In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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Niagara Falls: Ten for Today


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I fell down to the floor, no hands to break my fall. The floor met my right shoulder hard. And maybe holding my head up to avoid the wood prevented further harm than the headache and haze I ended up with from having my brain jostled. I felt the mush of that organ slam squishy splat against the right side of my skull. Nauseating.
 
I planned to finish up a piece due for tomorrow. I taught my class this morning and two more classes for someone else. Seemed like the only way I’d get motivated to put in another two hours of brain work was with a little incentive. So I planned to get out of the house. But which would it be caffeine or alcohol on this late Thursday afternoon before a long weekend?
 
And just at the verge of a decision, rounding the corner of the bed, coat flung over my shoulder and trailing behind trying to catch up to my fleeing body, purse in tow, boom! Down. The slight bell of my pant leg caught on the wheel of the bed frame, somehow. Something sticking out of the wheel to brake the frame still, a lever. It caught, and my recognition of that fact registered a half second too late to stop the forward trajectory of my intentioned body.
 
Before I realized what happened I was flat on the floor, the Husky pup immediately at my upturned face to sniff out the trouble. The shock. The confusion. I lay there unwilling to get up until a vision of my prone body lying on the floor for hours before someone found me flashed before my eyes. I eased myself to sitting.
 
I sat up and turned to the dog who gazed at me eye to eye now. Her eyes asked, “What’s all this about?” Just as my eyes wondered into hers, “Can you believe this?” We sat puzzled that way, each in our own assessing postures posed for no one, unwilling to further go.


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Love not Hate

Maybe it’s because I was born in 1960. Or maybe it’s because of the two daughters marching beside me. Or the feeling I’ve always had that I was born too late or too early, caught in this in-between generation that is marked by unearned, random prosperity for me and the rest of the privileged–but not for far too many, not for my daughters’ futures.
 
I cried ten steps into this morning’s march.
 
It overwhelmed me to see so many marchers. Far too often I feel isolated, my ear attuned to the horror more than the hope. I burrow in the belief that it’s me, just me. No one else truly aches knowing how much hate and fear destroy. That it’s horrifyingly dangerous to normalize unabashed, outright lies–a constant stream of provable lies. Fatal.
 
Even in post-apocalyptic dystopian Cormack McCarthy worlds of brutally savage survival, we must take care of one another, no matter what. And this should expose me as the fraud I am, touting pithy little graduate school cool catchphrase, club affiliations like the post-human age subscribers or the three-cheers-for-robots-taking-over-the-world meet-up. Truth is, I believe in the Renaissance and that the human capacity to create is greater than its capacity to destroy. If only we…


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Carcassonne

Like most days this week, I start out of a disrupted sleep, having lain way past a decent hour. I awaken late morning French time most days and go to bed early evening California time. My iPad tells French time and my laptop refuses to leave California. I work late into the French night completing blog posts for my employer on Miami time. Time spins nauseatingly.
 
Yesterday, after awakening around 11:30 French time and playing musical transformer and usb chords (Who has the Samsung/iPhone charger??!!), I swallowed a bite of pain au chocolat and quick coffee to motor off to Carcassonne, the Medieval fortress and castle, which also sports a lovely restaurant rated by a tire company (yes, I know it’s a coincidence that restaurant raters and tires have the same name).
 
After eating a sumptuous lunch of creative concoctions like foie gras coated in sweet wine emulsion merengue on a pop sickle stick (wtf, right?), and drinking too many Kir Royals and local white wine, we walked through the castle entry via a narrow cobble stone street filled with souvenir shops.
 
And when my oldest daughter ran into one shop walled with medieval swords and daggers, I knew it wouldn’t be long before her father was paying for two Game of Thrones John Snow swords. I warned them that drunken purchases never look good in the morning, to no avail.
 
But the day was lovely, the castle impressive and our spirits high. Captive momentarily to another time, another dimension really (Can you believe this was all built manually over decades?), I quietly absorbed every loose stone in the dirt path, every brilliantly green blade of grass, every cotton cloud in the sky, and every skip, hop and climb of my scampering daughters up and down castle walls and walkways.
 
The drive home along pine and canal-lined country lanes that often slowed us into narrow cobble stone alley towns squeezed between sugar cube cafes and cursive patisseries, in the quiet cold darkness just after dusk was peaceful. Four phones, two iPhones and two Samsungs, ran out of juice (and GPS), so we had to feel our way home, through every roundabout.
 
Home: Medieval dust still lingering on our clothes, in our breath, we each retired to our places, the girls to their room with stolen chargers to resurrect their connections to Snapchat, Twitter and California life time, me to my laptop and work, and mother and son to the telly to watch lame French game shows.
 
 And the next day: do it all over again in a new town, new castle or cathedral, casting our lines into a timeless sea of changing faces, feasts and facades, our feet in neither and both worlds, floating, lost and leisurely.


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Ten for Today: From Coffee to Beer Life Goes On


A bar. One of a few I frequent to write and imbibe heading into happy hour. During the day I wrote in a Vietnamese gluten-free, vegan make your own design of a meal restaurant around the corner. The owner is friendly and generous. He often gives me a free gluten free basil and chili home baked cookie or a piping hot freshly roasted slice of Kabocha squash, like he did today. I write there for hours, sipping a caffeine-loaded Vietnamese iced coffee, the one with loads of ice and condensed milk to offset the deep, strong coffee shots. He tells me about his mysteriously buckling knee for which no MRI nor doctor can discover let alone cure the ailment.

I wrote about well-being, connection, and compassion in companies–and got paid for it. I actually got paid to write something I believe in, a refreshing change from the usual 20 ways or things listicles that make me want to rip my eyeballs out of their sockets and drop them on the ice of my Vietnamese coffee. But it’s work. I can’t complain too much. Any day writing is better than a day slinging hash or practicing law for that matter. 

And yet, the procrastination…why? It makes my job so much more difficult. I have no real patience for ease, I’m surmising. 

But today at the corner bar, called The Corner, I sat on a stool and wrote my Nanowrimo tortured piece. It’s supposed to be a novel, but it’s a piece of shit, some sort of mosaic of events and dialogue and scenes that make no sense, have no order. It’s worse than last year, which at least had a thread if not grace and a point. This year’s is more than pointless. It’s almost a waste of time unless I can pull something out of it, some conclusion, reflection or resolution of what the hell happened to the world, my world among the larger world.


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Space and Dexterity

October 22, 2016

Those times, you know, when your fingertips and feet know just how to move, threading chores through keyholes, they make me feel like something’s right in this vibratory volume I call the verse, multi or uni, your choice.
 
Science (whoever that may be) says there aren’t billions but trillions of galaxies. Like, “Oh gee, my mistake. I was off by a few numbers.” How do they know? What kind of telescope discovered those extra billions or so? Or is it just math again. They figured…

I figure it’s all speculation. One thing that’s not, there’s life elsewhere. I’ve no doubt. Too many space holes to hide out in, gazillions of light years away. If a sound wave from this planet reached another life form, perhaps our planet would have already vanished into dust, burnt to the core, scrapped and disbanded in katrillions of dust particles. 

That’s one presidential hopeful’s solution to global warming. Let’s just wait it out for a few billion years until the sun burns us up and see what to do then. We’re all going to die some day. Okay.

But tonight, here in my small corner of the planet, I moved through my work tasks like memory, so familiar and easy to summon up. Everything I touched folded or unwound itself by my expert manipulation, my keen dexterity. I folded, washed, wiped and capped like a pro, just like I had done it thousands of times before.

Oh wait I have.  

Pixabay: milky way and andromeda


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Fight or Flight: Guest Post by Liz at Infidelity Counseling Network

By Liz for ICN

10/4/16

 

 

Fight or Flight

 

 

Six years and one week ago, I overheard my husband on his cell phone. He was speaking to a woman. It was Tuesday.

 

I could feel and hear the blood pulsing through my neck. It was the sound of intense fear.

 

I thought to myself, this is it, I was right, that nagging thought for a while that there was someone else was true, I was not crazy.

 

When he had hung up, I went into his office, asking angrily who that was. He had some crazy answer, and I knew in that moment that despite how smart he was, at this, I was smarter than him. I knew I would find out, and SOON. I maintained my outward cool while inside was a total fight or flight response. I decided to gather information before a flight.

 

The next morning while he was showering for work, I quietly turned on his cell phone to check the call history. It had been cleared.

 

As soon as I’d gotten the kids off to school, I found some old cell phone records with a number that kept reappearing – a partial story. It took me four hours that morning that morning to register our phone bill online, download the call history, google some of the repeating numbers, and identify the owner of the most frequently-called number. So I called it, and she said I had the wrong number. At lunchtime I called again and got her voicemail. Bingo. Her full name was on the outgoing message. Now I had the information I needed…but I still did not know if I was ready for a “fight” or for my flight.

 

I wanted then and there to throw him out, but we had kids, I did not want to divorce their father. We were a family. So there was to be no flight. At least not yet.

 

I waited till Saturday. That very morning, his affair partner had left him a cell phone message and I had listened to it. She was trying to be calm while things were tense, but she loved him and would wait until they could be together. I told him then that I knew about her, and he confessed, saying it was just a few times, it did not mean anything to him. But I had proof of months of calls and her declaration of love. I asked where they had sex; he gave me hotel names. I insisted he end it immediately, and even suggested how he could do it so as to keep her husband protected. I thought myself a better person for my compassion.

 

We went to couples counseling, and I kept saying I believed there were many women for many years, and he denied it all. I insisted on full transparency. It never came. Now there was no fight…he simply would not talk about it.

 

By now, poring over cell records and hotel bills, I was getting to be a first class Private Investigator which was making me crazy. I had been in fight-or- flight mode for over 5 weeks, anxious and barely eating or sleeping. I was paying with my mental health.

 

After a while, I began to feel I had lived a lie. Every family event and holiday over the past 6-7 years was marred by the knowledge that he’d called various women on all those dates. Nothing felt sacred anymore. The betrayal I felt was boundless. Every special moment was spoiled. I saw myself as damaged, duped, betrayed, angry, and resentful.

 

I focused on his choices, and all the times he could have chosen another path but did not. I focused self-righteously on all the good I had done for others when our own marriage was disappointing.

 

This constant feeling of fight-or-flight made me lose my compassion and objectivity. I become a person who tried to survive day by day. I was unaccustomed to being this self-centered, angry, suspicious, jealous, snooping, distrustful person, and I did not like this new me. I knew I had to find a way to the other side, to thrive again.

 

For two years I was a wreck, later telling people that I’d had a nervous breakdown. At his request, I told no one other than paid professionals. I isolated myself socially, did only what I had to do, and avoided people and places that would trigger what I deemed my PTSD. Since I knew many of his affair partners, and had to drive by many of the hotels in my daily rounds of work and kids, it was hard to avoid it all. I made myself crazier by compulsive snooping, and it never helped me a bit, never made me feel safer, never made the situation better, and just perpetuated a cycle of craziness for me.

 

Above all, I wanted to talk to other women who had been through this, but found none. If I had to do it all over again, I would have told a select few people because not having the support was so tough for me. Later, we separated, and I told a lot of people. They all judged him harshly. And I learned that once you give someone your story, you can never un-tell them…so be careful about whom you chose to hold your intimate history. I should have told only people whom I was sure would be there for me and not judgehim. Everyone has an opinion about she/he would do in this situation, but until I had been there, I realized there is no black and white answer…only lots and lots of gray.

 

Six years and one week later, I am stronger and wiser. Perhaps I am not the same trusting person, but the new me is one I finally like and which took years to accomplish. I felt so bad about myself for so long; if I’d been kinder to myself, if I’d been able to release myself from that intense fight-or-flight mode, my recovery might have been faster. But I accept now that I did what I felt I had to do. Now I am a good, kind, compassionate, and wiser person. I wish I could add “trusting” to that list, but that is still a work in progress.

 

 

By Liz

Volunteer at Infidelity Counseling Network

Get support to heal from infidelity – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/counselor.html

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