metal core and one “pocket pat” to verify that what I was wearing clipped to my pants was indeed a pedometer and not a bomb. <rolls eyes> I don’t blame them for being thorough, but I definitely think they need to change a lot of their rules and make things less stressful for travelers who are already frazzled enough as it is.

In the days following 9/11, I remember a much greater sense of patriotism than I had probably ever felt in my life and I will openly admit to being proud of my President in times where I am positive his decisions were not easy ones to make. Standing side-by-side with FDNY firefighters, he made me proud of my city, of its people and resilience, and of basic human kindness and compassion. In general I don’t witness a great deal of human kindness or experience an awful lot of compassion, so it was a highly emotional time.

One thing I am keenly aware of is that I might very well have lost my life that day had I taken a job one year prior with a company whose offices were terribly affected. I like to think my intuition would have kicked into high gear and kept me home that day for a plethora of different reasons, but one never truly knows. When I heard about all of the people lost from that company, people who stayed behind and did not immediately evacuate, or those that went back in to help others, I am extremely grateful for my own life. It’s a humbling thing. Sometimes the choices we make save our lives and we may not always be aware of it, but that night, I was definitely more aware than I ever cared to be.

As a nation, I feel we are both stronger and weaker. So much has changed, but as I look deep within myself, I am glad that 9/11 didn’t harden me any more than anything else I have experienced in life. Certainly it raised people’s awareness to a whole different level and for a very long time fear was a motivating factor for way too many people. I refuse to live in any country and be fearful of my life or my safety.

Every single day we are given is a blessing. We all have our “list of shit” in our lives. Nothing and no one is perfect, but each day is an opportunity to make sure we never forget, to make sure we tell the next generation what happened, and how we all lived through a major moment in history.

In memory of those that lost their lives: You may be gone, but you are not forgotten.

On this day, please click on the FDNY link and donate whatever you can to the Official FDNY Widow’s & Orphan’s Fund. This charity was close to my father’s heart.

Rosh Hashanah 2013

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/02/rosh-hashanah-2013_n_3838449.html

For those who maybe haven’t picked up on it yet, I am Jewish. 100% through and through because, even though I disagree with varying viewpoints at times, I believe in a spiritual deity, and it’s drastically different from the church and its teachings.

I am not posting this in an attempt to convert anyone, because that’s not my deal at all, but I am posting it to share and explain.

In late 2002, while studying Psychology & Comparative Religion, I stumbled upon Wicca as a 2nd “faith”, if you will. Growing up with Kabbalistic Judaism, which is Jewish Mysticism for those of you who only hear Kabbalah and think of Madonna or Demi Moore, Wicca sort of brought it all home for me. It made sense out of all the things I’d been raised to believe and it made sense for my every day life. It brought me to a peaceful, calmer, happier place. A place I really needed to be considering how difficult my life had been up until that point.

Obviously there are differences between the two religions. You have a monotheist belief system, but because I grew up believing in duality of God and Goddess, Wicca, as a polytheist belief system, makes sense to me even within the confines of Judaism. I see them as being incredibly intertwined most of the time.

To be clear, I don’t practice either faith for shock value or to attract attention. I do it because it’s my spiritual path and it’s part of what makes me who I am. I’m spiritual as opposed to religious, but I have members of my family that are Ultra Orthodox and barely acknowledge my existence because I’m not “Jewish enough” for them and their way of life. We pretty much all grew up Reformed, yet they are now somehow superior to the rest of us. You can’t help, but roll your eyes. I respect their faith, but they can’t respect mine. It’s a good thing they haven’t seen my tattoos, they’d probably drop dead and spit.

My wish for this New Year is for my family & friends all over the world to have a better, happier, stronger, more secure year than the one we are leaving behind. Less struggle, more happiness. Less pain, more days where we can feel like we’re truly part of the bigger picture. More healing, less torment. More listening, less ignoring. More compassion, less negativity.

To my Rabbi, thank you for being there for me over these past six years. It has made such an immense difference having you be a voice of reason. To Shani (my sister from another mister) in Israel, I love you and I’m thinking of you.

For those of you who do not celebrate this holiday, my wishes for you remain the same.L’Shanah Tovah!

 

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The Fighter

The Fighter

*This is for all of us who are battling something… Give ’em hell!!*

Once Upon A Time

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.

Sorry For The Silence

I know I’ve been pretty silent these last few weeks. For one, I haven’t had a whole lot to say. I’m very in my own head right now. Sometime Thursday night into Friday morning, I did something to my neck and aggravated my neck and shoulders. I thought icing it up and getting some rest would help, I went out of my way Friday and today to avoid excessive stress, but it has progressively gotten worse, so I am strongly considering another ER visit, this time to a different hospital, because I’m afraid that partial paralysis is setting in from the neck up. The hospital I went to previously doesn’t have the necessary equipment (an ER with no MRI machine?! REALLY?! I’ve NEVER heard of that before, not ever.), which is extremely odd to me, but hey, that’s probably why I never have to spend time in their waiting room for more than three minutes! I can turn my body if you’re talking to me, but I can’t turn my neck because of the excruciating pain and the simple fact that it jerks itself back with a giant NO. The pain medicine isn’t working, and I don’t want to risk taking something that could make me sick again, so if this is still the same, off I go. At the very least, maybe they’ll be able to tell me what’s wrong since no one else has had any answers for me in the past three years. Plus, a prescription for muscle relaxers right now would seriously be my saving grace. You know things are bad when muscle relaxers are really the only thing that help you heal. I have an allergy, so I can’t take anti-inflammatory meds, and like I said, my neck is not responding to the pain meds. I don’t want this to get worse, obviously, but I think a stupid part of me is expecting it to heal a little on its own with lower stress and rest. The truth is, I’m tired of going through this shit all alone. It’s hard to psych yourself up for medical help when you have no idea what the end result will be, and how you’ll be able to handle it afterward.

In the meantime, I’m going to apply some arnica and try going to bed. I could do worse.

100 symptoms of Fibromyalgia

For everyone who makes it sound like Fibromyalgia will get better or simply go away. Nice try. Making a photocopy of this for future reference.