I Still Can’t Say Goodbye

daffodils

Sometimes we struggle with introductions, blurbs, short biographies, anything that might touch beyond the shells we carefully construct. Then, one day something comes along to blow your construct into dust. Such it seems, has happened to me this week when I least expected it. I’ve been through therapy with this only to have my therapist tell me “sometimes you never get ‘over’ a loss – you simply learn ways to get around the deepest part of the grief and carry on.”

I don’t know how to carry on. My best friend died in my arms from an insidious, evil disease. There hasn’t been a “tinker’s damn” worth of research done into it. In fact, in the nearly 30 years since my best friend’s death, women’s health issues are still considered of minor significance. Heart disease is the largest killer, however since the symptoms for a woman are quite different from a man’s, there has not been a widespread campaign to educate the public or even health professionals in the furthest corners of America.

There is no test that is 100% accurate and indicative for ovarian cancer. There are blood tests to see if a woman carries the gene for breast cancer, but even those can be flawed and some women that don’t test positive for the BRCA will still get breast cancer. Worse still, even with interventional mammograms, there was be aggressive forms of the disease that will ‘sneak past’ any diagnostic; leaving behind mourning families and friends.

The state of women’s health in this country is pathetic because of the allowances made for superstition to permeate the halls of government. There, I said it. Whatever personal beliefs you have should be left at the door when determining healthcare and the monies needed for research and indigent care for the populace. It would be almost entertaining for a voting male member of our Congressional houses to be suddenly struck with the monthly pain of endometriosis or PCOS.

This is an election year, and I am very, very aware of the high level of angst, anxiety, and anger flowing like cheap beer at a frat party. I am going to ask politely that you step back from the rhetoric, step back from the fear-mongering, step away from whatever media you’re watching and do some quick, reliable research on your own. Look at the advancements made in testicular cancer versus anything remotely resembling the same for ovarian cancer. Look at the statistics for survival of coronary artery disease for men versus women. Look at the statistics for diabetes and alcoholism amongst the First Nation tribes. Do the same for childhood mortality amongst the poor.

I think I have a handle on why I have this repeated grief. No steps of any significance have been made for those of us that don’t have access to quality health care, save for the ACA. Even this piece of legislation is flawed because it allows for someone’s mom or dad or sister or son to fall through the cracks. I’m still grieving my friend because of the thousands of folks that are dying needlessly. Folks that could have been my friend, folks that were treasured and beloved, folks that could have goofed off and accidentally created something monumental for the human species. But, we’ll never know because of greed and shortsightedness and stupid, insane superstition.

I’m just one sobbing mess of a human creature right now. Selfishly crying because I lost my best friend nearly thirty years ago to ovarian cancer. I can’t look at daffodils the same way, and in some years I can’t even function beyond the darkness of a bedroom and a case of tissues. Maybe this year, exercising my voice and my vote will have the effect of a pebble tossed onto the still surface of a pond. It sure beats sitting here sobbing, because I still can’t say “Goodbye.”

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My Fellow Sentient Beings Have Lost Their Minds.

 

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Somewhere, born of helplessness, hopelessness and hunger, a mad cruelty was created. In its bitterness, it sang a deadly descant designed to infect and poison the minds, spirits and hearts of star-born souls. While it has stalked this planet in one form or another for millennia, on a certain Friday night in a city known for Light and Enlightenment, it decided to make a killing field of cafes, a concert and a stadium. All of this in the name of a bastard child of the twisted interpretation of a spiritual philosophy.

We have lost ourselves if we think of this disaster within the narrow definitions of culture, geo-political boundaries, religion or gender. This problem simply cannot be constrained, defined or addressed in finite terms. The very germ, the infinitesimal seed of what has become a monster must be located and cured of its self-perpetuating madness.

Perhaps it began in hunger. Food is a very powerful tool used by those who seek the ego’s own ends as a means to control the hungry. We are born needing the nurturing of The One Who Birthed Us in more than simple lactation, but the comfort of arms to hold us, the warmth and rhythm of a human heart to steady undeveloped neurons and imprint compassion upon our being. Hunger is more than food. It is touch, it is a caress, it is a certain knowing that your being is welcomed into a larger present and part of a larger community. We need to belong.

Perhaps this undefined evil was born of illness. When our bodies are attuned to their maximum expression, we not only radiate health, we express that energy in activity. We sing with voices or movement or creativity of imagination. When we are ill, all we wish to do is to return to the state of being where there was no pain, no weakness, and no burdened breath. When one we love is sick, the compassion of the beings we truly are will seek any level, any amount of respite for our beloved. This drive, this will for another to live is often as strong as our own survival instinct.

As a final observation, perhaps the horrific monster capable of deluding young promising minds and spirits into acts of murderous depravity was created from the simple lack of love. There were no welcoming arms, no extended family or tribe for an orphan exempted from inclusiveness. No blanket woven from the softest fleece to enfold or embrace a shivering body. No shoes to caress tender feet, no gentle finger to wipe away frightened tears. No calming voice to ensure that the terrors of the night were simply wisps of dream and nothing to follow an unsure spirit into the next dawn.

We are far too quick to blame when we should be stepping back to look for that “alpha moment” when it all went so wrong, and was allowed or indeed enabled to fester into a deadly example. If we as a species are to survive for millennia to come, perhaps we should realize that the ‘human race’ is either outpacing itself in the mad dash to dive over the cliff, or we need to stop running from ourselves.

To Boldly Wander…

dystopian Alex Andreev

Art By Alex Andreev

In keeping with a personal vow of total and complete honesty, I was destined to be a nerdy girl. I vividly remember watching the Friendship 7 and Mercury space flights with awe, wonder and envy. The first book that I bought was the unabridged version of H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds,” which would be followed by the purchase of Homer’s “Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” By the time I’d digested ancient space and space invaders, ‘Star Trek’ premiered and I would damn near trample anyone that got into my way while sprinting home on Tuesday afternoons to catch that week’s episode. In my time, the term was junior high school; by the time my shadow crossed the threshold, Bradbury, Asimov, Heinlein, and Cherryh were to become my mythic pantheon of worship. I learned The Three Laws of Robotics simultaneously with the obtuse directives of Boolean algebra and vagaries of photosynthesis. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do what John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and others would do; the destruction of that dream took years of sexist oppression, rape and substance abuse to kill. Oh, was that a bit too raw for you?

This is no less shocking to me than the sight of law enforcement officers beating and killing pedestrians or other citizens of color and then attempting to use the ‘Unwritten Code of the Blue Brotherhood” to shield their perversions and crimes. The great minds of Literature Past and Present have ever warned us of the dangers of complacency and ennui. The Voices of the Great Enlightenment spoke deep and vast cautions against allowing our baser human natures to rule over our better selves. The Bells that Toll have been doing so for a very long time without a single voice to query “Why?” Or worse, “For Whom?’

There are no less than 40 years of a perverse directive to destroy an educational system and a safety net of worker’s rights that have a once-powerful nation on its own edge of internal destruction. We lack the compassion to enfold our veterans in a blanket of services, our populace in the gentle guiding hands of mental health professionals, and the once solid separation between Church and State is nothing more than a bloodied smear on the artifact of a printed newspaper.

Flags that symbolized our nation’s historic shame of human ownership still fly where they should have been taken down and archived with the memories of that intolerance and hatred. There is no genetic basis for race, just as there is no marker for sexuality. We are all shades of the spectrum, we come in all flavors of joy and tears. I dream that perhaps one day the bipedal hominids of this planet will actually awaken to the puppet master and clip the strings of ignorance and oppression that bind them to the mirage of their despair.

For now and for today, I quietly sit in a forgotten corner of a rolling Texas plain watching the clouds that drift overhead and envy them their freedom; trying to remember when watching the clouds was a moment of peaceful joy.

Trapped

Adrian 2

When you are trapped in a mind

That is crippled with broken wings

The winds that bring the day to you are cruel and unkind.

When your spirit is mocked and shamed

For not playing along, though the game

Is for those who cheat and lie.

It is then that I long for the breath

Of a dragon, the claws of the lion

The scream of a hunting hawk.

I did not ask to stumble and fall

I did not expect the march to be broken

By the Sword of Unspoken Fate.

Enchanted by the illusions of immortality

I failed to understand that mortal bodies

Have mortal limits, despite the Eternity

Of the inner self.

When next you see the ashes

Of a fire, remember well one day

You too will be like those remnants

Of what was once bright and welcoming.

You will be no more than the fragile flakes

Of someone else’s memory.

Rhae Camdyn

Mar. 28th, 2015

 

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

YouTube sent out an e-mail today where in honor of International Women’s Day, they asked women to make a video letter to their younger self.  Well, I’m still on the upward climb of learning video technology, but I knew I could write that letter. Without further ado, here is the “Letter to my 18 year old self.”

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Dear Me;

 

I’m writing you nearly two years after a life-altering event and near-death episode. Since it’s been 39 years since I made a monumental decision to join the military instead of attempting to find a way to go to college, I’m writing this so that hopefully, one day, time travel of at least video correspondence is a reality. In November of 1975, I raised my right hand, and had Mom sign an age waiver so I could gain entry into the Texas National Guard. I was so idealistic, so naïve, so sure I was doing the right thing.

Yes, going into the military was a good thing; but I seriously needed someone to tell me about homesickness and familial dysfunction and alcoholism and rape. I seriously needed someone to tell me that my spirit was a beautiful, sacred thing and all those empathic impulses I’d been denying were REAL. I needed someone to help me find the beautiful Goddess in Training that I was, to find the self-confidence that the writing voice within should never have been denied over the need to simply survive. I needed the strong guidance that helped me discover I could do this on my own, that I never needed a man to make me complete. I needed someone to teach me by example that a life companion complemented who you are, not changed you to fit their reality. Further, no one had the right to raise a hand to you in rage; no one had the right to define your spirituality, confine you to their definition of Deity.

There was so much of the masterpiece of my being that was so incomplete at 18 that it should have been considered a felony for me to have been sent out into the world of the late 70’s without at least a Master Class in Reality. You are more than pumps, sandals, boots, or bare feet. You are more than jeans, cut-offs and bikini bottoms. You are more than a bra, a halter top or a t-shirt. You are more than the outside accoutrements of clothing, or style. Your spirit is as free as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, never let anyone tell you or try to convince you otherwise. In fact, do yourself a favor – don’t allow anyone who attempts to corral who you are with conventionality to stay in your life.

Education is a passport to freedom, little one. No one can steal the treasures of knowledge you hold between your ears. There is nothing shameful about being intelligent, there is only the shame later that you were never able to develop the bright promise you held. I said it before and I’ll say it again and again – if the guy you want doesn’t comprehend what you love, let him go. Someone will show up that shares your love of the stars, and the planets, and Star Trek and all things geeky. Someone will show up that is as much a hopeless romantic as you are, and if you are willing to let that special someone, they will sweep you off your feet and worship you every day of your lives together.

Don’t allow the bigotry of those around you blind you to the beauty of everyone you meet. Commit the words of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata to heart and find a way to live/express/develop the intent of that writ every moment that you draw breath. Find a way to play every day, coloring books are not the territory of the very young, neither are finger paints or Play-Doh, or Legos, or Lincoln Logs or even rag dolls and dollhouses. Remember the fun you had in the kitchen with your grandmother, and your nannies, and learn that food is as much a palette as are words and crayons.

Last, learn to grieve as deeply as you loved. Never allow someone to tell you to “get over it.” While the great sages and wise women through the ages affirm that we are never truly separated from those we love, there are those who will share time with you as you dance on this planet that will only share the journey but briefly. They will be the beacons of Light along parts the dimly lit passages as no life is lived in sunlight alone. Never forget to appreciate the Light in your life; taking people for granted should be considered a mortal sin.

When you have children, stick to your guns and your gut. Your intuition as a mother is a far better diagnostic tool than the most schooled pediatrician, the most well-intentioned educator. You KNOW your children. Never deny yourself a moment spent with the extra cuddle, the additional kiss on the forehead, the caress of a silky head. Spending time cuddled together on the ‘mommy/daddy’ bed builds a bond that no one can ever break, and gives them memories of security and love to hold in their hearts forever. Remember that old pots and pans, worn out aprons and wooden spoons are far better toys than those that others spend a fortune on. Teaching them how to build fairy houses out of leaves and sticks encourages imagination, and planting a garden together grounds them to life itself.

Creating things of use and beauty with knitting needle, sewing needle or crochet hook, hands a legacy to all children. There’s nothing wrong with teaching the playmates of your kids how to do it either. Oh yes, one more thing, and it’s the most important. Kids are like that garden you’ll grow together. They need the sunshine, the dirt and the water. Letting them dance naked in the rain allows their spirit that freedom of expression in a memory that will get them through the tough times they will undoubtedly face.

You are an incredible person. You will meet other incredible persons and you will meet people of both great good and horrific evil. When you meet people of evil, walk away. Quickly. Do not attempt to find the good in anyone that greets you with all the ugliness that they are. Accept them as ugly and walk away. The greatest truth is the saddest lesson you will have to learn, and it is this: Good people attract bad people like ants to a picnic. Ants have the right to be ants, but you do not have to sit there and let them hurt you. They have their place in the scheme of things, and it is up to you if you choose to share your life with anyone who willfully hurts you. Make a different choice.

Life is incredibly short. Dance. Eat with joy. Love with abandon. Appreciate the special people in your life, and allow to pass those who would cause you or yours harm. Grow a garden, love a pet, plant a tree. When it is time to go, you want to look back and laugh with love.

Hug yourself for me – and let go of any regrets – you can always start over, on any given day.

Love,

Me.

Tums & Tarantulas

tarantula

We all have demons to slay; those personal little horrors that sit quietly gnawing at the back corners of our sanity until common sense and equilibrium start leaking out of the hole in our souls. Such is grief when never properly allowed to be expressed, and if you came from a family that put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’ you can identify with this. As such, I’ve carried 3 camels worth of sorrow for my beloved best friend. Further, I’ve never found a way to process it; so, when in the flash of an instant it came crashing back over my psyche, I was a sobbing huddled-in-sorrow mess on the floor of my office.

For me, part of the healing process comes with writing about this unique friendship and the bizarre joys of our time as roommates. It was the eighties, I’d just barely escaped the clutches of an abusive husband and Mary had lost her previous roomie (a cousin) to job changes. Fate had us looking to move closer into town from the wilds of the suburbs, and as luck would have it, a rather fashionable townhouse had opened up just down the block from where I was working.

This was both opportune and serendipitous as not only was the grocery store within walking distance, should I choose to change my current employment situation, the metro stop was fairly close as well. I was working as an assistant credit manager and deposit clerk in an upscale department store, Mary was working as the educational liaison for a chain of nursing homes. We were both fairly happy in our positions and loved the proximity to entertainment, restaurants, etc. that our new home would provide.

The townhouse had a gated courtyard and a willow tree that I happened to adore with all the romantic bliss of the ignorant. It also had a fireplace; something Mary and I both insisted upon because hot cocoa and Grade B romance movies were a passion on those long Friday nights without dates. I’d taken the upstairs bedroom and en-suite bathroom, she’d chosen the downstairs. I loved my room with its lovely bay window shaded by the willow tree, she was happy with the room downstairs and its relative quiet as I was working long hours.

For the first six months, it was bliss. We’d have lunch together in the food court of the mall attached to the store where I was working when she was in town and we’d chat, laugh, and catch up on what was going on in our lives. Her job required travel no less than 4 days a week, so our lunch dates were special to both of us. We’d also plan out menus, shopping, movies, laundry, carpet shampooing, mundane household tasks, and when we could escape to go see her folks in North Texas. Her Dad had simply ‘adopted’ me as another kid in the family and when we went to see them, I had chores just like everyone else.

Then, early one spring morning I was pouring a bowl of Corn Flakes and discovered a very nasty buddy in my bowl; in fact, several. Cockroaches had infiltrated the cereal box and were feasting on my morning munchies. I’m not squeamish, but I squealed a very loud squeal of disgust. Mary’s howl of horror was not far behind. Then, when she went to open the refrigerator, several came flying out of the rubber seal of the door. We opened the cupboard doors under the sink and discovered a cavalcade of critters under there was well. She immediately called the 24 hour maintenance line and demanded extermination services.

For the next month or so, we were in chemical warfare against the little 6 legged invaders. We bought hermetic containers for any foodstuff that usually resided in a box, changed out canisters, and basically robbed the bastards of any foodstuff we could think of. Until, they broached the last bastion of our sanity. When deprived of any foodstuff humans normally consume, they turned to the electronic and proceeded to eat the plastics and coating within our video cassette player and television. Cry HAVOC!

We were at our wit’s end, eating lunch in the food court and were discussing everything from radiation to relinquishing the place we loved so much when, this tall rangy fellow from the exotic pet store comes over to our table and introduces himself. “Hey, there ladies! My name’s Clint, and I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation and your problem and well – I think I have the solution.” Mary and I were stunned into silence with the sudden, unexpected introduction to the fella, but nothing could have prepared us for Clint bringing a small terrarium with a HUGE brown tarantula in it around from behind his back and placing it right in the center of our lunch table. I immediately attempted to see how far my butt would fit in the large planter behind me and I remember Mary attempting to climb Clint like a tree in order to affect escape. Yes, there were the usual accompanying sound effects of squealing, screaming females.

Clint, in the process of prying Mary out of his hair and off of his person, remained nonplussed by our reaction and began calmly explaining that tarantulas give off a pheromone that sends roaches packing. We looked at one another; which one was going to do terrarium or rather terror-ium duty? Who was going to feed the eight-legged monster once he’d eaten every roach? How often do they pee/poo and what does cleaning up after a tarantula entail? We were not convinced that any amount of salesmanship was going to confer ownership of the spider to either of us. “Ok,” Clint sighed, “Ladies, look. I’ll loan you the tarantula for a month or two. I’ll even come over once a week to check up on him and see how he’s doing. Heck, I’ll even set the whole thing up.”

“Look,” Mary replied, “as long as you take care of that thing and neither of us have to do one thing that remotely involves removing the top of the container he lives in, we’re good. And DON’T get funny and slip in a pregnant female thinking it a joke because we WILL hunt you down!” Clint sorta turned a bit pale, but true to his word, that evening after the mall closed he came over and set up “Hairy’s” home in a corner of the galley kitchen of our townhouse.

A couple of nights later, we were curled up watching MASH and Mary looked with a funny glance at me and muted the sound on the television. “Do you hear a funny crunching noise?” She asked.

“Yeah, I do. Sorta like someone eating Frito’s.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“But, it sounds like it’s coming from the kitchen.”

“I ain’t going in there alone.”

“Me neither.”

“Come on, Roomie.”

“Oh, God! Ok.”

What we did not expect was to see something vaguely reminiscent of a 50’s science fiction thriller; Clint had set the terrarium up with a pickle jar lid of Cheerios in the corner. We’d assumed that this must be some sort of unknown treat for the tarantula, what the Hell did we know about tarantula diet? Nope, good ol’ ‘Hairy’ was crunching down on the cockroaches that nearly covered the small pile of cereal in the corner of his habitat, like a kid crunching on Cheezy Poofs. We would have screamed in horror, but the objects of our more immediate disgust were being permanently removed from our environs one juicy crunch at a time.

True to his word and ‘Hairy’s’ appetite, within six weeks the roach problem was reduced to the ‘damn near extinct’ level in the townhouse. Clint came over to take ‘Hairy” back to the pet shop, but Mary decided that as long as Clint would come over and “service” the beast we’d buy him and give him a home. Then, Clint gave us one more little trick to address the cockroach problem.

The fella was a good salesman because if he’d shown us this little trick, we might never have agreed to ‘Hairy’s’ presence. From a bag, Clint retrieved beer bottle caps. I asked, “What, we’re gonna get them drunk and toss ‘em out the door?” “Nope.” He grinned.

He placed a bottle cap next to the baseboards at the common wall between us and our neighbor’s townhouse. Then, out of his pocket he produced a roll of Tum’s antacids and he placed one in the bottle cap. “Now,” he smugly noted,” we wait.”  Within a minute or two, a cockroach came up from under the baseboards and began nibbling on the tablet. After a couple of minutes, the insect left the tablet, replete. It then began to walk across the carpet and it didn’t make it six inches before we heard a distinct “pop” and the insect jerked once and rolled over, dead. “Roaches can’t burp, ladies.” Clint calmly announced.

Mary would have fumed, but Clint was grinning such a gamine smile, she just threw her hands up in the air and for the next hour or so we were placing bottle caps with Tums tablets in them all over the townhouse. Granted, for a couple of nights the sounds of exploding roaches was a little unsettling, but we vacuumed up the conquered invaders with a sense of satisfaction that we were no longer engaging in hazardous chemical warfare, and we’d taken a homeless tarantula off the streets.

So, there you are. A little story that will forever remain in my heart about our escapades as roomies and how we simply didn’t give up the little townhouse we both so loved. Perhaps I also believe that in sharing this a wee bit of the grief that I’ve carried for 27 years has melted. Love ya’, Mur….