Snoop Lion Opens Up About His Pimp Past | Rolling Stone

Yesterday I lolled about the lobby of a local medical marijuana dispensary for four or five hours, waiting my turn to see the Marijuana Doctors so I could apply for my card.

There was plenty of time to browse the paraphernalia in the glass cases all around.  I closely inspected everything, since there was nothing else to do.

I couldn’t help but notice the “Snoop Dogg” brand bongs and papers and stuff that I had no idea what it is because I’m, you know, old, and I come from a whole different pot culture.

So I got this really bad feeling when I saw all this S.D. branded stuff, because several years ago, when I was writing under a pseudonym about my years as a street kid, it came to my attention that there was this rapper, famous and rich, who was very out front about his background with the Crips (very violent bad street gang), and fulfilling his life’s dream to be a pimp.

Even if I hadn’t been obliged to use my body as currency for the purpose of having food and shelter, I would still find it nauseating that this “nigga,” as he calls himself, who has made himself a role model for young people of every race and background, actually went and built his little dream fantasy, which you can read all about in the Rolling Stone article in the link.

Have your barf bag ready.

This dude is SUCH BAD NEWS.  In so many ways.  What’s his appeal?  That he shoves everything that’s morally horrible in our faces like bags of shit?

He ought to know a bag of shit when he sees one….every time he looks in the mirror.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/snoop-lion-opens-up-about-his-pimp-past-20130508

“All Who Wander Are Not Lost”

The other day I sniffed the air, opened my eyes wide, and leaped…into a world I have always wanted to own.

Yes, own.

For years I slept in an ancient army-surplus mummy bag, stuffed with feathers that stuck into your skin and made sleep a chore.  It was definitely not waterproof.

Eventually I graduated to a fifth-hand Eureka pup-tent, which I still own.  I found it last year when some workers were taking down an old house, and it was stashed away in a corner of the attic.  I gave my truly amazing Marmot four-season mountain tent to my son, along with the really excellent down bag I haven’t used in years and years.  He does use them.  He’s in that part of his life.  One day maybe he’ll pass them along to his own daughter or son.

So I, longing to own the road rather than be owned by it, have acquired a small camper van.  It has everything I need in it, unlike the barn I have been occupying for the last several years.  It has a tiny but functional bathroom, complete with tiny but functional shower.  It has a large back seat that converts into a king-size bed.  A king-size bed!  Maybe I need another dog.  Noga would never forgive me, though….that mass of blonde hair is Noga.  She’s 13 pounds of fierce.

20130319_221249I have been asking myself, truly, is this the life you want?  To purposely NOT have a home?  And the answer is always a resounding YES!  I need a break.  I need a break from fucking everything.  To be able to pick up and amble my way to New Mexico, Colorado…Boulder, such an interesting patchwork community….and I want to see the Redwoods.  I lived in America for 54 years and never saw the Redwood trees in Northern California!  What’s up with that?  I guess it just wasn’t time yet.

If you asked me if I plan to be a gypsy for the rest of my life, today I would say no.  Tomorrow, who knows?  I don’t want to be constrained by time.  Geography is a bit of a challenge for me, as I really would rather be gypsying in Israel.  That, however, is not only physically impossible, it is outright dangerous at this moment.  This breaks my heart.  My constitution is not set up for war.

So, no, I have no idea where this is going, where and when and how long it will take me…but it will be a liberation for me, a throwing off of all obligation and responsibility.

I’m already finding others who live on the road–mostly people like myself, who have had enough of working their brains out for–what?  A fancy house?  Even a not-fancy house?  There was a time when a fancy or not-fancy house looked mighty good to me, when I was outside huddling in my not-water-proof feather bag.  Now people of my generation are saying good-bye, so long, farewell to permanence, and have formed a loosely knit family of choice, meeting up at campgrounds or by a lake, or any place they choose.  I guess we’ve regressed, hit the road again–the Woodstock Generation gone to seed.

I’m going to try it and see what it’s like.  I’m a solitary person–this way if I want a little human company, I know where to find it; and if I want solitude, well, that’s everywhere to be had.

Don’t Make Any Noise And You Won’t Get Hurt

My policy on this blog is not to post trigger warnings; in this case, I make an exception.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, think carefully about reading this post.  It contains graphic images of sexual predation, and could be triggering to anyone who has suffered sexual violence.  Please be careful.

Some of the following is included in my upcoming memoir, A Runaway Life, and in my novel-in-progress, The Beanbag Chair.  I’m sharing it with you here because I know that for every survivor of sexual violence who seeks treatment, there are untold numbers who don’t, and who live with the horror, shame, and destruction of the integrity of the self and the soul that sexual violence begets.

My first personal encounter with a Male-factor–as we used to call them during my tenure as expert examiner on child sexual abuse cases for a State District Attorney’s Office in a Northeastern state in America–was at age sixteen.

Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

I knew nothing about sex beyond veiled inferences gleaned from “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” swiped from my parents’ library and read over and over, to try to figure out what all that language was referring to.  I had seen the heifers in heat mounting each other in the pasture next door, but had no idea what they were trying to accomplish.  I had no frame of reference.

I was sixteen.  My interests were Latin, natural science, poetry, music, and art.  At sixteen I was permitted to date, but the boys in the country backwater school I attended were either brutish dolts or eggheads like myself who tended to stay at home trying to teach themselves Greek.

My mother continued her perennial assault on my self-image via an uninterrupted stream of verbal, psychological, and sometimes physical abuse.  My depressions grew blacker, my desire for relief by any means more intense, until finally I despaired of ever finding truth in living, and debated within myself whether this life was actual reality, or perhaps was a construct by some demonic mind for whom I was a toy.

An older man I met in the burger joint where I worked on the weekends admired my legs and asked me for a date.  I was flattered.  Someone thought I was attractive.  I got my mother’s permission–she was thrilled–and I went with him.

The details of that date have been published elsewhere.

“Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

I woke up to those words, still muzzy from the drug he had slipped me.  In the dark basement, his hand clamped over my mouth, my back squashed painfully into the cold concrete floor covered with moldy carpeting…..and the searing pain jolting through my body until at last he tore through, not through my hymen, but to the side of it, so that for many years I had not one but two openings there.  (At last in my 40’s I had the courage to take at least some of my body back, and had that part surgically removed.  Later I had a second surgery to try to repair the damage to the muscle between my vagina and my rectum, but that has mostly failed.)

After he finished with me, he bundled me back into his car and let me out in the dirt circle that stood in for my parents’ driveway, my blood soaking through my new spring coat.

That was my initiation into the cold, dark terrorism that is rape.  My virgin sex, shredded beyond repair.

I ran away from “home,” hoping to find relief, but ended up homeless, being raped when I asked for bread, for shelter, for medical care.

I look at the few pictures of myself from that time.  I was so young.  I looked thirteen at the most.  I had no figure, even though my mother’s pet name for me was “fat-ass.”  The eyes looking out of the delicate triangular face were hollow and haunted.

Fast forward two years, and I was living with a kind and honest couple who had taken an interest in helping me pull myself out of the life on the street.

The Viet Nam war was still raging, and I was a dedicated anti-war activist, a still-passionate Peacenik who believed that Good could triumph over Evil if only The People would shout it out loud enough.

Young Mr. Doctor-To-Be frequently managed to take time out from his medical studies at Boston University to help organize rallies.  We were Peace Rally Comrades, nothing more.

That time, I had incapacitating menstrual cramps in the midst of a rally on Boston Common.  The rally had such a huge turn-out that the riot cops were exercising their batons.  I was fainting and nauseous.  Mr. Not Yet Doctor fanned my sweaty face with his poster and proposed that we go to his apartment, where he had some medicine that would relieve my cramps.  Even though I had recently come off the streets, I did not doubt his intentions.  Have I told you that I’m Autistic?  I’m Autistic.  I can’t read intentions.

He half-carried me to his apartment.  I remember a dark stairwell, and being “helped” up the stairs.  I remember the small white bedroom with its unremarkable furnishings.  I remember being told to take off my panties and lie down.  I remember wondering why that was necessary, but he must certainly know because he was the Almost-Doctor.

I remember his voice as he hissed in my ear:

“Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

He took something out of his shirt pocket: a penlight, such as all doctors have in their pockets.  I thought he was going to look at me with it, and froze.

He raped me with it, and as he did, he masturbated, and when he was finished he told me to go.

I climbed down from his bed, numb and bleeding, fumbled my way down the dark stairway and into the bright-white sunlight, dazed, blood running into my sandals, squish, squish.

I was in a part of Boston I had never seen before.  I managed to get home somehow, my long skirts hiding the blood.

Fast forward three years and many events less dramatic than those.

Irish flute master classes with a famous and now dead Irish flute master.  (NOT James Galway, thanks to G-d.  And NOT Cathal McConnell.)

One day he refused my payment for my lesson.  I thought that was odd, but did not understand the implications.  I Am Autistic.

He got his tween coat, and off we went to the Custom House Tap, where we played duets for Black-And-Tans until we were both solidly drunk.  He invited himself to my place for tea.  We had not even got off the sidewalk when it started.  This part I cannot write, for it is too triggering for me even to remember.  But I didn’t run away.  I was like a rabbit transfixed by the hard gaze of the wolf.  I went along.  I let him into my apartment.  It got worse.  Then it got horrible.  Then he left me, gagging and bleeding, and I never heard anything more from him.  Several years ago I went about trying to find his whereabouts.  No purpose in mind; I just wanted to know.

The obituary said he had drowned while taking a swim off his private dock in Martha’s Vineyard.  The pit of my stomach was cold: just as cold as that night that he rammed himself down my throat until I lost consciousness, waking choking on my own blood and his disgusting fluids.

Why do I wonder that it’s so hard to trust?  Why do I feel as if around every corner there is something huge waiting for me, a muddy black smudge beckoning, threatening to take me over and obliterate me again and again and again?

Why do I feel a terror of closed spaces, a dread of not being able to escape?  Why must I always have my back to a wall, facing the door, and know every escape route?

Why, when I think of being imprisoned, does the panic rise in my throat, and thoughts of suicide race through my head?

“Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

 

 

The King and Queen of Denial

Today started out like any Wednesday, taking care of my 89-year-old father so my 87-year-old mother could get out of the house for the afternoon.

Dad was a little “off” today: he wasn’t happy with his omelette for lunch.  He would rather have had one more piece of toast but preferred to grumble about it rather than ask for it.  I didn’t mind.  After all, he’s 89 and very disabled, in pain all the time, and it amazes me that he manages to get through most of his days in mild-to-moderately good spirits.

Mom came in from shopping, bringing the mail that she picked up at the post office.  There was a package from LL Bean for me.  She wanted to see what was in it; I demurred, because the gift for her upcoming birthday was in it.  She got demanding and insistent.  There was a bit of a tussle until I finally remembered that there was something in that package for me, too, and I cagily extracted it.  That satisfied her.

I looked at my mail; nothing but “begging letters.”  I have specific charities I give to regularly, so I threw them all in the recycle bin.

The conversation turned to politics, and somehow got onto someone whose past as a prostitute had recently been revealed.

Mom reacted acidly.  How could anyone sink so low?  What in the world would cause anyone to do THAT?  She’d rather die.

“I did that,” I said quietly.

“YOU DID NOT!” She shouted, staring at me blinking out of her little birdy eyes as if I was the world’s biggest liar.

“Come OFF IT” shouted my father, several decibels softer than he would have in his prime, but doing the best he could muster.

“You were never a prostitute,” stated my mother matter-of-factly.

“Unfortunately, I was, when I ran away.”

“Then you deserved what you got!  You’re lucky you didn’t pick up some disease!  Maybe you DID pick up some disease,” she said thoughtfully.  “Why in the world did you do that?”

“I did it because I was cold and hungry, I needed food and shelter and safety from the streets.”

“You never told us that.  You never told us anything.  You just left us all of a sudden.  You robbed us of raising you!  You robbed us of our only child!”

I robbed them of their only child.  That was all they could think of.  They didn’t ask me why I ran away to California, or why, when they flew me back East for a family event, I ran back to California as soon as it was over.  Even if they had asked me then, I wouldn’t have told them.

I was scheduled for an abortion. I needed to get back to California.

It’s been forty-four years since I bought that one-way ticket to San Francisco.  Forty-four years since the bullying at school, my mother’s frequent unpredictable rages, and the vicious rape that took my virginity rolled up into critical mass.  I knew I had to either kill myself or get out of there.  I chose the latter.

I hit the streets in California broke, disoriented, and from my perspective now, unbelievably vulnerable.  Nowhere to stay, nothing to eat.  The weather was cold that spring, and I was dressed for California sunshine, not cold fog.

The first night I stayed with a friend I had met at a summer camp.  Her parents had a party that very night, and I went to bed early, exhausted from the trip.  The bedroom door opened and closed, and suddenly a man’s body was on top of mine.  A voice hissed in my ear, “Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

It was the same thing my first rapist had hissed.  That first time.

Many more rapes, and finally it dawned on me that I could get food and places to stay and maybe a little money to buy a new toothbrush.  Nothing big-time: I didn’t even know what I was doing.  Just surviving, that’s all.

Why didn’t I give up and go home?

Because the streets and the rapes and the johns were better than the screaming and the “silent treatment” and the rapist there who watched me like a hawk, trying to get me to “be nice” to his friends in exchange for some Panama Red….and the school principal who regularly lectured me on the fact that I was a weirdo and would never amount to anything.  At least this bad scene was MY bad scene.  I chose it over being a one-girl shooting range at “home.”

“Home is where the heart is.”  There was only one heart, and it was beating in my chest.  Now, as then.

“You deprived us of raising you!  You robbed us of our only child!”

And yet…and yet what?  You only thought of yourselves?  You still, forty-four years later, think only of yourselves and not why I ran away, let alone what happened to me out there?

“You deserved whatever you got.  You chose it.  You deprived us of our only child!”

God help us.

The Sword of Damocles

Every time the phone rings I dread it.  The several times a week that I see her sour face, I cringe.  It’s happened!  She’s found my blog!   My mother, that is.

I’ve written my heart out on the topic of the rage that seethes within me at the very thought of her.  Of the abuse that I suffered at her hands as a child, and that I have continued to suffer as an adult.

Because of her I became a teenage runaway, to escape her endless screaming, name-calling, belittling, gas-lighting, accusations of imagined crimes.

Because of her I preferred sleeping outdoors or in abandoned buildings, suffering  hunger, cold, and turning to prostitution in order to survive.

And when I tried over and over and over again to make amends for the crime of  having left “home” she drove me out with curses: “You’re shit!” she would calmly observe. “You’re good for nothing!”  And once again, I fled in tears, into the forest, into the arms of any waiting man who seemed to want me, into cocaine, into the underworld of dirty Chicago….anywhere but “home.”  I don’t have a “home.”  She threw me out of it.

So I started getting degrees, to prove to myself that I was good for something.  And maybe if I was good for something, she would love me.  A bachelor’s. An M.D., with a master’s tacked on for good measure.  Head of my class, 5.0 GPA, wall full of awards.  Exercised and starved myself into ultimate shape.  Made a lot of money, legally.  Sent expensive gifts.  All-expense-paid-for vacations.  Surely that would earn me favor in her eyes?  Surely now she would see what a good daughter I was?

It did, sort of.  She sang my praises far and wide, in the public sphere.  But in private, again: “You moron!  Don’t you know anything?  How could you be so stupid!”

Yes, I know she’s crazy.  She comes from a family of crazies. I know the stories of what she did to me when I was a baby, a toddler, and how the family laughed about it, and how she said I deserved it: always getting into mischief, that one.

So I’m terrified that she will find my blog, and read what I have written about her.  She will not think: “Oh my God, what have I done to cause my only child to fear me so?  How can I fix this, how can I change, how can I make amends?”  No, she won’t think that.  She will think:  “Why, that g_d-damn  stinking little selfish bastard!  She can’t stand me, eh?  Well she’ll get hers!  I’ll give her something to fear!”  And she will.

Thirty years of therapy have not erased the trauma.  I still feel like that helpless little kid being cut to ribbons by her sharp tongue.  Some wounds don’t heal.

Dina Leah is Alive and Well

Some of you may know that I am writing a book.  It’s a memoir that chronicles a seven-month period in my life, when I ran away from home and never went back.  It’s pretty gruesome in some places, and kind of wacky in others.  The title, so far, is A Runaway Life.  And since it’s already about 315 pages, I kind of doubt the title will change; but you never know.

I have another blog, Dina Leah: Story of a Teenage Runaway, which at first I had intended to be the canvas upon which I would paint this story, in serial form; but the book got out of hand and took on a life of its own and galloped away with me, so my poor Dina Leah blog has languished.  Oh right, I didn’t tell you that Dina Leah is the pseudonym I chose.

I’ve been trying to write this book for at least 30 years.  The problem has been that there is so much trauma oozing between its covers that every time I started to write I would break out in a cold PTSD sweat, and I’d put it away.  My hard drive is bulging with drafts and attempts at chapters.

Last NaNoWriMo I got the bright idea that I would give it a whirl using Third Person instead of First Person, or maybe alternate: just play with it, and see what came out.  So far, since November 1st 2012, about 95,000 words have come out.  Yikes!  I had no idea.  And as it now stands, I’m only five months into the seven month journey.  Gonna be a whole lotta editing goin’ on!   This isn’t War and Peace.  Well, it’s MY war and peace, but that’s a different story, so to speak.

If you don’t mind, please stop by Dina Leah and tell me what you think.  I’m really looking for honest feedback, the more specific the better.  Thanks!

49 Shades of Mommie Dearest

My mother is not quite as fearsome as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, but she can give her a good run for her money.

She’s a classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Me, Me, Me, Me.  In fact, my private name for her is MeMe.  She’s always a step ahead.  If I lose one pound, she loses two.  If my disabled father is not moving fast enough to suit her, she’ll take off at her swinging clip and leave him to fall face down on the sidewalk.  Things like that.

My childhood was one big nightmare on toe shoes, tiptoeing around on eggshells, never knowing what I would inadvertently do to set her off into a screaming rage.  I spent a lot of time outside.

I never knew which of my possessions was up for disappearance next.  Or my pets, for instance: which would be given away, which would “just die,” which would “run away.”  The only ones that stayed were the ones she and my father considered their own.

As most of my bloggie friends know, I ran away at age 16.  My mother went to a psychiatrist (the only time in her life) who told her it wasn’t her fault: I was just a rebellious teenager who should be left to learn my own lessons.  I did: homelessness, hunger, rape, prostitution.  Good lessons.

For some reason I was not killed, and eventually pulled my way up and out, and even more eventually became a doctor.  That made Mom happy, because it reflected well on her.  See, I turned out well after all.  It wasn’t her fault.  But I never returned to the parental “home,” which was not my home.

Then things got pretty bad when I had a breakdown and lost my practice and everything I had, and ended up totally disabled and bankrupt.  No help from Mom there; in fact, she persisted in telling her friends that my practice was going great!

I moved to the other side of the country, and that felt better, to be on a different coast and less in the weltering chill of her force field.  And then I moved to the other side of the world, which was even better.

On a mission trip, I fell in love with Israel: in particular, Jerusalem.  As soon as I set my foot on the broiling hot stone paved streets, I knew I had found home.  A year after the trip, I went back to study in a Jewish women’s seminary for a month, which turned into three months.  I shed buckets of tears praying at the Western Wall for God to please bring me home.  It came to pass, in March of 2007, that I moved to Israel to stay.  I was Home.

It wasn’t easy.  I moved eight times in the first fifteen months, for every reason you can think of, and some you would never imagine (bracket fungus growing out of the kitchen walls after a flood soaked the plaster).  I felt like the Wandering Jew, and in my own country at that!  How ironic.  But never, even through those hardships and others, did the feeling of joy at being home ever leave me.  For one who has never had a home, the delirious joy of having found Home is hard to describe.

My parents are old, and I am the only child.  I had planned on making trips to see them every four months or so, to keep a finger on the pulse.  And I did.  After two years, my father started a downhill slide, and I increased the frequency to every three months.  As you can imagine, at an average of $1200 per trip plus car rental (they live in the boonies, and I would never be without a car: an escape route from my mother), it was a serious drain on my savings.

My father had a small stroke, and some other things started to go wrong with him, so the visits increased to every other month.  Finally, he started falling, and after two emergency trips back precipitated by head injuries, I decided that the time had come to move back across the world and be on site for what I thought were going to be my father’s last days.

His last days turned into weeks, months, and years: two and a half of them.  He’s certainly not the man he used to be, and considerably disabled, but he seems to have stabilized, thank G-d.

I am living in what is basically a barn: his former pottery studio, which I have restored from a rotting shell to a tight shelter.  That is a story in and of itself.  It’s close enough so that if I’m needed I can be there in two minutes, yet far enough away that I have privacy to do whatever I want to do.  It’s tolerable.

But I long for Jerusalem.  When I first came here I would find myself uncontrollably sobbing for hours.  I long for Jerusalem herself.  I miss my many friends, dear friends like I have never had before; and I miss my family of choice, my holy brothers and sisters, with whom I have bonds unlike any I have ever experienced in my previous life.

I miss just wandering the streets, watching the swirling admixture of Jews of all varieties with their distinctive ways of dress, and the plethora of priests, nuns, monks, striding out of their monasteries and convents in the Old City, countless varieties with their own dramatic habits: nuns so covered up in black that they would give any Muslim woman a run for her money, unless she was wearing a niqab; Muslims, the women in every degree of covering–the one I get a kick out of is the college girls with tight colorful hijabs that make their heads look like periscopes,  and skin-tight jeans and high heels; or the head-to-toe chador lady walking arm-in-arm with her mulletted husband in a muscle shirt and cut-off jean shorts.  All swirling around in the streets together, gabbing in the countless cafes, shopping, going to school–doing what everyone does.  And me, me! there among them, one of them.  Home, home at last!

Mom’s been on Zoloft for a month now.  She found herself crying all the time, so when both of them got bronchitis and I took them to the doctor she took the opportunity to tell the doctor about that, and got some Zoloft.  She really is feeling better, you can tell, although she insists on only taking half the prescribed amount.  That’s her.  She eats half an English muffin, half a sandwich, half a tab of Zoloft.  Oh well; what matters is that she actually copped to feeling bad and did something about it, and realizes she is feeling better.  Let’s pray she doesn’t quit just because she feels better.

So today, seeing that she is in a good mood, I decided to break some news: I am establishing a schedule for visiting my home, because I am miserable without it.  I will return every fall for the High Holidays and the month that precedes them, which is a month for study and preparation;  and I will return in the spring for Purim, which is thought of in the States as the Jewish Halloween because everybody gets dressed up, but in fact it is a holiday steeped in deep mysticism.

She shrugged.  “You do whatever you need to do.  I’ll get along somehow.”  What did I expect?  But the little child in me wanted approval.

“I miss my home,” I said, by way of what I hoped would be explanation.

This is your home!  Your home is right here!”  Her little eyes snapped.

“No, Mom, this is not my home.  This is your home.  You fell in love with this place, and you chose to live here.  I have never lived here.  I moved out of your house when I was sixteen…”

“I know,” she interrupted coldly.

“And just like you fell in love with this place, I fell in love with Jerusalem, and I am very sad when I am away.  And you know that I have a mental illness, and I have to take care of myself.  And all of my support system is in Jerusalem, all of my friends, my religious life, everything.  You don’t want me to end up in the hospital again, do you?  Because of isolation and no support?”

“What, being away from Jerusalem will put you in the hospital?”  Snort.

“What I would like you to do is to start looking into home care options that will give you respite and help while I’m away, so that you don’t get sick yourself.” Long conversation about that, leading to dead ends but it was a start, anyway.

I gave up.  Changed the subject.  Will not speak of it again.  Will just buy the tickets, get on the plane, and be there.  And eventually I will be able to pack up and go back, G-d willing, back to the crazy peaceful whirl of war zone in the Middle East, the only place in the world where I feel safe.

My Mental Magic Shield

I just had a revelation.  I’ve always told everybody something I learned in my NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner course in 1997-98, which is, All Illness Has A Purpose.  All illness has a message that your body is trying to teach you.  Even when it’s a horrible illness, like God forbid cancer, or Lou Gherig’s disease (did I spell that right?), or you name it.  The reason for the disease is to give you the opportunity to grow the spiritual organs that you are missing.

Hard one to swallow, eh?  Yeah, for me too.  I’m always grateful that I don’t have anything worse than what I have, although in suicidal moments (or days, weeks, months, or years) it seems as if I really could not feel worse no matter what was being done to me.

But tonight, as I was alternately reading stuff on children of narcissistic mothers (I have one: a narcissistic mother who is the daughter of a narcissistic mother–what a joy) and a 1981 textbook on runaways, what causes them and what to do with them (I was a runaway in 1970-71), I got a revelation.  What do my psychiatric diagnoses do for me?  They shield me.  They stand between me and the world.

This is a double edged sword.  Because my Bipolar Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (which I do not think of as a disorder, but an advantage) put me one level of separation away from the world, I feel isolated a lot.  I used to feel lonely, but now I feel more comfortable when I’m alone, which is 99.5% of the time.  On the positive side, my “disorders” protect me from a lot of the slings and arrows I would otherwise be subject to, if I was out in the world and participating in it.

Twice that I can remember, some other human being was trying to coerce me into doing their will, and I said “Don’t do that, you’re hurting me, you know I’m mentally ill,” and they stopped.  So that was a positive way to use my illness as a defense.  On the other hand, it would have been much healthier to say “stop doing that because it’s a shit thing to do and I won’t put up with it.”  Now THAT would be a healthy way of defending one’s self.  But since I wasn’t up to it because I actually WAS feeling ill, using my illness as a shield was a good strategy, I think.

On the other hand, I don’t wish to cultivate this defense mechanism, because I think it could become a habit: “oh, poor me, I’m mentally ill, don’t stress me out.”  When actually, what I should be saying is “Hey, don’t fuck with me, you’re taking advantage of me, you’re trying to abuse me, you’re seriously pushing my buttons.”  But that has always been a problem for me, because of the way I was raised.

When I was a child, “back-talk” was rewarded with “back-hand” across the mouth, prolonged tirades including belittlement, insults, curses, and other forms of crushing.  The Silent Treatment usually followed.  Banishment to one’s room was routine; but as soon as I got old enough to grok the situation, I stayed in my room voluntarily, or stayed outside, even if it was cold or raining, rather than be in the nasty indoor weather.

So I learned to say as little as possible, if confronted by negativity or abuse.  I always laugh when I read accounts of rape trials where they look for signs of struggle on the girl’s part.  Oh yeah, great if they find his skin under her fingernails; but let’s be realistic: when some dude who is twice your size says, “don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt,” you’re probably going to keep as quiet as possible and let it get over with so he will go away and leave you to your quiet private hell.  I know that one very well.  Way too well.

I have to say I think I was more of a rape-magnet because of my abusive upbringing.  When your mother tells you you’re nothing, you’re shit, etc., etc., etc., after a while your subconscious incorporates that into its reality, and it becomes part of your personality, that you are somehow substandard protoplasm, and rapists get that on their radar from miles away.  It’s like, shit, if there was some asshole wanting to rape somebody in the general vicinity, all he had to do was turn around and, pow, there I was, telepathy or something.

That was before I figured out that I was crazy and therefore had a good reason for people not to fuck with me.  I have permission now to get really, really angry.  I can unload on people if I get that pushed.  But it freaks me out, because I am a pacifist.  I unloaded on a particularly toxic asshole last year.  It was the first time in my life I have ever done that.  No, it was the second time.  The first time was when my ex-husband “forgot” to come home from work one night.

So I’d much rather use my magic shield: I’m mentally ill, don’t fuck with me.  I don’t know how healthy that is, but it’s better than heaving a vase at their head.

My Mother and Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish

Some non-Jewish people know what Kaddish is.  Some Jewish people also know what Kaddish is.  I would guess that more Jewish people don’t than do, because of the secularization of the Jewish people due to the Holocaust and subsequent rush to blend in with whatever dominant culture we found ourselves washed ashore in, those who escaped the ovens.

Kaddish, for those who don’t know, is a Jewish prayer that is an integral part of observant Jewish life.  It is best known as the “prayer for the dead,” although death is never mentioned in the prayer itself.  It is, in fact, a joyous song of praise, enumerating the awesome powers and grace of the Almighty.  It is indeed said at Jewish funerals and at each of the three daily communal prayers, on behalf of the departed, for eleven months.  But it is also said many times during each prayer service, as a marker that divides the different segments of the service.  There are wonderful mystical reasons for this, having to do with elevating the congregation up through the layers of world upon world that lead to complete unification with God.  Most religious Jews don’t know these things, but say the prayers by rote.   Much knowledge has been lost in the years of our physical and spiritual exile.

My parents are among the first-generation children of immigrant parents from Russia and Poland who escaped the Holocaust as children, and had no religious background whatsoever.  Correction: my father’s father was the child of a Hassidic rabbi from Prussia, and his mother was the daughter of a rabbi in the Ukraine.  Both were sent out of their respective countries as children, experiencing exploitation and multitudinous horrors on their way to New York City, where they met and became members of the Communist Party, rejecting their religion out of bitterness; so my father was brought up without religion, to endure antisemitism on a strictly genetic/racial basis.

My mother was raised in a mildly religious environment, but it never really rubbed off on her.  She came away with a few legends and fears, but quickly learned how to cook pork ounce she was out of her culturally kosher home, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

My mother likes to throw things out.  She threw out her rudimentary Judaism once she was free of the parental home.  She likes to keep a tidy house, so she throws out anything that seems out of place.  She has thrown me out many times.  I have kept coming back, out of a childish wish that she would all of a sudden become the Good Fairy Mother, but that has not happened yet and as she is 86 and I am nearing 60, I don’t think it is likely to happen.

My mother has two sides: childlike, and childish.  Her childlike side is quite charming.  She is filled with wonder at a pair of redbirds on a bush, deer in the yard, a squirrel sitting on a railing eating corn she has put out for it.  She adores her cat with something approaching sexual love.

On the other hand, when tired or vexed she will burst into childish tantrums, cursing and belittling, mocking, slamming doors and kicking the dog.  And throwing things out.

The other day she was in a childish mood, a mild one, and concentrating on throwing things out.  She can’t throw me out at the moment, because she needs my help with my invalid father, but she can throw his things out, and that’s what she was up to.  I happened along just as Allen Ginsberg’s volume of poetry Kaddish was hitting the dust bin.

“Why are you throwing that out?” I asked.  I noted that their once voluminous library seemed to have shrunken, and wondered how many old friends of my youth had gone the way that Kaddish seemed destined.

Kaddish,” she shuddered, twisting her face in horror.  I got it.  Kaddish, the “prayer for the dead.”  Death is lingering around our house now.  In a way it is a marvel: every new day a gift, if my father is still living.  Nevertheless it is a spectre hovering, palpable to all.  I understand: Kaddish is an unwelcome resident here.  I fished it out of the waste basket and dusted it off.

“I’ve never read this,” I remarked.

“Take it,” she said. “Get it out of this house.”

I did.  I took it to The Studio, my father’s old studio where I now reside.  And began to read.  On the first page, Ginsberg is mourning his mother’s death, pacing his living room and saying Kaddish aloud, alone, which is something one is never supposed to do because the prayer is so powerful it could be damaging without the power of ten people to say it.  But there he is, the power of his grief holding him safe in his living room, crying out loud the poem of God’s greatness to the Universe.

His mother died of insanity.  It struck her like a brick to the head when Ginsberg was a young child, and he spent his childhood accompanying her on trains and buses from one institution to another, until she finally ended up in Bellevue, the end of the line, and when countless shock treatments failed, the lobotomy.  She quickly grew old, and died at the age of 60.  My age.

He never gave up on his mother, and he never stopped loving her.  His family spiralled into collective dysfunction around her.  But it seemed to me that somehow he was able to extract, and treasure, the remnants of the delightful, dignified woman his mother once was, and carry that in his heart always.  It made me smile and cry.

I have never been able to feel that way about my mother.  Perhaps it has something to do with the stories she likes to tell about how I was such an idiot as a baby to climb out of my crib and fall onto a radiator, necessitating a trip to the emergency room; or another time, when, at seven months of age I disrupted dinner by climbing into a cupboard and getting hold of a bottle of Tabasco Sauce, which I somehow got all over me, burning my skin and prompting another visit to the emergency room.

These things, and more, might explain why I recoil at her touch, and why I break into a cold sweat at the sound of her voice.

Reading Ginsberg caused me to go inside and feel what I would feel when at last my mother dies (which is not likely to be for a very long time, given the longevity of her branch of the family, who often live to be 100 or more).

What did I feel then, when I went inside?

Relief, yes.  And grief: for the mother I never had.

Noga The Wonderdog: my anchor to reality

Noga the Wonder Dog

Meet Noga.  She’s my Psychiatric Service Dog.  What service does she provide for me?   She keeps me grounded in reality.

You see, many years ago I was raped.  Not once, but many times.  And that has provided me with a whopping case of PTSD:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The way I coped with being a homeless street kid who got raped a lot was to dissociate.  To leave my body behind, while horrible things were being done to it, and go floating away to Somewhere Else.  It became a habit with my brain, to dissociate from anything threatening; and at last my brain started doing it all on its own, in response to triggers that I may not even be aware of.

And even now, forty years later, I often find that I have been “gone” for hours at a time.  I often have no idea what happened to trigger the episode.  But Noga can tell when I have dissociated, and she jumps up on my legs and “bops” me with her feet, and if necessary, pulls at my pants leg to bring me back to the here-and-now.

And then there are the nightmares.  In my last post I showed you a picture of all the pills I have to take in order to get through the night.  But even with all those drugs, some nights (like last night, for example) I will dream, or hallucinate, or both, that someone has climbed through the window and is standing over me.  B.N. (Before Noga), I could spend hours in a half-dream, half-waking state of paralysis, waiting for the intruder to make his move.  But Noga is a fierce 13 pound watch dog, and she bites!  Now if I have a nightmare I can reach over and if Noga is sleeping beside my left shoulder as she always does, I know there is nothing to fear and I can safely go back to sleep.  Here is Noga keeping the bed warm:

Noga refuses to get out of bed on a rainy morning!

Whose bed do you think this is, anyway?

There are other things she does for me, besides being my Service Dog.  She keeps my right elbow at the proper height for typing by curling up under it, for instance.  That plaid thing is my elbow.

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Plus, she’s just my cute little buddy.

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Noga hates getting her hair wet.

Photos courtesy of my Samsung Galaxy SIII phone.