WHAT REALLY MATTERS…we all know yes?

One August evening 2017, I was sad to hear a nine year old girl yell out “Don’t cry” twice to another girl who had just sung on Americas Got Talent, and was receiving a standing ovation.

The judges were accepting of tears; yet I still hear all too often, “stop crying,” or “don’t cry,” or “sorry,” for being ashamed of crying.

For way too many years I hid my tears, until I became a Marriage and Family Therapist and later became brokenhearted by  my fourth husband’s distrust of me – accusing me of having affairs and lying about it. I cried. I sobbed. I yelled and stomped my feet like a toddler. Eventually, I became connected to my grief of my mother’s distrust in me to have my own opinions, beliefs and feelings. I became a human thunderstorm, (en)lightning cracking my heart open enough to trust myself, especially my feelings, the best F word going.

Usually, I cry several times a week, (it’s our bodies natural way to let go of physical and emotional pain) and was recently triggered by re-reading my 12 year old granddaughter’s hand-created birthday card for my 70th, where she lists 10 wonderful qualities and ends with the “best thing you are is my grandma.”

Why all these tears?

Another day this same month of August  2017, I signed up to rent a kayak for an hour or two. Will, a 22 year old, very handsome man took my money as I signed the release form saying Puddledockers was not responsible for my safety. Next to my signature was a line for my age. As I write 70, I say, “I have to say it out loud in order to begin to believe…while being greatfull for my excellent health without medications.”

Will inquires as to what is my secret. Crying is my smiling answer. Will responds, “That makes sense because it decreases your  stress.”

“Stress is really fear of something: not enough money, won’t pass a test, or ultimately I won’t be liked, or loved as I need.”

Will asks: “What’s the best moment of your life?”

“You ask great questions!” I take a breath before I answer with my first thought: “the birth of my first child.” I am surprised how interested he is in my life.

When I return from an hour of strenuous kayaking out to the lighthouse and back on Cayuga Lake, Will continues our conversation, “I can’t remember the last time I cried – how can it happen?” I suggest he go to a sad movie, or play a sad song and to be aware (pay good attention) not to suppress your sadness. Then, we laugh together.

Later, in this same August, I am watching a 20/20 documentary of the trial of 18 year old Michele Carter, convicted  of killing her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, with her words. I am still astounded how readily humans wish to blame instead of understand. Michele had tried to encourage Conrad to get help for 2 years. Then, she gave up, and went along with Conrad’s continued wish to commit suicide. Conrad’s mother had taken Conrad to a psychiatric unit prior to Michele’s involvement, mostly by text, as Conrad and Michele had only seen one another three times in their over two year relationship. During the documentary, no one asks why Conrad or Michele didn’t go to their parents for help. Or why Conrad felt so poorly about himself. (Both were from middle class families and attractive. Michele was known to have an eating disorder.)

What really matters is that we pay good attention to children’s feelings; become aware of the essential need to teach healthy loving relationship skills in our high schools, which I have been advocating for over 25 years, and is still not offered as an elective.

What makes a person feel successful; what brings happiness into our lives? I asked Ithaca high school students this past spring. “Education, money, communication” are what I hear first, until I push for the deeper happiness… LOVE they say.

Always, I cry for more love.

 

“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They are more eloquent than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

DATING ME?

 

I have dated enough to be married four times…yet I dislike ‘dating’ myself. To tell you how old I am.

Yet, I often ask others to guess my age; I need to say my age out loud in order to convince ‘me’ that I have been alive for seven decades. Really?

Since 1970, I am engaged in a love affair with the National Parks, when my first husband and I drove our second hand VW bug cross country for six weeks while being pregnant with our first daughter. I wonder if she, Erin, could see (tears) the cascading waterfalls of Yosemite, or the towering Sequoias, or the black bear running through our campground.

For a month of the summer of 1986, I drove Erin and Megan, then 15 and 12, cross country in my boyfriend’s Dodge van sporting rusted-rimmed doors and 150,00 miles; trusting it to endure our camping-hiking National Park adventure. Surprisingly, without provocation, tears trailed down my cheeks when seeing a 360 degree scenic view appear after hiking 6 miles of switchbacks on Mount Rainier, many-colored wildflowers lining our trail.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that I realize why I spilled those tears – when I connected that I hadn’t seen the beauty within me. Until then, I hadn’t felt the deep hurt uprooted by my fourth husband’s distrust in me, (saying I’m lying about having affairs when I wasn’t even interested in such), while revisiting several National Parks with him.

This summer, 2017, I am in the Grand Teton National Park for the fifth time, hiking new trails, alone, and for the first time hearing unforgettable music at the Grand Teton Music Festival: cello and piano playing Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor, and my heart strings.

But it is in Capitol Reef National Park where I feel the spirit of my dear daddy in a most miraculous way, tears washing my face like Hidden Falls, sobbing for maybe 20 minutes, remembering we were married on those reefs in a past lifetime, as Native Americans.

In The Middle of LOVE

 

I relate to: “I didn’t talk to anyone,” written in the middle of the story, “Skinning the Rabbit,” (SUN July 2017); after my mother yelled, “He’s not your father!” during one of our fights where I defend my dad. I am sixteen.

Several paragraphs later, I read, “I didn’t call out or cry. I didn’t mind the pain. Not that much…and I was free.” I pen in “NO” in the magazine’s margin. I was not free!

Normally, I would go on reading, but I paused. While pondering, tears sprinkle my cheeks as I connect to daddy and I never talking about, or resolving the pain of that day when the 16 year secret was hurled at me with anger. Regrettably, I stopped being affectionate with hugs although Dad has always been the love of my life.

As an adult, in graduate school to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, I asked my mother why she and dad hadn’t talked to me, (my sister told me she heard mom tell dad not to). Like the author wrote of her mother saying: “He’ll get over it,” (the bawling); I heard my mother say, “Leave her alone, she’ll get over it.” I couldn’t read further as tears flooded my eyes.

 

I’m reminded of the satisfaction I felt (and still do), last autumn while tearing wild grape vines off the lilac bushes and honeysuckle that were being strangled to death. In August 2016 I moved to an 1840s home divided into four apartments where the wild grape vines also covered the open area next to the lilacs. Underneath I discover a large bed of rich green ground cover, myrtle, its periwinkle flowers appearing, in the middle of which is a group of cut off tiger lilies.

I was filled with delight as this spring revealed tall orange Tiger lilies circling many dots of blue because I had tore way the life of the wild grape vines…and the sentence, “You need to stop being so sensitive.”

On a 2017 June day, while watering my newly planted pink and white petunias, yellow and purple pansies and violas, white daises and red dianthus (sweet will-I-am), and bright yellow, orange and pink zinnias, I notice a garden snake coiled in the sun. When I moved my sprinkling can, it slithered away as I say, ” I’m sorry, it’s okay, I won’t hurt you,” and within seconds she was back coiled in the sun’s sensitivity of my heart.

WINTER…loving all seasons of my life

 

Sliding down our backyard hill was ‘cool’ for my sister, brother and I, as was skating on Beebe Lake, property of Cornell University, the latter no longer allowed.

Again, fun was to be had with my two daughters when Cayuga Lake would freeze at its shallow end. I even enjoyed running a 5K with my then husband one new years eve as snowflakes latched onto my eyelashes.

Still, as an adult, I complained for some years about the barrenness of trees without leaves. After a few years of grieving (my fourth marriage and my mother not loving me), I learned to admire and yes love the symmetries (trees) shaped by bare branches, as I gradually accepted my tears without shame. To flow like the rain.

After owning two homes, I chose to rent a renovated chicken coop, next to the farmhouse where the landlord lived. I loved opening my eyes each morning to an expansive valley view, without having to lift my head from my pillow. I lived across the road from Robert Treman State Park, where I ran past many waterfalls either frozen or flowing past spring Trillium. I cross-country skied up and down the farm fields, sometimes wondering if my water pipes would ever stop freezing. My bane of winter.

Over the fourteen years I lived on Gray Road; (how apropos) I badgered my usually helpful landlord, to insulate, even calling for a free energy audit provided by the local utility company.

By year twelve, he had insulated a bit – yet, in year thirteen, I was up until 4am trying to unfreeze pipes with a friend’s hair dryer, while my landlord vacationed in Florida.

When the rent was raised again in 2014, I rebelled. I would not pay more when the water froze once again. When an eviction notice was handed to me, I was surprised and resisted at first. Within 24 hours I’d realized it was time to leave. March first, amidst snowflakes, my family helped me move my “lightened” load.

After two more apartment moves within the next two years, I am now living in my dreamed-of-apartment, situated in an 1840′s built home, where I view a pond within an expansive valley, wide open to my love of light and the four seasons. No curtains over my large windows. It wasn’t until I moved in, that one day I asked myself why I had always wished for a pond on my property…I remembered where I played as a child in the back fields of our childhood home: the pond where I gathered tadpoles and thumb-sized blackcaps for pies my mother would make- my favorite! Peaceful Park, my sister and I named it: where daddy crafted a waterwheel spun by the pond’s stream. Where I felt freest to be me.

Throughout the four seasons.

Even now being in the winter years of my life, I can not imagine being a snowbird.*

 

give me one more year

of winter’s quiet embrace

summer’s smiling face

spring’s generous lace

fall’s colorful grace…………………………………………………….poem by Gayle Gray and me

 

*Snowbird: Live up north in the spring and summer, live in the south in fall and winter.

 

 

 

BAD HABITS?…good habit is my daddy’s love…he’d be 100 today!

“Life is a bowl of Perrys,” I often sing to others: melting a bowl of Death By Chocolate ice cream in my mouth most evenings. My favorite bowl is painted blue and green; the curved word LOVE dressing its side. A gift from my stepdaughter, Sara, who chooses to estrange herself. (But that’s another story)

It could be 15 years now that walnuts and almonds are chopped on top, trying to assuage my guilty pleasure.

Recently, I have been betraying the Perry’s brand: eyeing Turkey Hills “all natural” chocolate chocolate chip along side mint chocolate chip. Chopped walnuts and almonds mixed in until soft (my mother told me not to stir hard ice cream until it is soft – a bad habit?) healthier ice cream… on Turkey Hill Road in Ithaca.  (Yes, this is a real road here!)

Despite me being a ‘health nut’, my youngest daughter, Megan chides me for drinking diet Dr. Pepper, believing the Aspartame is a chaser of cancer. “It’s my only vice – give me a break,” I sassily retort. Besides it says “doctor” on the label. I imbibe a small soda 3-4 times a week at Pizza Aroma where I dine for lunch. Surprisingly, they serve gourmet slices such as salad pizza, or black beans with avocado and basil, all fresh veggies.

I use to be a protestant nun or so it seems – my habit of going to church three times a week required by my parents….my mother being the strict born again christian who shocked me one day, saying: “If I had a rifle, I’d shoot Kevin!” Kevin impregnated his girlfriend, my oldest daughter, while out of wedlock, which is the bad (Bad as in Michael Jackson’s Thriller?) habit? But then, I was gifted a delightful granddaughter, Denali,  who I am very close to, like I am my dad.

Maybe my four marriages is a bad habit?

Or maybe those who judge? before hearing that my first husband came out as gay after fathering our two special daughters; my second dying of cancer; my third not wishing to be emotionally close; and my fourth breaking my heart wide open…leading me to be able to cry in public without feeling embarrassed. I don’t say “I’m sorry”, like is the habit of most I see on TV whenever tears appear during an interview, or on The Voice or Dancing with the Stars, 20/20, 60 Minutes. Where LOVE in-habits.

BEing a MISCHIEF maker can be LOVing

My sister and I still recall how mad we were when our mother allowed our younger brother into our bedroom where he nail polished paper onto our mirror and ruined our lipstick. Of course he didn’t know better; his mischief hurt us, and yes, our belongings.

My sister still brings up how I’d chase her around her twin bed, my fingers positioned over her head like claws, scaring her into screams. “That was mean!” she exclaims. Yes, but does anyone ask why?

For many years, I have called family members (and still do), usually my daughter Megan, on April Fools day, and claim I broke my arm, or some other believable fib. (She’s onto me now.) Once, on arriving at an IPA board meeting, I enthusiastically blurt out, “I’m engaged!” and everyone claps until I say you know what! I’ve straight-faced my landlord saying, “I can’t pay the rent for another week:)

Now, I am remembering how I told my elementary school teacher to look out the window to see a cardinal. She looks. I laugh! I relish the surprise, like chopped onions on a NY City curbed-hotdog! Why do I delight in this? it’s not my natural bent to be humorous – but I try; I think it goes deeper. Maybe it’s one way I have control over something.

 I had so little, actually none with my mother. She even picked out my clothes in junior high school. I disliked a gray straight skirt I had to wear, along with an undershirt until I was 15, when I hid my shopping trip to Rothschild’s to buy a bra. My mother being a very religious woman, she made sure we didn’t go to movies, the theater, or swim on Sundays. (of course smoking and drinking were forbidden – a plus). She’d use the bible to believe that blacks were inferior. I challenged. I fought.

After becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist, I continued to ask why like a two-year-old. Why never grows old!

It is one of my many idiosyncrasies:

I make sure each piece of silverware gets used, although I live alone.

Each evening, I lift a tablespoon from the bottom of the pile, with which to eat my ice cream.

In the morning, I reach to the back row of mugs for one to fill with orange juice; so each one doesn’t feel excluded. You get it, yes? They each get good attention.

When the carton of orange juice is empty; I crush it down to be recycled, then fold it and allow the last drops to fall into my mug, amazed that there is a remaining stream to be saved. Juicy – like I still am at 70, when I self-love, touching myself, still not dried up.

I drive to the Laundromat every two weeks (how many pairs of underpants I have available) , where I peer into the three large garbage cans, spying on BOUNCE fabric softener sheets. I bounce back from my embarrassment as I retrieve and place them into the dryers. Reuse. I think I hear my daddy’s sweet voice: “Waste not, want not.”

Some people are surprised to learn that I am friends with my four ex-husbands and that I have not soured on marriage – who knows, I may marry again. On a March Sunday afternoon, 2017, I walk into The Range, a classy bar, to hear a live jazz band and to dance. I was hoping a friend who dances would be there. Bill had come with another woman-friend, but was glad to see me and dance with me. While we were talking at the break, we share our two basic healing modalities, he grabs my hand and holds it for a minute or more? I am stunned yet did not pull back…I go with the flow. Then, he says, “Maybe we could get married and heal each other.” WOW! My upturned lips are still aglow. I wish I was more attracted to this 13 years younger man…still I am deeply flattered as we laugh together.

 

Although I have lived alone since 2005, I have been lucky enough to have a few lovers. In 2016, I am surprised by a thirty-nine year old beauty of a man spontaneously kissing me under the stars; us lying in the grass as he sucks my excited nipples. That’s as far as we go that evening. The next morning at the IPA convention breakfast, I whisper in his ear, “I’m so juicy.”

After lunch, I am writing in my journal when I hear a knock on my shared bedroom door. Before I could swallow my surprise, he was undressing me and himself, primeing our nakedness, despite my flushes of embarrassment: crêpey folds of leg skin, wrinkles about my face, as I venture to accommodate his large penis. With some position-changing, we make it happen. Unity. Incredulous that my roommate did not walk in!

 

During 2016 I became aware of my food sharing idiosyncrasy: while in Shenandoah National Park I realize the idiocy of finishing my ice cream dessert although I love ice cream. I was stuffed like the proverbial thanksgiving turkey so I introduced myself to a young couple eating nearby. I learned they were on their honeymoon. Subsequently, they fed each other my loving-to-share-dessert.

Another male stranger at an Orchard Pass dance offered a bite of his mocha chip ice cream cone when I looked longingly. I did not hesitate to partake.

At Mount Mitchell, I asked a mom with two boys where they got their chocolate chip cookie (another favorite if with walnuts). She offered the last half of her son’s cookie as he did not want the rest. I munched away.

 

At the Americana Winery, I offered a slice of my pizza to another stranger-man.

At the Grassroots Festival, a woman I didn’t know was going to ditch the rest of her Indian spinach dish and offers it to me – YUM! No fear of germs when ‘love’ is shared.

Can you imagine wiping my arse; folding the toilet paper inward four or five times? “Waste not; want not.”

I find it funny that I have added to my collection of hair elastic bands by picking up lost ones found in parking lots, like I do pennies. Surprisingly, when hiking at a nature preserve in March 2017, I found a red one lying in the mowed down corn field path leading to my favorite local waterfalls. My smile is about as round as the elastic band. Surprised that all of the bands are still elasticized! If not in use, they hang out on the handle of my four-wheel-drive.

I have forgotten what year I began sleeping with my two Gund stuffed polar bears: one being the daddy and the other a child-cub. Maybe I bought the large one in the 1980s when I was not in a romantic relationship. When I read in bed, they hold my head, up.

 

 

HEART of the MATTER

My two teenage daughters and I are sitting in the Elmira High School Auditorium hearing their dad (my first husband who came out as gay when they were one and four) sing The Impossible Dream in the performance of Man Of La Mancha, when tears not only stream down my cheeks, but turn into sobbing that others could hear like a distant waterfall. I think to my self for the first time: it is the first year for me not to be ashamed of crying in public. And to hear, as I left the play, “You look stunning!” from a male stranger. I’m stunned because I must have had reddened eyes.

About seven years later, I am returning from a weekend at Omega Institute where many personal growth workshops are offered. It was the first year I was living with my fourth husband, Gregory, who had agreed not to smoke in the house, including the garage and decks.

When I saw an ashtray full of cigarette butts on the deck adjoining our bedroom, I lost my mind. My heart was so broken that I yelled at Gregory and then flew down the stairs to the garage where I found an ax which I took to the ashtray, smashing it to bits with rage that soon splintered into tears. Sobbing as I said: “You promised, and you know my daddy died of a heart attack because of these damn cigarettes; how could you?!” The first year I allowed myself to feel rage. Gregory held me until my tears subsided into love.

 

WHY is it that I cannot walk by babies being wheeled in grocery carts? I must stop. As if caught in traffic by their eyes, open like full moons, staring into mine.

They are strangers with a heart bow-tie that tethers us to one another. “Eyes are the windows to the souls,” echoes from long ago in a commonly heard refrain. Its origin may be a variant of a French proverb, ‘eyes are the mirror of the soul’ or more likely, “The eyes…are called the windows of the heart by which love enters into the score.” – Stefano Guazzo, 1584.  Our language of love, or lack thereof, then centers from the heart:

“Her condolences were heartfelt.”

“His story is heartwarming.”

“Your mother is coldhearted.”

“I am wholeheartedly in favor of hiring that construction crew.”

“Have a heart, would you!”

“My last husband really broke my heart.”

“My dad died suddenly of a heart attack. I’m heartbroken.”

“Richard Gere is my heartthrob.”

“I am writing a letter to my sweetheart.”

Watching an ABC documentary in January 2017 about the Menendez twins was heart-stopping for me. I couldn’t believe they are serving life in prison. Their first trial came back with a hung jury…a mistrial. When tried again some years later, the judge would not allow admission of their heartbreaking testimony: these boys were not only molested, but raped by their rich Hollywood father for years.

Yes, Eric and Lyle murdered their parents out of fear and hatred…their hearts being stopped prematurely. Their innocence being vanquished!

 

Growing up, I memorized hundreds of bible verses; my mother charmed my sister and I like a cobra with the reward of a free week of, yes, bible memory association camp where girls and boys were not allowed to swim together. This 1960s rote rehearsal of verses exemplifies the dying of my feeling heart…a separation like the remote from the TV housing only one channel. Eventually, I wrote. Wrote. Wrote.

I was angry, fighting frequently with my mother about whether the bible was true: how could the Africans or Asians who don’t know about christianity go to hell?

How could blacks be inferior?

Why couldn’t I trust my ten-year-old constant voice within saying: this religion is not true to my heart? That small quiet unrelenting voice kept pulling at my heart strings until 1984, when at 38 years old my heart jumped ahead of my mind. Then, I could follow my feelings; feel trusting of my heart and not what my mind had been indoctrinated to think – to believe.1984 was the first year of beginning to feel free to be Me.

In recent years, I have wondered at the words we choose to describe.

The brain-mind is used for thinking. The heart is used for feeling.

“You are out of your mind” – to think blacks are equal to whites. My mother’s echoing.

“I’ve lost my mind,” when I forget your birthday.

“Mind your manners – keep your elbows off the table.”

“You better mind me, if you know what’s good for you!”

He was the mastermind of the ponzi scheme.

One of my favorite movies is A Beautiful Mind; where a math genius is a schizophrenic mind, freed into sanity by the tender love of his wife’s heart.

So, why LOVE is portrayed by the heart? Red blood pumped with life giving oxygen into all our organs, eventually to the mind, so we can contemplate what LOVE is? Perhaps laugh heartily?

Bless her/his heart! is common staccato southerner’s speech; musical lyrics moving us to feel? unlike black and white piano keys unable to be played?

In our present society, 2017, we are still apologizing for crying:’ SORRY’ is what  I hear often on TV, or radio when tears appear. How sad that it took me, a psychotherapist in my forties, to be able to heartily accept – my true heart’s desire to cry – then laugh heartily!

Finally, to the point where my anger dissolved in childhood-connected tears.

Eventually, I became aware of the words of our language creating messages – like the word EVOLution. First I saw the first four letters of EVOLution spelling LOVE backwards; maybe two to three years later (around 2000), a sentence was seen in the reflection of the mirror: NO-IT-U-LOVE! Out loud that is. My heart leapt for joy, as did my arms and legs, with that discovery. No more heartache.

Very soon thereafter, like reading the next chapter of a book – I became caught up in the many words within my HEARTS desire to know a deeper and deeper awAREness of what true love can be. First came: HE, SHE

then EAR, HEAR

next TEARS, saying HERT

so I could STARE into who we really ARE.

Becoming a STAR shining up our EARTH

to be able to SHARE Love. Love being the greatest piece of ART ever created by EVOLution.  Isn’t home where the heart is?

 

I GET it …or do I? so dumb about Love?

I snap a photo of the sign WORDS MATTER in front of a home in downtown Ithaca, standing proudly in a blackish lower class yard.

I remember not allowing my two daughters to use the words “kill” or “shut up” in our house – who wants ” I could kill you” ringing in your ears? Or to be told to “shut up”? I wasn’t wise enough in the 1970s-80′s to suggest saying: “I’m so angry at you!” I did ask to hear “Be quiet,” unaware to be able to say “I don’t like feeling your anger.” Or, “I feel unheard.”

It’s now 2016 and I am riding in the back seat of my son-in-laws fancy truck, my 14 year old granddaughter, Riley sits next to me, and her 12 year old sister, Emily is sitting on the other side of Riley. Ben is driving and my daughter Megan is in the passenger seat. We are on our way to Ben’s family annual christmas party.

Both girls have recently received their semester grades – all in the 90s, except one 84 in geometry for Riley, who says, “I don’t care about geometry – I’ll never use it in my life. We should take classes that help us with life. Physics doesn’t matter to me either. Those subjects don’t interest me!”

Ben counters, “But maybe someday they will.”

Riley emphatically responds: “No, if they do, I can take them later.”

Megan pipes in: “Really, I don’t use much of what I learned in high school either.”

“You’ll be able to have an intelligent conversation,” Ben adds.

Finally, I must put my two cents in (is that all its worth?): “Yes, if we are taught healthy relationship skills, like how to identify what you feel, and then not spew anger at one another…

Riley interrupts, “Didi gets it!” as her hand shoots toward me, her grandmother. Megan keeps repeating to Ben, “You’re not listening to me,” as I observe them interrupting and talking over one another.

I feel proud of Riley, who chews her finger nails. She’s an elite soccer player, who is beginning to know best; maybe father no longer knows best?

I think to myself: ‘gets it.’ What does that mean? Then remember how often I hear my oldest daughter, Erin say: “You know what I mean?” So often that I think of it now. It’s common to hear many say that frequently as well.

Over and over people want, and need to be understood. Yet, don’t say it. Why is that? Do you get it? Why not say: Do you understand?

Another thought flutters by: That sucks, that we feel misunderstood.

My psychotherapy clients say they get upset when they fight with their loved ones. Some cry; most get triggered into anger.

They call each other asshole or fuckin’ asshole, or bitch, or worse. Motherfucker. Writing that word makes me squirm like a fly caught in a spider’s web.

Swearing was not allowed in my rigid christian upbringing; I could not even say dam, so we said darn! or shoot instead of you know what:)

One day, I was outside using a chainsaw to cut up some driftwood when the saw slipped and I explecate, “Oh shit!” My elementary school age daughters were within earshot: “Mom! you swore!” I responded with a laughing-smile, “There’s a first time for everything!”

By then, I was heartily on my way out of the religious box, three sides crushed, one side still remaining. Could I lose my only known community of friends? I was a hypocrite by then – dancing and experiencing pre-marital sex – after being divorced twice.

In 1984, Erin is 12 and Megan is 9…a cinematic scene is still brightly lit in my memory: Erin is lying on her top bunk as I tell her, “I no longer believe in christianity.” Immediately, her tears cry out, “But mom you’ll go to hell.”

(Hell no! I say to myself just now.)

I try to reassure Erin: that ‘being born again’ is not the love I feel is real. Even the bible reads in I John 4:18: “Perfect love casts out fear.” That means the fear of hell too! Get it?

Interestingly, while making love it is natural for many to say, “I love you baby.” Why do we say ‘Baby’? I have lost count as to how often I hear that tender endearing affectionate word. Baby. Addressed to the adult-one we love. Where there is no fear.

Maybe you’d rather hear, ‘fuck me baby?’ That swear word, fuck, rankles my heart into a firestorm of disgust, and contempt as the dictionary defines it: “to engage in coitus or copulation, usually considered obscene or vulgar, to express disgust, contempt and feelings of anger.” I have argued and or discussed this idea with Buddhist-identified friends who say that fucking is all in fun – our animal nature. I say: animals do it from the rear.

There is no eye contact.

No meeting of our true souls.

The polar opposite of fucking is making love.  Like how I feel when babies stare into my eyes without fear.

WORDS stick even when we don’t want them to.

 

Like our twentieth century separation of white and black peoples in restaurants, rest rooms or even public schools. Called niggers. Or gender separations, to be called fagots. So humankind cannot openly love whomever one chooses to love?

I do see Americans moving toward the lovelier shades of gray: people of color. Less black and white thinking. EVOLutionarily, I choose to make love with my sexual body – yet it hasn’t always been this way. Like not crying readily until I am in my forties. I didn’t have the guts!

Still, we are assaulted by intense stage lighting:  objectified like skinny runway models.

I want to feel the pure love of ‘oh god’ at orgasm with my lover in my arms, eyes to Is. Get it?

Is primal swearing of shit, sucks, or I’m pissed off, metaphorically trying to get close to our Feelings? The best “F” word going I tell others, who then spontaneously laugh. Recently, I read in a 2012 novel, “back when everything was simple and defined, back when I was blissfully unaware that he was sleeping with other girls.” Of course we know sleeping means sex in this sentence. In this twenty-first century I don’t get why the majority still can’t say or write the word sex instead of sleeping. No italics needed eh?

It’s very common to hear, “that’s weird” when we actually are feeling scared to do something different from the ‘norm,’ like: I can’t send you that guys email address…that’s weird. Or ”I’m stressed” that I won’t meet the deadline. Yes, you’re scared you won’t meet the deadline. I get it. You are ‘Freakin’ out.’ Or it sucks if we fail at some test when we are actually disappointed or sad.

I have made running a major career of my life. I began running in the 70s with the purpose of staying physically fit, to keep my girlish figure after bearing two babies. To stay motivated I’d increase my distances, not so much my pace. I would wear RUNNING FOR THE AVERAGE RUNNER T-shirt  for years; even when I advanced to the monumental 26.2 miles marathon.

I was ‘sane’ enough to only train 35-40 miles per week and looked forward to one day off each week. Still, I forged out the goal to run the most consecutive monthly marathons by a woman. Did I get it? that I needed to feel special? I did run 36 marathons in 36 months during the years 1983-1985;  then the USA woman’s record. All of those marathons brought me to the notorious “WALL” at mile 20. My body said: You must walk. I did. Sometimes I jogged. My mind said: “You’re crazy Diane. Why are you doing this?” Many times the answer came: “for the recognition.” Crossing the finish lines, my arms stretched to the sky, people clapping gave me that ecstatic feeling, like rising toward orgasm, but never climaxing.

It wasn’t until my fourth marriage that I was triggered into huge anger and tears. I knew then, we must drive to the Primal Center in Venice, California. During the year 1996-97, I yelled, screamed, and mostly sobbed as intense feelings became connected to my childhood-emotional pain. After I returned home, for a few years I cried  often at orgasm as I learned to get with the program of my bodies natural way to heal emotional hurts: for cryin’ out loud!

It’s been a scary run to become the CRYBABE (my license plate for maybe 20 years), where even family members felt helpless to see me cry as often as the universe rains. (Presently, most are accepting if not comfortable with my tears for fears:). I’ve felt alone like the only oak tree on a street of pine. (because my heart wishes not to pine?:) Yet, I am learning to own (I accidentally typed won at first) The Greatest Love of All, as George Benson sings.

In October 2016, I received a surprise phone call the week before the SUN writing workshop weekend in Big Sur, California. I had been on a waiting list of 40 people. I jumped on a plane in NewYork, flying to California where on the last day I heard the editor-publisher, Sy Syfransky read his writing: “PAUSE – take a LOOK,” prompting a few tears to crawl down my face. Afterwards, I expressed my appreciation to him, to which he replied: “Thanks for advocating for tears; we all need to do more crying.”

At that moment, my tears turned into an EVOLving waterfall.

 

Addendum:

Crying is the only bodily function that we repress and suppress. Therefore ending up with anxiety and depression. We all know that if we don’t allow our bodies to pee, (piss) poop (shit) or sweat,…we die physically. So putting two and two together, not allowing our tears, we die emotionally and become very angry.

It’s pretty obvious, no shit, that we need to have a GOOD cry, so we can feel better.

“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable…Love. ” – Washington Irving

 

NO PHOTOS….NO PICTURES…that night

 

I’m in bed. Eyes fluttering to wakefulness. My head turns to the wall of photographs stealing my attention. I feel pleased with their spontaneous arrangement; their frames containing only duos looking down on me. My youngest daughter’s right arm lays warmly around my shoulders, her left arm around my clavicle like a necklace…a smile overwhelms my soul like breakers splashing on the ocean floor.

My thoughts picture my wedding photo sitting across the room on the antique chestnut dresser. I’m not looking at it. Still, a tear slithers down my right cheek, then another straddles my left cheek. I see my dad leaning toward me. I quickly kiss his cheek; his large knuckled hand is gently settled on my white satin sleeve. Daylight fills the awkward space between our bodies.

Why do tears return again and again since dad left me in 1977 by way of heart attack? Since the early nineties I’ve cultivated tears like ‘pearls of god’ like poet Rumi speaks of.

There were no photos of my daddy holding me as a child; although there are photos of him holding my one-year-younger baby sister standing in the palm of his hand on his outstretched arm. And a professional photo of my younger brother sitting on my daddy’s lap, his small hand enveloped by dads.

Just weeks before my mother died in 2002, while emptying her apartment,  I did find a photo of daddy holding an infant; my mother says it is me. Yet, why do I doubt it even now? We are outdoors – where? He’s in a suit – why? I could have asked when mom was alive – why didn’t I? I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist for god’s sake – not for my sake?

Before climbing out of my iron wrought painted white double bed where I sleep alone, my unconscious soul tells me to get up and search for the wedding photo of dad walking me down the aisle of the Tabernacle Baptist church. I need to see my arm entwined around his. Now, I’m sobbing like a baby. Really, is this possible?

I do love babies: I can’t help but stop as I walk by, seeing them staring up from Wegman’s shopping carts. Mother’s voice along with others still echo in the distance: “don’t stare, it’s not polite.” I say, Stare on baby! (Pause – take a look!) See through me like a magnifying glass burning a (w)hole in a dried-up leaf.

I have saved photographs in albums since my two daughters were born 4 decades ago – most of them line up on shelves in my apartment’s living room or bedroom, so I was surprised not to find the two wedding albums of my first marriage there. I’ve been married four times. Shocking?

The flame of my flash light leads me up the stairs of the garage where boxes of ‘unnecessary’ things for my apartment rest. I move boxes of self-published books  to the side so I can access boxes of past journals. All of a sudden I feel liquid on my finger, and then see red. Two days previous I had sliced it when prunning a plant I needed to move indoors before fall’s freezing.

God darn it! No, damn it! Am I not supposed to find that photo – why the delay? Am I reopening the wound of missing my dear daddy?

Not until I’ve applied a small band aid do I think: maybe feeling my blood being spilled in search of his touch, as tears flow, is enough? Like blood brothers? sisters? father-daughters?

Returning to the upstairs garage, band aid applied; I move Grammy’s 3′x3′ framed portrait, christmas decorations, ‘dad’s stuff,’ back packs, those wedding albums still ducking out of sight. I’m losing hope. My heart says, press on. Precariously,  my foot on the edge where I could tumble down the stairway, I take in a breath of exhilaration, as small albums of purple and blue flash before me. Opening the box flap reveals the two white book-like albums of my first marriage to Chuck, who left me with two daughters to raise after he came out as gay, after being married to me for six years.

I gather more appreciation for my dad’s presence when Chuck and I return to Ithaca, NY in 1974, so he could attend graduate school for music performance. Chuck sang “Ich Liebe Dich” to me during our wedding ceremony; one of the few times I permitted myself to cry – it’s acceptable at weddings, right?

Back then, I didn’t connect the significance of Chuck choosing a German song with my dad being born and raised in Germany until he was seventeen. Dad sailing to the USA, obtaining US citizenship, choosing to fight against his own country in WWII. It is still hard for me to comprehend such a huge gulf of courage.

Now, my tears take me back to being sixteen, when my mother yells, “He’s not your father!” during one of our frequent fights where I am defending my dad. My memory goes black. I’m in a tidal wave of aloneness. My shock locks away my pain in a safe, until I’m in primal therapy, where I retrieve images  of me running down the stairs; outdoors, swinging on the sturdy steel swing set my daddy constructed for his three children. (Thanks John Lennon for writing the song, Primal Therapy.)

While in graduate school studying to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, I ask more questions of my mother: “Why didn’t someone come and talk to me – comfort me?”

Mom responds, “we left you alone; thinking you’d get over it.” This is where my dad’s courage failed. He went along with my RN mother’s direction too much until they divorced when I was in nursing school, and dad wrote letters to me every week. Letters and cards flaunting feelings like: “That I am very proud of you.”

At some point a letter asks why I wasn’t affectionate or demonstrative anymore with him…did I have any insight as to why? I can’t remember what my response to dad’s letter was. Being a curious daughter with my dad, and a rebellious daughter with my mom; I am quite certain I would have wondered during the required therapy group of my psychiatric rotation. I have a box full of dad’s hand written letters that I cherish like I do my two daughters. Disappointingly, I never found my letters to dad when he died – only a few very loving cards I sent him. It never feels enough.

Returning to my apartment with the box of daddy’s letters in my arms, and the Chuck-wedding albums (glad I never chucked them:), I sit on my living room floor, remove the 5×7 photo from its plastic sleeve, as tears wash my 70 year old face. I rub them into my crow’s feet and smile wrinkles; I tell others: tears are the best moisturizer I know of. Naturally. They laugh. So do I.

For the first time, I “pause – take a look,”  Sy Safransky’s (editor and publisher of The SUN magazine) words that he reads at the Big Sur writing weekend in October 2016. I love that my arm is entwined around dads as he walks me down the aisle. His serious face belies the love I feel from his sensitive special heart. My smile is wrapped in closed-eyes; so like how my heart was back in 1969.

On my way to see clients that same day, I stop at Kinkos, place on the scanner the 5×7 photo of daddy and me on that sad-happy wedding day, and presto it is enlarged to an 8×10. I stare at the photo, amazed that my soul has pulled me along like a toddler; then lifted me into daddy’s arms like how I remember him carrying me down Aurora street when I was five or so, after my butt was accidentally burned with scalding coffee at a work picnic.

The next day, I’m writing my tears down in Wegman’s cafe, swearing I will not be embarrassed or ashamed as I walk to retrieve napkins to wipe my snotty nose; tears have already soaked the hankie I store in my purse.

Another day that week, I’m pausing to look at the wedding photos of daddy: dad holding my 3 year old niece’s hand; talking with my brother and Chuck, the church congregation with us at the altar, daddy giving me away, dad and Chuck’s dad talking, the formal after wedding shot of us with our parents, the reception line with dad next to me for seven photos!, my kiss on his cheek, daddy walking me down the aisle, front and rear view:); where I touch my dad for more than a second or a minute; pleased  that he is next to me. Also, that he stands next to me in the reception line and not my mother. How fine. Through eons of time. In my heart.

As long as I remember you, you will be here.

 

Addendum:

{One more day later, I am placing the two 8×10 photos of daddy and me at my wedding in an old tattered leather album that can only hold two 8×10 photos facing one another, where the etched faces of Clark Gable and Vivian Lee look at me when I bought the album at an antique store. When I remove the photo of daddy and I that already lived for years in a single 8×10 frame on my chestnut dresser; I find to my surprise, a xerox copy of me as a toddler with my trike, attached to two smaller photos of me as an infant being held by my mother and daddy. I had forgotten. I had placed it there. Now no longer covered up. The love of my daddy. Exposed. Held}

 

ONE SIMPLE DAY IS SIMPLY BEAUTIFULL… can I be losing?

 

I’ve been alone; well, living alone since 2004-2005 when I lived with my boyfriend Steve, 22 years my junior. Since then I sustain myself with only one true friendship.

And what does that mean anymore? During four marriages and several lovers, I’ve cultivated 4 long term girlfriend relationships of 20 or more years endurance. Susanne, was first to reject me…a psychiatric RN who learned to share primal feelings with me from 1998-2006, usually weekly. By this time, I shared tears as easily as saying “good morning.” Sometimes, rageful tears erupted from Susanne that slowly dissipated some of her anxiety. We supported each other with the vulnerability only children feel free to expose. Sadly, in 2015, nine years after rejecting me, Susanne committed suicide, despite living just down the road from her supportive daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren that she adored.

Tanya, a nurse practitioner, also shared primal feelings of fear and loss with me; until her unhappy marriage trapped her with the tight grip of helplessness. She told me, “I feel more of my unhappiness when I’m in the presence of your happiness.” Freedom. She began avoiding my phone calls. Finally, I  had to show up unannounced in order to reassure her that I would never abandon her. Several times a year, I continue to leave voice mails saying, I love you. Silence is her only response.

Sue, a social worker in private practice abandoned me after sharing many hikes, dances, and vulnerable tears by first saying: I need time for myself. I understood. Yet, the week before her birthday in 2010 she wanted to dig up Forget-Me-Nots from my overabundance to plant in her yard, then never spoke to me for months by avoiding my infrequent phone calls of loving-kindness, so that I finally had to show up in her driveway to ask “why.”

“Do you have to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer?” she asks.

“No, just tell me why the months of silence; communicate with me,” as tears squiggled down my cheeks.

With tears welling in her eyes, “I don’t want to be friends anymore: you’re controlling, narcissistic and manipulative” …I was truly dumb-founded! Since she was on her way to an appointment she didn’t have time to give me examples. We left each other with loving well wishes.

A few days later, I wrote a loving kindness letter asking for examples to which Sue never replied. When I occasionally see Sue on the street I wave a friendly hello, to which she slowly responds in kind.

I do keep in yearly birthday contact by phone call with my childhood friend, Mary, who recently initiated a visit to my home in New York, she living in Michigan. We had not seen one another for three years, yet feel the ease of decades of sharing supported through yearly holiday letters.  Occasional emails remind us of our connection of growing up love, but we choose not to be close.

For the past 5-6 years I have developed a deep friendship with Gayle, a retired social worker who also has shared with me primal feelings rooted in childhood pain, and she was the one to foster our friendship after reading my first book, TEARS ARE TRUTH…waiting to be spoken. There is nothing we are too afraid to share with one another. She tells me, “You’re the only one I can tell everything,” although she has several close friends and a significant other for 8 years. We hike most weeks to waterfalls in the central New York region – echoing the natural flow of our waterfall-tears whenever they appear.

On Halloween 2016, while hiking, I’m telling Gaylee how much I enjoy pulling the wild grape vines off the lilac bushes, where some branches had been smothered to death, literally. Also, how I pulled more wild grape vines off an abandoned hidden garden of Myrtle and Tiger lilies; and even some that had glommed onto a tall maple tree.

I throw my arms up in the air, and as I shout “freedom!” tears smother my cheeks with love; Gaylee’s arms immediately surrounding my shoulders.

“Now I understand!! I give these plants and flowers their life back – like I am the child inside me whose feelings were smothered by an indoctrinated religion forced upon my growing up,” I shout with the boldness of a child’s uninhibited voice, as we continue our walk along the gorge where water flows freely. Amidst the trees. Scudding the leaves.

Later, that same Halloween day, my son-in-law, Kevin, comes to my home to retrieve his house keys. He’s not yet been inside my ‘new’ apartment of two months, which is a 1840s home divided into four apartments. When he reaches my bedroom in the back, his arms fly into the air, along with a yelp, “Oh my god!” his mouth in the shape of a big eclipse, his eyes wide as a full moon. “This is spectacular!”

The large window claims my dream view of a pond centered in an expansive valley of fields and tree-filled hills, fall orange and yellow colors still a delight.

After Kevin glances fervently over my flower pots and garden and an old Jade plant, which was sporting 20 or more new buds that will flower many many dainty white blossoms by Thanksgiving, Kevin says, smilingly, “Flowers dream about being reincarnated into your garden. They know how much they are appreciated and cared for – it brings them long life.”

“Truly a Lifegasm,” he adds wistfully.

I smile broadly as my heart holds my words, “a Lovegasm.”