Monday, June 16, 2014

Broad Ripple Effects

It's funny the littlest things that will trigger a torrent flood of memories. This morning, it was a loaf of bread. Opening the inner bag of a loaf of Pepperidge Farm bread, I was reminded of my childhood in Broad Ripple. That was back when Mom could afford to buy thin-sliced Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread. She was only feeding three little ones, not five, at that time. That's not to dis my baby brother or sister, but they just hadn't made it into this world yet and times seemed simpler back then. Maybe it was because I was so young and innocent in those middle years of the 70's decade.

We moved there when I was five and almost out of kindergarten. Dad had landed a secure job with the State of Indiana and saw his chance to escape the confines of smalltown, cornbread Princeton. By 1975, we were living in a limestone ranch at the corner of Delaware and Laverock across the street from the canal. That's where I made some of my favorite childhood memories which I will try to recall here.

The Broad Ripple canal, running northeast along Laverock, held so much adventure for me in those days. A walk along the tow path up to the Hook's Drugstore seemed like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There were ducks, honking geese holding up traffic along Westfield Ave, skipping rocks and a six-block walk that seemed like miles to these stubby legs. I'd venture up that way with a pocketful of change, intent on getting Sour Apple Now-n-Laters or Jolly Ranchers, Candy Cigarettes (which I'd "smoke" before I got home), and some Fun Dip. It was simple pleasures like that which lit up my world at age seven.

When Grandpa Doyle came to visit one summer, he died in '77, we walked the canal together. He was going to Hook's for a paper and some "hooch" and I was just happy to have some quality time with my Grandpa who no longer lived in Indiana, but had retired to south Florida. He was my only real Grandpa, as Mom's Dad had died in St. Louis when I was just three and a half. Anyway, I enjoyed that walk along the canal the most.

There was Broad Ripple Park, where I started and never finished swim lessons in what was once the largest swimming pool in the country, Meridian Street Methodist, where I played three years of baseball and Dad coached, and Baskin Robbins, where we went after every baseball game for a scoop or two of ice cream.

I started parochial school at Immaculate Heart of Mary on Central Ave, where I took first communion and went to my first confession. Right across the street was the Kennerk residence, where I spent many an afternoon and a few overnights. Hugh Kennerk and I were best buds back then. Sadly, we drifted apart when my family moved away from Broad Ripple. His family eventually moved, too, to the outskirts of Zionsville.

Other best buds back in the day were Wes Priest and Cullen Ryan. I remember going on my first jog with Wes and his Dad one day, then returning to his house to wash up in an open shower in his parent's basement. That was a novelty. It was also a far cry from the Ryan residence, a palatial estate on North Meridan Street, near where I played baseball. I spent a few overnights with Cullen and enjoyed exploring what my parents called "the Coke mansion," complete with working elevator.

During those years, I also played basketball and football, though I've never been overtly atheletic. Football
was practiced and played at Riverside Park in downtown Indy, a good 15-20 minute drive from home through some of the most fascinating areas of town, to my young mind. Most intriguing was the long closed and run down Riverside Amusement Park. The old wooden coaster still towered over the trees but was guarded and obscured by a tall fence and overgrown brush. I used to imagine what it was like back in it's heyday, and that was before you could Google something and see old postcards online, so it was left up to my imagination. In the mid-seventies, that place looked like a scary ghost park. Why it hadn't been demolished by then, I have no idea, but I looked forward to that drive every time I had to be at Riverside Park to wear the green and yellow Packers uniform.

The last thing I'll recall here is the crazy way my Mom had decorated my bedroom at 6116 N. Delaware St. She found this black and white wallpaper of a male lion's head with a full mane. I guess it was pretty cool and haute couture for 1975, but it scared the dickens out of me. She had also handed down her old bed with the wooden headboard that had two sliding door cubbies on either side, the doors of which she also covered with a lion's head from the wallpaper. My bed backed up to sealed french doors that used to lead to the backyard, so there was no shortage of windows in my room. Let me just tell you, that when lightning would light up my bedroom, I was petrified. I'd pull the bedspread clear over my head and clutch it there, shaking and sweating until I couldn't bear it anymore. I'd pull it back after a loud thunderclap and yell through tears to my parents just beyond my bedroom wall. They'd always call back for me to come in their room. What they failed to realize is that what stood between their room and mine was a long, terrifying walk through the living room, past the world's largest picture window, around the corner and into the safety of their bed. I couldn't do it. I was paralyzed with fear. I carried that fear of storms into my late teens. Sad, but true. I don't know if it was the lion's fault, but that den of horrors during lightning storms certainly didn't help. Thanks, Mom ;)

We moved away from Broad Ripple in 1977 thanks to Mom's growing belly and our growing family. We relocated further east, nearly to I-465 and 56th St., and I was transferred to St. Matthew's for a year before a three-year stint in public school (IPS, btw, stands for Indy Prison System). We didn't leave Broad Ripple altogether, though. We still attended Central Baptist Church and I went back to the area for high school, reconnecting with many of my childhood classmates from IHM. Some of those connections are still strong as ever, thanks to Facebook.

Hard to believe that was so many light years ago. All of these memories are brought to you courtesy of Pepperidge Farm breads. :) You're welcome.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The value in being alone

So, I was reading this blog on Being Alone and #5 really resonated with me, "Learn how to talk to yourself." I've been talking about that a lot on this blog and how I've learned the intrinsic value of self-compassion.

But learning to be alone, especially when you've been co-dependent most of your adult life (okay, all of it), has been a challenge for me. I'm just starting to make peace with it.

I have a couple of friends, ladies who are older than I, who spend much of their time alone--eating alone, spending time alone and missing the physical touch and companionship of a significant other. I never expected that would be age 45. But such is the space that I find myself in at this point in time.

Visiting with a very dear friend over the weekend, I was asked if I was dating anyone "up there" yet. He was referring to my current location in North Florida...up there, where I have a few old friends I'm connected with who are all connected to significant others, kids, etc.

I haven't really found my place "up there" yet and I certainly haven't been looking to date anyone. That time seems like a far off in the future sort of place for me. Right now, I'm trying to acclimate myself to this newfound loneliness.

It's a feeling I haven't experienced since 2000 when I sunk into deep despair. I'm not sinking, not in the least. I'm trying to make the most of every minute of alone time, either enjoying a pursuit I'm passionate about, looking for places to volunteer or talking a walk to gather my thoughs and talk to myself.

Like I said, it's been a challenge for me and not nearly as easy as just taking a walk...but I'm getting there. The hours between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. are the most difficult. That's when I wind down with either some good music, a movie or some TV. I get ready for bed and lie down alone. I lay there in the dark and wonder if I can do this for an extended period of time.

I'm a snuggler by nature, so it is sometimes difficult to get cozy enough for sleep when I'm in the bed alone. Pillows are rarely a good enough substitute. Some nights, I take bourbon to bed to help me relax and doze off, but I don't like to rely on alcohol too much of the time. Other nights, I lay with my journal by my side and try to recapture the highs and lows of the day, what I've learned or remembered or shared. That helps to clear my head of all the clutter, as does paying attention to my breathing and trying other relaxation techniques, but nothing is quite as efficient or effective as someone to hold close, to melt into at that time of the night.

I'm determined to make the most of this alone time, though. To realize that I'm enough to keep myself calm, fulfilled and happy. It's something I've never even tested before. I dated my fiance for 4.5 years before marrying her at age 24. We stayed together 20 years, then I had another relationship right away. No time for me in between. No time to really deal with my separation, what it meant for me personally and no time to heal. That's what I'm finally getting to do now, but it has multiplied due to the loss of two significant others from my life.

You live and learn. I get that. This is my learning curve. I'm learning the value in being alone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NO MORE Years a Slave

After watching the highly acclaimed feature film on slavery, I had time to think about the themes of the movie and apply them to my life. The main story of slavery aptly applies to my mental and emotional state for many years. Living as a slave to fear, inadequacy, anxiety and depression, I was a trapped in my own living hell. Not any longer!

I was just journalling this morning, cup of coffee by my side, morning sunlight on my face, that life has a peculiar way of teaching you lessons...of teaching ME, especially (I'm kinda hard-headed).

Photo I shot onstage at a
Sunset Celebration, Times Sq,
Fort Myers Beach
It was two years ago that I met a woman who would rock my world...both literally and symbolically. We played in a cover band together, getting to know each other over 9 months time before we ever officially dated. Then came the moment of that fated first kiss...and I was hooked.

Fast forward through that struggle of a blossoming relationship and here I sit today ready to close that chapter of my life. You see, I'm going down there in a couple of days to retrieve the last of my things, pay off a debt that I owe and get my drums out of storage.

It wasn't easy coming to terms with the fact that I was unevenly matched with a woman that I once thought could be a lifetime partner. We both carried our own baggage into the relationship, but we just couldn't manage to bridge the gap between us and share the heavy load. And to be honest, I went in kind of blindly and foolishly before my divorce was ever final. Lesson learned.

So I get to finally close that chapter of my life this week. Not an easy thing to do, as it's taken me nearly 10 weeks to arrive safely at this juncture. But I'm here.

I won't go so far as to say that I was a slave in that relationship, but I certainly felt stuck for a number of months. Unable to get my shit together, get up and get out, I remained and fought through the emotional rollercoaster of "should I stay or should I go." That's on me. Nobody else to blame. I was just fighting some personal demons. They are the ones who enslaved me from childhood.

But a slave no more, I'm ready to embrace my newfound freedom. And again, to be clear, I'm not talking about freedom from the previous relationship with an incredibly beautiful woman (photo above). No, I'm talking about personal freedom from some demons, some hangups that have haunted me all my life, held me captive through fear and intimidation. Those demons made me believe that I *needed* someone to fulfill or complete me (I realize now that's called co-dependence). I didn't and I don't, but I realize that now. Lesson learned.

I won't go again into another relationship quite so needy or ready to attach. I'll take it slow, allow things to grow organically. I won't ever allow myself to feel stuck ever again (I did that to myself). And I won't go back to slavery...EVER...AGAIN!

Those demons can SUCK IT!

That's all for now. Peace my friends. And thanks for listening.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

free form flows

waiting for calls or e-mails that would never come
words that could have soothed and healed
were never going to be spoken
not by the willfully victimized
certainly not by the broken

trust was shattered long ago
never to be restored
the cornerstone of loving
of giving and receiving
taken for granted or ignored

party on the longheld cry
for past pains and sins
you'd rather cover and deny
why cry out for help
when that would lead others to discover
what's become a latent choice
over and over and over

alas the wounded soul
one day will recover
might take a minute longer
then another and another
but time heals all wounds they say
whoever they might be
take these scars and grow
forever, still, a legacy you'll leave

Friday, April 04, 2014

How do you mend a broken heart?

They say that time heals all wounds, and I'm sure that it's true. Sometimes, it's hard to believe, though, when you're in the midst of the healing. And what of the lingering scars? The heart is never truly the same, ever again. I know that mine won't be.

Some call my previous relationship a total rebound. I'm not sure I'd qualify it as that, even though I've considered it. To me, it seemed like much more. And if you asked her, I'm sure she'd say that it was much, much more than that. Whatever it was, it happened. Two hearts were broken. And time? Well, it's just begun the process.

It took me several weeks to come to grips with the fact that I had suffered another broken heart. Because, truth is, I asked for the breakup. She didn't want it. I knew that my heart was no longer in it 100% and there was always the lingering issue of distrust. It's possible that we both sabotaged the relationship. I'm willing to accept my share of the blame. But no matter who shares or accepts what portion of the blame, it doesn't change the simple fact that two hearts were broken, wounded and left bleeding. It just took me longer to realize and accept it.

Since I'd sorta started the separation last year, in my own heart and mind, I thought that I'd already dealt with all of the hurt feelings, the disappointment that it wasn't what I thought, and the anger over being so blind and foolish. I was being blind and foolish to think that. :)

The day I hit the road aboard a Greyhound bus, the realization of "goodbye" hit me as I crossed the bridge out of town. It came crashing down all around me and I cried for a good 20 minutes, trying to hide my sadness from the other passengers. That was just the beginning...and it was a LONG ride home.

Going to bed alone for the first time in more than a year, I began to taste loneliness again. That was sobering, too. I wasn't quite prepared for the loneliness and all the crazy thoughts it causes you to entertain. But that still didn't unlock the buried heartache.

I'm not sure what the key was that opened that door or when it even happened, but for days now I've been dealing with the real heart of the issue, if you'll excuse the pun. I'm fully accepting now that I have suffered another broken heart. I wasn't anywhere near being over my girlfriend, no matter how much I'd fooled myself to believe that I was. I still love her and care for her very much. But I no longer give her the power to hurt me. The damage has been done. No need to exacerbate the pain by revisiting the wounds.

That is why I've tried like hell to live in the present. It's hard for me, though. I'm programmed to keep going back and analyzing things, looking for areas where I was wrong, where I acted foolishly or where I could have reacted differently to what was going on. That's just how I'm wired. I'm very critical and analytic like that.

Going back to re-read old e-mails, journal posts, blog posts and to look at photos on Facebook only perpetuates the painful memories of what was and wasn't there. Sadly, I can't keep myself from looking at all of it from time to time. And maybe that's part of the process, too...the healing.

At any rate, time has just begun to tick away. With every tick of the clock, I am hopeful to find some small dose of healing. I know that I've made some strides just this week, but that came only after taking two steps back. Hey, I'm hard-headed, too, and sometimes slow to learn. And admitting that my heart was truly broken was a huge step forward.

Several friends have told me this week, "it's obvious you still love her and care for her," and I'm glad they can see it. I doubt that she believes it, and I guess that doesn't matter anymore. I'm ready to live and let live. I want us both to move on and find true peace and happiness within ourselves. Only in reaching that Nirvana, can we be fully who we are and offer "the treasure of us" individually to someone else.

Here's the perfect song to accompany this post:

Well, here's to recovery...Cheers!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The sacred dunes at the state park

They may not be the Mountains of Mordor, but these dunes might as well be. I once took a pilgrimage there with "my precious."

These photos, shot Sunday morning in Panama City Beach, show the very spot where I carried a then 3-month-old baby girl, wrapped in a warm, fleece blanket. It was October thirteen years ago and I was taking my oldest daughter on her first ever trip to the beach. My folks and my sister's family were visiting from Indiana. As usual, I was up before the dawn. My new baby was still sleeping, but something was drawing me into the pre-dawn solitude towards the pristine, sugar sand dunes of the state park, just a few hundred yards from our condo.

I wrapped my already swaddled bundle of joy in my favorite blue, black and white blanket, as it was chilly on this dark morning along the Gulf coast of North Florida. I walked with her and a disposable camera, as I didn't have my Kodak digital camera back then, through the cool sand up into the dunes. Found a nice spot that sheltered us both from the wind and planted myself in the sand, clear of any sand spurs. Surrounded by those green and white blanketed hills, I waited for the sunrise. But I was met by the Divine.

Those of you old enough to remember the mini-series, Roots, will certainly recall the dramatic scene where the father, played by John Amos, raises his infant into the air symbolically. That is precisely how I felt in that moment, like I was offering this precious baby back to the cosmos, or back to God, from whence she came.

You have to understand this baby was a miracle blessing to me at the time. I've even written how she saved my life. But in that moment, I felt something more than mere gratitude. I felt the hand of the Almighty in a very real way. I was humbled beyond measure. I knew that I didn't deserve the great prize I had won, but I was going to cherish it with everything in my being. And that I have.

I have an outstandingly beautiful and gifted daughter who is about to turn 13 this summer. And as I walked that same path over the weekend, I was struck again by the beauty of those dunes and what they represent to me. I was overcome with emotion, as I am now, typing this through tears.

It was another pre-dawn stroll along the beach, like I'd had back in 2001. This time, I had my digital camera, and though the pics didn't all turn out spectacularly, I have them as a token...a reminder of what happened in my life over a decade ago. Those dunes will always hold a special place in my heart.

They are now a sacred spot. And just like the photo below, of the sun rising over them, the sun rises everyday in my life, rain or shine, because I have that bundle of joy in my life.

I love you, MK.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Advice on love, relationships

I’ve got some news for this guy, this “love expert” Gerald Rogers and I’ve got 4 years on him. I was married 20 and I was the one to file for divorce, so I’ve got a little different take on things. Unlike Mr. 15 Minutes of Fame (he appeared on the Today Show after his post went viral), I don’t ever intend to marry again. Will I fall in love? Probably. Will I find a committed partner to share in my golden years? Maybe, we’ll see. What I won’t find is another co-dependent, mutually devastating cluster like I was in.

  1. Make the effort, of course. Be romantic, sure, but guard your heart. Gerald says, “She chose you,” as if you had no say in the matter. Go in with your eyes wide open and realize that you chose EACH OTHER. Both parties should be equal in their giving. And if you learn to love sacrificially, you’ll never go wrong in trying to outdo your partner.
  2. Guard your heart (see above). Love yourself fully and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t love themselves. You have to protect your own heart fiercely. But if you radiate that kind of love and confidence, you’ll attract the right kind of woman.
  3. Fall in love. Again, be romantic. But know that love is not just some gushy mesh of sentimental feelings and words. Love is action. Be a doer, not just a talker. Show your love and stay connected. It doesn’t fall just on you, but you can certainly lead by example, or better yet, LOVE by example!
  4. Be realistic. She’s not perfect and neither are you. “Always see the best,” as Gerald suggests is not reality. There will always be things about your partner that could improve, and that may even bug you. Get past them. If they are immovable objects that would hinder your moving forward, either get help or get out. “Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love?” C’mon, dude, get real. Again, love is not some puffy cloud of lovey-dovey feelings up in the stratosphere. Love is both a choice and an action, but you have to see your partner for who they really are, warts and all. If you can’t handle that, then stay single.
  5. Show tough love if absolutely necessary. Everyone has faults. Some people that we love NEED to change for their own good. Sometimes a tough love approach is the only way. Is it our job to change our partner? No, certainly not. That burden falls on them alone. If you can lovingly help your partner see where change is needed, then is it more loving to avoid the challenge or to meet it head on? Ask yourself the difficult question.
  6. Be accountable. On this point we both agree. You share half the burden in the relationship, whether there is credit or blame to go around. Accept your share, apologize if you have to and carry on. You can only control you, period.
  7. Be honest. You have to be honest, first, with yourself before you can be honest with your partner. Are the things bothering you because of your own faulty perceptions, past hurts and failures? Be honest with yourself before going to your partner with a grievance. If there IS someone to blame, it could be the both of you. Only an honest, adult discussion can get you through what’s troubling you. For one person to bear the brunt of the blame is completely unfair and unbalanced.
  8. Be who you are. Don’t put on masks for your partner and don’t expect her to wear them either. Give her the freedom to be who she is and to express herself genuinely. Don’t make assumptions about gender roles, like Mr. Rogers. The man doesn’t always have to be the pillar of strength upon which she leans. You should be equal partners in the relationship, able to lean upon each other. She will be your pillar at times, as you will be hers. It’s no one person’s job to be the Rock of Gibraltar all the time (refer to #4 and  #7).
  9. Be silly. Be child-like, but not childish, and laugh as much as possible. Gerald hit a home-run on this one. I was suckered into believing, at the beginning of my marriage, that I had to “behave like an adult.” I lost the utter silliness that my ex and I had shared, at times, as a young couple. Laughter is, indeed, a good medicine.
  10. Know and speak love languages, fluently. If you don’t know them, then read Gary Chapman’s book about them. Go back and re-read #3. Love is action. Actions speak louder than words. Put your love into action by speaking your partners love language fluently. Be a doer. Be sensitive. Read the damn book, already!
  11.  Live in the moment. He was close on this one and the one, above. Be in the moment, fully present and appreciate what you have.
  12. Sex is good. And in a committed relationship, it should be fantastic, but that only comes through connection. Stay connected. “Masculine presence?” What the hell is that guy smoking? And how many Harlequin romance novels has he read, anyway? Sometimes your partner will want you to be the aggressor and other times she will want to dominate. Sex, as in love, is a give and take. Communicate. Be in the moment and give it all you got. If either of you has hang-ups about sex, then please go to a counselor or sex therapist. It will kill the romance, otherwise.
  13. Learn from your mistakes. And if you see old patterns popping up in your relationship, nip them in the bud. No one is an idiot, but only a crazy person keeps repeating the same mistakes/patterns and expecting a different outcome.
  14. Be passionate. Know what you want out of life and go after it. Allow your partner the freedom to do the same. If she has different interests than you, then encourage her to explore them fully while you do the same. Giving each other the space to enjoy different things just makes sense. Don’t give up the things you are passionate about just to please your partner and don’t expect her to give up those things, either. Enjoy your differences. Admire the passionate side of your partner and encourage her pursuit of things only she enjoys. In other words, don’t be a controlling douchebag!
  15. Trust. Ahh, the “t” word. One of the most difficult things to cultivate and maintain in a relationship. Sure, there is a level of vulnerability that you must maintain in order to have it, but you don’t have to be gullible. Trust is given but it is also earned. Be a trustworthy person and get to know each other. If she is trustworthy at the same level, then be as vulnerable and transparent as you want to be, but go in with your eyes open and your heart exposed. Know that it can be broken or hurt at any time. Being able to trust depends on your full willingness to be hurt at some point. Only gullible, foolish people give away their trust immediately and without reservation.
  16. Allow your partner to love you. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand, see above. But allowing someone to love you when you are completely naked to the core is really difficult. Some people just can’t handle that another person would love them after seeing just how vulnerable they are. You are loveable. If you love yourself fully (see #2), then you should have no difficulty in receiving love from your partner.
  17. Never stop dreaming together. Growth comes naturally. People tend to give up on their dreams, however. If you have an equal partner who shares your hopes and dreams, then you have something really special. Foster that sense of wonder and romance in each other. Don’t ever lose it. Setbacks will inevitably come, but they can be overcome when you are a team.
  18. Money. Interesting Mr. Rogers should bring it up. Marriage is nothing but a legally binding financial contract. Surprised that his divorce didn’t teach him that. Keep money out of it. Relationships are about people, not about improving your financial future. Common sense dictates that you’ll have to combine and share resources, but don’t let them get in the way of relationship. Things are just that. Things. They are unimportant. The love of your partner will get you through just about any problem in life. Money solves nothing. My divorce taught me that marriage, in the eyes of the state, is nothing but a business agreement between two parties. Who needs a contract to live with someone they love?
  19. Forgiveness is for you, not your partner. Don’t think for one minute that forgiveness is about releasing your partner from blame. It’s about releasing yourself. I think that’s what Mr. Rogers was getting at, but he talks about the past like it can be left there and never brought up again. See #4. Don’t live in a fantasy world where everything is unicorns and rainbows. Skeletons won’t remain hidden in a closet. They rattle around and make noise. The past will always be part of your present and future. You can’t lock it up and throw away the key, pretending that it never happened nor will ever affect you again. That’s foolishness. Your past is what shapes you. Your history with your partner is the only foundation you’ve got. If there are cracks in it, deal with them. Do your best to patch them, but don’t ignore them. The same goes for you as an individual. Embrace your past. If there are cracks in your character, do what you can to fix them, even if it means seeking professional help. Don’t you want your partner to have a whole and complete person to love? Well, you can’t be whole and complete until you learn to forgive. Start with yourself.
  20. Repeat #3. Learn that love is a choice, a sacrifice and an action. If you really chose love, then you’ll choose to act, to put the other person first and to succeed. Success depends on the both of you, but it starts with you. That’s the only thing you control in a relationship is you—how you act, react and respond. Choose love. Real love, not the gushy sentimental, Harlequin romance love that Mr. Rogers is seeking.

That’s really all I have to say on the subject. Maybe I missed my calling as a counselor. Life has taught me some tough, but invaluable lessons. One of them was not to marry someone, at least not until you’re older and really know who the hell you are. Love yourself first. That’s how I’ll end this long post. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

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