Being

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Wednesday evening, as we were getting ready for bed, a massive thunderstorm rumbled above. Fat rain drops smacked the metal roof, while lightning made a chaotic embroidery of the sky. It was a marvel, and the hubster and I darted from window to window and stood on the porch to admire it all. Flash back twenty-two years, to our first apartment on 11th and Lafayette in Denver, and that same storm would have had me hyperventilating and sobbing, wondering when it would all end. Isn’t it wonderful how time and experience show us a different way of seeing?

For the whole of my life, my sister has abused me*. As a child it was sometimes with words, mostly with fists, and once with a hot curling iron. When I complained to my parents about it, they would ask what I’d done to provoke her. Though I hated this response, for a long time it seemed legitimate, while also infusing me with a ridiculous sense of power. If I did something someone didn’t like, that person would have absolutely no control over their hands or words, and I should actually expect an onslaught of deserved abuse.

So when my mother-in-law started her bullying before Greg and I were even married, I went right along because I’d had such formidable training. Surely, I’d done something to provoke her, too. It was always my fault. Our society told me similar stories. I remember hearing about a woman whose husband murdered her because she was a nag and drove him to do it. Or the countless men, women, and children who are beaten, raped, and worse because of small slights, wearing the wrong clothes or appearing in the wrong place.

I thank the Me Too Movement and my own enlightened thinking nearly three years ago for changing this narrative. People do not ask for violence upon their bodies and souls. To say I forced anyone to harm me is an out and out lie, because that violence lies in the abuser and not the victim. It is the abuser’s choice to utter hurtful words. It is the abuser’s choice to do do physical harm. It is not, nor has it ever been, my choice to be on the receiving end. The abuse I suffered for having my own opinion, for saying no, for watching the wrong television show, for taking a long bath. Seriously! None of that is on me. None of it.

How sad I am that it took forty-five years to come to the realization, but what brilliant new light through old windows. How free it makes me!

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*In case you are wondering, I cut off all contact with her nearly three years ago after receiving hateful messages via Facebook. Otherwise, I suspect she would still be at it. Old habits…

 

Initially, I wanted to simply share a glimpse of our Sunday. How lucky I was to get Juniper to actually pose in front of the massive hollyhock – “Come. Sit. Stay…stay. Good girl!”

To tell you how nice it was on the patio, with Greg working on his laptop at the cafe table, and me lounging and skimming books and a magazine. Our new fountain babbling, soothing and brook-like.

To rejoice at how the Japanese honeysuckle is finally starting to climb in earnest,

and note the black raspberries are actually blackberries, with heaps of them, I daresay hundreds, showing their first hint of color.

Then show you the dwarf rosebush putting on its best show

while water reflected the sky…

and more blossoms in the form of fern bush, sedum, pineapple pokers, and one gorgeous sunflower shimmered. How perfect it all was. But then something happened, or rather a series of events, and I had to get them down, too.

As you hopefully know, Greg is the tech wonder of the marriage (and to my eyes, the WORLD!), working from home, hands at the keyboard firing off messages and writing code with such speed, I often laugh and call him the fake typist – 120 words a minute! I am grateful for his vast knowledge and ability. That said, it is not without fault, and my computer fell victim.

It was mid-meeting for him, and after some grumbling and a couple of f-bombs on my part, I decided that I’d do some photo editing while I waited for his help. Well, there was a piece of new hardware he’d kindly installed because the last, after much use, had failed. Long story short, there was another problem, and a few more f-bombs, and him worrying that I’d hurt my already injured knee and thusly dashing out of his meeting to make sure I was okay. Angry that I was foiled, yet again, by technology. Pissed that he said it would work and it clearly did not. Embarrassed for cursing and not being able to fix it myself, but definitely okay. Knee on the mend!

Why do I share this? To show an unvarnished look at our life. For the most part, it is wonderful, and pretty darn perfect. We have a delightful groove, can talk about anything (yes, really!), enjoy a most excellent spirit of cooperation, and know and love each other like no other. Of course, we are not without our problems, each behaving in ways that utterly madden the other.

I suffer from waves of crazy tidiness and sloth, have depression and am occasionally suicidal, which is not the least bit fun. I threatened to leave, to New Mexico, of course, because Greg refused, for twenty-five years (!), to defend me against his mom’s bullying. We argued and suffered many a hot tear before finally working it out. She is in his life but no longer in mine. Good gracious, I cannot even begin to express the relief.

Even more important, is how each event further strengthens our marriage. Both of us seeing past patterns and more quickly moving toward solutions, being more patient and forgiving. Every day proving we can survive anything!

 

Greg and Juniper looking particularly relaxed and happy after a weekend chock full of activity.

Friday night we watched the cousin’s kidlets while they enjoyed a rare evening on the town. There was MUCH play – of the football catching, block building and demolishing, and video gaming variety. There was also Boss Baby (funny!) and pancakes and bedtime stories. Once we tucked the kiddos safely into bed, we binge watched some Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (lives up to its name!) and wished there was ONE single platform for ALL video streaming, as we have zero interest in paying a multitude of fees for our television. Sigh. Incentive for us to watch the kids more often, I suppose!

Up early Saturday morning for a long-awaited visit with some of our besties, Michael and Mary. They brought their dogs, Jesuscito and Lupita, and Juniper thought they were the cat’s pajamas. We can sniff and play all day, inside, outside, run, run, run. Only one thing – do NOT touch my food, okay? Okay. Good.

I made all kinds of goodness – a pork roast, salad, spinach and ricotta gnudi (the flecked with green rolls whose name translates to naked – a jacketless ravioli). The prettiest, hands down, was the delicious orange and fennel cake because, lucky me, blood oranges are still in season and gorgeous, gorgeous!

It was a sleep over, so there was more food adventure in the form of crumpets for breakfast (sore-ee no photo). I had never made them and wondered if I had it all wrong, but they looked right and tasted like WOW! I do believe they will be on a more frequent rotation. Yes, I do.

Did I, after years of swearing I would, remember to take a picture of the four of us? No, because I always get so caught up in the being and doing of fine friendship and cooking and baking that I forget. Even though the camera is close at hand, within eye shot, even. Not the worst to happen, really, so fully immersed in the joy of our togetherness. Yes. But dang, too. I’d like to have us rounded up for the ages. I really, really would.

Winnowing

In keeping with the work I did with the Belong book, on examining my life and friendships more honestly and with the goal of surrounding myself with the kindest and most positive, there’s been a slow winnowing of people, these in particular:

The woman who wants everyone who doesn’t agree with her locked up and calls those she doesn’t like ugly names.

The woman who made vomit noises while describing bearded men, as my beautiful bearded man sat footsteps away.

The man who posted the horrible and unspeakable for who knows what end.

The people who are never-ever on social media and / or haven’t responded to texts or emails or messages or said so much as boo! for ages. I appreciate that people get busy, but I am not interested in a one-sided relationship.

The woman who intimated that I was callous and shallow because my house is clutter-free.

The woman who is angry and bitter and made fun of me.

The people who only use social media to sell their wares. Same goes for the people who get in touch only when they want something from me – can you help me sell X, give money to my kid, etc. Again, I am happy to help, but I don’t want to feel used.

The woman who intimated that other people “get” her snark but I don’t. As if snide and mocking comments directed at my person should be enjoyed.

I know that I am not a perfect person. Too honest sometimes, yes. Too direct. Intense, the hubster says. I also unfriended a woman to save her from having to see comments from me. A bad book (in my opinion) was made into what she thought was an awful movie, and I asked if it was worse than the book. Not to be mean, but because it reminded me of how I LOVE Philip Dick stories on the big screen, yet goll-ee if his writing isn’t a nightmare for me to read (save Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Maybe I should have been clearer. I don’t know. After my comment, she was noticeably cold to me on all fronts. So, yeah, another one bites the dust.

I wonder if all this sounds petty or cruel or gives the impression that I think I am somehow better. I DO NOT. I am simply realizing what works for me (like kindness, courtesy, and actually showing up) and letting go those who don’t. It’s without judgement (I don’t have time for that, either), and I truly wish everyone well. Life is difficult enough as it is. There’s a great line in an Andrew Bird song, “Life is too long to be a whale in a cubicle.” Such a vivid image! Being surrounded by those who don’t rev my positive engines would be like plopping orca Colleen in the proverbial cubicle. What a great tragedy that would be! There are vast and magical oceans beckoning me to swim.

Morningtime

Our morning walk is a cold one. Hats and gloves and puffs of hot breath. Most days, though we live smack-dab in the city, we see no other humans. We see their gravelly footprints. We hear their cars racing and spy their contrails flying to greener pastures. At least, I hope. It is so curious to live in such proximity, to witness such evidence, yet make so little contact.

My life of late has been a steady rhythm of baking, cooking, walking (always walking!), entertaining. I made all manner of cookies and sweet treats for our dear neighbors and a gaggle of women I am proud to call my friends. We came together at our house, seated around our sturdy table. We broke bread and laughed and shared all that is us. Two days later, we did it again, with my Mom and Dad and two of our three nephews. The true blessing of any season, not just of the Christmas variety, to be known and heard and loved.

Here is hoping the same for you on this, the *darkest day of the year…

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Well, at least in this hemisphere.

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