Kiss Your Own Fingertips

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I’ve forgotten what it’s like to love myself.

To look at myself in the mirror and see beauty instead of flaws.

I’ve forgotten how to love myself.

To touch my flabby and cellulite covered skin and not hate it.

To rub my own feet with thick lotion and not wish that the heels were softer.

To hold my hips and wish I could remove all of the fat inside of them.

To trace my wrinkled hands across my ample breasts and hope that someday a man will behold their beauty again.

To gaze at my face in the mirror and not see wrinkles, but amaze at the brightness of my blue eyes and the perfect symmetry of my lips.

I’ve forgotten how to love myself.

To find that little girl that resides inside and tell her that she’s going to be okay.

That she is loved.

That she is free.

That she is important.

I’ve forgotten how to love myself, but I do hope in time I’ll be able to again.

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Memories From a Little Girl in a Plymouth Duster

We traveled home late one night down Southbound US-23. I sat next to Mom in our mustard yellow Plymouth Duster, and did my best to try and sleep. The black sky was spitting snow at the headlights while the heat vents blew warm stale air onto my face and chest. It was warm enough in the car, but I used my long winter coat as a blanket. Sis was asleep in the backseat and I envied the ease in which she could sleep just about anywhere.

I could feel the thick, hard vinyl of the mustard yellow seat as I shifted my weight and tried to drift off. The seat was anything but comfortable, but I liked riding up front with Mom.  The radio was playing low and the AM dial glowed in the dark. Mom listened to the late night news on WJR which I have to admit even at an early age, scared the heck out of me. Maybe it was the staccato rhythm of the announcers voice or the sound of the teletype and the occasional beeping that signaled the end of one segment and the beginning of another. It seemed that the news was always bad.

There was a murderer on the loose in another state that I was convinced was going to show up at our front door. There was disaster somewhere in the world and my mind would race with thoughts of could it happen here in my state, or the city I lived in. The stories of missing children, of wars in other lands, of leaders that would kill their own people. Even at the young age of eight, I felt that the world would never be safe for me. Maybe it was because my parents were divorced and my daddy wasn’t there to protect all of us, I don’t know.

Mom’s family was located on the west side of the state. When she married my father she pulled up stakes and moved away, but our homes were always pretty close to the highway. She loved my dad, but not in a traditionally romantic way. Dad wasn’t her Prince Charming, he was her best friend. He offered security and unconditional love and the escape from the abuse she had experienced her entire life. I don’t ever remember living with my dad, which is kind of sad.

Maybe the anxiety that I experienced at such an early age wouldn’t have been so devastating if Dad had been there to fight the monsters in the closet, or under the bed. Maybe he could have quelled my fears from the horrible news stories I heard on the radio and t.v., but maybe not.

After all these years of dealing with a backwards fight/flight response, I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty much how I’m wired. Therapy and a good anti-depressant/anxiety medication have made my life better, but there’s the little girl in me that still wishes for my dad. My parents’ divorce wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I’m sad it happened all the same.

Sometimes, I wish I could take the knowledge I have now, and go back to being that little girl trying to sleep on that crappy colored vinyl front seat, and tell myself not to fear life. To not fear the unknown sounds in the walls, and not fear the darkness of my bedroom, to not fear whether or not I will be liked or loved, and to not fear being alone. There are so many things in the world to fear, but there is so much more to be experienced and enjoyed.

Friday Fictioneers-In the High Heat of Summer and Blood

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In the heat of summer, we began cleaning my deceased great grandmother’s home. Heavy with pregnancy, I pulled the old shoes from the bottom of the armoire. I felt overwhelmed by the chore and my grief of losing her before Adam was born. Sweat slid down my swollen belly as I filled the first box of many. Old shoes were easy to throw out, but what about the the other antiques? The baby kicked while I worked. Then the nosebleed began. Blood poured down my shirt and the old shoes. Distressed, I pinched my nostrils, and ran outside for relief.

100 words exactly!

Genre: autobiographical, memory, hell I don’t know.

Thank you Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting Friday Fictioneers. I’m happy as heck to be inspired to write again. I’m hoping that this priming of the pump will cause the words and stories to flow for me again. Dear Readers, please go to Rochelle’s site to read all of the entries.

Have a terrific day!

To Remember touch More than Thought

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“I remember that feeling of skin. It’s strange to remember touch more than thought. But my fingers still tingle with it.”-Lucy Christopher

My pulse quickened as Matt enclosed his left hand around my right. The intimacy of his actions brought a blush to my cheeks. Confused, I wanted to pull away but I craved the contact. Instead of retreating, I allowed his hand to engulf mine. My mouth went dry, as his thumb repeatedly caressed the palm of my hand.

I yielded to his touch, my heart slowed its thready beat, and I allowed myself to enjoy the closeness of my dear friend. He asked for nothing but my hand. He told me he loved me and how glad he was I came into his life. We grew silent, as his thumb continued to make lazy circles on my palm.

His was the first intimate touch I’d felt since I’d become sober. It wasn’t a sexual touch. I wasn’t sure how to label it, and honestly, I didn’t care to. In that five minutes, I felt more protected and loved than I had in a long time.

With our hands clasped, my friend silently asked nothing of me, but to love every broken, raw and damaged part of him. And in return, I asked him to do the same for me.

A Letter of Forgiveness

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‘Let us be willing to release old hurts.’- Martha Smock

Dear Renee,

The last three years have been especially harrowing, yet you’ve persevered. I always knew you were  a strong woman.

I want you to forgive yourself for the last ten years of drinking. I want you to love and accept yourself and know that you are a beautiful spirit.

You are not your past, and it does not need to define you. Your future and your community are the sober people, the perfectly broken.

Your children love you. The longer you are sober, the more their trust will return.

Do not look for love until you can find it within yourself.

Go to meetings.Work with a sponsor. Keep busy. Dive into work and become a stellar employee again.

Be kind to yourself and know that you alone are enough.

Let go of your past. Let go of love that is not evenly returned and move forward.

Find peace.

Find joy.

Find love from within, and the brilliance of it will flow to everyone you encounter.

Forgive yourself, and put your trust in the future.

Love, Renee

(This is a letter I wrote to myself the last night of my stay at the Brighton Center for Recovery. My addiction counselor told me to save doing this section of my homework after everything else was done. I read it to my community the day I ventured out of the Brighton Bubble into the sunlight of new future. I’ll  share of my journey when the time is right. For now, I have another story brewing about a wheat farmer and his wife. I hope to post it soon. This girl is getting her sparkle back for sure. Thanks for following me on this journey.)

There but for the grace of God go I

I saw her this morning and I know she saw me. She was holding a Speedway Pizza and 44 oz. soda, but it was only 9:45 in the morning. I tried not to pity her, this pasty white young woman with a horrible diet. I could tell by her unlined skin that she was in her 20’s, but the weight made her look older. She wore Capri jeans and a bulky t-shirt and was sweating at the effort it took her to walk to her vehicle. She set the items down on the hood of her powder blue mini-van coated thickly with dust from what I presumed was the dirt road she lived on.

I could tell she wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. To blend in with the pavement and her powder blue mini-van. Just unlock the door, take her food and make her getaway to consume her poison in peace. I didn’t make eye contact with her, but I wanted to. I wanted to hug her and tell her I knew how she felt. That I hated food because the shittier it was for me the better it tasted. I wanted to tell her that I too was an addict that wanted to lie in bed and consume all the best and worst foods and die in a caloric avalanche. Instead, I said nothing, because she probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.

I walked into Speedway and purchased an unsweetened iced tea with lots of ice. I shared pleasantries with the cashier while I made my purchase and tried not to loathe the way I looked in my tight yoga pants and tank top. All 265 lbs. of me turned and walked out of the store and to Eddie the Wonder Dog waiting in my car. As I walked, I felt the constant pain of what felt like a pebble grinding into my left heel. Another pain I have to deal with because of obesity. I swear to you every pain I feel, both physically and mentally is because of this fat boundary that I’ve built around me.

Once in my vehicle, I glanced through my side window at the mini-van woman. There she was downing a soda, and eating her first slice of pizza. My heart hurt for her, well, for both of us really. Why was it that women like she and I struggled so, while other didn’t seem to? I reached down and started my car, turned to hug my Eddie Dog and then put the car in reverse. It was time to go home and measure out the portions of my morning meal, a hard-boiled egg, 1 cup of skim milk, 3/4 cup of protein cereal, and piece of fruit.

I’m determined this time, not only to make the diet stick, but to remain healthy. That’s the ultimate goal really, to wake in the morning with less physical and mental pain. To look forward to picking out healthy food and fun clothes to wear. To be able to run again, if I want to. Or swim, bike, or maybe even date. Who knows what the future holds for me? All I know is I don’t want my weight deciding my future for me, I want to be the master of my own fate.

Slow Down, You Walk Too Fast

The judge looked at me, ‘It’s my understanding that you’ll be keeping your married name’. All I could say in reply was a simple yes, but I wanted to say so much more.

  • You see, I wanted to tell him that I was a Heath longer than I was a Homan so that’s why I wanted to keep my married name.
  • You see, I wanted to tell him that I had raised two children with that man and would continue to co-parent even after I wanted a divorce. And that’s why I wanted to keep my married name.
  • You see, that even though the marriage failed because of me, I felt a sense of pride in being married to such a good man for so long. 

As R and I were walking to the court house two weeks ago, I once again had to tell him to slow down so I could keep up. I’ve never been able to walk as fast as he can and with my new ankle and a substantial limp, it’s impossible for me to even attempt to do so now.

I asked him if he thought my new gait was funny, he chuckled and then replied, ‘you’ve always walked kind of stupid’; ‘flat footed and all’. I gave a raucous laugh in return and decided that I had to agree with him.

He did slow down so I could walk beside him. The late summer sun shined on our heads as a gentle wind whipped my blonde hair. A few strands caught in my mouth and I had to keep wiping my face to pull them out.

We crossed a busy Main Street and once we were at the courthouse doors, R held them open for me. I limped into the building with him behind me. We walked through security and took the elevator to the second floor.

R and I sat in the hallway outside the judge’s office and chatted. We laughed at the toddler that was yelling at her mama and running around her baby brother’s stroller.

The court attorney came to the door and called out, ‘The Heaths’. We walked into his office, and calmly and amicably dissolved our 24 year marriage.

Everyone was nice to us and we were nice to each other. I don’t think R cried when the judge asked if the marriage was beyond repair, but I did. It’s hard to admit that after 24 years it didn’t work anymore.

Afterward, R and I had a late lunch and then he took me back to my place. We said our goodbyes and I walked inside as he drove away.

Often, I try to pry into R’s life to find out how he’s doing. To see if his broken heart has mended and to find out if he’s happy. He gives me general answers to my questions, even when I try to dig deeper. I figure, it’s his right to do so, since it’s not up to me to make sure he’s happy anymore.

I hope he knows that all I want is for him to find someone to love him completely. And I hope that he wishes me no ill will, and that I’m happy too.

 

My Soul, Born in the South

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Tonight my favorite movie is on and though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I’m watching it again. I was one of those that watched the movie before I read the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, as my little kids played around my feet. While they ate their meals. While I changed their diapers. While I bathed them. And after I put the to bed.

The children grew older, and as they did, we bed shared. For comfort, yes, but also for closeness and for me the possibility that I might get a full nights sleep so I could function at work the next day. Often, the cats and a dog or two would crawl in there with us.

After the little ones settled and fell asleep, and before I’d drift off, I’d grab my dog eared copy of Fried Green Tomatoes and devour a chapter. I knew every word, yet the story continued to resonate within me. Was I born in the South in a previous life? Why did the story of Ruth and Idgie effect me so deeply?

I began to know every word of the story, yet I couldn’t put it down. The book fell apart, yet I continued to read it. I would jump from story to story without missing a beat. I felt the promise of new life when Buddy was born, and the sadness of love lost when Ruth died. I felt anger so intense when there was racism, and when Idgie was accused and tried for murder I cried.

As my children grew older and took to their own bedrooms, I continued to read the book. It was now in pieces and I had to tape most of the pages together. I swear to you some nights when I read the stories, I could feel the heat of the day on my skin, while tendrils of my hair blew in the humid Alabama air. Train whistles blew and sweat poured down my back. I was dressed in white cotton, sitting on my front porch, and drinking sweet tea. When I’d finally fall asleep, I’d dream I was as tough as Towanda, that brilliant woman unafraid to bait her own hook and love the woman that was meant to be hers forever.

The kids are grown now, and the copy of my book is long gone. I think about replacing it, but something always sidetracks me. Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t get that time back. Or maybe it’s the fact that I want to write like that, but can’t. Or maybe I can write like that, but I’m afraid to fail. All I know is I’ll watch Fried Green Tomatoes tonight and it will make me feel all the things I used to feel. Maybe I’ll finally start that book. Or maybe, I’ll just know that my soul, it was born in the South, and it will have to be enough.

The Little Prince and Chronic Pain

As I held my newborn grandson, I smelled the top of his head and mouth. My fingertip lazily traced the outline of his ears and chin. Then dipped into the velvety curve of his neck. I released him from his swaddling blanket and  listened to him coo while he stretched. I counted his fingers and touched his newborn hand to my aging face. I was a grandma and I was reveling in the excitement of it. I kept undressing him so I could look at his little toes. They were still bright red and I had to be gentle with them because of the needle sticks he was receiving to check on his blood sugar levels.

Meggie kept giving me grief for taking off his clothes. She even said he didn’t smell like anything, but I disagreed. I couldn’t put into words what I was feeling, or what I could smell. There was a freshness to the top of his head, and the faint smell of Enfamil formula on his cheeks. He smelled new and his little hand clutching my fingers gave me the promise of better times ahead.

I visited my new grandson and his parents while they were still in the hospital. I had just been released myself after having a third reconstructive surgery on my right ankle. I was kind of hoping that the baby would make his appearance before my discharge, but this being my daughter’s first birth, he decided to take his sweet time. I had just settled into my private room at a physical rehab center when my son and his girl picked me up to meet our new family member.

While I was holding him, I thought about the last year and what I’d been through. The accident, the surgeries that didn’t work, and the chronic pain that had been plaguing me. There was so much depression that I had experienced. I cried every single day, but on the days that Meg needed me, I stayed as focused as I could on her, and her needs. It helped me want to stick around. There were so many times I wanted to give up and die.

I can hear you asking why? It’s only some ankle pain, how can you not live with it?

I want you to understand something, everyone with chronic pain has their own experience to deal with.

If someone in your life is dealing with it and they say they’re okay, they are not telling you the complete truth. They don’t want you to know how badly it hurts. And how tired they are from dealing with it.

Every. Single. Damn. Day. Of. Their. Lives.

The depression I’ve felt in the last year has been suffocating. You can not even fathom what I’ve felt, nor do I want you to even try. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. I pray for normalcy every damn day that I wake up breathing. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping this latest surgery brings me closer to it.

I wanted to go to sleep at night and not wake up wondering what my pain number would be when I stood up to walk to the bathroom. Most nights I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up at all. A crucial bone in my right ankle was dying, but I felt like the woman I was before the accident had already died. Unbeknownst to me, there was a little prince that was going to be born just after my third surgery that would totally change my mind.

I held him in my arms on May 15, and realized that yes, he was the reason I was still here. And he was the reason I couldn’t give up. I needed to be in his life, so I could smell the top of his head, and trace his perfect little ears with my fingertip. I also needed to be there for my daughter when she was struggling with sleep and new motherhood. I couldn’t have done any of those things had I given up.

The Little Prince is home with his parents now and they are all settling into their new normal. This Queen is back home in her second floor apartment and healing nicely. I’m so thankful that I didn’t give in to the sadness that came from the pain. Who knows, maybe my grandson and I will teach each other to walk.

8 Units, 8 Women, 8 Different Stories

#1 lives across the hall from me. She has long dark hair, a kind smile and piercings in her bottom lip. She tries to have an edgy attitude but I can tell there is a sweetness to her by the way she interacts with Eddie the Wonder Pup. She doesn’t mind him jumping on her and kissing her face. She even opens her apartment door from time to time just so we can chat and she can give rubs to my little puppy. #1 is a graduate student, and her hours are strange. She may go to class during the middle of the day, but then I may not see her for 2-3 days at a time. I know she isn’t home, and I always wonders where she wanders to. Does she have a secret life of a stripper? Is she a spy? Does she turn tricks to pay for school? Or is she a drug dealer? I know she smokes herb from time to time, because I can smell the pungent aroma of it as I head downstairs to pick up my mail, or head out for the evening. She’s an odd one, but ultimately quiet and a good person to have living across from me.

#3 lives next door to number #1. She’s an older lady that has inhabited the same space for 20 years. I talk to her when she’s doing laundry or lumbering up and down the stairs with her arms full of packages. Even in my injured state, I do my best to help her fetch and carry. I even deliver her packages that the USPS worker finds too hard to bring up one flight of stairs to her doorway. #3 still ventures out everyday to work even though she’s near to 70 years old and can’t walk without the use of a cane. She told me she’s about to retire because driving to and from work last year nearly wrecked her mentally. I empathize with her, telling her it’s time to be done and enjoy herself. Maybe go somewhere warm during the cold months. She says she doesn’t know what she’ll do but she’s tired of the drive to work on those cold and slippery mornings. I worry that I’ll end up like her. Alone, and living in an apartment on the second floor….

I’m in #5, and you already know about me.

#7 belongs to a young blonde woman of Russian descent. She is tall, thin and beautiful. When she speaks in her thick accent I become mesmerized. It’s hard to believe she’s not only beautiful but smart too. I adore the fact that she is so friendly and that she doesn’t mind Eddie jumping on her when she is dressed for work or a night out. She works at the University but I’m not sure where. All I know is she does some kind of meeting planning for a large school. I’ve seen her come home from an event almost dead on her feet and she still looks ravishing. I carry her parcels to her door too. I know she’s young and able to do it on her own, but I’m the one that’s always outside, so I might as well help. There are days when I don’t see her and there are times when she doesn’t come home. I try not to worry, but I’m a mother so it’s what I do. I’m guessing there’s a boyfriend that she stays with. At least that’s what I’m hoping for her anyway.

#2 below me is a young single woman. She was blonde with long hair, but now she’s dark haired and looks a bit like P!nk. Most of her evenings are spent at home with her two Chihuahas. They are hysterical to watch as they play and fight with each other. She tries to be stern with them, but they don’t seem to care. There are nights when she has parties, but she’s not too bad about the noise. The music always gets turned down around 11 pm. I can often hear the laughter of her party guests and it makes me think about when I had friends living in the same complex. We’d spend weekend nights playing cards, drinking beer and goofing off. The only thing that bothers me is the way her friends let the damn entrance door slam as they enter or leave. Yep, I’m becoming that kind of an old woman. Now get off my lawn!

#4 across from #2 is an odd duck. She’s blonde and looks cheery, but she’s never around much to really get to know her. I swear her work hours are 3:00 pm to 3:00 am. I met her on her way in one morning as I was taking Eddie out. He jumped up to greet her and she was so happy to see him. She played with him and let him give her kisses on the hands. It had been a year since I’d moved in and I swear that was the first time I’d talked to her. But she really wasn’t talking to me, she was talking to the dog. I looked like hell since Eddie had roused me from sleep by pulling at my hair. I told her I had to get him outside before he peed on her shoes. She laughed and let herself into her apartment. That was over a month ago and I haven’t seen her since, though I have seen signs of life at her place.

#6 now she looks like a cute little munchkin. She’s all of 5 feet tall, blonde, cute and her hair is cut in the perfect bob. Her boyfriend has moved in and they seem happy. She told me that he’s an amateur golfer and decided to live in Florida for the winter so he can practice. I felt bad for her, here she is in a new relationship and while his job is on hiatus he goes away for four months. I want to tell her he’s a douche canoe, but I know it’s not my place to. Her dog and mine love to play so we get them together when we have time. Her little guy loves the cold and Eddie loves him so he braves the cold with his tiny feet so that they can play. #6 and I laugh at the way the two dogs go at it. They snarl, bark and jump on one another and have the best time. I can’t wait till spring so the four of us can walk together.

#8 she’s a bit of a recluse. We’ve never said two words to each other. I’ve never seen her in the hallway either. I know that she has long dark hair and she smokes herb incessantly. For some reason she uses her sliding glass door to enter and exit her apartment, but I’m not sure why. The mat outside her apartment door is dirty and I do everything I can to keep Eddie from walking on it, but it’s not like his feet aren’t already dirty. For God’s sake he’s a freaking dog! There have been times that I take Eddie out back to walk him, and #8 watches me from her sliding glass window. I try to give her my best smile and if he poops, I clean it up. I want to hold the bag up and yell, ‘see, I’m cleaning up after my dog!’ I wish I knew her story, besides the one where she smokes pot in the dark and watches me while I wait for my dog to poop.

8 units, 8 women, and 8 different stories. Each of us at different stages of our lives. Each of us different, but maybe, ultimately the same.