Been There…Done That?

I hear ya…

How many times do I have to say it?

How many times do I have to say it?

As I am working on my memoir, I have had to ask myself a very serious question. What theme threads run through the tapestry of my life? Have I experienced things that I’ve learned from? How can this help my readers in some way?

“It is never too late to become what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

Poor Me!

I actually used to think that I had been through more than anyone I knew, and because of this, I am an authority on the matter of suffering. I wasn’t being arrogant about it, I just knew I could empathize with lots of hurting people. It was because of this belief that I became a psychotherapist. But soon I heard the stories…and then I quickly changed my stance on that subject. Nope! I wasn’t the poster child I thought I was. The world is full of hurting people…and I am just one of them.

But I also recognize that I have been through a LOT, and more importantly, I have overcome a lot…enough that I have hope for others.

My Themes

In my memoir I am going to write about:

Alcoholism

Codependency

Neglect

Juvenile Hall

Teen Marriage

Teen Motherhood

Physical Abuse

Divorce

Drug Abuse

Suicides

Mental Illness and My Experience in a Mental Hospital

Dysfunctional Relationships

Love Addiction

The Church and Bad Advice

A Broken Neck

Addiction to Narcotic Pain Medication

A Brain Tumor

Becoming a Psychotherapist

God’s Love

Healing

Forgiveness

…and a whole lot more!

My articles will discuss things I’ve learned on my own, as well as through education and experience working with others. I really hope you’ll join me. And please leave comments or questions. I will be happy to respond.

Also, for more tips on these subjects and help with challenging life circumstances and highly reactive emotions, come meet me over at http://www.changeyouremotions.com.

Stay tuned and keep updated by subscribing in the box on the upper right. And be sure to download my eBook for free, Becoming What You Might Have Been for some tips on how you can change your life and become all you can be too!

Monikers

Mr. BunglesI was working at a job I loved and that made me feel good about myself.  After all, making other people’s teeth whiter was important work.  And I also had my first business card with my name on it. I got into the habit of leaving them on tables in restaurants or accidentally dropping one in the foyer as I left church.   I gave them out to strangers on the street or in the chip aisle at the supermarket.

My daughter had grown up, and was planning on moving out.  We untangled from each other like octopi backing out of a group hug.  We knew it was what was needed for both of us, but we didn’t want to let go.

My son was spending summers at his grandparent’s home in Los Angeles.  Suddenly I had time on my hands…too much time.

I didn’t know what to do with all that freedom.  After a lifetime of feeling encased in anxiety and grief, I had broken out of the cocoon and was flying on my own for the first time.  I tried to relive a childhood I had missed.  Every minute I wasn’t working I was playing on the beach or windsurfing at the lake.  One sunny morning I went out to the street to look northwest towards the beach.   I wanted to see if there was any telltale sign of fog.   There was.  That meant wind by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m.  I ran back into the apartment and dashed down the hallway, sliding into the bedroom I shared with my eighteen-year-old daughter. I shook her awake and yelled “Kowabunga!” She rolled her eyes and turned toward the wall in an attempt to get back to sleep. She had become the older, responsible one.

I was still the orphan looking for someone to love me.  There was a part of me that didn’t believe God would ever allow me to get into another relationship.  After all, I had blown three marriages.  But then I thought, maybe my definition of marriage is flawed.  I mean, I thought marriage meant that “two became one.”  I was pretty sure that didn’t mean I became one with the STD my husband shared with his latest girlfriend or that my eye became one with the end of his fist.  Still, I felt stupid; the type of woman people felt sorry for; kind of like a dimwit. Oh, that’s Linda, don’t mind her…she can’t help it.  She’s been…shhhh…don’t tell anybody…mentally ill for years now.

The guys I dated were all wrong for me.  I was like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fill that missing piece with guys who just didn’t fit.

I was still giving men nicknames, just as I had in the 1970’s.  It hurt a little less to be dumped by “Wing Nut” than it did to be dumped by Scott, the man I had just given my heart to.

There was “the dentist.”  Seven years younger than I and a playboy with a fancy education from back east…not a good match for the likes of me.  Oh…and he had a pretty blond girlfriend stashed away in England part time.  Whenever her visa ran out in the States, she headed back across the pond for a spell and a spot of tea.  That’s when he would ask me out.  When she returned, he dated her; something he conveniently failed to mention.  I called him at home one day and there was her voice was on the answering machine.  “Hulloo…this is Lady Mary Elizabeth…”we’re” not home just now…yada yada yada.” Oh yeah…I got a million of ‘em.

After the dentist, I met “the pilot/surfer/IT geek.”  He bragged about his ability to do somersaults in the sky.  One day we rented a Cessna 170 and flew from San Luis Obispo to Fullerton Airport.  Soon into the flight I looked out the window and said, “There’s Lake Lopez.”

“That’s not Lake Lopez,” he said.  I looked again.  I had windsurfed that lake a hundred times.  I would recognize it upside down and backwards.

“Yeah, that’s Lake Lopez, alright.” I said.

The engine was so loud that I couldn’t hear the quick chatter between him and the air traffic controllers.  He avoided eye contact for the rest of the trip. I noticed the right half of his face twitching as we entered LAX airspace.  I just thought he had a tic.  When we finally cruised down the landing strip at Fullerton he broke out into sobs. Apparently he had almost flown us into the side of a mountain.  He climbed out of the cockpit and vomited onto the tarmac.  My children already didn’t like him very much. That pretty much cinched it.

That coupled with the cases of beer he consumed on a nightly basis worked to pull us apart.

And I can’t leave out “AJ the Weatherman.”  Most of the time I couldn’t remember what his real name was so I just called him “The Weatherman,” for short.  He reported all the latest weather patterns on the 7:00 o’clock and the 11:00 o’clock evening newscast for the local television network.  When he took me out on a date (rare) he wore his letterman jacket with the station call letters on the back.  This was to impress the cute cocktail waitresses so he could get us free drinks.  He also wanted to make sure I knew that all the cute cocktail waitresses thought he was hot stuff.  Apparently he didn’t see them roll their eyes as he headed over to his table.  I wasn’t impressed either.

I was right in the middle of breaking it off with him during our date on New Year’s Eve.  “No!” he yelled, almost spilling his Bud Light.  “I was willing to give up ever having children for you!”

Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention his stalking behavior.  I caught him hiding behind the potted plants on his deck balcony more than once after coming home from the 11:00 o’clock news report, lying in wait for me to arrive home.  The next day, as I left my apartment, his somewhat shrill “Hey!” would force me to look up towards his second floor patio.  Leaning on his patio railing was all 125 pounds of him, baby-oiled arms, hands properly protected by weight-lifting gloves, his smile looking like a Chihuahua ready to latch on to the mailman’s ankle.  “Oh, yeah, hi,” I answered.

“How’s it going?”

“Fine.”

“So, where were you last night?”  Subtlety was not his strong suit.

That coupled with the cases of beer he consumed on a nightly basis worked to pull us apart.

So, I decided it was better if I didn’t date men who lived at “Divorce Central” with my children and me.

By this time I was beginning to think I didn’t know how to pick men or something.  I mean, seriously. I was learning.  Really.  I just wasn’t a quick study.

So then, along came “the Air Force guy.”  He went to my church.  He dressed impeccably.  I was drawn to guys in Italian suits from the Mens Warehouse with $20 Rolex watches from Mexico who drove leased Mercedes Benz’ far beyond their budget.  Well, truth be told, I had never been drawn to guys like that.  I had been drawn to guys in dreadlocks with Jamaican accents, but that’s another story altogether. I’m all about experiencing all the world has to offer.

We began dating, and I found myself falling for him.  I had waited a little while this time before falling in love; at least two and a half weeks.  I couldn’t really figure out what it was about him that drew me in.  He wasn’t handsome.  He had a high voice, like a man pretending to sound like a woman.  If I called when he wasn’t home, I found myself cringing at the recording on his answering machine.  “Hi, this is Todd.”  He sounded like Robin Williams might sound on crack during one of his manic episodes.  But he drew me in.  And apparently he drew a lot of other women in too.  By the time he got done wringing out my self-esteem like a wet, dirty dishcloth, I knew something was seriously wrong with me.  I began to run the track at the high school after work in an attempt to outrun years of rejection and abandonment.

And then, along came “the guy in the parking lot.”

The Cage Door Swings

English: Monarch butterflies

English: Monarch butterflies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With my husband gone, I had to think about options.  I had not been able to work in about twelve years.  What had started out as simple panic attacks had turned into agoraphobia and raging, suicidal depression with psychotic features, all of which had been exacerbated by grief and despair.  My condition had improved somewhat over the years, but the stress of a marriage on the skids had taken its toll, and now I had a divorce to contend with.

I had never lived alone, and I was frightened.  On top of it all, my mother had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and was dying.  Once she was gone, I would become the professed matriarch of our tiny family.  Even at thirty-four years old, I felt like an orphan.  I went to a well-respected church counselor at my large church for guidance.

“Linda, you need to move out of that house (the house I had rented with my husband, and could no longer afford on my own).  You need to get out, even if it’s to move into the housing projects.  You need to get a job…any kind of job, right now…this week!”

My mind reeled with this information.  I pictured it all…me moving into a dangerous neighborhood, raising my children around drug addicts and thieves.  The best job I could get with no skills was at a fast food restaurant.   I knew I could end up with a crazy ever-changing work schedule.  My youngest child was four-years-old.  What would I do with my children while I worked?  How would I ever better my life?  I would never get out, never be able to get an education.  I would be trapped in poverty forever.

I woke each morning with these thoughts replaying over and over in my mind. But this advice came from the church counselor, and I believed she wouldn’t be in the position she had on staff at our church if she weren’t thought of as someone who was wise, who heard from God.  Fear gnawed at me like a dog on a meat bone.

One day I mentioned what she had told me to my pastor’s wife.

“She doesn’t have to live it, does she?” she said softly.

Shock and joy hit me simultaneously.  Simple words and it was as if a cage door just flew open and let me out.  I didn’t have to blindly obey the church counselor?  I won’t bring the wrath of God down on my life?  I can actually think for myself?  What a concept.  Simple, and yet I was forever changed.

One morning, I was staring into the bathroom mirror, hurriedly applying make-up.  I had nowhere to go, really.  I was deep in thought about my future.  Where would we be in two years?  Where would we be in five?  I had no skills, no education.  How would I provide for my children?  Where would we go?  What will we do?

As if God were standing right next to me, I sensed a strong voice interrupting my reverie.  “I’m not asking you to live five years from now.  I’m only asking you to live today.”  My mascara wand stopped mid-stroke.  My eyes widened as I stared back at my reflection.  It was as if I was having an out of body experience and I suddenly found myself once again standing in front of my bathroom mirror.  I only have to live through today?

Over the next few days, ideas danced around my head like butterflies flitting through a flower garden.  My first step was to sign myself up for six secretarial courses at the local community college.   It was challenging.  I fought through panic attacks and depression so deep I felt I was drowning, but I took a deep breath after each hour-long class and forged on.

One night I had a dream.  I lay in a huge mahogany four-poster bed with a beautiful white spread over me.  In this dream, I awoke to find my mother silently approaching.  She was wearing a long white nightgown. She sat on the edge of the bed, threw her arms around me, and began to sob.  I felt helpless, but I comforted her as best I could.  I awoke with a start, and lay there thinking about her.

Back in Los Angeles, she was very ill, having suffered several rounds of chemotherapy.  Her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, and a particularly large tumor in the back of her neck had twisted her face.  I spent as much time as I could running down to Los Angeles to see her, but my younger sister was there taking care of her, and she insisted I do not uproot the children, knowing her time was short.  My heart broke for her.

One weekend I drove down to be with her to spend the night in her smoke-filled bachelor apartment.  As soon as I got there, I began to have the familiar sensation of panic.  This was unknown territory.  My heart had ached for my mother’s love for as long as I could remember.  I had never reconciled many things that had happened between us.  She had never expressed her love for me, never held me, had never bought me a “Hallmark moment” card.  She was not an affectionate person.  She was emotionally closed off, and guarded herself carefully.

But I loved her desperately.  Watching her suffer was torture.  I arrived at the apartment and sat down on her couch.  Immediately she came over and sat down next to me, put her arms around me, and began to sob. It was as if someone hit the play button.   The dream I had three months before appeared in my mind as if it were playing on a movie screen.  I stiffened, but I sensed the presence of God in the room and I tried to breathe into the moment. I held my mother, patting her back softly.

“Why did God give me cancer?” my mom asked me.  I fumbled for words.

“He didn’t give you cancer, mom.  He loves you more than you could ever imagine.  We get these diseases because we live in a fallen, toxic world, and we don’t always take the best care of ourselves.”

She asked me more questions about God, about his love, about how she could know him. I asked her if I could pray for her.  I was treading very lightly.  I felt I was on holy ground but it was shaky and I was afraid I could blow it.

“Please,” she whispered.

Those next few moments were the most beautiful and pain-filled moments my mother and I ever spent together.  It was like a precious gift had been wrapped up for us and left on the doorstep of our hearts.

What happened next will surprise you.  Picture me in a black robe, holding an open book, and saying the words, “Dearly beloved…”  Stay tuned.

Over the Edge

English: Purbeck : The Pinnacles & Chalk Cliff...

English: Purbeck : The Pinnacles & Chalk Cliff A steep drop – so don’t get too close to the edge of the cliff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A year passed, and we were still living with the guy I met at work…the one who rescued me from Michael the Archangel.  We just sort of settled in, pretending to be a family.  Except for flinching every time he tried to put his arm around me, I thought I was doing fairly well, considering.  Then, as fate would have it, I got invited to a Tupperware party.

I really disliked Tupperware parties.  Oh, I loved all the little squares and rounds with their matching, color-coordinated lids.  I just disliked the parties.  I always felt guilty when the hostess looked me in the eye and told me how many points my friend would get if I would just host a party of my own.  I also hated the drive home, thinking about what a disaster my kitchen cupboards were, and how, if I only had a spare $327, I could reorganize my entire food supply.

Weaving my way in and out of the typical Los Angeles area work traffic, I checked my watch.  I hoped my friend Theresa would already be there when I arrived.  I knew that she would be the only person I knew at the party.  What I didn’t know was that after this particular Tupperware party, it would be years before I would go anywhere alone again.

The music I usually enjoyed blaring from the car radio was starting to get on my nerves, so I flipped it off.  The normal traffic noise seemed louder than usual.  I checked to see if my windows were up.  I began thinking of all the excuses I could use to leave the party early.  My husband is ill.  I’m not feeling so great myself.  I need to help my son with his kindergarten homework.  Our pet pig got stuck in the dishwasher.

By the time I pulled up to the house, I had my excuses in order, but I was hoping that seeing my girlfriend Theresa would help me forget about my nervousness and I wouldn’t have to use any of them.  I walked into the house and put my coat and purse where I could get to them quickly.

The women were clustered in little groups of two or three.  Theresa was nowhere to be found, and no one made a move to try to include me in their conversations.  I felt invisible, and alone.

I got up and looked out the window.  Where was Theresa?  What’s wrong with me tonight, anyway?  I began to imagine myself flippantly tossing out one of my excuses and casually walking across the floor, picking up my coat and purse, and heading out the door.  “Ta-ta!  Hope to see you gals again soon!”  Instead I felt glued to the chair.  I was positive that every one in that room would know I was lying and give me a silent glare.  I finally got up the courage and mentioned to a woman sitting next to me that I had to go, grabbed my coat and purse, and almost flew out the front door.

THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.

Hunter S. Thompson

As I got into my car, I started to feel as if I couldn’t breathe.  My thoughts raced through my brain so fast it seemed as if I was interrupting myself.  My palms were slippery on the steering wheel.  I pictured myself passing out.

The traffic on Hawthorne Boulevard had gotten worse.  With each red light the feelings became more intense.  My arms and chest began to feel numb.  I wondered if I was having a heart attack, at twenty-three-years old.  The urge to jump out of the car and run down the street screaming for help was so strong that looking back, I don’t know how I kept from it.

I managed to make it home and got into bed, pulling the covers over my head.  My breathing slowed, and eventually I got to sleep.  The next morning, I hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and lay in bed for a few moments, trying to get my bearings.  I had a vague feeling of unease.  Did I have a bad dream?  No.  Is something wrong with one of the kids?  No.  Oh yeah, last night!  With that thought came the memory of the nightmarish rush home from the party.  As I replayed it all in my mind, my breath began to accelerate.  Then my hands went numb. I froze. I had walked too close to the edge one too many times. This time, there was no regaining my footing.

Michael the Archangel

Black eye, 3rd day

Black eye, 3rd day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A chance meeting through a friend of a friend.  Our eyes met across a crowded room (well, I think there were five of us).  Soon we became the perfect little hippie couple.   At the end of it all,  I would be completely mad.  It would take a decade to fight my way back from a pit of despair so deep that’s it’s a miracle I survived it at all.  And oddly enough, the madness would start with an invitation to a Tupperware party.  To this day, I don’t like Tupperware parties…but I digress.

I thought he was gorgeous (they always seem to be gorgeous).  Michael.  I thought of him as Michael the Archangel.  He was poetic and spiritual.  He was calming.  He was smart. He took over the parts of my life that I couldn’t seem to manage on my own.  Everyone around us seemed to be as drawn to him as I was.  My Svengali.

He talked me into moving away, making the break from Los Angeles and most of my friends and family.  Technically still a teenager, I felt like a grown-up, striking out on my own.  Only I wasn’t alone.  I was with Michael the Archangel.

The first time it happened we were walking down the street talking.  The conversation seemed to be going well enough, although I had been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the topics he brought up.  Lately he had been telling me about his foray into white magic.  At times he didn’t make any sense at all.  At other times, I felt a definite darkness in my spirit, as if someone had turned off the lights.

“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked.  It seemed like an innocent enough question at the time.  I didn’t sense a set-up or anything.  But I already knew I had better say, “yes,” so I did.  “Well, I’m Jesus Christ reincarnated.”  My breath caught in my throat and I stopped, turning to face him.   “Yeah, right,” I said.

I didn’t even see it coming, an explosion of pain and blackness.  My face went numb and I thought my eye had popped out of its socket.  I screamed.  Horrified, I tried to run, but he caught up to me and pulled me by my blouse.  I thought someone would have had to hear the crack when his fist landed on my face and I hoped someone would come out of their house and rescue me, but the silence, other than the barking of a dog, was deafening.  Suddenly, a beautiful sunny summer day turned gray.

“I ran into the kitchen cupboard,” I later lied to my friends.  They just stared at my face and turned away.  I wanted them to know I was lying, confront me with it, and demand an explanation.  I wanted someone to take charge and hide us somewhere safe.  But no one did, and I kept silent, and I was 360 miles away from home.

Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him, you are in it with him, and then you are lost.

Anita Shreve, Strange Fits of Passion

There was calm after that storm but it was just the eye of the hurricane.  One night soon after, I was beaten while the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange” played in the background.  I was left with lumps all over my head that were covered by my hair.   A friend didn’t believe I had been hurt at all because my face looked fine. Resigned, I went back home.  And of course, that wasn’t the worst of it.

I tried to spend my days taking my son to the park or long walks downtown, anything to keep us away from home as much as possible.  Every so often we would stop and I would watch him while he gathered his “collections.” I pulled these treasures out of his pockets before I did his laundry and it was one of my greatest pleasures.  I never knew what I would find; rocks, leaves, olives that had fallen off of the trees lining the street on which we lived.  He was a little over two-years-old and so funny already.  One day, I flipped a cigarette into the street.  “Does that look like an ashtray?” he quipped.  I laughed out loud and stared at him. He’s only two and he’s already got our family’s sarcastic sense of humor!  I felt so proud to be his mom.  Somehow, I had to get us out of there; somehow I had to save us.

Soon I was pregnant again and leaving was out of the question.  There was no way my parents would take me in again and all my friends were Michael’s as well.  I was awakened one night to find the police in my living room.  A friend had called them after Michael had slit his wrists and smeared his blood all over the walls, throughout the house.  The police coaxed him off of our property by telling him the neighbors wanted to ask him a question, and took him to the hospital.  It took me until dawn to wash the walls before my son woke up and saw it.

Then there was the problem of the heroin.  I watched his addiction happen just like in a film we saw in middle school.  New friends in fancy cars came by with freebies.  They made Michael feel as if they would do anything for him…best buddies.  I came home one day from a walk with my son and walked into the bedroom I had fixed up for the baby.  They were sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor, handing each other the syringe.  A drop of blood marred the brand new crisp white of the Winnie the Pooh rug they were sitting on.  I fled to the garage, blood pounding in my ears.  I stooped forward, trying to catch my breath, hands on my swelled belly.  I suddenly knew what it was like to want to kill someone with my bare hands. I began planning our escape in earnest.

The next morning, I casually mentioned how fun it would be to move away, to begin again; to be closer to our parents and friends.  Maybe after the baby is born.  A “start-over” of sorts.  Instead, another year of hell followed me like an angry bee, sometimes stinging me, sometimes leaving me alone, but always buzzing around, too close, keeping me on my toes.  Adrenaline released into my bloodstream, attempting to keep me safe.  The trouble was, there was no where to flee…not yet.

In a Godda Da Vida (Don’t you know that I love you, baby)

I woke up to the sound of rain on the window.  I had cracked it open before I went to bed and the air filtering into my apartment was damp and smelled sweet.  I turned over and tugged the blanket up over my shoulders, attempting to recapture a dream.  But something felt wrong.  I was late…very late!  I jumped out of bed and threw on my purple velvet dress, quickly backcombing a poof into the top of my long, thin hair and drawing eyeliner wings over blue eye shadow before running out the door.  I grabbed my purse, the diaper bag, the baby, the keys.  I had been expected to start answering the phone at my desk at Al & Sons Termite Control Company 20 minutes earlier.

I hurriedly made my way down the concrete stairs of the building, and as I stepped onto the fourth stair tread from the bottom, my foot slipped on the wet pavement.  In an attempt to keep from dropping my 10-month-old, I came down on my knees, hard.  I lay there for several minutes, moaning.  My easy-going son sat beside me on the ground, eyeing me, trying to figure out whether he should be upset too.  Everyone else had left for work and there was no one around to help me.  I literally crawled to the car, managing not to drop the baby.  After I strapped him into the car seat, I crawled back for my purse and his diaper bag, tears running rivets through my beige Mabelline foundation.

My bloodied knees hurt so bad it was hard to put enough pressure on the break pedal to stop the car.  My legs shook under the purple velvet and I thought I would faint.  I drove very slowly to the babysitter’s house so I wouldn’t have to press hard on the breaks.  By the time I got there, my knees worked enough to walk, but the pain was so bad it was a good thing I hadn’t eaten breakfast.  I suddenly felt tired…tired of pretending to be an adult.  Tired of being responsible.  Tired of working to just pay the bills.  Tired of being alone.  I was seventeen-years-old.

A couple of weeks later I got a call out of the blue from an old high school friend.  He had gotten my number from my mother.  Could he come see me?

I opened the door and stared in disbelief.  Bob had changed.  His hair was down to his shoulders.  He wore a puka shell necklace and bell-bottom jeans.  I hadn’t seen anyone who dressed like that since I saw The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl three years earlier.

The hippies wanted peace and love.  We wanted Ferraris, blondes, and switchblades. – Alice Cooper.

Bob and I began to hang out together almost every day.   He introduced me to his like-minded friends and the music of Iron Butterfly and Alice Cooper.  He talked about peace and ending the war in Vietnam.  He was passionate about things that seemed to matter.  He cared about other people. Every woman was his “sister,” and every man his “brother.”  He talked about love.  He exuded love.  It wasn’t long before I got myself a pair of bell-bottomed jeans of my own.  Because looking for love was what I was all about.

And baby makes three?

Whenever I tell the story about my marriage at sixteen, I always feel the need to say, “…and I wasn’t even pregnant!”  It seems as crazy to me to have gotten married at sixteen when I wasn’t pregnant as it does to everyone who hears the story.  I get a lot of wide-eyed looks of disbelief.  I always try to stave off that familiar sense of embarrassment by being flippant.  “Yep…crazy, huh?”  I feel like people are thinking, “what, were you stupid?”

And within two months of our walk down the aisle, I did become pregnant.  I’m not sure I even understood how to prevent it.  At that time, my husband and I had rented a beautiful apartment with hardwood floors and two large bedrooms.  Our only piece of furniture was a king-sized bed, purchased through the newspaper by my mother-in-law.  Maybe that’s how it happened.

My husband worked during the day (for a very short time) selling cookware door-to-door.  The training program suggested taking off his wedding ring and flirting with housewives who were stuck home all day with nothing else to do. So, while he was out “soliciting,” I sat on the king-sized bed during the day and played with my Barbie dolls.  Barbie and Ken became the couple I wished we could be, and they lived out the fantasies I had of married life.

One night I awoke with a sharp pain, deep and low.  I went to the bathroom and found blood in the toilet and then on the bed.  I tried to wake my husband but he would not wake up so I went across the complex to my sister-in-law’s apartment and woke her.  She drove me to my in-law’s house a few blocks away.  Soon I was writhing on the floor of their bathroom while straining to hear their whispers and phone calls through the closed door.  My mother-in-law came to check on me, and told me she and my sister-in-law were going to the apartment to try to wake up my husband, and more importantly, clean the bed she had just bought.  I was left alone on that bathroom floor, pain searing though me like a knife, the cold floor against my face the only comfort.  I was so frightened I wanted to scream.  A couple of hours later, a trip to the toilet produced a tiny little baby.  Then pain got even worse.  I was out of my head with it and heard myself moaning as if from somewhere else, in some other place.  Eventually, they came trooping back into the house and then more whispered phone calls.  Finally I was whisked up and taken to a doctor’s office, where he removed the placenta while I grabbed his wrists in agony.  This was all to save money on a hospital bill.

My husband’s job was just as short-lived as any of the others he had gotten.  When we couldn’t pay the rent on our apartment, we moved into a “court” in a less than desirable area.   There were roughly ten bachelor-type apartments in a horseshoe-shaped complex with a laundry room at the corner, complete with a ringer washer and a clothesline.  Truth be told, the tenants and landlord were very nice and it was great to have the company of other women during the day.  By this time I was pregnant again, and I had extreme morning sickness that lasted all day long. Most of the time I laid in bed and came out into the hot sun once or twice during the day to sit in webbed lawn chairs on patchy grass and catch up on the latest gossip about the other tenants.  The women all wanted to give me advice and I tried to listen, but soon I was back inside with the drapes pulled shut, lying on the bed and trying to keep Saltine crackers down.  I was six months along and had not yet seen a doctor.

One day my husband handed me five-dollar bill and said he’d be back in a little while.  I knew this routine well enough to know not to spend it all in one place.  I saved and stretched those five dollars as far as I could.  In the mornings I would walk over to the landlord’s office knowing that if I hung around for a while he would inevitably offer me a donut.  Then I went back to the one room apartment and slept in between vomiting or dry heaving in the bathroom.  At around 5:00 p.m. I got up and walked the mile down to the local McDonalds and bought a hamburger and milk.  Total cost for this nutritious meal was less than fifty cents a day.

Eventually the money ran out and I moved back in with my mother.  This was not the best choice.  She was drinking heavily and once, when she found out I poured her vodka down the sink, she pulled me over backwards by my hair.  My husband came by for a visit one day, and I felt giddy with relief.  When he got up to leave, I found myself running after him and kneeling in the street next to his car, seven months pregnant, crying and begging him not to leave me there.  He drove away without a backward glance in the rearview mirror. Shock left me breathless and fear-filled thoughts came too close together. My mind felt like a jumbled mess.  I wondered what would happen if I just walked away from my mother’s apartment building and just kept walking.  I pictured myself walking for miles and miles until someone eventually noticed and did something to help me.  But there was nowhere to go, no one to run to and no one watching.  I had to go back in and face my mother, reeling around the apartment seemingly out of her mind. It was hard for me to believe that a man could do something like that to me…to us, but unfortunately I got used to the idea.

My in-laws eventually rescued me and took me in.  I was eight-months pregnant and they helped me arrange to see an OB/GYN at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles, fifteen miles away.  My baby was all “out front,” and I was huge, making it hard to walk.  By this time the doctor wanted me to come in once a week, then twice a week when the baby was past due.  Although this was an all day ordeal, my mother-in-law gave me enough money for bus fare only.  In order to get to the clinic by 10:00 a.m. to be weighed in, I had to leave the house and waddle to the bus stop by 6:00 a.m.  Then, after weighing in, I had to bide my time until 1:00 p.m., when I would see whichever doctor happened to be taking patients that day.  I was starving by then, and one of the other patients took pity on me and took me to her nearby apartment for lunch a couple of times while we waited for our afternoon appointments.  I wondered if I would get in trouble if my in-laws knew about this and never told them I had gotten myself something to eat. I would arrive back at the bus stop at about 6:00 p.m., so hungry I was ill, and waddle back into their home to sit down to the usual weekly meal, Kraft mac and cheese out of a box and powdered ice tea.

I “escaped” this existence when my son was four-months old.  I called an old childhood friend and told him I wanted him to come pick me up and go looking for my husband. Within an hour of “cruising” Hawthorne Blvd. in Los Angeles, my husband happened by in his lowered Chevy Impala, and motioned my friend to pull over.  He never dreamed his baby son and me would also be in that car.  Sitting in the middle of the front seat was a topless dancer he had picked up at a bar.  My friend went up to the driver’s side window and said, “Your wife and son are in the car with me, stupid!”  He twisted around and looked back at me, turned white as a sheet, and drove away from us again.

Although the memories surrounding this pregnancy are not pleasant, tragic even, what came from it is one of the most loving, delightful sons a mother could want.  He is kind, loving, caring, funny and successful.  He never smoked a cigarette or tried drugs of any kind.  He is so smart that he tested out at the upper 2% in the country at five-years-old.  I wonder sometimes who raised him.  I’m bragging, I know, but having him in my life made it worth it all, and I feel blessed every day that he’s mine.

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

Neurosurgery

Neurosurgery (Photo credit: BWJones)

When I awoke from brain surgery on October 16, 2006, I could hear my breath twice for each one breath I drew.  And it was loud, like the roaring of a waterfall. The first time I heard it, I was actually taking a breath. A couple of seconds later, I could hear it again…in between breaths. I thought, “that’s odd.”

My optic, auditory, and facial nerves had been damaged in surgery and everything looked and seemed weird.  For one thing, I saw two of everything, and each image seemed four feet apart and a little up to the left. The pupil of my left eye had moved over towards my nose.  My perception made everything seem strange, and it would take several years before the feeling of everything being “off-kilter” would pass.

I had steroids pumping through my IV in order to keep swelling of my brain to a minimum. I was hyped to the max. All I could think was, “I’ve got to tell people about this!!” I pictured myself before vast audiences of people, regaling them all with the story of the miracle God had wrought.  Actually, I have wanted to tell the story of my life for almost as long as I can remember. I have experienced so much sorrow, and yet I am so amazed at my own sense of joy in living. This blog is my attempt at creating hope, sharing what God has done in one life. If one person latches on to it, it is worth it to me.  Because what God would do for me, he would most certainly do for you.  Enjoy! And please comment or ask questions whenever you wish.