Thursday, August 30, 2012

A response to Anonymous

I get a number of emails and comments from readers that stop me in my tracks. When you write about things like abuse and sexual violence, readers are going to tell you their stories. Disclosure begets disclosure.

I'm always honored that someone trusts me enough to share their story. 

Some of the stories are horrendous. Some are merely sad. Some fill me with hope.

I had a comment yesterday on one of my posts and I can't get it out of my head. I responded and went about my day, but it keeps tapping me on the shoulder.

Her story is not tragic. It's not scary or violent. But I can't let it go. It haunts me.

Here is her comment (she posted anonymously). It was left on my post If you read nothing else I ever post, read this:

I almost wish I hadn't read this :(. But thank you for putting the thought in my head.

Everyone thinks he's a great guy, and he is. I just don't like him as much as I should. He's very controlling, but then not really, he lets me do what I want to really. Just doesn't want my son to see his biological family or me to have contact with them. I'm afraid to talk about his Dad to my son. 

R wants to get married. I'm engaged, but told him I'm not ready to get married yet. He's been good about it, but is pushing for soon. So is his family, so is my family. I just don't know. I have the feeling that the list of things he gets angry about me doing (buying toys, giving presents to my friends, talking to strangers and neighbours) might get longer once we're formally and officially together forever.

And his ex accused him of rape, it went to court. It just doesn't seem in his nature, and he said it was all lies and everyone's on his side to prove it. But still, why is it there at all? Should I be paying more attention to his past?

:( I don't know what to do now. I can't get by financially on my own, not without a struggle at least. And my son should have a father figure in his life. I just don't know.”

Okay. This hit me viscerally.

Because ten years ago, this was me.

So Anon, if you're reading this, I want you to pretend for a moment that no one else is here, that you and I are sitting in a coffee shop, having a chat.

Firstly, I'm not going to tell you what to do. I remember when I got married the first time (yes, I've been married twice, the first was a short-lived disaster) a few of my friends had reservations. They tried to talk me out of it. I didn't listen to them. In fact, I was angry with them.

I think I was angry because deep down, I had my own reservations. But I was also scared. I was scared I would never get married and have children. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to find the kind of man I really wanted, and if I did that he wouldn't want me back. I was worried about money. So I pushed those doubts deep down, closed my eyes and took the plunge.

Four months after I got married, I left him. I left him because he grabbed me and threatened to hurt me.

Three years later, I got married again. This time, I also had reservations. I was alarmed by his deep insecurities, his black moods and the gulf between his values and my values. But I was pregnant and I so wanted a baby. I didn't know how I could make it on my own financially, just me and a baby. I didn't see an exit, so I closed my eyes and took the plunge.

I was married for ten years. I thought if I tried hard enough, I could make it work. During all those years, however, those reservations never left. They only grew larger. I didn't want them to be there, so I learned how to make myself go numb.

Anon, when I read your comment, alarm bells went off it my head. Big ones. And as I said earlier, they didn't stop going off. They followed me around all day.

I know you may not want to hear what I think. Then again, you could have just read the post, felt unsettled by it and clicked away. But you didn't. You took the time to leave a comment. I thought maybe you were casting about for a lifeline.

Here is a lifeline.

Listen to your gut.

Turn off the noise coming from your fiance and your family and his family, and listen to your gut.

What is it telling you?

You know what you should do. We always know what we should do. Sometimes we just lack the courage to follow through on it. In the past, I lacked that courage and I deeply regret it.

I wish you the strength to follow your instincts.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A story without an ending

Once upon a time there was a woman who went to Walmart for socks and came home instead with this:

Two kitties, a brother and sister, who were looking for a lucky family to adopt. 

It was love at first sight. They were fun! They were affectionate and adorable.

They were tolerant!

The god of furry creatures looked down upon the arrangement and smiled.

The kitties loved to play games with the family, like hide and seek

And Monopoly.

And explore all the cat-sized places in their new home.

Pretty soon they grew up into full-sized cats.  

But still, the two kitties remained inseparable.

Until one day a door was left open and boy kitty decided to poke his head out and see what the outside world was all about. He had never been outside!

But no one in the family saw him go outside. And when they discovered the open door, they closed it and went upstairs to bed.

It wasn't until the next morning that they realized boy kitty was missing.

For two days they searched the neighborhood. They left food and water outside, crawled through underbrush and made Lost Cat flyers.

But kitty was nowhere to be found.

Sister missed him terribly.

The family did some research and learned that an indoor cat, when it escapes outside, will usually hide close to the house, sometimes for several days, without mewing or showing itself.

So they went to a nearby tractor and hardware supply store and brought home something that looked like this.

They put a can of tuna inside, went to bed and said a prayer to the god of furry creatures. They hoped against hope that in the morning they would find this:

And not this:

Sebastian, if you're out there, we miss you and want you to come home. You can have all the tuna you want.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Healing/Storytelling Directory is Live

Hey all, just a quick post to let you know that the directory is live!

There is a tab a the top of my blog where you can access it. I have the blogs broken down into broad categories, such as mental health, grief/loss, etc.

Thank you so much for all your recommendations. I have been introduced to some really beautiful blogs in the process of putting this together.

I still have quite a few blogs to add and it will grow significantly over the next few weeks, but I wanted to go ahead and launch it so people can begin accessing it.

The directory is a bit heavy on Australian blogs at the moment. I've started there, as that is where most of my contacts are, but it will expand to include blogs from around the world as I progress.

Please continue to send me relevant blogs to link up. Remember that to have your blog listed in the directory, your topical posts need to be easily accessible to readers, either through the use of labels or tags or some other categorization scheme.

Well, here it is. Go have a look!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The (barely) bearable unlightness

Every year when election season rolls around and the rhetoric kicks up I am reminded how out of step I am with my fellow countrymen, or at least a large percentage of them. I listen and can't shake the sense that I am an alien in this country (on this planet). I keep reading the news stories and then wishing I hadn't. But right now I need the distraction.

Today has been a difficult day. Yesterday was a difficult day.The spiral of anxiety, the fear that things will get worse before they get better. Some days I feel like I can see the light at the other end of the tunnel. Some days I wonder if the tunnel has an end.

I feel like I'm sitting at a lonely bus stop far from anywhere and the bus is late. It should have been here long ago. Is that it on the horizon? No. What if it doesn't come? I'm sure it will come. Will it?

I thought about writing about what has brought on the anxiety, then decided against it. I thought about writing about the latest political bru-ha-ha. Akin and the whole "legitimate" rape debate. That there is a sliding scale of rape. That a vagina has the moral capacity to discern good-people sperm from bad-people sperm, and reject the latter. But I decided against that too.

I decided I preferred levity and composed a list of twelve amazing things your vagina can do (that I bet you didn't even know about!). That was more fun. But I didn't publish that, either, as I discovered someone else did virtually the same thing. Yesterday.

In the end I got distracted by pretty pictures of soap. 

Seriously, LOOK at these soaps:

I have a serious soap fetish. I love love love handmade soaps. To me they represent beauty and goodness and home in a way that makes no logical sense. I once had a dream that I bought some beautiful soaps and I was ecstatic, and then I woke up and felt so dejected that it was all just a dream.

I'm not sure what this says about my psyche. 

The soaps above come from Inner Earth Soaps. I saw them on their Facebook page. I read that the business is just one woman, making these soaps from scratch in her kitchen. I have no idea who she is but I think you should go like her page, if only because she fills the world with something beautiful. If we all filled the world with something (anything) beautiful, what a place it would be.

If I lived in Australia I would go buy them now and they would make everything better.

Today someone, a reader, sent me a beautiful message. She said just the right things, at a time when I was trying not to drown. Thank you.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chop water, carry wood

Today is better. I'm finding my balance again. Thanks for your kind messages and comments.

When I feel anxious, I clean. It beats sitting there and letting my mind cycle through all the what ifs. So today I folded the laundry, swept up the kitchen floor, picked some mysterious blue substance out of the carpet in my son's room. Chop wood and all that.

Zen metaphors aside, there really is something grounding in doing chores. It makes me feel mildly virtuous and Amish-like. As if I'm putting the world back in order. I can imagine Mother Nature doing the same thing. Trailing along behind us righting fallen trees, smoothing out tire ruts, lifting stranded fawns over fences. Tsk tsking as she goes. It probably keeps her sane.

After I cleaned, I frosted some cupcakes that Danny and I had made the day before, and set them out on the table for the kids to decorate after school. 

Taken from an angle strategically designed to
hide the Halloween themed cupcake liners

I have a distinct memory of coming home from school when I was a kid and my mom sitting on the front porch, holding a plate of chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven. She could be very Martha Stewart when the mood struck her.

My mom brought so much light into my world. I've never missed her as much as I have these past two years.

When the kids came home we set about making our creations. Do you see that tall jar of pearl nonpareils up there? We hadn't been at it more than 30 seconds when Anna accidentally tipped the whole thing over and a zillion tiny nonpareils scattered across the table and onto the floor. We all sat frozen for a second. Anna was trying not to cry. I think she thought I would be upset, but honestly I was trying not to laugh.

I got out the broom again. Have you ever tried to sweep up nonpareils? (I'm guessing not.) Well, you can't sweep them into a pile. I tried and only succeeded in scattering them in six hundred different directions. The cats started chasing them. I laughed, because the whole exercise felt like a metaphor for my life.

So I got on the floor with a dust pan and crawled around on my knees trying to corral them into the dustpan. I imagine we'll be finding them in little crevices for months to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Tonight I am reeling. I received some disturbing news and it's something I'm not able to share. It's related to the case, of course. I'm so tired of getting bad news and then being told to keep it quiet. I understand why. I respect the need for confidentiality. But it just makes it so hard.

When we were kids my brother had one of those inflatable clown punching bags. Do you remember those? You would hit it and it would spring right back up. I think it was Bozo the clown.

I feel like that punching bag right now. I keep getting hit with hard news. Then I integrate it, wrap my mind around it and manage to find my balance. As soon as I exhale – bam – here comes some new piece of information that knocks me off center again. Balancing and re-balancing. It's become my thing.

I keep thinking I can predict what's down the pike. But I can't. I can't predict something I don't understand.

Today I read a blog written by a woman who lost her 12-year-old son. Someone left the link for me on my last post, as she thought this woman's blog would be good for the new directory. I followed the link over and read her story. She sent her kids to school one day, posted pictures on her blog of them going off to school. The next day her son drowned in a freak accident. I sat at the computer and read her story with disbelief, hot tears streaming down my face.

Today was the first day of school for my kids. I took pictures of them going off to school.

Life is full of sharp turns. Unexpected turns.

I've lost a lot, but I have my children. So I have everything, really.

It feels a bit ridiculous to write a post saying something has hit me hard and then not tell you what it is is. Usually when that happens, I simply say nothing. But tonight I am posting to say that I'm reeling, that it's okay, and that I'll find my center again in a few days. It feels better to say something than nothing.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for your support (even if you don't always know what you're offering support for). It really does help to speak and be heard. It makes it all easier somehow.

Hug your kids tight tonight. Love on them hard.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The healing power of storytelling

I read an interesting article a couple of days ago that I can't get out of my head. It discussed the power of storytelling to improve health outcomes in medical patients.

I don't think it's any secret that telling your own story can be emotionally healing. There is a whole branch of psychotherapy dedicated to narrative healing. But did you know that reading about someone else's story can also be healing? Not just comforting, but that it can heal disease? I didn't know that. But it makes perfect sense.

Just as stress can make you sick, empathy, connection, and a sense of meaning can help you heal.

It led me to search out other articles on the topic and I lost a good half a day in reading them. I came across this study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It followed 300 African-American patients with hypertension and found that when patients were shown videos of similar patients sharing their own stories of illness, it helped to control their high blood pressure as effectively as medication.

I had a discussion about this with a couple of friends, one of whom is a pediatrician. He works with some very ill children. He agreed that stories were powerful and made the comment that he wished that the parents of his patients had such stories to listen to – to comfort, to explain, to show a way.

When I heard that, a light bulb went off in my head. There are so many blogs written by amazing women and men telling their own stories of dealing with physical and emotional disease and/or trauma. They tell first hand what it is like to live with depression, infertility, suicide, chronic illness, the loss of a child, and so much more.

And while those of us in the blogging world are familiar with these blogs, the average person on the street (or in the hospital) is not. So why not gather together links to all these blogs in one place, which can then provide a resource for those looking for some comfort and guidance?

I've decided I'm going to dedicate a page here on Wanderlust to such a directory. Off the top of my head I know of probably 20 blogs I could include. Once I have a sizable list, I can share it with interested healthcare providers as a resource for their patients.

What I'd like you to do is to send in to me any blogs, including your own, that would be appropriate for such a directory. What I'm looking for are personal blogs that deal with chronic or serious illness, or really any kind of trauma that might feel leave a person feeling isolated or confused.

I know when my ex came under criminal investigation last year I felt incredibly isolated. While there are websites that deal with domestic violence and/or sexual trauma, there are not a lot of resources for someone whose spouse is headed to prison for child pornography. I didn't think there was another person in the world who had experienced such a thing and was writing about it (as it turns out, there was at least one).

But the truth is that people are arrested every day for child pornography. We know that from reading the news. And I can't tell you how many people land on my blog after doing a google search for “husband going to prison”.

People are out there. People are looking. I want to make it easy for them to find some help.

If you want to submit a blog, either your own or someone else's, here's what I'd like you to do:
  1. Let me know the url and the topic(s) it deals with.
  2. Make sure the blog makes it easy for a reader to find posts on the topic (ie, they use labels or tags with the keyword or have a dedicated page at the top, such as the 'Violence to Healing' tab above). I don't want to direct someone to a blog to look for posts on depression, for instance, and have them click around forever trying to find them.
  3. Either leave the information in the comments or email it to me. I've set up a special email address to collect the links: healing @
  4. Share this post with anyone who might be able to add to the list.
I'll compile the directory and let you know when it goes live.

I'm excited. I really want to do this. Every day someone, somewhere is diagnosed with a serious illness, feels suicidal, is a victim of domestic violence, loses a child, loses a spouse, struggles with depression or anxiety or addiction. The list goes on and on.

I want people to know they are not alone.

Because despite how it may feel, we are not alone. None of us. There are people out there going through the same thing. We just need to be able to find them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The muse of nothing

Listen to this.

I finally had a free day. Six hours to myself. Excitement!

I considered all the things I could use the chunk of time to accomplish: work on my book proposal, write blog posts, write an article to submit for publication, finish painting my room.

I decided to write. I can work on my writing ALL day long, thought I. I can churn out ten or fifteen pages of writing. Yes, that's what I will do.

I am a goddess.

I decided to start with the book proposal.

Here's what I did:

  • Read an e-book on how to write a book proposal.
  • Read sample book proposals.
  • Decided which part of the proposal I should start on first: the chapter summaries.
  • Changed my mind: the synopsis.
  • Thought about how I might market my book.
  • Emptied the dishwasher.
  • Fantasized about being on Oprah, even though Oprah is off the air.
  • Read an article in Oprah on the benefits of creating a daily writing discipline.
  • Tidied my room.
  • Decided that before I could successfully market my book, I needed to revamp my website.
  • Searched the internet for web designers.
  • Read a blog post about a new site called Picmonkey, which is similar to (the late, great) Picnik.
  • Jacked around with my header in Picmonkey.
  • Wrote some friends on Facebook telling them how I was planning to submit two articles for publication.
  • Looked at the time.
  • Realized my six hours was up.

Daily tally:

Writing: 0 hours
Painting room: 0 hours
Farfing around: 6 hours

Clearly, not a goddess.

* * *

Today is a new day, thought I this morning, upon waking. But my day was full. I had lots of errands to get done. I had very little free time.

But I got up early anyway, set the timer for an hour, turned off the internet, buried my phone under a pillow and wrote two pages of my chapter summaries and a blog post. Then I went about my errands.

I am, quite possibly, a goddess after all.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oh god no, not the dream

Source for dreaming kitty
If you want no one to read your blog post, start it like this: 

“I had this really interesting dream last night...”

Few things can make me run (screaming inwardly) from a room than when someone sits down to tell me their dream. And yet. I had this really interesting dream last night. Which I will condense to two sentences so you don't run screaming from the room.

Okay, ready?

I went into a large building; the farther I got into the building, the more the rooms became narrow and cramped and felt icky. There were also carnival rides in the different rooms. I didn't like how it felt, but I knew there was something really, really cool on the other side of the building that was worth getting to, so I decided to retrace my steps, exit the building and walk around it.

Then my son came into the room and woke me up. He climbed into the bed, fell asleep and proceeded to sporadically kick me for the next 30 minutes. So I got up and took him back to his room and finally fell back asleep several hours (20 minutes) later.

And then I had almost the same dream again.

I was in yet another carnivalesque building with small, narrow passageways and it felt icky, so I backed out and went around it. Because I knew there was something really, really good on the other side.

Okay, that was six sentences. I lied. But I got you to read it!

Now, here's the part that makes it interesting. Before I went to bed, I was feeling weighed down by life. Just so tired of dealing with this dark, twisted energy of the criminal investigation and all that goes with it. It feels oppressive and never-ending. So I offered up a prayer. “Can you please give me a glimpse of what lies ahead for me, something positive, to give me the energy to keep moving forward?”

Then I fell asleep and had two dreams of being in buildings with dark, twisted hallways that felt oppressive. Both times I backed out and went around so I could get to.....what?

What was on the other side that I was so eager to get to?

I. Don't. Remember!!

That is not cool! That's the whole reason I had these dreams! To see what was on the other side.

Alas. I'll try again tonight, but in the meantime I've decided to put it up for a vote. I love a democratic process.

So tell me. What was on the other side of the building?

Best answer wins my devotion for life (especially if the answer involves Colin Firth). x


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