Posted by Soul Survivor on June 12, 2013
Imagine that your ears are tuned and listening constantly for the drop of a pin in silence that signals impending explosion.
Imagine your eyes scanning the room, straining to see behind your head as you walk, even half-open in rare moments of sleep, unable to close for fear of missing the approach of the evil that comes with the dark.
Imagine your skin so thin and so sensitive that even the still air rubs like a rasp. Clothes are agony. Underwear is torture. No, no, don’t touch me!
Alert, always alert, and jump at the least sound. Don’t close that door. No, don’t open it. Move my chair, I want to be able to see that door. No, I don’t want that window at my back. Close those drapes.
Who cooked this food? I don’t want it, then.
My bags are packed. I can leave at any moment. My taxi money is set aside. The driver’s number is in my phone. No, not any driver. Only this one. I know him.
The bags inside my brain are always packed. I can leave at any moment. Any time and anytime, if my eyes see me something, if my ears hear me something, if my skin crawls at the feel of the air. Or if the air in my lungs chokes danger, I can be gone in the blink of an eye.
I am always on the move, never in one place for more than a moment or two, maybe less if you think about it. There is no place to rest: I must stay alert, on guard, watch out: someone may approach, may get too close, may brush my skin and leave raw places and burns that turn into scars, scars that hold pain, scars that pile on top of scars. Don’t touch me.
Tough? You said I must be tough, then. No. The opposite. The longer I travel, the more I am lost. My bags are packed. I can go at a moment’s notice.
Posted by Soul Survivor on June 3, 2013
On an ordinary workday last week, strident sirens pierced our routine and for a few jarring minutes reminded all of us, throughout the country, of the dangers that lurk ominously beneath our run-of-the-mill existence.
The civil defense exercise simulated massive rocket barrages on packed urban centers with an eye to practice responses to missile onslaughts from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – in every corner of Israel and at all hours of the day and night.
Posted by Soul Survivor on June 3, 2013
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 31, 2013
I am sitting in the kitchen of my beloved friend R_, who was on the same flight with me when we made Aliyah (emigrated) to Israel in 2007. We didn’t meet on the plane because he was in such ecstasy at moving to our real home country that he didn’t notice anything around him. He was in a haze of love and joy. I met him about four months after our arrival. He was hanging out laundry on his mirpesset (balcony), and I recognized him from the flight. His place turned out to be exactly one block from mine, and my seat-mate on that flight happened to live exactly one block from him! The three of us became the best of friends. R_ has become my support system and champion in my struggle to free myself from the toxic, strangulating tentacles that have torn me from my real home country and dragged me back to America, which otherwise holds no attraction to me.
I had to take a break from my parents and America, because I found myself consumed with rage, which is a very unhealthy emotion. I developed high blood pressure and heart palpitations, and was having terrible heart pains that woke me out of sleep. They were so intense that I could not even move to call an ambulance, even had I wanted to, which I didn’t. I would have been just as happy if a heart attack carried me off, out of the misery of my life there.
So I suddenly announced that I was going to Israel for three weeks, for a break, causing immense consternation on the maternal side of things, and resignation from the Dad side. I needed a breathing spell, and specifically to breathe the air of the Holy Land, just to be here, even if all I did was to hang out with my friend R_ and walk around the shuk, inhaling and imbibing the sights, sounds, smells, and spirit of the place.
Practically as soon as I got off the plane my Israeli cell phone started ringing: ”We’re so glad you’re back: now everything feels normal again.” I have a place, and my place is here. My family of choice lives here. I feel surrounded by love here.
R_ and I went yesterday to visit the tomb of the Baba Sali, a holy man who was said to have brought about many miracles in his time. Here it is customary to visit the tombs of great and wise people (like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Samuel, etc.) to bathe in their energy and pray for whatever needs prayed for. We don’t pray to the person, for that is idol worship, but instead we pray for the spirit of that holy person to intercede for us in Heaven so that our prayers will be heard. I had, and still have, a lot to pray for, so we went to the Baba Sali, because I have a special connection with him.
Baba Sali lived in our times, and came from Damascus to Morocco to Israel, where he settled in a tiny village called Netivot, which is located in the Negev desert right on the border with Gaza, just south of Sderot, which is a town that has been rained on with so many thousands of missiles from Gaza that every bus stop has its own bomb shelter.
Why do I feel safe here? Right now, at this very moment, Russia is funneling terrible weapons into Syria, which in turn is passing them on to Hezbollah (the terrorist arm in Lebanon), Iran is arming Hamas in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, and all of them are fighting among themselves. It’s a virtual certainty that they will attack Israel at some point. On Monday and Tuesday this week the air raid sirens went off in every town in the Land, and everyone was supposed to drill taking shelter. Nobody did, because Israelis are used to being the objects of the aggression of our neighbors, and we realize that only G-d can save us, since we are a country the size of Delaware, so we go on with our lives and our prayers, and of course we hope that rockets won’t fall on our houses or our children, but we rely on G-d to be our shelter. No Westerner can understand that.
But that’s not what this blog entry is about.
It’s about the terrible conflict that tears me apart, and keeps me from living the life I love, the life the holds out the possibility of real spiritual redemption. It’s about the conflict between kibud av v’aim, respect for father and mother, which is one of the Ten Commandments. The letter of halacha, Jewish Law, interprets this to mean that one is obligated at minimum to provide shelter, food, and clothing sufficient for one’s parents’ needs, but I have a hard time with leaving it at that.
Although my mother severely abused me emotionally, psychologically, verbally, and at times physically, and my father was a codependent facilitator, I still have difficulty separating from them completely, because I continually hope that they will magically become the parents I have always desperately wanted and needed: loving, caring, nurturing, and deserving of my love and respect.
In fact, in my adolescent confrontational phase, before I picked up and left home at age 16, my mother would scream at me, “You have to love and respect me because I am your parent.” And I would scream back, “If you want me to love and respect you, you have to earn it,” to which the dear mother would generally reply with a stream of obscenities and a smack across the face, if she could reach me.
So why, after four years of blissful content in Israel, did I rush to their side when their time of need arrived in their old age? And what has kept me there, in total isolation and spiritual desolation, for two and a half years? Unconditional love, blind even to ongoing abuse? Kibud av v’aim? Or that desperate primal hope that one day I would awaken to find them magically transformed into my real parents, the ones who dropped me off here on this alien planet 59 years ago?
I just don’t know.
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 30, 2013
I found this BBC News piece on Bipolar.
I found it very insightful & the first two lines summed up how I've sometimes felt when in a hyper phase.
Have a read & let me know what you think. I've also copied and pasted it below in case you can't access it outside of the UK. I've also pasted the related links at the bottom of the story, let me know if you want me to email you a copy, as I don't think the links will work when I publish this post.
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 26, 2013
First it was Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which I got through mostly by dissociating. I thought I wasn’t, but I was. My past homelessness and survival prostitution still haunts me, and although I have forgiven myself, I can’t forgive my parents for not rescuing me, nor can I forgive the shameless bastards who raped me when I was a naive little girl trying to survive on the streets.
Then it was Child Abuse Awareness Month. I really thought I might get through that in one piece, but after the pieces on emotional and psychological and verbal abuse started coming hard and fast, I have to say I took a pounding. I grew up with a relentlessly abusive mother and an absent, codependent father who played the sympathetic one and passed me his handkerchief while explaining that Mom wasn’t feeling well, had her period (he described her as a “wildcat in a hatbox” when she was menstruating), or any of a million excuses for her evil behavior.
Since my chief drive as a recovering Adult Child of Abusive Parents is still to try to mollify my mother and protect my now-disabled father from her wrath, I moved to the US from my beloved Jerusalem to try to help them in their old age. He is 88 and she is 86, although she claims to be 85.
They live in what my dear friend R_ in Jerusalem affectionately calls “East Bumfuck.” Their house is in a remote hollow, and the road leading to it is so steep that the UPS man refuses to drive down there–he parks at the top and walks down, except in the winter when their access road is a bobsled run and utterly impassible. Then he leaves the package at the post office, which makes the postmistress frantic because they’re not supposed to do that and what if she gets inspected etc., but there’s nothing to be done about it.
Because of the nature of the road and the ice in the winter, they are often housebound for weeks. Several years ago when Dad was still healthy he slipped coming down it and broke three ribs. My mom broke her ankle on it. My dad broke his wrist on it.
The power goes out frequently. Since Dad has been losing his balance and falling a lot, I pitched a fit about the kerosene lamps they used to put around everywhere when they were younger, and they finally caved in and got a generator, which has made life easier in that area.
I moved here in a panic, in the winter of 2010-11, when there was storm after storm and they were completely snowed in. My mother was putting on ice cleats and crawling up the hill to gather firewood. My dad tried to help her and slipped on the ice and got another of the three concussions he racked up that winter.
I had been calling all the neighbors to please go and check on them, since if anyone asks my mother if she needs help she will say no, whether she does or not. Please, please, walk down there and make sure they’re all right and have what they need. Since they only have one neighbor, I didn’t have many to call, and he never did go down there. So I packed up my house in Jerusalem and three weeks later was on a plane to East Bumfuck.
I had a hard time getting there because it had just snowed three feet, so I rented the biggest SUV I could find and put the fucker in four wheel drive with the towing gear on and managed to get down into “the hole,” as the UPS drivers call it. They were in pretty sad shape, and mighty glad to see me. I had brought groceries and eight gallons of spring water, since the electricity was out and they didn’t have the generator yet.
Well, that was two and a half years ago, and the winters since then have been mild, and my dad’s dementia seems to have stabilized. And now is the time to start talking about the fact that East Bumfuck is no longer an appropriate place for them to live. My mother has a million reasons why they can’t move, which I will not enumerate here. None of them is insurmountable.
Then comes the question, where will they move to? Their first thought is to move to the nearest small city, which is a lovely artsy place with all the amenities and museums and theatres and lovely architecture. I remind my mother that Dad is not going to get better, and she is not going to be able to handle him herself for much longer, since she is no spring chicken.
“Well if we move to Hip City, what will you do?”
“I will go home to Jerusalem. I miss my home.
“But this is your home!”
“No, mother, this is YOUR home. My home is Jerusalem, and my soul cries for her every day, all the time.”
Her mouth twists with disgust. I get triggered.
Anger starts to brew. What does she expect me to do, spend the rest of my life taking care of her? Dad won’t be around much longer, although his own father lingered in a pitiable state till the age of 91.
I get hold of myself. ”I’ve sent for a packet from Lovely Hillside Retirement Community, where you can live independently until you need more help.” She is a geriatric social worker and knows exactly what I mean, and knows the place.
“We can’t afford it.”
“I believe you can.” I outline the plan.
“But what will you do?”
“I am going back to Jerusalem, and will visit frequently.”
It’s obvious that HER plan for me is to be the caregiver, so that she can live the way she wants, with no regard to my life, my needs, my health…
Anger starts to brew. I will not go into the childhood abuse issues that started coming up, because I don’t want to go there again.
Anger brewed into rage. I live in a separate building, so there was no chance of confrontation, thank G-d. Rage filled me, overcame me, and every time the sonovabitchin’ trains across the river blew their infernal horns, I was screaming with them.
I started feeling exhausted. My exercise tolerance was for shit. I started having these vague, vapory headaches, and I am not a “headache person.”
My blood pressure has been creeping up in recent months, to 130′s over 80′s, which is not good for a person who usually hangs out in the 120/60 range. I felt so weird that I bought one of those home BP monitors: 150/100! Fuck, I’m gonna die, and it’s all because I feel trapped by my guilt at not being able to fulfill my idea of filial piety without ruining my not-so-good health and sabotaging my future, which I hope will contain a home and a partner. I went to my internist, and now have yet another pill to take twice daily.
At this point, my plan is to get them into someplace appropriate for their now and future needs, which is going to be a shrek in itself, since their house is a fine art museum which will have to be turned into money in order for them to afford the new place. The property will be sold, so that means no inheritance at all for me because they failed to plan for retirement.
And they planned to use me as an unpaid caregiver, room and board included of course, with my social security for pin money. But now I’ve come and thrown a monkey-wrench into the works, by coming to the realization that I deserve to have a life. They also deserve to have a life, a pleasant and comfortable life. But I’m a person too, and I sure don’t plan to live out the best years I’ve got left caring for people who made my whole life hell, and would continue to do so, if I let them.
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 18, 2013
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 16, 2013
How convenient. I was looking for an excuse to tell this story, and WP must have felt the vibe and fed me the question at just the right moment.
I have been hard at work writing the life story of Mighty Mouth, the Most Unconventional Kitten. He was a real kitten, born on my horse farm, and he was born to a life of adventure. He announced his entry into the world the moment his black-and-white head emerged, toothless pink mouth open and yowling, even before the rest of his body was born. His ear-splitting howls brought the farm hands running to the empty box stall his mother had wisely chosen as her labor-and-delivery room.
Mouthie had what to say about everything and anything, and kept up a continuous editorial regarding his opinions of barn life. Wherever you were in the barn, you could hear his conversational meow-ings and yowings. I don’t know why his mother did not eat him out of desperation. I do believe he got the best of her teats, though, because he became quite portly, certainly a maternal effort to shut him up.
May lengthened into August and hay season was ending, and the kittens had grown out of their box stall nursery and were up to every kind of mischief in the barn. One got run over by the manure spreader, and its eye popped out and the driver of the manure spreader had to throw up. Another got squashed between two fifty-pound bales of hay, and just barely survived after we heard a muffled frantic mewing issuing from the hay mow.
And then there was Mouthie. One early morning my son rushed in from doing his barn chores: ”Mom, mom! Mouthie’s been stepped on!” And he threw up in the bin. He was an easy thrower-upper, in those days.
After I got him cleaned up, I sat him down at the kitchen table.
“What do you mean, Mouthie’s been stepped on?”
“I went into Airhead the Thoroughbred’s stall, and there he was lying on the floor, with a hoof-print on his hind leg, and it’s broken!”
“Oh dear! What did you do about it?”
“Well, I know you shouldn’t move an injured person, and an animal might bite you (here my heart swells with pride at my son who remembers what his emergency physician mother has taught him), so I caught Airhead’s halter and tied her up so she can’t step on him again.”
“What great thinking! I am so proud of you.” Big hug, even if he does still smell like throw-up.
We tromp back out to the barn to assess the damages. Airhead, tied to the ring at her grain bin, shows us the whites of her eyes as she tries to shy but can’t because she’s tied up. I smirk privately. I only tolerate that horse because she is a paying guest, one of our 32 equine boarders.
At the opposite side of the 12-foot box stall, Mouthie makes a pitiful sight lying squashed in the sawdust bedding, alternately muttering a stream of sad commentary and giving forth heartbreaking yowls of pain. We approach carefully, talking to him reassuringly, thus:
“Hi, Mouthie, it’s just us, it’s OK, we’re here now, you’ll be all right,” and so on. Mouthie looked tragic and kept up his end of the conversation while I gingerly examined him.
His leg was badly broken, but I could find no evidence of lethal injury, so with the help of my son I slid him onto a board, secured him with a light wrapping of sack cloth, loaded him gently onto the back seat of the Suburban with my son next to him, so he would have someone to talk to, and drove 50 miles to the nearest vet.
The X-ray showed a bad spiral fracture of the femur, very unstable. It would never heal on its own. Needed surgery: steel plates, pins, that sort of thing. Estimated cost $1200. I have to think about this. Twelve hundred dollars to fix a barn kitten that might get run over by the manure spreader as soon as it was up and about again…this was sticker shock.
But it wasn’t just any old barn kitten; it was our Mighty Mouth, the Mouth that Roared, and did we want to make an executive decision to extinguish his bright little life just because it cost a gazillion dollars? No, we didn’t. But there would be compromise.
“OK, fix it,” I told the vet firmly. “And while he’s under, just declaw him, and neuter him too. He’s going to be our indoor house cat, and he’s never going outside again.” The vet heartily agreed, and we left, to return for our Mouthie in two days, all fixed and new.
Mouthie never forgave me for that. His paws were sore for weeks, and he licked his missing testicles until I had to take him back to the vet to do something about the resulting infection. He gave me so many reproachful looks and yowling lectures that I wondered if I had made the right decision. At last I pulled myself out from under the black cloud of guilt and said, “Listen, guy, if it hadn’t been for me you would have died a slow and painful death on the barn floor. Now what do you think of that?” Mouthie subsided.
Not long after these adventures, it came time to move to the American Southwest. Decisions had to be made regarding which of our menagerie would come with us, and which would stay on the farm with its new owners, and which would go to new homes. Of course Mouthie came with us. There was never any question about that. He rode in the Suburban, talking on the CB radio the whole way.
Our new house had a pleasant patio out back, and a fenced yard, and behind that, a two-acre paddock with a nice small barn for the four horses we had brought with us. Mouthie stationed himself at the glass slider that looked out on this idyllic scene, and muttered and yowled about how I had ruined his life by forcing him into a role he was not meant for, i.e., house cat, and he would rather have died on the barn floor, etc., etc.; eventually I lost my resolve and opened the sliding door. He waltzed out victorious and hopped up into the patio chair he had been eyeing, and curled up on the seat for a nap.
I shrugged and went back to making lunch. The next thing, the kids came running in yelling “Mouthie’s outside! He’s up in the apricot tree!” Outside, yes. Tree?? I ran out into the back yard and followed their pointing fingers. Good grief, there he was, curled up in the crotch of the tree! How did he get there without claws? Over the next months he was to show us that, apart from the joys of destroying furniture, cats can do very well without their claws.
And then one day Mouthie disappeared. I let him out in the morning and watched him rolling around on the warm patio stones, having a nice back scratch, and I went to work. When I got home that night he was not there, nor did he appear on any of the subsequent days. Oh well, I thought; coyotes one, cats zero. I was sad; the kids were sadder; but we were all philosophical about the hazards of life on this planet, and soon stopped thinking about Mouthie.
Months later I was riding Joe Crow, my Peruvian Paso, up in the old abandoned orchard that was an easy ride from our back yard. We rode there several times a week, and knew every inch of the place. There was a fox’s den on the southern border of the orchard. I never saw any sign of activity around it, and assumed it was abandoned like the orchard.
On this day, as Joe and I approached the fox den, I blinked, rubbed my eyes, and blinked again. There were two animal figures sitting in the opening of the fox den. One of them was a red fox. The other was Mouthie. I thought perhaps some of the mind-bending drugs I had soaked my brain with in the ’60′s were coming back around for another whack at the old squash.
I “whoah’d” Joe to a stop and watched his face for clues. If I was tripping, then the horse would not react to my hallucination. But Joe pricked his ears, extended his neck and whinnied to his old buddy. Mouthie responded with a friendly yowl. His foxy friend turned, and giving us a wink over his shoulder, strolled side by side with Mouthie into the den.
If that had been the sole sighting of this odd couple, I would have chalked it up to Southwestern magic, or a waking dream, or somehow explained it away. But I saw them twice more, sitting together in the arch of the fox den, surrounded by an air of a serene love: the love of two ancient souls reunited, having somehow found each other against unimaginable odds. Time, distance, and form itself had not succeeded in keeping these soul mates from finding each other.
I cried. How many hardships do souls have to pass through, how many agonies and ministering angels, before they finally find their resting place? The aura of content surrounding these two unlikely lovers filled the orchard like the heart-breakingly sweet fragrance of apple blossoms.
I never saw them again.
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 14, 2013
Posted by Soul Survivor on May 13, 2013