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.”

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

 

Gut-Level Real

Valentine heart ...wtf_thumb[1]

Hello, my name is Rhae C. and I’m an addict/alcoholic. Bet those of you who read this didn’t know this or maybe vaguely remember something I’d mentioned about it. Well, by the Grace of the Gods and Goddesses of my Ancestors, I’ve been clean and sober since May 23rd, 1988. Sanity is always questionable because not only did I get married to my fifth husband in sobriety, but I gave him children, too. I’ve admitted to being a hopeless romantic; seeing that I’ve done this marriage business 5 times should be proof that sobriety has its’ own rewards. The difference being this one ‘stuck’ for 22 years and we’re still trying to see if it’ll work out.

The short story of how I ended up in an AA meeting room with a bunch of folks just like me is pretty standard. Alcoholics on both sides of the good ol’ oaken cask of a family tree. After all, it is Texas and I was a fifth generation by-product of migratory Cajuns, Scots-Irish, Germans and a couple of wandering Native Americans thrown in because females were few and far between once you got west of the Mississippi before 1830. Add in a family history, again on both sides, of raising Hell because neither TV nor football had been invented yet and you get a tribe of instigators that put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional. Then, at the ripe of age of 30 I found myself a single mother cross addicted to barbiturates and alcohol after a car wreck smashed my face and my upper jaw. That wasn’t enough to kick my ass into the Abyss; my best friend dies less than 90 days after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. In truth, I should have died when I decided to swallow 2400mg. of a barbiturate compound and take a 6-pack chaser. Instead, I found myself reading The Big Book while kneeling next to the toilet waiting for the next round of nausea to empty the small intestine; the stomach had been cleared in the first 3 hours. Being unsuccessful in committing chemical suicide, I decided that I needed to ‘get right with God’ before I left my child in a park for CPS to pick up and adopt out while I found an 18-wheeler to jump out in front of. I met a Druid elder on the back patio of a non-denominational church who drug me into my first AA meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lately, it has been an uphill struggle to maintain emotional balance; the college-aged kid is sick, the baby girl is getting married, and the eldest child has been inviting the Gods of Chaos to find her automobile for demolition derby practice. Did I mention that my hubby was interviewing for a management position, and that the disability insurance company managing my LTD payments has a stick up their keisters for more medical information? (Look, dimwits….the brain broke. It ain’t gonna miraculously fix itself any further than its’ been pushed to do. On a good day, I can remember the process to fix oatmeal without counting on my fingers and looking at notes.)

My therapist has been after me to find an AA meeting but bless her precious heart, she knows not what she asks. When my last beloved sponsor died with 24 years of sobriety, a part of my heart died with her. She knew that I could never do the Abrahamic religion ‘thing’ – Hell, SHE was the one who pointed out that I’d never stay sober unless I could admit that my personal integrity wasn’t attenuated to Judeo-Christian. I kept trying to go to meetings and earnestly find another sponsor, but nope; it wasn’t going to happen. Somewhere along the metamorphosis of The Program, the hardcore kick-butt sober folks disappeared. I was and remain eternally grateful to a sponsor that was a black-belt in reality based sobriety; she gave me the tools to keep on looking. What I was never prepared for was the repeated rejection of AA members who couldn’t accept a sober Druid.

While I miss the coffee and the companionship of the fellowship of Bill W. friends, I don’t miss the hostility when I step out of a meeting before The Lord’s Prayer is said at the end of each meeting. Not my faith, not my prayer. If I’m not welcome to step out, then why should I step in? I don’t want that kind of sobriety. I learned early on that staying sober is an all or nothing kind of deal. I prefer to maintain a personal integrity with my own spirituality than to compromise because someone else is uncomfortable with my personal choice in a relationship with a Higher Power.

So, it is a bit of a conundrum that I face. I wish to abide by the wishes of my counselor and therapist, but I have yet to find a place to ‘hang my hat for an hour or so’ in a place of safety with other like-minded folks struggling to stay sober in the face of a world gone mad and getting crazier by the day. Some days, I just stay sober 15 minutes at a time because that’s the best I can do. Some days, it never crosses my mind. That is, until we have insane holidays like Valentine’s come up and trigger all the past memories of pain because a little freckle-faced geeky girl got rocks, cat turds and dirt clods in her Valentine’s mailbox instead of cheesy paper cards in little white envelopes.

For the little girl I used to be, tomorrow I’m going to buy her watercolors and a box of those little valentine candy hearts. I’m going to get her a small chocolate heart and a little stuffed Pepe’ LePew. I’m going to buy a bottle of strawberry milk like they used to serve in school for Valentine’s Day only, and a box of graham crackers. While my beloved husband may have some plans for us tomorrow, I’m going to ask him for a couple of hours so I can give the little girl I used to be an alternative to the remembered pain and instead replace those memories with all the happiness she deserved….and I’ll stay sober because I choose to.

For all of us out there that struggle with this holiday as well, I send you gentle hugs and love and strawberry flavored milk. Happy Valentine’s Day.

I Weave On Her Loom

friggspinning

 

What is it about being human that hurts so damn good and so damn bad at the same time? I ask this because, in a fit of that strange sanity that attacks me from time to time and kicks my arse into cleaning and organizing, I stumble over things like birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and old pictures that have me sighing in blissful joy or sobbing like baby. Perhaps, it’s also because the college kid is winging her way back to campus in about 24 hours more or less; and it’s always an emotional wrench to let her go.

On the other hand, there are the insane conversations that leave her father howling with laughter, trying to catch his breath and me blinking in confusion, “What did I miss?” It simply must have been hysterical on some level, because if I caught their eye throughout the day, the giggles and guffaws were painfully stifled. I’d like to say that I’ll promise revenge later, but I’ve also learned at the knees of Chaos that my chance to laugh like a madwoman at their foibles will come soon enough.

It’s been insanely crazy with the weather locally. When you consider that Kat left her winter clothes on campus because she was coming back to the locals of Texas for the Winter break, it’s been a bit of a stunner to awaken to a morning when the mercury on the back porch barely struggled to make it over 20 degrees. Oh to be sure, it gets better – her plane leaves tomorrow morning and the ever-so-rare event of threatened SNOW is a distinct possibility overnight.

This is Central Texas, folks. No one with any sanity dares to drive on the inevitable iced roadways. Personally, I’m convinced that this is a Universal slap-tickle because I refused to book any flights through Chicago O’Hare either way for our girl. I felt that no child of mine would be forced to sleep on the floor of a snow-bound airport and Truth be told, O’Hare gets more than their share of snow delays. Looks like the joke is going to be on me if ABIA is doomed to a weather delay.

In the mad stroke of domestic desire to clean and organize, I found my Josh Groban CD’s. (Yeah, whatever…I’m a shameless, hopeless romantic. I’m convinced we’re a dying breed, so I’m not going to make apologies.) Everything was going along swimmingly until I found a picture of my eldest child’s godmother at the same time that the CD reached the selection “To Where You Are.” It was emotionally devastating on the order of a 9.5 earthquake.

Mary was my beyond-best-friend/sister-by-a different-mister/anamcara (before I knew what the word meant!) We’d seen each other through really tough times, and she’d held my hand as I made those first tremulous steps of independence after an emotional and physically abusive marriage. Of course, those of us that find ourselves in that horrific quagmire usually find ourselves there again unless there is some drastic intervention. The genetic benefactor of my firstborn child was no exception; I’d seen him as a “Knight in Shining Armor” and he was in reality a “Rat Turd in A Tin Can.” In reality, when he abandoned the baby and me, she was angrier at him than I was! Because of health reasons, she was unable to conceive children, so the day I was able to place my daughter in her arms and name her godmother, her eyes shone so bright with tears of joy that I’d wished I’d been able to just give her the baby. She’d finally met and married a man that she loved to distraction before my daughter’s birth and the two of them loved to take my baby and spoil her rotten.

Life being what it is and having an equally generous hand with joy and sorrow, there was a phone call shortly before Christmas of 1987. I was going to take the baby down for a visit, and Mary had called to tell me that it would be better if I reconsidered the trip. Then, the gut punch – she’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She wasn’t clear with the stage, etc. She said she was going in for a hysterectomy and would do some follow-up chemotherapy; treating the diagnosis with an attitude of nonchalance. I, in turn, managed to keep the quaver of tears out of my voice until after we completed the call. Somewhere in our conversation, she’d mentioned that her chemo would finish up in early March. I promised her that I would plant King Alfred daffodils then; by the first week of March, they would be up and blooming. I would harvest them and bring them down as a celebration.

We’d touch base now and then, throughout her treatment and surgeries. I’d send pictures of the baby as she was growing, and Mary sent me a copy of the picture of herself and my daughter during happier times. The first weekend of March dawned foggy and cool, and I padded into the large kitchen at my parent’s house to start the morning’s coffee. After grabbing my housecoat, I stepped outside to make the long trip down the driveway to retrieve the newspaper. The small Arizona ash that I’d planted the daffodils around was awash in eye popping color. Not only had the daffodils bloomed overnight, but the Dutch irises I’d planted with them had bloomed early as well. The small garden was simply breathtaking in its bright, transcendent colors, and I was overwhelmed with joy. It was Saturday, and I could harvest these after breakfast and take them down to Mary today, remembering that her last round of chemo had completed the previous Thursday afternoon.

Somewhere around nine o’clock that morning, I was gathering the basket and the shears and the phone rang. There was a pause, then a deep breath on the other end. Then the voice on the other end informing me that “We lost Mary last night.” I was stunned in a silence of denial. NO. No. No. Everything within me screamed that this couldn’t be so. The daffodils were blooming, and the irises bloomed early. But, the strangled voice of the newly widowed husband on the other end of the phone assured me that he was in just as much shock as I.

On a morning so foggy you could have cut it, bound the edges and used it as a blanket, Mary’s ashes were scattered at sea with a lone bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.” To this day, I cannot stand to hear even one measure. Part of my soul left to be eternally with the ashes of Mary, the elements of her earthly body returned to the Universe via the waters of the Mother.

On the other hand, her death spurred my own “bottoming out” so to speak because my use of barbiturates and alcohol accelerated until I found myself in an AA meeting by the end of May. I will always maintain that my best friend gave her life for mine, and no greater sacrifice can be given. However, the entire matter also spurs another windmill I tilt at until the Universe gasps its last erg of Light; that of healthcare for women.

Those of us who identify as female know on a gut level the inequality of care for our bodies by a medical system still slanted towards patriarchy. Our psychological health has long been treated with a “there, there” pat on the hand and prescriptions that do nothing to address the underlying self-hatreds, self-doubts, wounds from survival in a word-wide society that condemns most of us to a ‘less than’ status, and denies education to many. Women suffer genital mutilation, denial of pregnancy termination, denial of access to contraceptives and hormonal therapy. Endometriosis is a horrifically painful malady, and there are national figures that think the hormonal therapy needed to control the worst of the symptoms brands the woman using it as a “slut.” We are sexually shamed, our body images manipulated by greed, ignorance and stupidity. Additionally, we are asked to turn on one another should we counter this insanity with Truth; demanding that our passions be illustrated as feline or canid in their fury.

In summation, there is but one sentence to forewarn and advise those who listen: The Goddess is Awakened, and Her Will Be Done.