Monthly Archives: June 2014

FIRE…all kinds connected

(SORRY…that April and May essays just got  posted...a computer glitch as they were written in those months)

One of my earliest memories is of the neighbor’s house burning down as I lay in my bed at age 5. My parents trying to calm down the teenage son, and maybe the mother too. The father died in the fire looking for his daughter who was safe. The flames still flash across my mind when I wonder if I left my stove burner on.

Around this same age I am at my dad’s work-place picnic, when a four-legged stove buckled one leg, spilling boiling coffee down my butt and leg. When the wind blew through the car window while dad drove us to the Emergency Room, all I can remember saying is, “Shut the window, my bottom feels on fire.”

Growing up in a strict born again religious family, I attended church services weekly, hearing of the fire and brimstone I would endure in hell if I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior. My heart smothered its child like loving embers due to the fear that sadly, my second daughter, Megan, also endured at a christian camp; her outstanding memory being of the terror she felt seeing a movie where the flames of hell burnt into her memory. Like a painful tattoo. Luckily, me and my daughters have left this dogma and our fire of love is burning more brightly.

Being a brownie (yum) and girl scout, I was privileged to attend camp for a week during the summer where we learned to build a fire with pine needles and dry twigs gathered near the shore of Cayuga Lake. At night, a big campfire warmed us while singing songs like Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, and roasting marshmallows squeezed between graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate bars.

What a contrast to the FIREBALLS, so hard and hot I felt I had to spit them out, their red outsides painting my fingers until placed back in my mouth, waiting for the sweet insides to soothe my tongue…what a metaphor for life! as are the fireflies I chased so that I could place them on my ring finger, hoping someday it’d be a diamond from prince charming. Each summer I still ask fireflies to land on me, while aware of feeling the warmth of my spontaneous smile.

As a freshman in high school I auditioned for the concert choir and was inducted earlier than most. A year later, I was ‘fired’, the conductor saying my voice was too immature, nor strong enough. As a junior I was welcomed back as a gratified alto.

All these memories fade into the background when I feel the fire of self-loving orgasms in my sixties, reminding me of two microscopic cells uniting – a match – creating my two beautiful daughters – a love brighter than any bomb fires.

 

DANGER…to say sex?

 

Daniel is just one of my clients that tells me something like: “I slept with Maureen last night, so unexpected;”  I break in to say, “You mean you had sex with her?” It is not the first time I have corrected him, or many other clients. And, yes, sometimes my friends; I just happen to hear about sexual encounters more often in my psychotherapy practice.

Often, I hear on TV, ‘I slept with so and so.’ Or read books by modern authors, such as Eve Ensler, (author of The Vagina Monologues), who wrote in her recent memoir, In The Body of the World: “I could not say that the men I ended up living with or sleeping with were more important loves.”  Why is it so dangerous to say the word SEX in a culture ready with sexual jokes, sexy clothes, nude scenes and sex education?

I have actually slept with men without having sex, and I don’t mean my husbands or boyfriends…I mean men friends or acquaintances I chose not to have sex with yet we slept in the same bed. Safely. Even with a man I had just met at a running race.

Being brought up in a very strict religious home where sex was not talked about, made it difficult at first to feel relaxed talking about sex with my clients which is a must. That is if you wish to treat the whole person. Why –  I won’t let my clients get away with using the euphemism of ‘I slept with.’   And why, I took the risk to say something very dangerous, for me that is, in my sister’s Sunday School class. She is a born again christian which is a belief I have left behind, gathering up a spiritual practice that connects me to everyone with love.

When I visit my sister in Florida once a year, she wishes me to go to church with her, and so I do despite my dislike of the preaching that there is only one way to god.  I want to please her. This year is my third visit to her Sunday School class, so there is some familiarity that counters a bit of my fear to speak up.

I carefully shape my words: “I was a ‘born again christian’ for many years. I need to share my experience of how the church has hurt me, not meaning to offend you. The teaching of a child that he/she is going to hell if they do not believe in jesus as their savior is not loving because it is out of fear that I chose to believe. And, as I John 4:18 states, ‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.’ Also, the guilt I have carried for not caring for others enough is not my kind of love that I now feel for others, where I give out of genuine caring, not out of guilt. Thanks for listening.”

I was surprised to hear one young woman affirm that the church has done such hurt, yet she still believes that Jesus is ‘the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by me.’

Surprised again, when after the class broke up, a man dressed in a purple shirt came to me saying: “Thank you for what you shared.” I wish I could remember why he thought that. I must have been in shock.

 

right or wrong…what do the kids say?

 

“How do you know what is right and wrong?” I ask my two granddaughters, Riley 11 and Emily 9.

“People have different opinions. Also, nobody thinks the same thing,” says Emily in her confident tone.

“When you’re doing something wrong, you feel guilty but when doing something right you feel good,” older sister Riley adds.

“Nothing is right and nothing is wrong…you arn’t perfect all the time,” says Emily with a knowing smile about herself.

“Sometimes you don’t relize your doing something wrong or right until after,” replies Riley. These are the exact words (and spelling) they wrote in my journal so I could write (right?) this essay and not be wrong about what they said.

“There are times I have felt guilty when I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” I say, responding to Riley’s opinion. “When I was young I felt guilty for dancing behind my mother’s back, as she forbade her children to participate in such worldly activities, even movies and card playing with a poker deck.”

Riley’s wise brown eyes and Emily’s gray-blue eyes looked into my light blue eyes with silent understanding.

Is it wrong to say more?

Their wisdom feels so sweet. You can stop reading now if you think it is right for you.

 

My heart wants to share my visit to be with my ex-husband Gregory yesterday, who has struggled with alcoholism and smoking for many years, and why I had to leave him in 1998. I consider him my soul mate, maybe because during our rocky time together I met my own soul  by grieving my childhood pain that our intimate partners trigger in all of us…yet my three previous marriages had not so clearly or deeply. Being a psychotherapist, I was able to connect to a place in my heart that I had shut away and was not aware that had existed.

Gregory had quadruple bypass surgery 7 weeks ago and is 97 days sober, so he was present with me in ways he could never be while drinking. With his elderly parents present for the two-hour visit, I shared photos of my family as well as the national park post card scrapbook I had made with Riley and Emily a few days before. Each had made their own scrapbook from the many post cards I had collected from two cross-country trips with my two daughters, hiking and camping in nearly 40 national parks, including one trip traveling cross-country with Gregory. He especially appreciated the scrapbook, being the sensitive man I loved and married. Some family members had warned me not to marry him and some disliked him.

When we parted yesterday, we held each other tightly, me crying as I said, “I love you

Gregory and always will; I am so sorry we could not make it together.” He saying, “I love

you because of the tears you gave me.” That can only be right!