Friday, August 25, 2017

Forgiveness





Mum and Dad came to drop me off at SFO. Twenty-five years ago I came to Cali, not being fully aware at that time that I had come to forgive. To lay to rest the ghosts and repair the damage that had been done by my father's abuse, and that my hatred for him and what he had done was creeping into the pores of my skin everyday and not allowing me to feel.

There were still nightmares. There was still pain. Mahatma Gandhi said "Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong...the weak can never forgive". I had decided to try forgiveness. It wasn't easy. I hadn't had any guidance. Hurt and pain is what shaped me into a young woman. I just got through those times as best as I could. I slept with a lot of boys. And then men. I slept with them and they had no faces and I felt nothing most of the time. I don't know if it was a misguided attempt at feeling loved.

Perhaps it was, looking back now.

My father, telling me from an early age, that I had to learn how to keep a man happy in bed, otherwise I would always be alone and nobody would love me. My first boyfriend was the one that eventually took me to the authorities so that the abuse could stop. I was in love with this kid. We were barely sixteen. After I had sex with him for the first time, pretending I was a virgin, I could no longer bear the thought of my father touching me anymore. It was abhorrent before. But now it was worse.

I found a way to escape though, while it was happening. When he crept into my bedroom at night, my body would tense up and I would make my soul; my spirit, leave, and suspend itself high up above, against the ceiling, watching below. It was how I coped. I haven't been in touch with this for all these years, but I know that I still do it. He wasn't, then, violating me, my mind, my spirit, or my soul. Only my shell. My vessel. Like it was something separate. It was somehow easier to deal with that way.

Like when my parents bought that deli. My father used to make me go with him to the Makro cash and carry for the shopping to stock the shop. Upstairs there was an apartment. We would drop off the supplies and he would make me go upstairs and sometimes he would make me lie right there in the cold hallway covered with flat cardboard boxes, on the landing and pull my bottoms off and use his spit to lubricate me and force himself into me. Now it was just a way of life and I felt like I couldn't escape. It was like living in a perpetual nightmare.

Everyday, I would try to avoid being alone with him. But my mother always made sure that I was sent with him. Do I think she knew what was going on? Yes probably. She has never admitted it. But I think so. Perhaps she didn't want to fuck him herself so maybe she just figured if he was doing it to me it didn't matter. At least it wasn't a whore or someone else, outside? I don't want to believe it sometimes. She should have been aware enough to protect me. But it is the only explanation in my mind as to why she would book long trips away and take my brother along with her, and as I begged her not to leave me with my father, she would say that someone had to stay behind to "take care of him".

When I eventually told the authorities what was happening, the day the house of lies came crashing down; she slapped me across the face and said that she knew he had a mistress, she didn't know it was her own daughter, in her own house, as if I were at fault.

I have been so disconnected all my life. I know that now. Even when I thought that I was connected, in a relationship, sometimes the intimacy would overwhelm me and it was easier to disconnect, be separate. Sometimes I didn't feel anything. no connection...not deep inside where it really mattered. I still do it I think. I disconnect, mostly with those I love so much.

Other times I really felt something. Like when I got divorced from my second husband, my ten year relationship that unraveled...there was a moment when I had just finished clearing out the house we had lived in. I was turning to leave. There it was. Empty. Clean. A couple of black garbage bags in the middle of the living room. The first house I had purchased for my family. All the work my husband and I had done. The remodeling, the painting with our own hands, the beautiful floors in the kitchen and furniture and art. I thought of the lemon tree in the backyard that we planted. I thought of the Thanksgivings, the birthday parties, the Christmases, the love, the laughter, the fights, the firsts, the lasts, our two boys. Everything at that moment flashed before me. My hope at happiness, at a "normal" life. Broken. All the millions of little pieces of memories floated around me like shards of glass in a vacuum. My legs gave way underneath me and I fell to the ground and let out a scream, and sobbed like a child, the shards of glass memories falling around me like raindrops as the tears fell incessantly, leaving me with nothing but the empty room; the garbage bags, the silence, and my sobbing.

There are times like that when I really remember feeling something. Not just during sad times, but also during intense moments of joy, like seeing Marcho Cochrane's Bliss Dance sculpture at Burning Man for the first time and falling to my knees with tears of joy and all my breath disappearing from inside my lungs. Sometimes I think that I spent so much of my life in rebuild mode that I wonder if that is all my life is...short attempts at happiness followed by rebuilding.

At age sixteen everything came crashing down - I suppose it was crashing down for many many years before that...but at least the abuse stopped and he wasn't violating my body anymore. After that there were children's homes, and foster homes. Trying to fit in. Feeling abandoned constantly. Suicide attempts, trying to find love in the wrong places and craving love and affection and letting myself be mistreated - I guess it was all self hatred in the end. There were many years of loneliness, and rebuilding after letting things fall apart over and over again.

I moved to Cali with two suitcases and a backpack. I was going to Portugal with three suitcases and a backpack.

Here I was. At SFO. Hugging my parents goodbye. After all the abuse and abandonment, I had gone to repair something that I hadn't broken. I let my light back into my parent's lives, if only for a while. Perhaps this is closure, I thought. Somehow.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Expat loneliness...does it get any better?

The rains have started here in Portugal. It's funny, when I first moved here two years ago, all I kept reading about was how good the weather was and how much the sun shines here. Once the rains start it just gets damp, humid and grey and it rains for days at a time. Most apartments don't have central heating or very good insulation, so it is always cold. Last year my clothes got mouldy in the closet from the damp humidity. I am dreading the upcoming winter and I have a strong urge to run away to somewhere warm, where my bones don't feel cold.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Downward Spiral

 Ungrounded, unfounded. Tumbling, falling sensation.
 Dizziness, as the body sways I feel like I am on a boat.
On a path of self destruction.
Just need some earth
Upon which to stomp my feet
To shout out to the Universe
That I have arrived. And I am staying.
Not going anywhere, but here at this moment.
So stop with your torment. Leave me alone.

Sweet escape is sometimes the spiral,
Taking you downward
Spinning, spinning, a vortex out of control.
Round and around, arms flailing, crying out
Pull me out, pull me out, I'm drowning
It's easy to blame someone else
Until you realize you're the only one with the power
To pull yourself out of your own deep, dark, internal hell.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Uncomfortably Numb

I am not feeling grounded. I don't know what I need to do in order to feel ok. I twisted my knee one week after arriving in Lisbon and it was quite painful and debilitating, stopping me from exploring the city as I wanted to, because the hills are so steep and so I had to rest, but didn't. Drinking excessively seemed like a good idea as I managed the pain that way. And drinks are so cheap here in Lisbon it always seems to be a good option.
I spent loads of time at Le Marais, a wine bar owned by a French gay man a stones throw from my new apartment and got to know many people. Trouble was, the place was on my way home from work so I would stop in with the intention of having one glass of wine, which inevitably turned into not leaving to go home to an empty apartment until I was completely inebriated.
There was a loneliness gripping my soul. I would go home and look out my window at the beautiful red rooftops and miss my kids, and miss San Francisco and the community of friends I had there. But I knew that I did this for a reason and I must see it through now. No sooner did the knee heal, very slowly, almost two months later, I joined a gym, finally, to get back to a routine of fitness and get stronger as I had lost a ton of weight due to my knee and not being able to exercise, then I caught a cold. I was blowing my nose for a week and then this turned into an ear infection. I wasn't taking care of myself. I was out when I shouldn't have been, drinking way too much alcohol than was good for me. But how much is too much? I definitely have come to the conclusion that I have a drinking problem. I black out at least twice a week. I am pretty tired of not remembering how I got home. I somehow always manage to make it home though, which is quite a miracle. I lose things, and then wake up angry at myself because I lost that favourite hat or phone or scarf. It has been happening way too much over the last couple of years. Don't know why it is particularly bad or how it escalated. I know it's fucking up my health and it's a dangerous way to live. But I am not stopping, despite my better judgement. Maybe I don't love myself enough to stop this path of self destruction. And now I am far away from family, who always voiced concern and reason and made me stop for a bit and be responsible. Why don't I care? Why the incessant need to be numb? And still not ready to just stop what I am doing. Still not ready. When will I be? What needs to happen? Hasn't alcohol already done so much damage? Fucking hell.
When I lived in California there was always this spiritual thing and talking about chakras and auras and other things about being in tune with the Universe, and then I arrive here and it's all gobbledy-gook to people here. They have a hard enough time just surviving that when you talk about thinking positive and feeling grounded they stare at you as if you're stupid or you have too much time on your hands. I was talking to Paulo, my personal trainer assigned to me at the gym to help me reach my fitness and weight goals and was talking about yoga and needing to feel grounded, and he said people don't have time for that shit here. He said pilates was a fad and had passed and that yoga is simply not widely practiced here. Maybe Californians do have too much time on their hands. Maybe there is no "being in tune with the Universe" and it's all bullshit. I don't want to believe that this is all there is. I want to know that what you put out there comes back to you and really want to believe in energy and positive thoughts, but I am starting to wonder if maybe Europeans just don't think that way because of hardships they endure. Obviously adversity can make you jaded, but when do you put that aside and believe in something to make things better? Am I on a self destructive path? Do I want to kill myself slowly? Do I not believe in happiness anymore? Sometimes when alone I think about my life and wonder what the hell my purpose is here. I can't figure it out and I feel the tears building up inside my chest until they fall out of my eyes and I am sobbing like a baby. I don't know how this will end or if I will ever find what I am looking for. There's a pain inside that just won't let up, enveloping my soul like a thick velvet shroud. I can't throw it off. I was walking to the Pinco Doce yesterday afternoon and stepped on some loose dirt and fell onto my left ankle, the same leg where I twisted the knee. This morning my ankle is swollen. What the fuck? What the fuck is going on? Is there a message here? I have literally not been well since I arrived in Lisbon. I want to change this, but I think I need to change my state of mind first. I will let you of my progress in this area. So far it's not going so well.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New place, new life.

Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.”

Charles Bukowski said that. Let's see. I haven't written in a while. I have completely changed my life in the past few months. A mother, a daughter, a sister, a real estate agent. I had all these labels pinned to me that I didn't want. I felt apathy. I felt disconnection. I didn't want any of it. I don't really know how the course of your life changes completely...if it's just destiny or if it's something that, deep down inside you know that you have control over, just by putting out into the Universe what you want. Does it really come back to you? I think so. Perhaps I am shallow and selfish. After being a single mother for eight years I left my children. Just left them and moved to another country. Who does that? Maybe someone who didn't have the fight left anymore.

I have been in Portugal for almost two months. My plan was to write stories of my adventures here in Lisbon. Truth is I have been lazy and drinking away most evenings since I arrived, perhaps living Bukowski's ten or fifteen thousand lives now. I came out for a job. I have been working, I found a place to live. I had a sort of rebirth. For almost twenty years I have not lived a life where it's only me to worry about. There's always been the kid or the husband, or the family. It was like I arrived and was like a kid in a candy store. Wow, just me? Trouble with that was I acted like I was on holiday. It didn't sink in at first. I am here to live. To change the course of my life. I have an opportunity that most people don't get. To completely change direction and out of the trap that you can set for yourself, that suffocates you, until you can't breathe and you're clinging on for dear life. You know what I am talking about. I have seen it, over and over.

It was like a holiday. I found a French wine bar down the street and some days, when I was too afraid to face the thick solitude of my flat, I would just go to Le Marais. It's sort of become my second home. Lisbon is full of lovely gay men. I have made many friends in that community now. I have made many friends period. I am settling in. Perhaps I should slow down and smell the roses. I suppose I had to go through that phase of feeling the freedom that hasn't been there, and let that run it's course and get it out of my system. I will share with you some of the fabulous spots I have found during these first few weeks. Of course, most places involve drinking. Let's see where this goes.

Friday, June 29, 2012

How to quit smoking

Afternoon Mimosas.
Deep ambient rhythm on the Bose
Ran out of cigarettes
Want to smoke
But want to quit

What to do?
Don't feel like walking down the hill
And then up the hill
And then up the stairs
Puffing and panting, wishing
That I had quit already.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pretender



Connecting, like magnets on that first night
She hesitates; the last Bart train leaving the platform,
Not wanting to leave his side
First kiss, on the platform; holding on

“Don’t leave me,” she thinks,
“I don’t want to,” he thinks.

They end up at the Holiday Inn
The night, full of their desire
Beautiful, endless, beautiful,
Holding on. Holding on.

In the bathtub, he holds her, caresses her, kisses her,
Washes her, pushes her hair out of her eyes. Wet silence in the night, broken by little droplets of water when they move.

Making love, endlessly, passionately.
All throughout the night.

In the morning they dress.
She smokes a cigarette on the balcony
As they watch the morning begin on the noisy city street below

They go for coffee,
The passion and desire of the night still fresh
When her eyes lock with his, she has to look away
His eyes bore into her soul, she thinks he can see her from the inside out

Several rendezvous ensue. A picnic; a twilight drive above the City; watching it twinkle beneath them, a walk on the beach…Moments of deep connection;
Moments of passion. But perhaps it was all in her mind, and not at all in his.

She feels it is real.  She wants to buy what he’s selling,
Her need is real, her want is real, her passion is real.
But it’s not real. It’s made in China; a trinket made for many;

For he is a pretender. And he’s a good salesman. And she bought it.

But now she can’t even ask for a refund, because she already spent her money, and feels like a fool. Stupid girl.  No refunds. No returns. All sales are final.

It comes easy to him, and he forgets; turns off; disconnects; disengages.

All she has left is a shopping bag full of twisted emotions; and once again, like a broken doll, she has to sift through her sadness to untwist them and make sense of it all.