I’ll keep your memory vague-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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I love memories. They are powerful. I think memories would be one of the most difficult things to ever have to give up .

Memories for me are not just about people I have met or places I have been but sometimes it is a feeling the memory arouses.

I have this special place that I like to go and I always wish I could capture the feeling of that place, that feeling of being connected, wholehearted and deeply and madly free. Memories, like feelings are sometimes fleeting, fading as quickly as they came. Others are enduring and they survive our greatest attempts to exile them.

Memories can warm you, like a roaring cabin fire on a dreadfully cold February day. They can recapture a time, a place, or a feeling, and envelope you in a delightfully toasty embrace.
Unfortunately just as quickly they can tear apart your insides, and rip open old wounds as if you swallowed a bucket of rusty razor blades.

Ironically bad memories come to us with greater intensity than pleasant ones because the memory is not about a place or a person as much as it is about the feelings the memory evokes. Sadly, feelings of hurt, anger, heartbreak and hopelessness can be crippling, even years later.

I told you just recently how excited I am to be in such a good and warm place in my marriage. That wasn’t always the case. Like a lot of couples, just because we have always felt like we were meant to be together doesn’t mean that it has been an easy road.

The other night in a conversation with a friend my husband brought up something that surprised me. I was upset but tried to brush it off and suceeded for a short time. It seemed out of the blue to me and I was a bit shocked because it obviously came from a place of pain and I most definititely missed the part of the conversation that made the timing relevant.

The next day I had an appointment for a ninety minute float at the Floatique, to melt away stress and clear my mind. About 60 minutes in I had an aha moment of sorts. The thing about floating and sensory deprivation is that once you have cleared you mind and relaxed sometimes things that have been mired in the mud of stress and noise pop into your brain and you get it immediately. It’s mental clarity. I had that moment and it was a comfort initially, feeling like I had found the answer to an equation.

That response was short lived however. The emotional response that I had to the memories that came up that day hit me square in the face the next morning. I was catapulted to a time of sadness and uncertainty in my marriage. I tried to refocus. I tried several times to no avail as tears that I tried desperately to hold in spilled out of the corner of my eyes. It wasn’t the memory of the time, the place, the people or even the events, it was undeniably the feelings. I fiercely wished for an override button to bring me back but it wasn’t possible. I think the only thing worse than living through those feelings the first time is living through them again and again.

A lesson I have learned from doing the W.I.S.E. project is how important it is to live in the present. The past is gone, I can’t change it, I have this moment, this very one. I can’t have yesterday and I am not promised tomorrow or next week. I have now. I knew I didn’t want to feel that pain again, I knew better than to dwell on it but I also know that our emotional memories are sometimes cautions.

Have you ever had a drink of sour milk? If you have you remember it and you never want to drink it again. This memory stays in the back of your mind and cautions you. You check the date on the carton, you smell the milk if it is close to expiry, you are vigilant about it.

I feel like that memory, that moment… those feelings; were a caution of sorts. Reminding me of our indomitable spirit, our incredible love and our valiant vulnerability. Reminding us to keep moving forward. There will always be another hurtle, another roadblock to stumble over, another fork in the road that we will have to face together and forge on.

Memories can be a holding tank of your greatest pain but they can also be a place of peace, of passion and of solace. I have learned that memories will come and go like the wind. I get to decide which memories I give power to. Some I may hold unto longer than others, feel their soothing warmth like hot sun on my face on a July day. The feel of my lips swollen from my very first kiss, the joy of falling in love, the soothing embrace of my children. The sound of the ocean, the soaring heights of the mountains, the feel of summer rain, those are the feelings I will hang unto.

Other memories may hit me hard and fast when I least expect it, bringing feelings of fear and sadness. I will let the wind carry them away just as fast.

“Memories are made of peculiar stuff, elusive and yet compelling, powerful and fleet. You cannot trust your reminiscences, and yet there is no realty except the one we remember…”

~Klaus Mann

Be. W.I.S.E. friends.

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Tainted Love-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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Photo Credit : gem fountain/flickr

 

When you are on a journey to be more mindful and happy you will undoubtedly learn a lot about yourself and if you thought you were perfect you will find out very quickly that you are not. Your relationships will inevitably be held under a microscope and if you allow it and are open to growth and honesty this can be a good thing.

I knew from the beginning of this project that I wanted to  look at my relationship. I have been with my husband for 18 years so obviously my relationship with him is one of the most important things in my life. Some of what I have learned has been helpful in other important relationships too, ones with friends and family. If people are important to you it makes sense to want to build stronger and healthier relationships with them.

This month one of the principles I am working on is intimacy. It seems a shame to have spent 18 years with someone without achieving total intimacy with them but I think intimacy is something that you should continue to work on as you grow and change. Seeking improvements in our relationships keeps them healthy and keeps us interested.  Neuroscience shows that the act of seeking itself, rather than the goals we realize, is key to satisfaction.

The innate human desire to seek means that we can never truly feel that every desire and wish has been met. There will never be an end to the to-do list, future goals and plans, the things we want to achieve and see. But the fact that we don’t have everything we want is exactly what makes life so fulfilling. ~ Onward Ho

I think it is impossible to achieve true intimacy without deeply exploring ourselves and examining our behaviors, our thoughts and feelings  as well as seeking our identity and being genuinely curious about ourselves and our partners (friends, family etc).

What I learned very quickly was that pride has no place in an intimate relationship. I would most definitely have once described myself as prideful. I would have held a sparkly, flashing sign that obnoxiously displayed the word PRIDE…boldly and proudly.

For years I thought being prideful was something to be proud of, to me, the notion had a positive connotation. I have learned that being vulnerable (which I always associated with being weak) has been much better for me. Being open and accepting about my own weaknesses is something I was really never willing to do. It was my pride that told me I always had to be right, to get the last word, to win the argument, to have my feelings recognized above all else. By elevating myself that way it made it difficult for people to connect with me on an intimate level. Vulnerability is how we show trust in others and without trust intimacy is unattainable.

I didn’t want to trust. Trust is scary. If you trust people you give them the power to hurt you. I had trusted before and I wasn’t going to make that mistake again! Once bitten, twice shy. What if I did trust though? Was I not also giving people permission to love me? To see me, all of me, not just the filtered parts of my life I show to the world but my true deep self? Would this courage to be myself; “perfectly imperfect’ mean that my connections with people would be unequivocally genuine?

Humility and vulnerability affords us the confidence to be our authentic self. Confidence is that attractive element of pride, but pride can be destructive forcing us to try to uphold an image of  ourselves and our relationships that doesn’t exist. I am not perfect, my relationships are not perfect but I want them to be real and not tainted by the allure of pride and the soul crushing one-dimensional box that crowds you into.

Emotions are a funny thing and very hard to control. They are a natural state of mind derived from our circumstances, our moods and our relationships with others. Unfortunately you cannot pick and choose what feelings you choose to feel. I used to think my pride would protect me from getting hurt and feeling horrible emotions but I was also missing out on a lot of good feelings that come from embracing the uncertainty of vulnerability. Loving with my whole heart, without the promise of what tomorrow would bring protected me only from joy and that powerful connection you have with another when you have the courage to be tender, knowing I am worthy of love and willing to give mine freely, without conditions.

This has been an ‘AHA’ moment for me indeed, a surrendering of sorts. Seizing the certain reality of uncertainty and being ok with it. Loving another person means that sometimes you will get hurt and your heart might get broken a thousand times. That means a thousand times yet get to experience the joy of falling in love with that person all over again…or starting over knowing in your heart that you gave everything you had!

I am human and flawed, I was enchanted by the idea of living pridefully but being true to myself, admitting my mistakes and being willing to compromise, process and move on has made me feel a whole lot better about myself and my most important relationships. This doesn’t mean absolving people of doing their part in a relationship but I think how something looks to you is much more important than how the world sees it.

 

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Be W.I.S.E. friends and as you continue to journey mind fully through your days remember the principles for May are Warmth, Intimacy, Serenity and Enrich.

Chat soon xo

 

If you don’t know me by now- W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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The W.I.S.E. Project is a journey to self discovery and fulfillment. I am just like you, yet different. I decided to tell you some totally useless information about me and then you will know me better. You may love me, totally dislike me or suggest I seek help. Regardless, if we are going to journey together we should have some dirt on each other in case things go awry along the way!

1.) I love the sound and the smell of rain, if it is accompanied by rolling thunder and lightning lights up the sky I am enthralled. Stormy nights make me sleep like a baby!

2.) I love eggs. Boiled, fried, poached, scrambled or omelets. Eggs are my go to, any day, any time food.

3.) If I have red lipstick on and a flower in my hair I am determined to have a wonderful day!

4.) I love movies that evoke feeling. If they don’t make me cry, scream in anger or recoil in fear then it is not a good movie. If I can do all of that in one movie then it will be my favorite.

5.) I cannot be held responsible for anything I say or do when I am behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. I am a nice person until I am driving and you disregard rules and courtesy. 98% of my swearing takes place in my vehicle.

6.) I like the feeling of being happy. I recognize very quickly when I am not and I have to try very hard to get back to that feeling. Sometimes I have to give myself a time-out!

7.) I love road trips but I also like coffee. It is impossible to combine the two and still cover the miles needed to get where we are going! I am not a lot of fun when I need to pee!!

8.) Sometimes I am afraid to be totally myself because the world has a certain amount of power over me. I try to serve my authenticity but when challenges get to great I tend to panic. As above, sometimes a time-out is needed.

9.) I take a five minutes a day to meditate and be mindful. It is hard. I set a timer. It does get easier and it is helping me to cut through mental distraction and build my attention span.

10.) I used to envy people. Now I admire them.

11.) I used to have this driving need to make a difference somehow. I would spend countless hours being curious and trying to figure out what my purpose was. I found that my greatest contribution could be in changing myself and in learning to be happier, grateful and more mindful I am making a difference in my life and the lives of those I love.

12.) I think identity is something we build on. At 17 I thought I knew everything, including who I was. I am glad that I am not the same person today that I was a 17.  I think the painful experiences that I have had in the last 42 years are the times that I have fought the most to seek my identity, with each lesson, with each trauma, with each survival; parts of my identity emerged.

13.) I sometimes yell at everyone in my house when I am frustrated.

14.) I use laughter to deal with hard situations because someone once said it was the best medicine.

15.) I lose several corkscrews in a month and find them in weird places like my underwear drawer. I love wine 😉

16.) If someone is not nice to my children then I wouldn’t have them around, I feel the same way about my pets.

17.) Sometimes I crave a good cuddle but it is on my terms only. When I want to cuddle and how long I want to cuddle. I have unspoken cuddle rules! I know it sounds selfish and it is not the intimacy of it that I struggle with, it is just that sometimes it sends me into a claustrophobic panic and others it feels like my body has burst into flames and I am burning alive. If it is my way and my terms it can be the sweetest and most calming experience.

18.) I am fascinated by nerds. Most nerds are incredibly smart and though they often lack in social skills; one on one they can be so charming and engaging. I love the way their minds work and they can be really exceptional friends. I had a really good friend years ago that I would describe as the “nerd” of our group. At 20 he was abundantly smart and was enthusiastic about things other than drink specials and wing night. After a night of tequila shots and bad decision making we somehow ended up alone and he educated me in unspeakable ways. He was brilliant and attentive in the bedroom and other rooms. In fact, just to prove it wasn’t the tequila talking we engaged in many more crazy times until he moved across the country to further his education. I would listen to him for hours on end talking to me about amazing things that I wasn’t smart enough to understand, he would ponder, adjust his glasses and thoughtfully explain to me everything I never wanted to know and then when it was least expected he would literally rip my clothes off and ravish me. It could be at the bathroom sink, in the kitchen…in the middle of a math equation. It was so incredibly hot. I thought he was my best kept secret but many monthes later I found out that at least a couple of my friends thought they had the same secret. No regrets 😆

19.) * sometimes my mind wanders mid thought. No nerds were harmed in the making of this blog post!

 
20.) One of the most valuable things I have learned to do is to say NO.

Now you  know me a bit. I would love to get to know you. Tell me a totally random and useless fact about you.

 

 

 

 

 

Romeo and “just a minute….” W.I.S.E. Project 2016

Kirk and I

Relationships are hard. I don’t have a PhD but I do have 18 years of experience in the same roller coaster relationship. So trust me, I know things.

We expect a lot from relationships and too often we expect to get more out of a relationship than we put in. The probability of getting credit for more than you have deposited is unlikely. If you put five dollars into the bank you cannot withdraw twenty. It is not rocket science. We are all smart people here but admit it, when you got married you expected something a little more Cinderella-ish as opposed to a Hitchcock horror movie where you are constantly fighting for your life. You’ll make it, but not without work and sometimes it is harder than you can ever imagine. Sharing your bed and your bathroom and peeing while your spouse shaves looked a hell of a lot sexier in your head than it does in real life. Nobody told you that you might have to compromise…a lot. Even on stuff like pizza toppings! Nobody told you that you would face more fears and insecurities than you did when you were single. All of the cards we got at our wedding said “have a wonderful life together” They didn’t say that some days your greatest struggles in your relationship and your greatest frustrations would be an opportunity to not lay blame, but to confront yourself. It seems easier to keep a running tally of your spouses shortcomings and invest in the belief that their issues are the only thing standing between you and that fairy tale marriage you once dreamed about but if you allow yourself self awareness you will learn to be more compassionate to yourself, and in turn your spouse. You may not love finding dishes and socks strewn all over the house but it will not break you. You cannot change your spouse, no matter how much you cry, nag, scream or throw things; you will waste so much valuable time trying to change people. If you want change, change yourself!

I am devoted to my husband. I have been with him for almost half of my life. The experiences that we have shared together have been transformative to every aspect of our lives. We started out as these young fools that thought we knew everything there was to know about everything and we couldn’t have been more wrong. As we grew as individuals sometimes we grew apart and sometimes we came together. We didn’t always show each the other the consideration we deserved but somehow we soldiered through to the place we are now and it feels like a good place where my heart is safe and full.

I can’t say why I decided that my husband was the one, why I was willing to put in the hard work and to allow him to slowly chip away at the walls I had built up over the years. I am not even clear if it was a decision at all or if it was beyond my control. I do know that I had no idea what a real adult relationship was supposed to look like and wouldn’t for a very long time. We got married and exchanged rings bounding us together forever and subscribing to the age old notion that two had become one.

The fact that for almost 18 years we have committed to work through problems as they arise (and they keep coming) shows that we truly aspire to achieve full intimacy, the kind that is not corroded by years of stubborn resentment and abundant expectations. I have chosen to evict years of hurt and anger from my brain and live in the here and now. My husband will undoubtedly piss me off again and I will without question drive him to the brink of absolute madness. We will love through it; and move on until the next jackass thing comes up. Ahhh…marriage.

When my children were born there was nothing more miraculous than those experiences. I was overcome with such intense love and emotion for these wondrous little creatures with their perfect fingers and toes, soft bodies and faces that were so animated yet completely void of pretense or fear. I spent endless amounts of time just looking at them, entirely captivated by their very nature to just exist and be happy doing so. It is an incredulous experience to be overcome with a love so pure. I guess it is similar to the way I fell in love with my husband, it wasn’t something that I decided to do, it was unavoidable. I was weakened with this sincere and eager feeling that distracted me day and night. In fact I tried really hard to not fall in love with him, I liked being single and I was pretty determined to not allow the existence of mysterious forces to take that from me. Apparently my defenses were feeble against these enigmatic powers and would continue to be many times over the years when I tried to battle against them. Sometimes love hurts and I admit that over the 18 years of my relationship with my husband I would try several times to struggle against it to no avail. I have loved him through all of the times, even the ones I didn’t like him very much, often neglecting the importance of loving myself.

I would describe most of my relationship with my husband as fiercely passionate, amplified by the fact that my husband worked away for many years and we all know that separation makes the heart grow fonder. My husband is also a Scorpio so he can be ardently intense! However there are also periods of time that we are slaves to the mundane daily tasks of working parents. sometimes marriage is boring, but at a certain point you really come to appreciate knowing what comes next.

Romantic love often thrives on separation because of the fantasies that we create during absence. Unattainable love can be quite thrilling but it can also be impersonal and wrought with bitterness and distress. Though there is an incredible amount of energy in passion, if we do not have the courage to make a real connection, to allow ourselves the abandonment of our mental inhibitions and our selfishness then we will never turn our romantic love into true lasting love.

From the beginning of time there has been darkness at the center of passionate love. In classical myths and literature such as Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights, one possesses their lover completely in death only. Trusting in this type of passion glorifies a lifetime of unhappiness and life is too short to be anything but happy!

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I have been distracted on more than one occasion by the delightful agony of passionate love. We endorse this type of feral romance in books, music and on the big screen everyday. It can be torturous but it makes us feel wildly alive.  Though we use our bodies to connect and relieve loneliness and frustration, believing in the meaningfulness of our rampant romance, we rarely allow ourselves to  be open enough to  dissolve the walls we have built around our heart to protect us from hurt. So when the fantasy starts to fade and problems emerge we are left with the realization that we barely knew the person at all. The truth is we didn’t, we didn’t get to know them and we barely allowed our guard down enough for them to know us. When you look back on failed relationships were you ever willing to be vulnerable enough to allow true love to grow? If you are honest you might be surprised at your answer.

A long term committed relationship takes a certain amount of courage to let down your guard, to love, to forgive and to share your space. As a young woman emerging into adulthood I relied on a deceptive belief that to make someone fall in love with me I had to be everything they wanted. I had to like their music and share the same hobbies and beliefs. Compatibility is based on a lot of things but not on becoming a completely different person to attract another. It is an impossible charade to live up to and very damaging to our spirit to align our thoughts and beliefs with another to a point that we are giving up the beauty of what makes us unique and special.

There are so many things I wish I had known years ago but there is always something to be said for learning the lessons the hard way. The been there, done that, bought the friggin t-shirt approach gets you to the same conclusion eventually. If we have any intention of enriching love and deepening our relationships we really need to begin with ourselves. We are not responsible for our significant other’s happiness, decisions or well-being.  To be in a fully committed and loving relationship we need to relinquish our clingy need for dependency. Relationships thrive when we nurture and support our partner’s without solely relying on them for our contentment and wellness. Chains of love are chains just the same.

I am sure you have all been told on occasion “you cannot love another before you fully love yourself”. You may have even repeated it to a friend when you thought they needed to hear it. How much of what we hear, repeat and even believe do we put to use? I have said that phrase to countless people over the years. I was free with advice that I never seized myself.

When we are in a committed relationship, or a marriage, we do not become one. We share a common space of mutual responsibility, sharing and joy but we still preserve our individual space and we are completely independent individuals. I always wonder if couple’s with joint Facebook accounts truly believe that they are one person, sharing a mind? If you respect and trust your partner that will allow you to afford them independence, than being together and spending time together becomes a choice instead of a chore.

One of the most important things I have learned in my marriage is that love is being present. The most precious gift you can give the one you love is your presence.  Presence in the here and now. I spent a great deal of my relationship stuck in the past, tormenting myself with old hurt and agonizing over the future. I would allow these worries to invade good times and ruin them. To put it in black and white it seems ridiculous but I know a lot of you fail to enjoy the present moment because you are apprehensive about what tomorrow will bring or you are still clinging to the bad thing that happened yesterday or five years ago.

“The past is no longer there; the future is not here yet; there is only one moment to which life is available and that is the present moment” –Buddha

Nothing annoys me more than when I am having a conversation with my husband and I have to keep repeating myself because his attention is focused elsewhere. While researching relationships it was very sobering to realize that I am even guiltier of doing this. If you have ever spent a moment wondering why your significant other doesn’t confide in you more, ask yourself if you are present when they do? Are you playing with your phone, making a mental grocery list, thoughtfully planning what you would do if you won ten million dollars? If you are consistently not present, your lover will bore of confiding in you and you will get the same attention when you confide in them. We want to be treated equally in a relationship but often what we really mean is that we want what we want when we want it with minimal effort on our part. We are setting ourselves up for failure.

Learning to be mindful and live in the present we are not stuck revisiting the pain and the mistakes of the past or torturing our worried minds about a future that is not here yet. Instead we are mindfully enjoying our time together in the moment. It takes a lot of practice to mindfully embrace each moment with a willingness to accept things just the way they are. Once they have happened, we cannot change them but if we allow ourselves we can enjoy the moment or learn from it. Either way we accept the experience.

You can look for love and happiness everywhere which is the equivalent of looking for love in all of the wrong places. Love and happiness resides inside of all of us. My capacity to create joy and be in a healthy, committed relationship comes from loving and accepting myself. Loving myself and investing in myself really does allow me the choice to completely love another.

From the very beginning of my journey to be more mindful and create a life full of happiness and joy I knew that my relationship with my husband would need some examination. Looking back on what I have learned about marriage, from years of being in one, it is amazing how little either of us knew about relationships and what it meant to be in one when we said “I do”. I didn’t even know what the basic principles of a relationship really were and spent years of tortured angst believing it was my responsibility to make my partner happy, instead of subscribing to the notion that I was accountable for my own happiness, as he was his. Building enduring and gratifying relationships depends largely on our ability to extend warmth and kindness to ourselves. It is foolish to expect someone to love us unconditionally if we do not entirely love ourselves!

“They say marriages are made in heaven. So is thunder and lighting”

                                                                                  ~Clint Eastwood

Total Package

Daily Prompt: A Friend in Need

Posted by michelle w.Finish this sentence: “My closest friend is…”Photographers, artists, poets: show us FRIENDSHIP.Please note that comments are always closed on daily prompts. Pingbacks are always enabled; if you link to the prompt post on your blog, a link to your post will appear in the list below the prompt.

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My closest friend is my husband Kirk. Sometimes he infuriates me and sometimes it takes some time for us to fit into each others lives. We live a unique lifestyle but certainly not unusual for anyone who works or has a spouse who works in the Oil Sands of Alberta. Kirk works away for a minimum of ten days and then he is back for four days. This past run he was gone for 17 days. He lives in work camps and works in remote parts of Alberta. Our daily lives are very different so when he comes home the two of us often mix like oil and water. With patience (which admittedly I lack sometimes) and a bit off tongue, we eventually work through our conflicting personalities and that is when the fun starts. Once we decide that we don’t have to talk over each other and compete to see who has had a worse week we are able to breath, relax and laugh together. Nobody in the world can make me laugh like Kirk and when I am laughing I am relaxed and free. Unlike other couples we don’t have the luxury of time so when we are thrown together we have to jam all of our niceties and good times in a couple of days. My closest friend is a loud and opinionated.  I sometimes have to fight him to get a word in edgewise. He obviously likes the sound of his own voice. My closest friend is the hardest worker I know, often carrying a huge weight on his shoulders. He is conscientious,  strong and he has an unusually brilliant mind. He encourages me always and tells me I can do anything I set my mind too. My closest friend loves me passionately,  he makes me feel safe and important in this big bad word.

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Making the Connection with you

Daily Prompt: The Stat Connection

Go to your Stats page and check your top 3-5 posts. Why do you think they’ve been successful? Find the connection between them, and write about it.Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONNECTIONS.

My top posts are all from my Thousand Acre Heart Series. I think it has been successful because I speak from my heart and I talk openly about Adoption,  marriage, motherhood and all my hopes, fears and feelings. I was pretty surprised initially with where my posts were being viewed.  My nine year old daughter freaked out that Hong Kong was viewing because that is Katy Perrys favorite place to visit!! I appreciate every visit and I know that know matter where in the world you are viewing from our hearts are similar. We have all felt the joy of a sunrise, kissed someone we love under the moonlight, felt hurt and loss but conquered it. We have all thrown our hands up under the same blue sky and said “Why me?” or thanked our God for his many blessings. In knowing this I write like I would talk to a friend.  I have said it before, there are no strangers here, just friends we haven’t met yet.People relate to Thousand  Acre Heart because I am you and you are me. We are characters in this world, playing our parts, navigating through lifes stuggles and triumphs trying to be the best we can be. When I write this series I think through my fingers, memories are coming back to me quickly and sometimes my cheeks are hot with tears and other times I am choked with laughter or overwhelmed with the lightness of love.  People relate to honesty,  truth and vulnerability and it has been very cleansing for my soul.

If you haven’t read Thousand Acre Heart but would like to you can start HERE

Michelle ♥

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Unbreakable Chapter Two-Watch over you

 

CHAPTER 2 Watch Over You

 

Rebecca Noonan was bored stiff. She realized how lucky she was to be able to visit her grandparents but seven weeks on a remote farm in Vermont was enough to drive her mad. There was no question that this beat out her home life back in Lincoln but she missed her best friend terribly. Rebecca had met Natalie when she was nine years old on the elementary school playground. Even in grade three Rebecca was beautiful with long blonde hair and wondrous eyes the color of a summer sky, but she was quiet and withdrawn and didn’t make friends very easily. Natalie had lost her parents in a car accident and had come to live with her Aunt and cousin in Lincoln. Rebecca was dealing with her own demons and the pair became fast friends. She remembered it like it was yesterday Natalie with her sassy dark curls marching up and introducing herself as she flipped through a book. The other kids were put off by Rebecca and barely bothered with her but that didn’t discourage Natalie. She was determined that they were going to be friends.  

 Natalie held out a bag of cookies, “You can have one of my cookies; my Aunt baked them at her diner.”

 Timidly Rebecca reached in and took a cookie from the plastic bag. She immediately felt drawn in by Natalie’s warm and outgoing personality.

 “You have a huge bruise on your arm,” Natalie remarked.

 “I fell,” Rebecca lied.

 “I fall a lot too. My dad used to say that I was an accident waiting to happen.”

 At this Rebecca’s eyes filled with tears. Natalie didn’t ask why, she just sat there on the bench quietly sharing her cookies.

 Natalie quickly took Rebecca under her wing even though it would seem it should be the other way around. Natalie was the one who was new to town and on top of that she’d just lost her parents; but for some reason she decided that Rebecca needed her and she was right.

   Rebecca lived in a small home a couple of blocks from the school. She had never brought other children home nor had birthday parties. Her father was a raging alcoholic who got very mean when he drank and her mother fell all over herself making excuses for him. There were holes in the wall from his fits of rage and it was not unusual to go months without power because her father would rather gamble then pay the bills.

 Rebecca was the younger of the two siblings. Her sister Tara had run away from home at fifteen. She sent Rebecca letters but when her father found out there was hell to pay. He called her sister a good for nothing slut and forbid Rebecca any contact with her. Rebecca missed her sister terribly and refused to believe any of the horrible things her father said about her. She recalled many nights when her father was on a drunken rampage Tara would come to her room and they would lie face to face with their arms wrapped around each other. Her sister would tell her how special she was and that she had to be strong and stay out of her father’s way. She would hold her hand and stroke her hair until Rebecca drifted off to sleep. She cried every night for her sister. She didn’t blame her for leaving she just wanted to know that she was okay.

 Her sister had always talked about how she was going to be a Doctor someday. Rebecca hoped that it would happen for her. When she was four Tara had asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said ‘a Barbie Princess’. Tara kissed her forehead and told her that was the prefect thing to be.

Her sister had taught her to pray. She didn’t pray like other kids did, on their knees with their hands clasped in front of them, because if her father caught her praying he would have a fit. He believed that religion was for weaklings and misfits. So in the dark, with her eyes closed tightly under the covers she prayed. She prayed for the same thing every night, for her father to leave and for her sister to come back.

 Rebecca didn’t hate her mother, she just pitied her. She had no identity, no self-worth. Her husband had told her for so many years that she was a piece of trash that she believed it. When Rebecca started grade three she was pretty much fending for herself. Her mother was so busy trying to cater to her fathers every whim that Rebecca became nearly invisible. She had taken a growth spurt over the summer and when the school year rolled around she only had one pair of pants that fit. She wore them day after day even after pleading with her Mom for new clothes.

  One day after school she walked into the middle of a heated argument between her parents. Her father had come home early from work to find her mother in tears reading a letter from Tara. Her father was furious; when Rebecca walked in he grabbed her by the arm and made her watch as the letter burned. He squeezed her arm so tight Rebecca was terrified. She peed in her pants. She was sent upstairs with no dinner and told not to leave her room. Her only pair of pants was soaked in pee and she couldn’t even leave her room to rinse them out.

 Her mother never came to check on her, to comfort her and tell everything would fine; she never did.

 Long after her Dad had passed out from the rum she tiptoed quietly downstairs to the laundry room and scrubbed her pants till her knuckles were raw then made her way back upstairs and hung them to dry out her bedroom window. It was the very next day, sitting alone on a playground bench with a bruise on her arm wearing pee stained pants that Natalie Whitney offered to be her friend

                                                        

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Rebecca rolled over and opened one eye. Sure enough it was light outside. She was tempted to put the covers over her head and go back to sleep but as soon as she heard Gramps get up she decided she might as well begin the day. She would help him feed the chickens and clean out the coops before Nan made breakfast. As terribly as she missed Natalie it was nice to feel part of a real family.

 She met Gramps in the hallway and though he mumbled his usual morning greeting he seemed uneasy and appeared not to have slept much. She followed him into the kitchen where she expected Nan to be waiting. Nan came from the living room appearing as ill at ease and disheveled as her Gramps. Her Nan asked her to sit down and she had the frightening feeling that someone had just pulled her stomach out her throat.

 “There’s someone here to see you,” her Nan said, squeezing her hand tight.

Before she had a chance to speculate she walked in. She was as radiant as she’d always been. Her golden hair was long and cascaded in loose curls down the small of her back. Her almond shaped eyes, dark and exotic belonged to a woman, not the girl she called ‘sister’. Rebecca was scared to move for fear that she would disappear like so many times in her dreams. Tara was the first to step forward, she wrapped her arms around her little sister and dissolved into tears. Her grandparents wiping away their own tears left the girls alone.

“Becca you are so beautiful.” Tara pulled away to look at her and smiled through her tears.

 “I know what you must think of me Becca, leaving you behind the way I did…..”

 Rebecca interrupted, “I never blamed you, I just prayed that you were alright.”

 They sat alone at the kitchen table with their fingers laced together and talked for hours.

 

Tara lived in Boston where she would be attending Harvard Medical School on a full scholarship in the fall. She’d always been bright and she knew that hard work would be her only ticket out of the poverty and abuse she’d suffered much of her young life. When she was fifteen she saved her babysitting money and took the bus to Boston. She was pretty and always appeared to be much older than she was so she had no problem finding waitress jobs. When the school year began she convinced the elderly lady that owned the rooming house where she lived to become her legal guardian so that she could enroll in high school. She worked hard in school and waitressed nights and weekends. She graduated high school with honors and was the Valedictorian of her senior class. She attended four years of University taking advantage of scholarships, bursaries and every other opportunity that was available to her. One could only envy the svelte figure she managed to keep by existing on little other then Kraft dinner and hot dogs. She graduated at the top of her class with a Doctrine of Science and was anxious to begin Medical School in the fall. Her desire was to be a surgeon and anyone who knew her had no doubts that that would happen.

 “I came back to see you Becca, a month after I ran away. Dad threatened me within an inch of my life. He wouldn’t have me influencing ‘the good daughter’.

 Tara continued, “I’ve been in contact with Nan and Grandpa for awhile now. They worked really hard to convince Mom to let you come here. She doesn’t know I’m here. She would never have let you come.”

 Rebecca sighed, “No matter what he says to her Tara she knows deep down it isn’t true. She loves you.”

 “Becca.., “she began, “Mom isn’t capable of loving anyone because she doesn’t love herself. Nan and Gramps have offered to help for years but she keeps making the same old excuses for him.”

 Rebecca knew all too well. ‘Daddy’s tired, daddy doesn’t feel well, and he works so hard, he’s worried about money”

“They never knew how bad it was for us. Now we are going to help you, you never have to go back there.” Tara promised.

 Rebecca pulled away from Tara and stood up, “I have to go back. I’m all Mom has.”

 “You are not responsible for her Becca.” Tara argued, “She is supposed to be responsible for you but she failed you the moment she put you in the same room as that vicious drunk.”

 “I have friends there Tara, a life…..” Rebecca’s voice trailed off.

Tara pulled her close and soothed her the way she did when they were little. “You don’t have to decide this instant Becca but please think about it.”