Tuesday, September 26, 2017
I don’t believe in a traditional view of God. As an Atheist, I don’t think someone or something of omnipotent design would bother with the minutia of our insignificant lives. After all, you don’t see astrophysicists hanging out with high school dropouts, do you? Prayer is a concept of particular issue for me. If it is all part of some divine plan, then it has already been decided and an individual seems to think that saying a few magical words in their head either individually or in a group will appeal to a supreme being and convince he or she to change their mind. I do believe there is something larger than myself. If we are the supreme beings in the universe, then the universe is royally screwed. I cannot deny that every once in a while, it feels as if something supernatural has happened. This weekend was one such an event.
As a part of my health challenges, I deal with profound fatigue. Some days are worse than others, but even small efforts can wear me out for days. There are days when I’m not sure which is worse, the chronic pain or the fatigue. Both leave me mentally and physically drained and challenges my ability to function. The anxiety which tortures most of my day presents itself in a myriad of symptoms, and agoraphobia is one of many. Just leaving my apartment for a quick grocery trip can tax my ability to cope and leaves me worn and feeling aged. I have been relying on the weekends for a reprieve, since most weekdays I have a doctor appointment or other pressing reason to leave my apartment. My case manager Kristin, who transports me to various appointments and errands has been very patient with the number of times I need to cancel a trip. Sometimes I am too overwhelmed to go out another day even though Kristin makes it as easy as it can be. Despite living in a building with several hundred of other people, I feel safe and secluded within the confines of my small space. It brings me comfort knowing no one or nothing can violate my space without my expressed permission. I can choose to participate in social media, or I can lurk on the threads. I have complete control to what extent I choose to socialize.
When you live with that level of anxiety, even planning an outing you will enjoy is stressful. This past Saturday was one such event. My daughter wanted to take me to see “It.” Being a huge Stephen King fan, I really wanted to see this in the theater and be able to experience the horror movie larger than life and in surround sound. More than that, I wanted to spend some time with my daughter. I haven’t seen her in a while. I had to take the bus from Akron, OH to Canton, OH. It’s an hour and fifteen minute trip once I get to the terminal. She would bring me home, but I had to get to her. I had planned on taking the bus in early to spend some time with my best friend, who I hadn’t seen in quite some time either. When Friday came, the anxiety began to rear its ugly head. I retreated inside of myself and tried to get some rest in order to better tolerate the trip. I knew I would have fun, but pain and fatigue were going to be my unwelcome companions. I wondered if the fun would outweigh the misery. By Saturday morning, I was already worn out and stressing about canceling the trip.
I awakened the first time around 2pm. I could have made the trip in early if I hurried and got myself together, but I could barely stay awake. I sent a text to my best friend letting her know I wasn’t going to make it. My daughter called me to see when the last bus was going to come in so she could plan which showing time would work out best. I told her I wasn’t feeling well, which was true. She did not want me to cancel. She played the guilt card. If there is a card to be played, that’s a good one. It works almost all the time. I fell back asleep.
I awakened at 6:08pm and the last bus left for Canton at 6:28pm from the downtown terminal. I gathered my things as quickly as I could and ran out of the building. I didn’t think I could walk the distance quickly enough. I went to the bus stop outside of my building to text an inquiry of when the next bus was heading downtown. The reply was 7:07pm. I forgot the schedules were a bit wonky on the weekends. I was going to have to walk to the terminal. I looked at my phone and the time was 6:16pm. I had just 12 minutes. I started out walking as quickly as I could. I’ve never made it in 12 minutes before, but maybe the bus would be running a bit late. It happens. I had to at least try. I quickened my pace.
I was breathless as I rounded the corner, near the first stop after leaving the terminal. I strained to see the bus number coming toward me. Nothing makes you feel old faster than a blurry bus sign coming at you. It wasn’t my bus. I didn’t think my bus came in this direction after leaving the terminal, but I kept the slightest vein of hope alive. I was really trying to make it. I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter, or myself. The next bus rounded the corner, and it wasn’t my bus either. My anxiety was rising with each bus I passed, knowing many of the buses were pulling out of the terminal after they all rounded up and waited for transfers. Surely the number 81 was among them. I made it to the stop and read the sign. As I thought, my bus didn’t come in this direction. It was a dedicated bus going south into Canton, a couple smaller cities away. It would be heading for the freeway. I was still blocks away from the terminal. I checked my phone. It was 6:28pm. My heart sank as I tried to figure out how I was going to tell my daughter I had missed my bus. I continued toward the terminal. It’s possible the bus could be late. I didn’t think it was much of a chance, but I wouldn’t know unless I tried.
I rounded the next corner and I had the terminal in view. It was still a few blocks away, but the number 81 would be parked on the side of the terminal closest to me. There wasn’t a single bus stopped. The terminal looked bleak, quiet and desolate without a bus in sight and no visible sign of anyone else at the station. Discouraged, I sat on the curb, exhausted and in pain. In my hurry, I had forgotten to take my pain medication and pushing myself so hard to make the bus pushed the limitations of my body. I sat there wondering what was the best thing to do. I was close to the terminal, but at this point, I needed to admit defeat and go home. I was too tired to walk back so even if I had to wait until the next bus round up, it would be better than trying to walk back in failure and pain. I got up and began the first steps to returning home. I was disappointed. I had overcome all my excuses in order to meet my daughter, but I had set myself up for failure by waking up so late. Each step I took was heavier than the last.
I got within a block and a half of the terminal when a single bus pulled in and parked where my bus should be. My heart skipped a beat and suddenly I was renewed with a fresh burst of adrenaline. Could it be my bus? I didn’t understand how it could be my bus, but I was too close to risk missing it now. I picked up my pace. The last several feet of the trip was a slight upgrade, and I felt gravity trying to push me down even as my goal might finally be within reach. I didn’t know if it was my bus, and I wouldn’t know until I reached it, but I had hope. I climbed that little hill, determined to get to the bus before it left its assigned slot. I got within a few feet of the bus and I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was my bus! How could this be?
Breathless, I asked the driver how much time I had before he left. I had 12 minutes, which was just enough time to go into the terminal and get a soda from the machine. Among other things I had forgotten in my quest to catch the bus, I didn’t bring anything to drink and I was mad with thirst. Although it was officially fall in Ohio, typically a time for cooling weather and fall leaves, it was in the upper eighties. I was sweated wet. I made it into the terminal only to see signs on all the vending machines “out of order.” The only vending machine operational was the candy and chips. If that was the worst of my night, I wasn’t going to let it bother me. I had made the bus.
I returned to the bus and paid my fare. I settled into a seat and relaxed for the first time since I had awakened. I began to fix my hair and apply a bit of makeup. I marveled at all the decisions I made to get me to this point. I awakened so late, I didn’t have much hope at all of making my bus but I got myself together and tried anyway. I watched as buses left the lineup and approached the first stop and I did not give up despite the evidence I was not going to make my bus. I continued on even after I saw the time on my cellphone, with mounting evidence I was not going to make my bus. I sat down in despair when I had the terminal in eyesight and saw the evidence of a vacant terminal. I chose to continue to the terminal to take a bus back to my apartment after clear evidence I had indeed missed my bus. I had made a series of decisions that despite the evidence in front of me, I was going to defy logic and give it my best shot. Because of my determination, I was on my way to see my daughter. I was going to see a movie I wanted very badly to see. Then I remembered the last time I made the trip to Canton. That time too, I had set myself up for failure. I left my apartment a little too late. I missed the bus to take me to the terminal by two minutes. I had to walk to the terminal and was unsure if I could walk fast enough to catch the Canton bus. I gave it my best effort and I had succeeded in making that bus as well. Suddenly it seemed as if divine providence had interceded on my behalf not once, but twice. Both times, against all odds, I caught my bus. It certainly felt like a guardian angel had intervened on my behalf. It felt as if divinity had intervened.
Both times I had a good time with my daughter, simply having fun and building memories. Those times are priceless but in my misery, I forgot how precious those times are and how seldom they come along. I needed to be reminded my life cannot be about misery, it cannot be about fatigue, pain, and anxiety. Every day I cancel something I would like to do as I give in to the failings of my body, my spirit fails a bit with it. I need times of joy and laughter to replenish my spirit and mend my broken soul. Those are the times that will get me through the hours and days I spend in bed, too fatigued to move more than necessary, or in too much pain to desire a social experience. When you fight pain day after day, you begin to fear doing anything that may bring it on. It’s easy to forget joy when most of your time is spent in misery.
So today I love divinity. When you look at the odds and all odds are against you, it would seem that something supernatural paved the way to success. Together with my determination, divine providence led the way to create memories with my daughter. I may not believe in a god, but I’m unwilling to discount a supernatural force when failure seemed like the only logical option.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Privy to the phone conversations of someone who doesn't know to keep his conversations private, I do what writers do....publish it.
For brevity, there are some phrases he peppers in the conversation generously.
You know what I'm saying? YKWIS
Oh my goodness! OMG
I know that's right! IKTR
He also prefaces many of his sentences with the teenage valley girl "like."
My thoughts are in parenthesis and if I missed a word or two it will be replaced with "dildo" today.
Oh, guuuuuurl, IKTR
hmmmm, uh huh... like, I am a grown man, I'm too old for that. Like, YKWIS?
Whatch you saying?
Yeah, and like she don't know what she's talking about, not at all. YKWIS?
I don't have time for that, I really don't. hmmmmm huh IKTR.
Ain't nobody got to tell me how it is, YKWIS? It's like be an adult. That's all you got to do is be an adult. Like, there's no need for all that.
hmmmm, I know what you're saying, uh huh...
Ain't nobody got to be like that. Like, there was this one dildo (ears perking up) and it was so rude. The dildo done went and dildoed. YKWIS?
Break in conversation while I went to another area to vent with another room mate.
We both agreed this gets on our nerves to no end. It breaks up the harmony in the house, where 7 of the 8 people get along, and then there is this....
uh huh....OMG! (He's in the bathroom talking on the phone. The echos make the conversation even louder.) Yeah, he did. Like when you know that's your dildo, you should take care of your dildo. (OK I heard it this time but now it's just funny) Guuuuuuurl...You know that isn't anybody else's dildo but your own, YKWIS?
I try to stare him down as he comes out of the bathroom, but he pays no attention and keeps announcing his conversation to anyone in earshot.
Hmmm, yeah, like I don't ever play with my dildo like that. It's rude, YKWIS? RUDE! Well, maybe I should let you go, I know you're busy.
The conversation was shorter today, and I missed the middle of it in favor of venting. I'll post other conversations from cell phones as I hear them, and people talk about their personal business in public.
Today's notes on the conversation I had to overhear from an adult, African American male.
Today in the Mangina Monologues....
If you have to tell ppl "I know who I am, I'm not gonna let anyone else tell me who I am".....You don't know who you are and are enough of an idiot you won't hear it when others try to tell you.
If you have to tell ppl you "aren't a rude person." Trust me, you are most definitely a rude person. Considerate ppl demonstrate they are considerate through their actions, they don't take out verbal billboards.
If you have to tell ppl you "do your job, I don't need anybody else telling me to do my job." You are not doing your job and it has come to the attention of someone else that they need to make you aware of it.
If you have to tell ppl you "know how to conduct yourself in a professional manner." Again....you don't and you aren't.
You know what I'm saying?
This is an actual conversation from an adult, African American male. It is my contention you give up the right to privacy if you can hear every word.
These are the Mangina Monologues
I sat by the door of my bedroom and listened into his conversations. He did not know I listened. I made every attempt to document the conversations exactly, but there were some things I didn't catch. I filled in the conversation with what I imagined it to be, so it might not be entirely accurate. I could only hear one side of the conversation. (In parenthesis is me thinking)
In the interest of brevity, there are two acronyms included because he says them so much: YKWIS is You know what I'm saying? and IWS is I was saying.
I'm not going into detail with her, but I am going to let her know she hurt my feelings, I mean that would hurt anybody's feelings. She doesn't get to know about me, you know what I'm saying? I'm just going to tell her she hurt my feelings.
(His feelings are hurt daily, this is news???) Pause while other person talks....he's letting someone else get a word in edgewise.
But they did hurt my feelings that one time. YKWIS? I mean like, I was so mad and they told me not to do it but....other party interrupted.
(If they told you not to do it and you did it anyway, you are a moron)
It's like I KNOW who I am. I guarantee I know who I am. YKWIS?
They said I'm evasive and shit and I'm not evasive at all. They need to get a grip and know who I am, because they aren't going to define me, I'm like not letting that happen.
They said I'm evasive and shit and I'm not evasive at all. They need to get a grip and know who I am, because they aren't going to define me, I'm like not letting that happen.
I'm the type of person that I'll let so much go, but I'm going to hand wag my fancy self all up in their face and let them know who I am and I'm not who they think I am and I'll tell them who I am so they don't think I don't know who I am YKWIS?
(I may have embellished that a bit)
Like, I'm so over it YKWIS? It's not worth it. People say I wear my heart out on my sleeve (who are these ppl he speaks of?) but I'm a nice person and I'm not going to stop being a nice person just because someone else wants me to change YKWIS?
Then I was like she was all up in my BF the other day and I was like "Bitch, you don't even know" and I got up in her face. No, it was the other day in Cleveland. That bitch don't know what's right or what she got herself into when she got up into me. I don't play like that YKWIS? and yeah, I'm fighting for my life and the I told her "you're using your BF to get to me and I'm not having it. You know, I was like we are not having this conversation right now, we are not. You are so child like and I can't talk to you on that level. Then she said I was a fucked up drama queen who can't mind his own business, and she said I'm like all into creating drama because I like ppl feeling sorry for me. I said How DARE you! And I'm at work and you're breaking up with your BF and you are trying to get to me through him and that's some shit. NO, just no, it's not happening And I didn't even go into detail with all her shit, I wasn't going to tell her about her shit either.
(I can't figure out who's BF is doing what or who is trying to get to who and who is breaking up with .....he is rambling so fast this guy has some issues going on there)
No, me and her cannot have a conversation and she's still here judging me (Is he talking about me now? I think he is.) and still she has no place to judge me or anyone but she's acting so childlike, she talks behind my back (yes I do <blushing>) still, who is she to talk YKWIS?
No, there should be no place *sigh* It's just a bad situation. I'm not going for it, I'm just not. But there not going to see what she's doing, she's no better therefore I don't know what I'm going to do, I don't. I can't talk to her *sigh*
3-4 min quiet, he's letting someone else talk. I think he's talking about me. I moved his Axe products around in the bathroom to create the illusion someone might be using them.
I'm not gonna
I should be there in a way, YKWIS?
It's like fucking, I'm not sorry, why should I be sorry? Like, you know who's coming in the game? uhm hmm...hmmm....yeah and you know I'm watching out for my door. YKWIS?
Oh Goodness....he laughs
Right...he goes to the bathroom
(You don't really want to know what I hear during this, I actually didn't want to hear, but I was seated at my door and I didn't want the chair to move and him figure out I was listening)
Yeah *sigh* Oh goodness They didn't get anybody with that though, they only got them when they put panties on their head at work. It was unprofessional, YKWIS? and he was wearing the green panties and I really wanted the green panties but then when everybody got caught with their head panties in the baking area it wasn't cool. I wasn't in on that so they can't do me like the others cuz that's not what I'm about, you know? (I may have embellished, the boys were making noise and I missed some bits.)
Well, you gots plans for that? Don't they get confusing? You have to learn all those systems, I just don't know. There's lots of stuff you gotta learn.
(How hard can it be to learn to put panties on your head?)
Actually, that's totally Bill's party, totally.
Wait a minute, just hold up, Didn't that woman just have a baby for her daughter or something? Yeah, I know that was her. I didn't know old ppl could do that. How they be having babies that's their grandbaby? I just don't know.
Going back to his room...while he mansplains the gestation of babies in old women. I didn't know I could stay in my seat without getting up to smack him upside the head. The only thing worse than mansplaining is gay mansplaining.
You say what now?
Oh, OK...how was it her own son?
You know she's trying to pass, ans she don't have the dark skin.
I said did she get contacted? No. I'm just asking, Did they? hmmmm.....
I still haven't called that girl on if this is a real relationship. I said guurl...I know you couldn't be meaning me cuz it's like I didn't give her no reason and I'm not playing that way. I mean like
(what way does he play?)
yeah....hmmmm....yeah.....what''s her name? I guess she's gonna represent like who she is. It's not like she's got a body, I mean look at her mom....uhm....hmmmm....yeah.....she's trying to do her thing. And I'm like even around his parents (what the hell? How did we get here?) It's like he's so negative, he's always got to be doing something to cause attention, even if it's negative attention. Some ppl are just like that, they don't care what attention they get.
Yeah so IWS so he is in the wrapper (is this the new slang for in the closet?) and then he catered more to girls YKWIS? Yeah, so once they found that out
There's no way out of this for him, oh my goodness!
I don't care about her, she's representing and she don't have no reason. And she's just talking on her end (she can't talk on your end, you fill up that space and more) but she's brown, she ain't black but she's playing it up and representing like she is YKWIS? Guuuuurl, don't I know it?
That's what I'm saying, OK?
(My head is spinning, I have no idea what he's saying)
Thus concludes the Mangina Monologues for this evening. Tomorrow night's performance hinges on how much I can dip in his conversations.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
I was raised in a Republican family, with Republican family values. My dad was a blue collar worker who was raised with old world German traditions. There's very little room for play, you worked hard and work is its own reward. He worked as a supervisor at the B & W plant in Barberton, OH. B & W and PPG were the two largest employers in our town. Almost everyone was employed at one or the other. The biggest lesson I learned growing up was that life was not fair, no matter how hard you worked, or how smart you were. I had three younger brothers, and despite working hard, I would never measure up to their penis. Family values meant the man was God in his own castle and everyone else was to follow his lead. That wasn't going to work for me; I wanted more for myself. In the end, I still wound up getting married at age eighteen to someone my family considered acceptable. My dad and Ron got along well. They got along so well, that my dad blamed me for leaving the marriage. He all but disowned me when I applied to welfare. I asked for his help, but he left me to sink. In his mind, he thought if he made life hard enough for me, I wouldn’t leave this deserving man. When I left Ron, it brought out all of the resentment of his own two failed marriages. He and Ron joined forces to make life as difficult as they could for me, in the hopes that I would see my failure and return to be the dutiful wife. Intentionally making life harder for someone never brings about the results the oppressor is hoping to achieve. It is the unspoken mantra of the Republican party base though. If you make life hard enough for someone, they will tow the line. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without suffering.
I worked managing a beer and wine store. I had worked my way up from being a cashier and I lost that job due to my husband. It was ironic since I was the one who got my husband his job. The owner said he couldn't keep the both of us because Ron was whining to the customers and the vendors about his relationship with me. It was creating a problem as the owner was receiving calls complaining that they didn’t want to hear about Ron's problems. Instead of addressing this with Ron, he fired me. His logic was that at least if we ended the marriage, Ron would have a job to pay child support. He would give me a good reference, but I had to go. He also though if I was dependent upon Ron, I might work harder to make the marriage work. He didn't say that, but in his reasoning for firing me, he offered to counsel me on being married. I declined his offer. Shortly before I was fired, one of my customers gave me her number. She thought she had a job that would be perfect for me. It was with a chain in a city just south of where I lived. They needed a personal shopper for their upscale clientele. Women were becoming more than a supportive function in the workplace, they were rising among the ranks into very busy positions. They didn't have the time nor inclination to shop for themselves. The position required a month long training session in Connecticut, and four trips to Paris each year. I was in heaven. I called her as soon as I was dismissed.
I interviewed with the owner of the store, and was offered a position. The training session was scheduled within the next six weeks and the plane ticket and reservations were made. Unfortunately during this time, my marriage became unbearable. I frequently pretended to be sick in order to avoid having to do anything with him. More often than not, it wasn't a pretense. I was lying down in the bedroom when he walked in. He pointed his finger angrily in my face. He wasn't yelling. If he had yelled, I wouldn't have been afraid. No, he pointed his finger in my face and said very quietly and with a suspenseful resolution "I should fucking kill you. I should blow your fucking head off." I don't remember what he said next, but of all the times he threatened to kill me I knew this time he was serious. Thank God we didn't have a gun in the house or this might have had a very different ending. I made sure not to create any further friction that evening. I made arrangements to leave him in the next couple of days.
While I was in the Battered Women's Shelter, I followed up with my friend about the job. I needed to know the details of my start date so I could make arrangements to care for my children. The job offer had been rescinded. She had received a call from my husband, wanting to know where I was. Of course she didn't know, but he went so far as to threaten her if I had any further contact with her. That was enough for her to shy away from including me in this amazing life. She didn't want to deal with the drama. Suddenly, I had no home and no employment future. Part of leaving my husband was the confidence I could earn a living and provide for my children. Because of him, that was gone. Still, I knew a lot of people in the beer and wine industry, I was certain I could find employment somewhere in there, possibly with a distributor. After just a couple of calls, I knew this wasn't going to be an option either. He had poisoned or threatened any contacts I had. Since we were both in the same industry, we knew the same people. He told anyone who would listen that I was mentally unstable and he was trying to get me committed when I left. He also told them I had an affair with one of the distributors, a married man with a set of triplets. He expanded upon this falsehood to say I had become pregnant by this man and had an abortion without his consent or knowledge. He played the victim well, telling everyone he wanted me back and would forgive me. They only had to tell him when and if they heard from me. Every door I knocked upon, he had knocked on before me. If the other person expressed any allegiance toward me, gave any indication they would not cooperate with his pleas to let him know if they heard from me, he suddenly turned from victim to someone who threatened those who dared sympathize with me. He alienated me from not only potential employment, but allies as well. This tried and true Republican girl had to do what no respectable Republican would lower herself to do; I had to apply for welfare.
I'm not even sure if it was my idea. I don't think that would have been my first thought, but as door after door was closed to me, my options were running out. I thought what all good Republicans thought; that people on welfare were black and lazy. That certainly did not apply to me. There was a social worker at the shelter who pulled me aside, inquiring about my plans moving forward. I told her what my husband had done. She let me know that was very common with abusers. They systematically blocked any form of support so that women had no choice but to return to them. That didn't make a lot of sense to me. As hopeless as my situation was, his actions only made me more determined to leave. Why would I return to someone treating me like this? I never thought to ask myself why I would stay with someone who treated me like that. Good Republican girls stand by their man and their marriage. I had family values. As I spoke with the social worker further, it became increasingly clear it was the only door he couldn't close. If that was the only way I could get my girls safe, then welfare was the way I was going to go.
Applying to welfare was difficult because I needed documents I didn't have. The social worker helped me to get what I didn't have, and the process began. She also helped me to apply to Stark Metropolitan Housing, so I could have a place to live. That is one program which is gone. It used to be if you were in the Battered Women's Shelter, you were expedited to the top of the list. You bypassed others who may have been waiting months. As the waiting time grew, homeless people no longer were able to bypass others who had been waiting. I was lucky to be homeless at the right time. As I am finding out now, securing housing is a monumental task. I can't say for sure, but if I had not been able to secure housing, utilities and food for myself and the girls, I might have gone back to him. I filled out the necessary paperwork and I would soon receive my first welfare check. I was able to get a checking account in order to deposit the monthly stipend. Other women in the shelter were not able to get a checking account so they relied on check cashing places to access their funds, which they then took out money orders to pay rent and utilities. They would often lose 5% or more of their checks paying for this service. When every dollar counts, 5% is a lot to pay. As I was about to learn, being poor isn't cheap. There are any number of fees and surcharges you have to pay for no other reason than you are poor.
During the first couple of weeks in the shelter, I had access to a car. We were making car payments to my brother for a car he had purchased, but couldn't afford. I soon found out my husband told my brother to report it as stolen. I don't know if my brother did, but I made sure to get the car back to him immediately. From that moment on, I no longer had transportation in order to seek employment. I was still determined that welfare be a temporary condition. I may have been in denial, but I wasn't one of THEM. I was the reason welfare was part of our system, and I wasn't going to raise my children on it. In the space of a few days, I had become homeless, lost a job, lost my transportation and had all avenues of employment cut off from me. We were living in a shelter and the first few days we were in the dorm section with other families. My daughter and I shared one bed, while the eldest daughter had a bed next to us. I was terrified. I can honestly say I can't remember a time since when I was that frightened. By the end of the first week, we had our own room, but living in a shelter wasn't easy.
I had to take the bus everywhere I went, with two small children in tow. There were no babysitting services in the shelter, and other residents could not watch each other's children. That meant searching for a job was impossible. The social worker was trying to impress upon me the last thing I needed right now was a job. My first priority was to my daughters, and in stabilizing their life. I didn't see how I could do that without being able to provide for them, but the rules of the shelter were not supportive of seeking employment. Besides, all the things I needed to do in order to stabilize my life, the rules I had to follow to stay in the shelter, and the paperwork I had to return to social services was taking up all of my time. The little time I had during business hours was taken up by the mandatory counseling I had to attend in the shelter, and I enrolled my children to receive counseling services as well. We were all assigned chores which had to be done by the close of each day. I didn't object to the chores, but you had to have your children at your side and well behaved while you did them. I had no time to search for work. I vowed to myself I would get a job just as soon as I was out of the shelter.
I was approved for emergency food stamps and that was when food stamps were actually printed and stamped paper issued by the government which were distributed in packs of $1, $5, $10, $25, $50 and $100 booklets. The cashier removed the number of food stamps for the purchase. The only ones allowed to be loose were the $1 values. They allowed those loose so that cashiers could give them as change, but if the remaining change was under a dollar, they gave you cash. Each month, your food stamps were distributed during certain days depending on your last name. You could not go get your food stamps before the date opening on your last name. You could go on dates after, but not before. The site was only opened a limited number of days during the first two weeks of the month, and only open during designated hours the last two weeks of the month. You never wanted to go the first hours your day was available, because the line would often ring out of the building and down the block. If you could hold out until the next day, you wouldn't have to wait so long.
I took the bus to the food stamp distribution site and found my place in line. I felt as if they were all staring at me. I was nicely dressed, as were my children. My hair and makeup were neat and pretty. This was in stark contrast to the people waiting in line with me. I looked at each one in judgment. I saw women who were shabbily dressed, and poorly kept. They had blank looks on their faces as if they were resigned to a fate in hell. That's what it felt like to me; like I had suddenly entered the gates of an alternate dimension in which my hell was to be in the welfare line. There were old people in the line and I felt sympathy for them, but even so some of them smelled. I didn't care how poor you were, you didn't have to smell. My nose was upturned in more ways than one and I had a lot to learn about why poor people smell. I suppose what surprised me the most was the mix of people I saw in line; not all of them were black. As I looked around the room, I noticed only a third of the people waiting were black. The rest of them were white, like me.
For so many people congregating in such a small room, there was very little conversation. There were some people there who had come in with others and they conversed. There were some in line who recognized others who picked up their food stamps on the same day and they caught up with one another. The rest of us stood in the line of shame, trying hard not to admit we were waiting in line for food. I had never seem so much shame in one room in my entire life. This was not what I expected. I expected some type of a party, with low lifes picking up their handouts. I looked around the room with trepidation. If truth be told, I was scared out of my mind to be in the same room with low lifes. It was almost as if I expected to catch the disease of poverty simply by being in the same room. I wasn't like them. I would never be like them. I kept my head low, my nose up and my thoughts to myself as I approached the window. I handed the lady my identification and she counted back the number of food stamps I had been awarded. In between each stack of booklets was a pink card stock paper separating the booklets. The cashier had them piled neatly up off to one side. I asked her if we could have some of them. I thought there might be something we could make of them to play some type of a game. My girls loved those stupid little cards and spent the rest of the night making up games to play. I wasn't the only one who had lost so much. My children didn't even have toys to play with. The only toy they owned was the pink cards we picked up in the food stamp line.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
This next part shaped how I defined my sexual behavior to date, and how I would view it in the future. I warn you, it deals with sexual abuse, specifically, my father. I had remembered the first part and consoled myself it had stopped with oral sex; it had stopped at age six because my grandfather put a stop to it. I could go into all the reasons I pieced this story line together, but it comes down to one thing; I needed to believe someone had saved that precious little six year old girl. I needed to believe my childhood wasn't a nightmare. The recurring dream/memory of the devil beside my bed was a frequent night terror. It bothered me I couldn't remember much of my life but I had come to accept this was how it was. I kept wondering why I couldn't remember though. It bugged me and I tried to find the answers in family pictures. All I saw in pictures was the members in my family who sexually assaulted me. My father wasn't the only one, but he certainly carried the most influence when you talk about shaping sexuality and relationships toward men. I couldn't find any memories when I stared into the pictures. All I saw in them was pain. I wanted to remember, but you can't make the mind accept what it isn't ready to acknowledge.
I can't remember what day it came flooding back, but I remember where I was and what I was doing. I was in the basement of the marital home getting laundry out of the laundry chute. I don’t know what I was thinking, but suddenly the light bulb became illuminated in my mind. I don't know why I didn't see it before, why I didn't put the pieces together. There never was a devil beside my bed, the devil had always been my father. As the shock of this new realization wore off, I saw my mind shattered like a fragmented mirror. I saw my father come out of the shadows of nightfall, his face falling into eyes of my six year old self. I saw the evil smile he always had when he was about to assault me, I smelled the stink of beer on his hot breath. I felt his hands jerk my legs together, squeezing them tight. I closed my eyes as I heard the zipper on his pants and I squeezed my eyes tighter and tighter when he pulled down my panties and stuck his penis in between my legs. He never penetrated me, I guess some pedophiles have their limits. Maybe he justified what he was doing because it wasn’t technically sex. Who knows what goes on in the mind of someone so damaged they have to extinguish the spirit of another human being, particularly that of a child. I can't say I remember the rest. I believe that's when I checked out of myself, why I thought I had fallen asleep after the devil approached my bed. Now I knew why a larger part of my memory began when I got my period. He stopped at the point when I was physically able to become pregnant. Every shattered piece of my memory was being put back together and my life was making sense. I had my memory back and it nearly destroyed me.
The magnitude of what I remembered ripped through my soul. I couldn't stand. I fell into a heap on the basement floor, screaming, crying, sobbing harder than I ever had in my entire life. No one had saved me. I endured my father's assaults for years on end. He stole my precious memories, stole my innocence and set me up for a string of promiscuous encounters, so fractured I would have sex as a poor substitute for the approval of a man. I wasn't anything unless a man wanted me, desired me for sex. I had no sense of self outside of sex and spent most of my life wondering why, trying to claim some sliver of self esteem, some independence from the approval of men. I degraded myself for an approval that never came. Nothing filled the void my father left.
I have never been as shattered as I was that night. I truly did not think I would survive it, and I almost didn't. I don't know how long I lay on the cold floor, it was Christmas time and the cement chilled my bones but I didn't pay it any attention. After I had spent my grief, I picked myself up and went to bed. The next days were a blur. I tried to keep it together for the holidays and I couldn't. I attempted suicide. I was completely and utterly broken. I was devastated at the length of time the abuse went on, I was crushed the people around me didn't protect me and I was in awe I had hidden it from myself for so long. My mind was trying to tell me, but I couldn't comprehend what had actually taken place. What I had remembered prior was bad enough. All those years of night terrors about the devil and I never put the pieces together. All those years I spent in pain, struggling with depression, all those years feeling empty and worthless culminated to this moment. I was so very lost, so alone and there didn't seem to be a way out. Not even my children were a comfort to me. All they saw was their mother in pieces, and not understanding what was happening to me they rejected me for ruining their Christmas. They blame me to this day, but I never don't think I ever told them why I tried to kill myself or what was happening during that time. I felt betrayed by them because they responded to my pain with anger instead of compassion. They wouldn't talk to me for a long time after that.
It took a long time to come back from the memory returning, from the rejection of my children and to come to terms with my childhood. I stopped dating, and lost all interest in men. I quit flirting, and did all I could to become unattractive and invisible. Sex was the last thing on my mind and I chose to become asexual. I wrapped myself up in work to avoid dating. I thought I had finally come to a comfortable place in my life with sex and men when my world spun out of control with the return of my memory. I no longer felt comfortable with sex or sexuality. I became celibate. I wanted nothing to do with men or sex. This went on for some years. I acted like men didn't exist. If men flirted with me, I didn't notice. I coexisted with them in a professional capacity, but I made no effort to socialize with them.
I healed, eventually. I'm glad my memory returned, as painful as it was. There had been an empty space deep in my heart, my soul had been splintered and I didn't know why or how to fill it. The return of my memory closed that hole. It didn't happen overnight, but gradually, bit by bit. I don't have night terrors any longer and the devil doesn't torture me. I haven't seen him since. I tried to have casual sex, knowing I was in no place for a relationship but I simply wasn't interested. It felt mechanical, something I was doing because it seemed like the thing to do. The passion was gone. I had no desire to repeat the performance.
I've had one short term relationship since then, and it was a relationship I knew would not last. It has been more than a decade since the memory returned and I remain celibate for the most part. I still desire sex, and masturbate frequently but I have no desire to seek out a relationship with a man. I remain hopeful that a man will enter my life to break through the walls I have in place, but I know it would have to begin as a friendship. I can't think of men in terms of relationships or sex any longer, it is too frightening even now. Healing isn't recovery. I don't think people can recover from something like this. The scars run too deep, the damage irreversible.
I think I have some to a place where I have the healthiest attitude about sex than I ever have possessed. I know who I am, what I want, what I expect and that I am no longer willing to trade it to fill some void left within myself. Even though I am celibate, I watch the evolution of sexuality in our society with great interest. Through this, I came to understand I am most likely bisexual, but because of religion and societal expectations I will never realize it in any real form. I have let go of preconceived judgments regarding sex and have come to see sexuality as fluid rather than set within a narrow range of parameters. I've learned there are many reasons to have sex, all of which are valid and there are reasons not to have sex. I am happy being celibate, but I do miss intimacy. I know I don't want to go back to casual sex, but I'm not sure I can deal with a relationship. I will always hold out hope for a kind, gentle soul to enter into my life, someone I can share a life with and build a future, but if it never happens I can still be happy. Despite what I have remembered, I am at peace with it. I spent most of my life trying to define what sexuality was, what place sex had in my life and how to use it as an extension of myself only to come to a place where it isn't important anymore. I don't have to spend any more time searching for myself. I was here all along.
Several things influenced the dark and hidden subject of sex and pussy. My sheltered and abusive childhood, religion, faulty sex education in high school, the shame of having a period, of being a woman. There were the expectations of being a wife and mother in a patriarchal marriage which defined what "good" wives do to service their husbands. I learned what it was to be raped and I learned I sometimes had sex out of fear instead of true desire. I have learned a lot about what consent truly means and I understand there were times I had not given consent, but rather I gave in to pressure or expectations. It wasn't rape, but it wasn't consent either. Having actually been raped, I understood the difference. I have learned some people may be born to a strict definition of sexuality such as being straight or gay, but I suspect the mass majority of us are bisexual as I see a fluidity in sexuality. Had we not all been oppressed by damaging views of sex, we might express ourselves with greater freedom. I believe the vast majority of humans see some shame in being attracted to the same sex, so we do not admit the truth even to ourselves. Being bisexual is different than being gay, and I think people confuse the two and carry with them a secret shame they might be gay. I am not a lesbian. I prefer sex with men, but I did have a threesome once which involved another woman. I didn't have sex with her, but there was some degree of sexual play within that encounter. I have come to understand we were created to be sexual creatures and heaping shame into sex does us all a great disservice. There are all kinds of sexual expression, and if done between consenting adults there is nothing wrong with any type of it. Just because S & M and bondage aren't in my playlist, doesn't mean the people who enjoy it are doing anything deviant.
Sex is expansive and we have not cracked the surface of what drives us and in determining who we are attracted to but our first influence in developing sexuality and attraction lies within our childhood, determined by our parents. I spent years acting out the abuse from childhood, not understanding what it was I was pursuing or what void I was trying to fill. A woman's self esteem is a major component in determining how much she will assert herself during sex, and also determines how she feels about exposing her body to another person. Sex doesn't begin and end with our genitals. It begins at birth and if we live a full life it never ends. I don't believe sex has ended for me, but it has taken a rather lengthy time out. I don't have issues I need to play out with sex. I'm not sure what the future holds for my sexuality personally, but I remain willing to explore it with someone I care about. It has been an epic journey of discovery, and learning to let go of the shame surrounding being a sexual woman. I gave up the myth of my golden pussy and it allowed me to understand sex through wiser eyes. That single understanding alone gave me permission to let go of shame, and ended the confusion and disappointment I felt if I guy didn't call me again. It wasn't me, it was him.
Everyone's journey through sex will be different from mine but we all explore sex with some type of baggage. We all carry some degree of guilt or shame at least for some periods throughout our lives. It's what religion and faulty sex education instills into us. My journey is still being written, but after five decades I can say I have finally come to a place where I understand myself and my sexuality with a clarity I could not have achieved had I not went in search of answers. Getting my memory back nearly destroyed me, but it didn't. It explained my sexual behavior and why I felt empty with some of my encounters. While I am satisfied with my sexuality and expression at long last, I know there are few rules and limitations with sex. For now, celibacy is what I enjoy and that it is also nothing to be ashamed of. It is rather poetic I have come full circle. I have gone from searching for my value in sex, to finding I have value without it. This is the perfect ending to my journey for now.