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our view last night at Happy Hour at Mariposa restaurant

Greetings from Sedona where I sit on my bar stool perch, the same perch I sat on when I had the very first chat with my husband over Thanksgiving weekend 2014. It was late, my family had gone to bed and I was up distracting myself with Facebook.

I had recently been invited to join a small, private writing group via a friend who knew I was getting ready to head out soon on a writing sabbatical to start my book. I’d noticed this cute, younger than me (or so I thought), Psychologist in the group who had kind of the roll of “group cheerleader”. No matter what anyone wrote, he was quick with positive feedback and a word of encouragement. It was no different with me.

(yes, that’s him–his dance born from a typo where “congo” came out vs. “condo”)

It also came as no surprise that after a few exchanges, he sent me a friend request there.

One evening he made a comment on a poem I’d posted which turned in to a 70-something long comment exchange in the group that garnered a private message from my friend Renie, also in the group, “you were flirting with that Psychologist last night!”. I was.

He asked if we could chat privately on Facebook the next day, so we started. It went late in to the night, covering everything from spirituality to dream cars to past traumas. He shared he had been on a dating hiatus for 18 months, “celibate” he described himself.

“Are you a monk?” I asked, having noted his bald head.

“No, I just realized I’m kind of messed up in the woman department so I stopped for awhile.” Now this I could relate to. All of it. I’d had the same realization and done the same thing.

I had decided to let go of relationships and get a dog. In fact, I had my whole next few months mapped out, preparing for that next introduction to my life.

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We chatted again the next night, this time more intimate and personal. We realized that something was happening here, between us. There was something about this man that was so familiar, so easy to relate to. We laughed and cried and both had a feeling.

“Where did you come from?” I asked.

“I don’t know, all I know is I was sent to you,” he replied.

I changed the subject fast.

For the last couple of years, dealing with my brother and my aging father and looking out at the landscape of my future handling this all alone, I would often speak to my sister in various ways asking her to send me some help.

“Cindy, you have to find me someone, someone to love who can handle all of this with me,” I begged. I had begged similarly to my mother as a child for help. Help dealing with the difficult family situation we’d found ourselves in after she’d passed.

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During that late night chat with my new friend John, the Earth moved. I mean literally the Earth moved. I was downstairs in the quiet as my father and brother were fast asleep upstairs. A loud sound preceded a rippling feeling across the ceiling. I thought a tornado had swept by and did what any stupid person would do in that moment–I ran outside to check. There was a stillness in the air I’d never heard or felt before.

I couldn’t figure it out. I ran upstairs thinking perhaps my very large brother had fallen out of bed. No, but he was awake.

“I think that was an earthquake, Kathy.”

I was still chatting with John who quickly consulted the Gods of Google and confirmed, in fact, there had been an earthquake in Sedona. A 4.3 level one in fact.

“If I were you, I’d be meditating right now,” he said.

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The conversation continued late in to the night.

“Would you mind if I did a Tarot card reading on this encounter?” he asked. I already knew he played with Tarot cards pretty regularly so I consented. I felt easy and safe with him and noted the respect he offered just with his question.

We spoke the next day, both of us having gotten little sleep the night before.

“I did the reading and I know where this relationship is going,” he said. “Do you want to know?”.

“No” I answered. And I didn’t. This was kind of freaking me out honestly.

But he told me anyway, either that day or the next.

He’s an oversharer. So am I. I get it.

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That would likely turn many people off. But me, coming from way too many situations and dynamics involving secrets and lies, it was the perfect constellation of personality traits to allow me to trust him, and I did. Then, and now. I have never had a moment of distrust over this man and that was/is a first for me. I’ve distrusted men, with good reason, my entire life. I’d been plagued with an inability to trust men, while simultaneously choosing untrustworthy men as a matter of course. It was basically the only game I knew for decades.

This was completely different, and I didn’t quite know how to maneuver in it, but I kept going anyway.

He told me that he’d done readings on every woman who had crossed his path who he had even a remote interest in and they had, every time, steered him away from getting involved.

Until this one.

“The final outcome card was The Lovers,” he said. “I know what this is going to be for us.”

I basically shut him down on that track, but kept talking to him.

Things led to things and, at the urging of my friend Rob who was already headed that direction in a few weeks, I traveled to the East to meet him. Rob later said when he walked me out of the airplane that day that he felt like he was walking me down the aisle.

John and I were engaged on that trip. He got down on one knee in front of the Christmas tree at his rural Pennsylvania home, and proposed with his father’s wedding band on a gold chain. It was perfect.

We were married just about 6 months later in Niagara Falls and I’m still pinching myself. What started off fascinating and exciting has just become both more comfortable and deep and expanded in all ways since.

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“I never thought I would find a love like this,” he said last night over a bottle of red wine.

We talked late in to the night on the couch, facing each other–the same couch I’d felt that earthquake on–about our good fortune. How easily compatible we are, the level of trust we share that has only deepened, the almost completely lack of power struggles, the sense of equality and respect we share, the love and passion and fun we have.

And, of course, his little daughter Lillian which has fulfilled a long abandoned dream in me.

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Friday was Cindy’s birthday. She would have been 58 this year and she was born in 1958. It felt momentous. On arriving to Sedona, we went to the store and picked up all of the ingredients for her Chicken Cacciatore. I brought her hand written recipe card up with me.

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You can read about this ritual here.

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We opened a bottle of wine we’d brought back from Niagara Falls which we also used in the recipe and sipped it as we cooked, and dined, together. We listened to jazz and looked at car-porn, one of John’s favorite guilty pleasures.

“I never thought I’d have a woman who would look at car-porn with me,” he laughed showing me the Bentley he’d always dreamed of. I loved it too.

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We served the perfect chicken over zucchini noodles. Cindy would have liked that.

We raised our glasses and toasted to her and my husband looked up to the Heavens, tears in his eyes, and quietly said “thank you for sending me.”

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Happy Birthday Cindy.

Thank you for sending me the perfect man.  You nailed it.

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Christmas Miracles

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I’m rarely at a loss for words in writing or speaking but this whole amazing weekend has left me feeling a bit inadequate in that department.  I mean how do you use something as limited as language to describe a bonafide miracle?

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I’ll do my best and use pictures which can tell the story much better.

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My Dad and I attended all 3 concerts at Phoenix College in the John Paul Theatre where my dear brother stood tall and proud in the third tier of the risers singing his heart out and remembering ALL the words with the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus.  Naughty and Nice, Sugar and Spice holiday concert.

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Some of the songs were quite complicated, especially a mashed up version of the 12 Days of Christmas that was like a whole bunch of Christmas Carols all blended up mishmash style from 12 Days to Rudolf to Hark How the Bells, all wildly thrown together.  It even ended on Toto’s Africa “I spent Christmas down in Africa”…it was so hilarious and fun!  It had to be so hard to learn and was so fun to hear.  I love surprises on the familiar like that.

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I haven’t indicated this ever in the blog before and asked John’s permission last night to share that my brother is in fact, gay.  When I asked him if it was ok he said “sure, I’m out”.  I think it’s important to just be open about this at this point for all of us.  This is a gay men’s chorus he’s singing in and a huge part of the reason I got so insistent he try out.  He’s been living outside his people, struggling, for so long and I felt his finding a sense of community was so important for him.  Once I saw these guys perform, it became a dream to hook my dear brother up with them somehow.  And we all know how that turned out.  😉  It’s an absolutely perfect fit for him.  He keeps sharing  with me how “nice everyone is”.  He’s been welcomed with open and warm arms and I couldn’t be more relieved and happy.

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My Boys Rob and Sean who are now legally married in AZ!

Their mission is to help support and educate issues around LGBT awareness and as the conductor said “hopefully bring entertainment as well”.  This is such an important thing to understand about Alfonse’s participation with this group.  It’s so critical to know your tribe and those men are people who can understand him in a way no one else can, including me.  John’s illness started around the time he was realizing his sexuality and struggling intensely with it.  As much support and acceptance he can find, I believe, will help him be as healthy as he can be.  The conductor also mentioned something about music having the power to heal which of course made tears spring to my eyes watching my darling brother up there, in a tuxedo, singing away with peers, healthy peers.  And fitting in. He truly is a walking, singing, miracle for ALL of us.

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The show dedicated a segment of songs to their mission statement that directly addressed issues our gay brothers and sisters face during the holidays–isolation, non-acceptance, depression, things like that.  I think that section of the performance was the most meaningful for me.

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They did 3 songs which tugged at my heartstrings so hard and I cried every single performance (and forgot Kleenex every single time).  The one that really got me was a song from the musical Kinky Boots called “Not My Father’s Son”.  Whew, tears just thinking of it.  I’ll put a video here.  Beautiful, poignant song. And to see all those men sweetly expressing those lyrics, all of whom can relate I think….breathtaking.  And the soloists at these shows, some very very real talent in there.

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The other song that I keep hearing in my head and remembering and that opened my heart like a Polar Express running through it is called “My Grown up Christmas Wish”.  Whew…more tears!

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The fellas were in festive holiday clothes for the first Act then in to their tuxedos for the second.  So handsome!  There were lots of fun and funny performances too like an rendition of the Grinch, a totally hilarious and irreverent take on the Three Kings and a salute to the Muppet Christmas.  I loved it all.  The stage was bright and festive with garlands and trees and choreographed lighting.

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The Chorus also sponsors a smaller chorus for teens called Omaggio and they did some performing as well.  It’s so impressive to see these young kids, at that age, claiming themselves in that way.  On a stage!  Another tear jerker.

Photos were disallowed so I waited until they were taking their bows to snap a few–I had to get my brother taking his bow and share it.

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I could go on and on but I’ll let you absorb the photos.

On the social front, Cathy Hughes had Dad and I for dinner Friday then went with us.  Saturday I hosted a little soiree at my house and my Boys Rob and Sean  came down from Sedona and my darling Mya came along!

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I made fresh juice clementine margaritas, shrimp ceviche, a cheese plate and this delicious Sopa Verde chicken soup filled with kale, spinach, cilantro, garlic, lime, english peas, avocado, green onions…green and more green!  I adapted a couple recipes I saw online and have to say it turned out delicious.  We returned after the Saturday night performance and toasted with champagne and pomegrante seeds (gotta bling it out ya know) in my mother’s crystal.  I felt so overwhelmed by her presence during that Sat. night performance and opened myself to feeling her love shining down on her baby boy.  She exited the planet when John was just 3.  I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her.  I felt her love and warmth and pride flowing through my tears.

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Mya brought him flowers…awww

The Sunday performance was at 2pm so just my Dad and I went.  Then afterward the three of us went to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate.  John even got the deep fried ice cream.  😉

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This is his “in awe” face LOL

It was so wonderful seeing him being basked in the spotlight by everyone.  He sat in my living room Saturday night with all of our friends showering him with love and attention.  Something he may have never had in his life and he was soaking it up.  I was/am so proud of my brother.

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I’m telling each and every one of you out there reading right now, if my brother can leap from the dark place he was in just over a year ago to standing on a stage in a tuxedo, part of something, singing his heart out, NOTHING absolutely NOTHING is beyond your/our/my grasp.  KNOW THIS!  Feel it!

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Let’s go for big dreams now, ok?  Can you get on board with us?

Just a tiny snippet because I want to share it , speaking of big dreams:  I’ve fallen madly in love with someone.  It’s mutual, it’s real and it’s someone I feel I’ve waited my whole life for.  I’m sure I will write more about this when the time is right but this just fell out of the sky.  He read a poem online that I’d written, felt compelled to contact me, did and, well here we are, flying.  It’s quite the time in the Monkman world right now.

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I will leave you on what Alfonse said was his favorite song of all in the concert–a beautiful and touching song from the movie Polar Express called Believe.  He said “I like it because it ends on such a positive note”.  Which my friends is exactly where we are sitting right now…right in the middle of a positive note.

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Happy Holidays all.  Let’s believe even bigger now, ok?  If my family, with all of our trauma at the holidays, can be walking this sparkling path right now, you can land on one too.  Stay open, please stay as open as you can.

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Believe.

There are signs all around you.

 

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letter from home

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This poem is inspired by so many things I’ve navigated in the last year.  It came to me while driving up through Oak Creek canyon on a quiet Saturday morning during the incredible dance weekend I attended.  I recorded pieces of it in to my phone while driving so I wouldn’t forget.

If you’ve ever felt exiled or abandoned or rejected, there is a master plan just beneath the surface. There is a place you belong, even if it’s just to yourself.

I will also say, how are the ways we sometimes exile ourselves?

The ripping of the band aid is often the penance for staying too long, ignoring the whispers.  If you feel lost, there is a true North waiting.  And a new home, a new belonging.  A new freedom.

I didn’t know what to name this poem but remembered this beautiful Pat Metheny tune, Letter from Home. So here is a love letter from my new Home, shared with you.

Please, also, enjoy the soundtrack.

 

Letter from Home

 

Lower your eyes;

bow your head

toward

those Angels of Mercy

who banished you.

 

Only the softness

of your downward

gaze points

to the tarnished

compass

 

shining

in your open hand.

Wrapped in their bold

ejection, it waits

for your attention.

 

In your blindness,

it knew

no other route

navigated

to your line of sight.

 

This;

this one.

The arrow still

points True North.

 

Toward your new

Home.  The one

you imagined

in faraway dreams.

 

The one

that’s been waiting

for you.

With it’s open

welcoming door.

 

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this wish already came true

I have so much to write about, my Dad’s arrival (safe and sound) last night, of course my trip with all the gorgeous photos I took.  Yet I wake up this morning with something else on my mind so I’m going with it.

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I love two things about this morning.  A.  I woke up after a solid 7.5 hours sleep, the first in over a week and B.  I woke up feeling so excited to hop out of bed to write.  I spent several months not feeling excited about much of anything when I woke up in the morning, missing myself in that way.  But a constellation of ingredients has changed that; starting with my Dr. telling me I was in severe adrenal exhaustion a couple weeks ago and giving me an adrenal formula saying “this will either be night and day for you almost immediately or you won’t feel much but keep taking it anyway”.  Luckily I fell in the first category.  I love my dear Dr. Peace in every possible way.  Well you know, every possible appropriate way.

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Anyway, what I’ve got on my mind this morning is born out of this Facebook post I made yesterday:

I hereby declare that the Era of Men Treating Kathy Monkman like Crap has drawn to a close. I do not regret to inform you that you’ve been replaced, your roles reassigned. Any stragglers will be shown to the exits by my team of bodyguards. Now go on. Git. Thank you for your swift cooperation.

I don’t want to revisit the past but let me just say this.  I’ve been successful in most areas of my life; work wise definitely, friends wise, school wise, good luck all around me in finding the right house/office/important things have come easy to me.  All my life really.  All except in the area of romantic relationships where all my screwedupness has landed or so I’ve said.  It all just seemed to reside in that dark corner.  I can dig back and tell a story that seemingly explains it all.  But in reality, do any of us really know the whys and wherefores?  And if we did, does it really matter?

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What matters is change.  Not insight.

Pretty bold statement huh?  Well, it’s what I believe.

I’ve tried dating different kinds of men, ones I wouldn’t have considered, ones who were so nice that surely they are out of my pattern, not dating for months or even years, focusing on other things, reading books, seeking guidance, blah blah freaking blah.  Lots of trying.  I’m not one who gives up easily. And I am a person who believes, deep down, that I can fulfill all of my dreams.  I also believe most anything can be healed.

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Alfonse and I stepping on to the bridge making a wish together the other day

Which is why I’m successful professionally I think.  My belief system.  In 25 years of practicing Myofascial Release I have almost never run in to something that I didn’t think could really completely correct.  I think people feel my confidence and are drawn to it.  And it’s not contrived.  It’s really the way I think.

I’m not talking about a confidence in myself.  I’m talking a confidence in the power of healing and the mystery of the human body.  And it’s own power to self correct.

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So let me take this one step further which is the belief that the mind exists everywhere in the body.  And if the body believes something, the mind will follow.  If that belief system is “I’m broken” that’s what the consciousness will go along with.  If the belief system is “I’m freeing up”, then the mind follows that.

It’s kind of a backwards way of looking at things for many people but it’s one I truly and deeply believe in.  From my own experience.

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I’ve written about my recovery from severe anxiety/panic disorder using Myofascial Release as my primary modality (I didn’t know about Watsu yet but having it to do over, I would choose that right up there with MFR).  I was a Psychiatric Nurse when that all hit as the assistant head nurse on a busy Psychiatric unit in a hospital.  And I was as screwed up as some of the patients having constant panic attacks, sometimes even at work.  Covering it all up best I could.

I tried so many things familiar to me then, medication/hospitalization/counseling/hypnosis, you name it.  I went aggressively after this.  I was in my 20’s and nearly housebound at times.  It was bad.

Yet the way this finally left me, was out of my body.  Then my mind followed.  That’s just how it happened.  I had to go after it through my body and what was stuck there and that’s when the relief started coming in.  I could go on and on about that but it’s not what I came here to write about this morning.

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A couple of days ago, after returning from The Ranch, I got to thinking about my “man life” right now.  I started looking around myself 360 degrees and this is what I saw:

I saw that I’d just returned from this week where a man, yes a man, a gorgeous hunky sweet man, treated me like a Princess the entire time.  Unsolicited, unexpected.  Just because he wanted to.  He’d rearranged his entire schedule to be there for me, ate meals with me, attended to needs I wasn’t even thinking about.  It all just kind of blew me away.  Before that I’d only really met him once and most of that time was in silence with me under the water.  Then a little correspondence here and there, and then all that.

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Then I looked around my home when I got back. Steve had been house sitting.  I saw every room ten times neater and cleaner than how I’d left it in my whirlwind to get out of town.  I saw the new hot water heater he’d gone through great pains to get installed which ended up in a huge hassle even though I thought I’d set it all up easily.  I saw two rooms upstairs that he completely reworked and organized for me as we’d discussed, including rearranging furniture.  I saw my back patio all cleaned up from the debris I’d left there after pulling weeds the weekend before.  I saw my frig reorganized.  I also talked to my brother who, when he picked me up at the airport, was doing much better than when I’d left.  When I asked why he said “I hung out with Steve a lot”. Steve took him shopping for my birthday present, to dinner, went to dinner at his house.  Looked after Alfonse along with my house.

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Speaking of Alfonse, he picked me up with a smile, his usual huge hug.  The next day took me to lunch and gave me the greatest soft pink fluffy robe.  He is THE BEST gift giver.  He remembered I was always wearing his huge terry cloth robe in Sedona and figured I needed a big one myself.  He is so thoughtful!  My brother always sees the best in me..always.  He truly loves me unconditionally and no matter how moody I can get around him, he just lets it all go.

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I looked on my dining table and there was a huge bouquet from my boys in Sedona–Rob and Sean.  The white shabby chic style they know I love.

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These boys take such good care of me always.  I got a text from Rob yesterday asking if I wanted to go see Fleetwood Mac with him over the holidays in Vegas.  Yes!  Of course!  A road trip with Rob?  I better do some ab workouts for the laughter that will ensue.  We have so much in common–music, food, fun (just bummed Sean has to work).  To have someone I can travel with who I get along with seamlessly? And who I can really talk to about anything?

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laughing remembering Rob saying “is that a wig?” when I came out to head to dinner that evening

Then of course there is my Dad who also loves me unconditionally.  I can’t think of a time, ever, when I’ve felt judged by my father.  Not one.  I can think of a time when he got disappointed in me but that’s even a stretch.  I can also talk to my Dad about ANYTHING and that’s basically been my whole life.  I mean sex, the pot I used to smoke, relationships, every delicate subject we talk about.  For hours.  I’m sure I take it for granted sometimes but I shouldn’t.  My Dad is the best listener of any person I know and he wants to know.  The details even.  He asks a gazillion questions because he’s just so curious.

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So here I was, turning my head 360 degrees around my man-sphere the other day and realized, I’m being treated like a Goddess!  I knew in every cell of my body that those days are over.  The days of bad men, men who don’t appreciate me, men who’ve used and abused me, men who’ve disrespected me, lied to me, been primarily takers.  It’s hard to even write all of that because that person, ME, the person who drew that in, is gone.  I can feel it.

To further illustrate this “mind follows the body” thing, I’d like to share a little piece I wrote while down at the Ranch at a watercolor workshop where the instructor started us with writing.  She told us to just write for ten minutes and not let the pen stop no matter what.  She said start with the phrase “I don’t remember” then go from there. When finished, we read them out loud.  This is what came through that day:

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I don’t remember much of anything about my mother. 

I think most all of my conscious memories have come to me in dreams.  My body remembers though.  I know it does.

Sebastian’s soft caress in the pool today, the way he smoothed the hair from my face like a baker carefully stretching a fragile pie crust.  The tender care with which he wrapped my body in the towel.  Then the second towel for my hair, rubbing it dry–telling me to run inside so I don’t catch cold.  My body remembers these things.  My mind opens doors one after the other, some locked, some ajar, to welcome his touch as it meets my memories. 

Body memories are a funny thing–the ones you long for the most can be those same ones that bring a near panic when they start to surface.  “You can have this now” my mother whispers to the five year old me through his touch.  “You can have this now”.

I say I don’t remember, but I do.  I do remember.  Her, her touch, her smell, her smile, her love.  It’s all deep inside me, in once locked rooms, now bending open.

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My mind is following my body and all I say is you know when something has left  you.

Just like I knew, at age 30, that I would not be having to worry about breast cancer in this lifetime.  That was a huge deal seeing that my mother was deceased of breast cancer at age 36.  Everyone around me worried.

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“I’m going to need to refer you to a surgeon” Dr. George spoke slowly and deliberately in to my answering machine that day.  But that day is the important part of that sentence.  I’d just gotten off the witness stand, testifying in the first of Cindy’s murder trials, that day.  On the lunch hour I checked in for messages and that’s what I heard.  A surgeon, something showed up in my mammogram.  My first mammogram ever.

Like a good little soldier I followed his advice, strangely though not feeling much of any fear.  I figured I have so many emotions on my plate right now, I’m just going through the motions on this one.  But that would be wrong.  I really had no fear on this.

I met with the surgeon, he showed me the “microcalcifications” in a “cluster”.  Explained why this was dangerous and had to come out.  I made the appointment for the biopsy, continued attending the trial with my family.  Maybe I was downplaying it thinking of my father, having lost his wife at age 35 to this horrible disease, sitting in the murder trial for his first born, now hearing this.  Yeah, we’ve been through a lot.

The week before the biopsy was to happen a very wise friend asked me a very wise, life changing wise, question.  “Does this biopsy really feel right in your body?  Like something you need?”.  I had never even considered that–what was right for me.

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I got very quiet and went inside and asked that question and the answer was a resounding “NO”.  I was 30 years old with the family history I had.  It wasn’t fear, it was a warning.  What it felt like was that the surgery would actually be potentially harmful in terms of stirring something up.

The next day, not telling anyone, I cancelled the biopsy explaining I’d like to just watch this.  I’d be willing to do mammograms every 6 months to stay on top of this but it was my very first mammogram and I felt it was premature.

The following week, after some pleading phone calls, I received letters from both my Gynecologist and Surgeon that they were firing me over this risky decision.  It was very clear they were afraid I was playing Russian Roulette giving my family history and they couldn’t support me.

So I went about finding someone who would.  And I did.

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I found a female Naturopath, Farra Swan, and explained my situation.  She talked with me for a long time then said “as long as you understand the risks, I will do this with you and we’ll watch it then take it further if we need”.  That’s all I needed. Someone to order the monitoring and she was willing.

I’ll never forget after two years of these every six month mammograms, the message she left on my machine:

“Kathy, before I send you this report, I’m just going to read this to you.  Since there has been no change in two years, this can be now ruled out as a suspicious lesion.  I think I even heard tears in her eyes.  She participated in a miracle, listening and supporting me.

I returned from my trip last week to this report-I had my routine mammogram the week before I left:

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Those microcalcifications are now gone.  They’ve been gone for twenty years actually. My body just reabsorbed them and they never returned.  I’ve been having clean mammograms for two decades.  I listened to my body and it cooperated.

As a post script, I later learned that Dr. George’s wife had recently lost her long battle with breast cancer at the time he fired me as his patient.  Of course he couldn’t tolerate my decision.  I can’t blame him.

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This is what I mean about trusting the body.  I knew I didn’t really have a problem there.  I knew stirring up that pot with a  surgery could create a problem and to leave it alone.  I knew I was going to be fine.  I have other hills to climb in this life but breast cancer isn’t one of them.  I think I’ve known that since I was very young actually.  We always know if we can dig deep enough.

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The types of therapies that honor and include or emphasize the body are the ones that work best for me for this reason.  I took to the Watsu like a mermaid to water, my therapist I see now is trained in Somatic Experiencing which is why I sought her out and found her three minutes from my house.  Imagine that.  Of course my own work is all about the body too.

So when I looked around my life at the men the other day and saw the reality of what I’m attracting NOW, I realized that era has ended.  It ended quietly and softly without some big last straw experience.  It just completed itself and I got rewarded with Sebastian, Steve, Rob, Sean, Jeff my crepe chef, Martin at the Ranch who insisted on a second cake and looked in to my eyes telling me how beautiful he sees me, Dr. Peace,  my brother, my Dad, any number of men that are floating all around me right now adoring me and showering me with their unique form of man-love.

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It wasn’t a “I’m going to make this happen” move on my part.  It wasn’t a culmination of affirmations or saying “I know what I’m worth!” (believe me, I’ve tried those things).  It was something more subtle, more organic, changing in my cells from just following my body and things that feel right, profound even.

Then I opened my eyes and looked around in to a new world.

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The whole package is on his way.  I can feel that too.  I’m in no rush.  I’m getting ready.

And he will be all of the above and more (and by more I mean great sex, ok?).  I mean, keepin it real!

In the meantime though, I’m happy as a clam, basking in all this radiance.

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Enjoying every minute.

dottie10

thawing

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Most of yesterday was rough.  It was almost worst than the first day after I lost Buddy.   Actually it was worse.

I think after all of the googling and reading and writing and diving in to it and basically just giving myself permission to be stuck solid, I don’t know, something started to shift late afternoon.

I had sent Steve over to my brother’s as I just couldn’t breathe with another person breathing in the same room.  I don’t know how better else to explain it.

He in his non defensive way just said “whatever you need” and headed over there.  Of course I found out later he dove in to various chores around my brother’s house.  John’s house is going to be so spic and span and organized when he gets home I’m sure he won’t be able to find anything since the chaos has been ordered.  😉

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not an actual photo but close 😉

Mid afternoon, I decided I needed the rest of the weekend to myself to recover.  That I couldn’t handle any interaction at all.  This is a way I’ve coped my entire life; retreating, alone.

(I almost never use a semi colon, I hope that was the proper placement 😉 )

Around 3pm I phoned Steve up and said I wanted to get the other two cats moved over here and then if he could head home for the rest of the weekend I didn’t think I would be good company to hang out with.  He said he understood and that he’d be over shortly with Coco in the carrier.  Then we’d go back together and get the Nutball Lazlo who I’d not forgotten him breaking his own paw in the transfer over there freaking out in the carrier resulting in an ER visit and $300 Vet bill.  We figured that one was a two person job.

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Steve came back with Coco, grabbed his stuff then we went together to get Laz.  On the way there I asked him to stop at Dutch Brothers and got us both a coffee (well Steve a Chai) and I don’t know, I think that’s where the thawing began out there in that 100 something degree muggy heat.

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Steve started making me laugh.

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that’s Buddy’s tail wrapped around his neck just last weekend 😦

By the time we retrieved Lazlo and got him in the car (and I saw all the work Steve had done at John’s place) I’d changed my mind and asked him to stay.  He laughed and just said “Ok, I can if that’s what you want….women!”.  We both laughed.  But he wasn’t judging me.  He understood.  He lost his beloved Duke just earlier this year.  I don’t have to explain any of this to him.

For the first time in a long time, in a moment like this, I felt like it would be better for me to be with someone than be alone.  This was kind of a breakthrough.

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I reflected on my promise to Buddy, about how I would do my best to live on his legacy.  How he moved from a beginning life of terror to one of bonding.

Maybe this was a first step for me.

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Steve ran back to the Redbox and got two suspense movies, Argo (so good) and The Call (so creepy!) and we got back to our laughing, eating hot fudge Sundaes and freaking out on the couch to edge of your seat suspense.  He says I make him laugh in a way most people don’t.  I think it’s because I bounce off his humor.

Or maybe because I’m 1000% myself around him.  He’s seen me at my absolute worse, unshowered, no makeup, clothes damp with Lazlo’s cat pee from his car freakout in my lap (even though the towel), grief stricken and he still likes me.

We watched the three cats get acquainted again.  I also saw Sabine come out of her freeze on that one dining room chair she slung her head over for hours.  For two days.

Even if she was hissing at Lazlo , she was moving.

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I woke up this morning after a dream where I was really happy.  Sabine was next to me on the bed.

So here I sit, Lazlo purring and kneading the back of the chair behind me-Buddy’s favorite spot, Coco near the window as usual and Sabine walking around negotiating her new normal in her own home.  She and Coco ate breakfast side by side this morning.

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Steve’s upstairs still sleeping.  It was a late night double feature.

And today I’m the one who has plans for us.

And they involve walking, exploring, laughing and eating.  And getting out of the house/cave.

We’re all coming alive again.

It’s a paradox, this freezing/thawing business.  The more deeply you go in to the freeze space, the more committed you are to it, the more swift the thawing.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my pain now rather than later these days.

There’s too much to live for.  Just as all who have passed before me would want for me.

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frozen

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Yesterday I was so flattened I felt like I was hit by a fleet of Mack Trucks.

I felt basically immobilized most of the day not wanting to talk to anyone, interact, think, decide, eat, move.

Steve is visiting and I asked him to go tend to John’s cats at his condo as I just couldn’t tolerate any movement in the air around me at all.  I wrote my blog, which was like climbing a mountain but opening portals for tears at the same time.  It gave me something to do with this constellation of freezing and agony but it was about all I could do.  Sabine came down and sat across from me.  She wasn’t eating or moving either.  I remember a long moment or series of moments where we just sat there, frozen in our own igloos, staring at each other across the room.  Blank stares.

Like, what now?

I ate an avocado all day until I realized mid afternoon I needed to get to the bank.  I got thirsty but was too frozen to get up and get myself a drink.  I thought of putting away my clean clothes but when I  realized just walking upstairs was too exhausting forcing me to sit on the stairs half way that I’d postpone that task.

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I called Sabine’s name to see if she would come to me but she just stared.  I remembered she usually came when I called Buddy’s name so I called his name.  Then felt destroyed hearing his name in that falsetto coming from my throat.  I want to call his name.  I want to keep calling it.  I don’t want that sound to disappear from my home.  But  disappear it will. I can’t call Sabine Buddy’s name to keep him alive.  It’s torturous.  It’s not fair to her.

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Yesterday, feeling so immobilized, uncoordinated, frozen, numb got me thinking about an NPR interview I’d heard years ago about the physiological implications of grieving.  People tend to think it’s a head and heart situation, that just our thoughts and feelings are disturbed.  But I heard this author, Joan Didion, speaking about the physiology involved in grief and how deeply it affects our entire body.  I thought I’d revisit that theme today seeing I’m smack dab in the middle of it.  This morning I woke up in to it again.  This is a hole that sucks you in to it until you’ve been patched up enough to surface again and you really have no say in the matter.

I think any deep loss resurrects the vestiges of any prior loss that’s been lurking, on pause, waiting for an opportunity for a portal to slip through so it can find some light of day.  This is also good and just damn hard.

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About six years after Cindy’s death, I received news of my dear friend Charlie Carter’s sudden, entirely unexpected demise while I was on vacation.  I was flattened for three days up there at the beach over Charlie.  He was a client/friend of mine and I had no idea how deeply he’d become embedded in my heart until he was gone.  It was terrible, sudden, shocking.  It was also hard to explain to my family who I was there to party and relax with that I was having a hard time even getting out of bed.  When I came home I remembered the grief support group I’d been in five years prior and enrolled myself again.  I knew Charlie’s death was digging up roots of Cindy’s…at least.  It was an extreme reaction.

How ironic that I was enrolled in that weekly support group when Benny got sick and I had to put him down.  So there was a plan after all because I had my group of people surrounding me to break down with about that.  Fathers who’d lost children, older folks having lost parents, the whole range.  I do remember an extremely Bible based woman in there who was very involved in the church. This group was associated with a church that I didn’t go to but a woman I’d met, Carol Fornoff who’d lost her daughter to homicide, invited me with open arms.

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The Bible lady had lost a parent I think.  She was holding on to her Bible for dear life to get through it.  But she told me I shouldn’t grieve my cat, that cats didn’t have a soul, that they blah blah blah her interpretation of the Bible on pets.  She genuinely thought she was helping me.  I sat there on the inside saying “shut the fuck up Lady, you have no idea what you are talking about” but realized I was someone else’s house, that this was their religion so I wasn’t there to make waves.  I was so grateful when others in the group spoke up and derailed that and stuck up for me in my grief of Benny saying their interpretation of the Bible was different but we weren’t there for that reason.  We were there to support each other.  It all just subsided quietly.

Last thing you want to do is get in a fight in your grieving support group over a cat.  We were all screwed up so there’s an opening and tolerance and acceptance around that.  I didn’t hold it against her.   The fierce tsunami of grief has it’s own way of making it’s presence known no matter what anyone says anyway.

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Poking around online searching words like “physiology of grief” I came back on Joan Didion’s NPR interview which I’ll share here.  Her book “The Year of Magical Thinking” quickly became her biggest best seller.  She writes about the sudden loss of her beloved husband of 40 years, John Edward Dunne, another writer.  Her daughter was acutely ill in the hospital at the same time and died shortly thereafter.  She’s another one who knows of what she speaks.

Both segments of the Fresh Aire interviews are found here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4956088

(I also found the text there worth reading although haven’t made it through all of it yet)

I’ve not read her book but have been reading excerpts online all morning.  It’s just what I’m experiencing and writing about.

She talks about “processing everything by writing it down” which I so relate to right now.  I’ve journalled before but there’s something about this blogging that is taking me wider and deeper in to what I need to find….what I need to discover.

She talks about how she used advice from Emily Post of all people about the physiological effects of grieving—how the body gets cold, how the digestion shuts down, how others can best support people in this kind of frozen moment which I think is so important.

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You can hear her speak about these things here (skip to 20:35 in the first segment to hear that interesting part):

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=4956088&m=4956093

I love how she uses the word “practical” in her description of Post.  I’ve used that term recently myself.  Practical support.

This is another interview I found with Joan Didion that I think is worth watching.  It’s shorter:

In my exploring, I also ran across this article which describes the physiological elements that happen with deep grief.  Here is one excerpt:

Because we sense that we are in danger, the body mobilizes to protect itself from the intruder or, if that’s not possible, to escape to safety. But loss is no hostile tribe that we can guard the camp against; nor is it an enemy that we can run from. Therefore we are caught in a state of tension. Our brain has stimulated us to take action; but, since we cannot undo the loss there is at this moment no action we can take. We are, therefore, held taut. This means that our bodies are under enormous stress…Dr. Beverley Raphael warns us that “bereavement may also be fatal.” (Excerpt from Seven Choices by Elizabeth Harper Neeld)

Grieving is hard work and takes a huge toll on our bodies. When we are responding to a loss, the part of our brain where responses are integrated increases the production of CRH, a hormone that produces anxiety-like symptoms. Emergency-mobilizing chemicals are released. As our stress increases, the chemical levels increase; and our central nervous system becomes highly stimulated. Our breathing may become defective. Biological rhythms of sleeping and eating are disturbed. Our digestion, metabolism, circulation and respiration change. Our ability to concentrate and pay attention decreases.

Grieving can actually change the environment in the belly, intestines and bowels. “I feel as if I’ve been hit in the stomach,” we might say. “My stomach is in knots,” someone else may offer as a description of the physical stress triggered by a loss. These reactions can actually rearrange the muscles and sometimes even our body’s skeleton, in particular patterns for particular lengths of time. We may make sounds, like a moan or a growl. Our brain produces pictures that upset us even more.

Often the physical stress of grieving will cause us to lose coordination. We fall more easily. We don’t run our daily lives as smoothly as we did. Even simple things seem hard to do. Our brain and our eyes don’t coordinate the way they did before the loss. We are prone to have more accidents. We get more colds. Our immune system is compromised. We tire easily.

http://connect.legacy.com/inspire/page/show?id=1984035%3APage%3A2521

I really relate to all of this yesterday and today.

In Teri Gross’s second segment of the interview with Didion, she speaks about the theme of her book “magical thinking” and how she couldn’t get rid of his shoes because some part of her developed an “insanity” thinking he was coming back.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone that far in any tangible way but I do relate to that in dreams.  Where Cindy has come to me in dreams in awkward ways like walking in the courtroom once and down the middle aisle of the courtroom during one of the trials in this strange dreamy way saying “I’m back now…it’s all ok now…this can end now…”.

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Then waking up in to the real nightmare.  I remember wishing I wouldn’t dream about her because the pain of reality was so not worth any glimpse of her presence.  I think I feel differently now.  I’ve worked very hard to feel differently about that.

It’s a double edged sword when you think about attempting some kind of connection, some kind of sign they are still around and reaching in to it blindly while at the same time acknowledging they are gone.  Many folks are much better at that than I am.  I’ve done so desperately at times, such as right before we moved John out here, and I will write about that in another story.

Today I feel like I couldn’t move the corners of my mouth in to a smile even with a forklift.  And I’m kind of known for my smile.  I feel like I have hooks tethered to boulders holding my mouth in to a deep frown just as my static expression.

I brought Sabine down earlier just to encourage her to eat.  She looks at the food, eats a few bites, laps a few sips of water, looks at me, wanders over to the bottom of the stairs and keeps looking up.  She just keeps gazing up those stairs looking for someone.   With this look of longing in her eyes.  I think she possesses that magical thinking Joan Didion talks about.  But Buddy didn’t take his last breath in her arms though so she has some catching up to do.

I’m aware of the terrible necessity of cave dwelling, at least for me, going through something like this.  I feel raw in every pore of my body.  I can handle very very little stimuli right now.  It’s all just so jarring.

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I guess I will sign off with this poem by my favorite David Whyte.  I think I’ve said all I need to for today.  And just leave you with this.  If you ever judge yourself or have felt judged by another to “just get over it”  or “it’s just a cat” or “they’re in a better place” or “isn’t it time for some closure?” maybe you will think of me today writing, grieving for so many things after having slipped through that rabbit hole with Buddy.  We never know what that ball of yarn will pick up along the way clinging with it’s own need for air and a reach for a new glimmer of daylight.  The well can be deep but so can the healing.  Sometimes it’s a wise decision to just sink.

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

  — David Whyte
from Where Many Rivers Meet
©2007 Many Rivers Press

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together

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I’m dedicating this post to this comment by my dear Peepers McPeep:

Katie, such a lovely poem.
You’ve given John a great gift.
That of Hope..
His is a new beginning, learning to walk again with confidence.
You, as his guide, lighting the way.
Give yourself permission to rest along his journey,
There are days when he will carry you.
You will find what you seek,
Cradled tightly as you listen to the heartbeat of your love.
That will be your Destiny.

She left that yesterday responding to my post about Faith.

I can’t tell you how close John was to being hospitalized again over the last 24 hours.  It was as bad as it gets.  Both of the programs he participates in were responding in crisis mode.  I moved him here indefinitely.  His case manager met with me twice today very concerned about Alfonse and problem solving how to keep him out of the hospital.  He said to me “you know you are the reason John is alive”.

I thought about that comment later and thought, no, I am a big part of the reason he’s done as well as he has over the last year, truly a miracle in comparison to the last 20  years. But what’s kept him alive is far and above me.  He’s been in so many dangerous situations, taking his hands off the wheel of his car when voices told him “it’s time to go to heaven” on a major highway, etc.  I don’t want to revisit these.  But something, someone far beyond me has kept John alive all these years, that’s for sure.

As I left John at the program, I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him and the nurse he was visiting with said “You have a good sister” as I walked out and he said “yes I do” in that flat distracted way he gets when he’s bombarded by voices and paranoia.  I am so aware when I go there just how rare it is that mentally ill patients have support.  I often feel like a unicorn when I’m in there as so often patients are sitting there alone.  Just like John was for so many years before he moved out to Arizona.  It just breaks my heart thinking of it then, seeing it now.

I came home, with thankfully almost a full day off, and crashed hard.  I barely got off the couch all day, laying there dozing on a heating pad.  I have to say I was in some pretty extreme pain all day so I just rested and did my best to rest and breathe and wait it out.  Gallstones make their presence known on their way out, I’ll just say that.  They don’t let go that easily.  They like to make a grand exit.

I had no idea what I’d get around 2:30 when the shuttle dropped John off.  He was really pretty bad when I left him at the program this morning.  I didn’t know if I’d have another night of acute psychosis and how I’d deal with that not feeling great myself.

On first look, he was already more connected when he walked in the door.  I think the hardest thing about mental illness is the way it hijacks someone’s personality.  It’s like John disappears behind a wall of that.  And that is so far from his sweet charming little personality, it’s just depressing.  It’s almost like a death in itself.

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So he came in and went straight out to smoke.  I asked him to do some sweeping for me so he didn’t track in the palm debris when he came in and out smoking and he did so readily.  He’s usually very cooperative and doesn’t complain when I ask him to do things.  He doesn’t often initiate but that’s ok.  He cooperates.

He saw the heating pad by the couch and asked if I was in pain.  I told him that my back and stomach were killing me all day and I’d been working on it.  He said “Oh I’m sorry you’re not feeling well” then stood up from the couch.

He walked over to his suitcase , opened it, pulled out a bag and in it was a medication vial.  He handed it to me and said “I have these ibuprofen tablets from the hospital and I think it will help you.  Why don’t you take one?”.  I sat there, stunned that he was initiating this help to me.   I just said “ok that’s a great idea, I hadn’t even thought of that”.  He instructed me not to take another one for 8 hours and no more than 3 over a 24 hour period.  Like a good little nurse.

How sweet was that?  And you know what?  It worked!

I leaned down to hug him as I left to work for a bit and he hugged me back so tight saying “I love you my dear Sister”.  I thanked him for helping me with his ibuprofen and told him it was really helping, because it was.

I made it in to treat my client and back home again pain free after a day of misery.

As I walked in the door, I saw John on the phone and stepped right in to these words “Why don’t you call me next week?  I’m staying at my sister’s for awhile.  She’s not feeling well so I’m staying here to take care of her”.

Ok, if that just didn’t bust up my paradigm right there.  I love being proven wrong in cases like this.  He thinks he’s staying here to take care of me.

And so I’m going to let him.

We had a lovely dinner together undistracted by the voices that consumed him just this morning.  And now he’s resting quietly over on the couch stretched out watching The Next Food Network Star.  The key word of that sentence is quietly.

Alfonse and I will get through this life together, extending a hand, hopscotching ourselves over each threshold we encounter.  Together.  Hand in hand.

Protected.

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(took this photo the first step we took in to our Sedona home last February)