Love and Trust

I awoke the other night at 3 am, a mere hour before my alarm signaled the start to yet another crazy day. As I lay still in my cozy bed, I was aware of the cool night air drifting over me through the window above the bed, making me want to cuddle deeper under my heavy comforter. I began to feel the presence of my animal family on the bed and all around me…

To the left of my legs was Bounder, curled up against my calves, head thrown over my lower legs to not only get close but to also make sure he knew when I moved. Kestrel lay sprawled along my entire left side, stretched out and slumbering silently, not being remotely shy about taking her fair share of space. Wedged between them somewhere, was Penguin, impossible to see as the bulk of Kestrel and Bounder’s black forms illuminated by the weak moonlight entering the window, hid his smaller, sleeker felid shape. His little chirp gave him away though as I shifted slightly, and woke him, giving away his camouflaged spot.

On my right, my older cats dominated space and stretched the length of me; Willow at my feet, Mango at my waist and Aspen near my shoulder. They were less visible in the moonlight but their weight and Mango’s soft snore gave their presence away. I knew Elf and Frog would be on the dog beds around the end and side of my bed as that is where they always choose to be. Spring was the only unknown as she shifts often throughout the night but as I moved a little more, seeking a more comfy spot for my back, I felt her by my left shoulder curled in a tiny fox-ball just off the edge of my pillow.

I continued to lie still as I struggled between sleep the restless feeling that comes from knowing my alarm was not far away from blaring my day to a rude and noisy beginning. As I lay there, I began to feel incredible warmth and love for my pets and also the love they have for me emanating from them back to me. Perhaps the toughest part of divorce and the preceeding affairs, infidelity, lies and deceit, was the blow it all gave to my confidence and psyche. I felt discarded, superfluous, undesirable, self-conscious, old, and, most especially, completely unloved. Despite the trust and commitment I willingly gave throughout my marriage, it was all just slapped aside in the end, leaving me feeling completely empty, bereft, alone and destroyed.

As I continued to lie awake in the darkness, I began to really appreciate the love my pets have for me and have shown me every day we’ve been alone. They all choose to be close, piling on to my bed to be with me at night and rushing to get the prime spot on my lap when I stop and sit in the evening. They greet me exubetantly when I arrive home from work each day and often trail along behind me as I putter about the house. They do so purely out of love for me and, I suspect, the knowledge that I bring food, comfort, love and safety. None of these pets ever chose to live with me, and yet they all turned towards my offered love and affection, and showered it back on me, loving me without judgment or censure and loving me just because I’m me. It’s that simple.

It’s a humbling realization and has made me so appreciative of their open, loving souls and the trust they have placed in me. They seek me out day and night to just be close, get some attention and sleep safely and deeply at my side. They love me despite my age, grey hair and my poor self-image. They love me despite my foibles and not caring that I wasn’t good enough for my Ex or that I was cast aside. They love me only for who I am and for what I do… No strings attached. They love me purely and unselfishly and it is a love built to last; they love me unconditionally. Is there really anything better than that?

Thanks my friends for having my back in my darkest hours. Thanks for your honesty, trust and love and for believing in me and bestowing upon me the full force, strength and power of your love. Thanks for empowering me and helping me believe that I am still worthy of being loved. But, most of all, Thank you for being my best friends and companions through thick and thin and helping me believe that love and trust still exist in some form.

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The Sky

The sky is truly a blank canvas….an empty space for the artist to unleash a palette of colors and eclectic expressions upon, It’s a muse for the writer and poet to fill the empty void with magical words, it’s a stage for a grand performance unequaled by any mortal play, and inspires even the meekest souls to dream and hope. It unites us and divides us, but covers us all in its arching star-studded cloak, inspiring awe at its infinite depths and the worlds that lie beyond its tangible presence. It’s fire and ice, fury and serenity, darkness and light, and has captivated us for eons…. and will for may to come. It’s home and safe in its familiarity, grounding us in contrast to its lofty perch and stunning in its ever-changing moods. The sky is full of dreams and wishes, confessions and vulnerabilities and binds us to this amazing earth with its benevolence and fury…. Its part of all of us and in that quiet moment looking up in to that huge empty space, it becomes endless in possibility.

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Racing

It was a long day at work, the kind that wears you out mentally and makes you yearn for some deep sleep. However, too little sleep recently and too much coffee today, made me feel edgy and itchy inside and I knew I needed an outlet to be able to rest well. Despite dark clouds building up against the Bitterroot mountain front, I loaded up my mountain bike, let the pups in to the car (minus Frog) , and headed for the forest for a bike ride.

We streamed out of the trailhead like a cyclone… dogs whirling, barking and chasing each other, chasing me, and finally lining straight out to run like streaking comets as fast as they could to keep up with me as I flew down the trail, dodging rocks and trees as we went. The air was still and close, making the forest feel intimate and lending an ominous feel as the clouds continued to darken and threaten above us, the stagnant air making it feel humid and warm.

It is spring in Montana and it is absolutely stunning and beautiful. Every inch of the forest is carpeted in a blanket of lush green and a brilliant array of wildflowers punctuate vibrant color randomly throughout the forest floor. Rich aromas of lupine and serviceberry floated on the humid air; nature’s perfume.

As we climbed, the clouds grumbled and stretched like a giant beginning to wake from slumber, and slowly we began to be hit by rain drops; plink, plink, plink, at first, and then picking up tempo to a lazy drumbeat. The still air began to stir as a breeze whirled down and stirred the perfume scented air.

As we climbed it became darker and darker, a false dusk, adding to the feeling of urgency the impending storm created. When we reached the apex of our ride, I was breathless and my legs were burning. We then turned down a narrow rocky trail to begin the long descent home. As I gained speed, so did the dogs, and we coursed through the narrow trail channel weaving around boulders, skipping over rocks, and jumping over small tree roots. We flowed together at high speed, taking the path of least resistance and letting gravity do the work for us. The rain began to intensify streaming down upon us and flowing with us down through the narrow channel, chasing us downhill. As we emerged on to a wider and flatter trail, our pace slowed and as the rain steadied in to a gentle shower. We spread out and flowed towards home, keeping a steady pace together.

The rain abated shortly after and we straggled home, happy, muddy and tired, and the evening air was crisp and freshly washed, soothing my tired body and making me yearn for a quiet and deep sleep to rest, recharge and face a new day for tonight we raced the storm….

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Aging…

I really love old dogs with their sweet white faces and wise eyes. They take on a serene, sage quality shaped by their life’s experiences. They feel entitled (and should), they do what they want (and should) and it always tugs at my heart to look into their soft, quiet eyes and see that they seem ready to accept whatever comes next.
It’s even more poignant when it’s your own dog aging and you can see endless memories in their eyes and see echoes of their young, virile selves in their aging stiff bodies.

I love old dogs, even more so when I realize what a gift it is for them to age in to old dogs. When you’ve had the tragedy of losing a young dog, you never take that old age for granted, and it becomes even more precious. You savor every moment, take extra time for a cuddle here and there, to kiss their sweet heads, and tell them what amazing dogs they’ve been. That’s all they want to know, is it they’ve been good and perfect and oh so loved. I never pass up an opportunity to let them know how much they matter and how deeply loved and appreciated they are.

Last night I was building my sequences for agility classes this week and looked over to see my aging agility star, Frog,

who had been standing guard, had succumbed to a lovely slumber, made all the more peaceful by being deaf to the sounds around him. The warm evening, long busy days before and lucious green grass lulled him in to a deep sleep. He made sure to place himself close to the equipment so if any agility happened he wouldn’t miss it, and slept deeply enough that I had to sit next to him and talk to him until he sensed my presence and lifted his beautiful head and looked at me sleepily, wondering why I was there. It’s time to go in, I said and so he pulled himself up and we walked slowly back to the house together side by side as we have so many times before….

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Montana

Sunlight hitting the Bitterroot mountain range as I drive to work on a frigid winter morning.

Somebody, once very close to me, told me they found hiking in Montana monotonous. I’ve always been completely taken aback by that statement, as of all the myriad of adjectives that I would use to describe Montana, monotonous would probably be almost at the very end of the list. I live in only a tiny corner of Montana’s vastness, tucked in the southwestern part of the state, the Bitterroot Valley, where the boundaries are ragged and worn, reflecting the spiny bone of the mountains they delineate, and as Norm McClain famously described, where the rivers flow North.

I honestly think I live in some of the most beautiful country America holds within its boundaries. Of course there are many other gorgeous places full of mountain ranges, verdant valleys and endless vistas in this country, but I think Montana is more beautiful to me because I know her deeper secrets. I know not just the big views and landscapes, but also her wildlife, her forests, her wildflower-filled mountain meadows, her glacial cirques that hide turquoise lakes nestled amongst arching mountain peaks, and fine carpets of moss clinging to ancient rock moist with spring runoff. I know her sounds and scents, how she looks in all seasons, and it’s a feast for my senses. Every secret I learn gives the landscape greater depth and texture to me, and enriches my every view, whether it’s from my car window as I travel down her broad valleys and look beyond man’s development footprint, or down close to my feet as I trudge miles up into the Bitterroot Mountain range.

Knowing, as I stare at the mountains, that they are the gateway to the largest contiguous Wilderness area in the lower 48, never ceases to give me a thrill. As I look at the mountain faces that have become as familiar as the back of my hand, seeing each canyon receding in to the distance towards craggy head walls and the vast unknown, wild open country beyond, invites imagination and exploration. I spend many days and hours examining every peak and crevasse as I drive past them on my way to and from work, wanting to be there within their huge towering cliffs and deep, dark forests exploring every inch.

Monotonous seems such an astounding choice of words to me, because no matter how familiar I become with the views of the Bitterroots to the west and the Sapphire Mountain range to the east, no day is ever the same; seasons, weather, clouds, sun, wind, and every other element paints the mountains in a different light. On my drives to work, on my outings into the hills with the dogs, on my weekend hikes farther back into the mountains, my trips into the forest by horseback,  my mountain bike rides… It’s never, ever the same. It always amazes me how a rainy day can paint a completely different landscape from a day of wind and squalls, or how a soft summer day with bluebird skies can contrast with the burning heat of a late August afternoon. Winter cloaks the world in white, Spring in verdant green, Summer and Autumn in shades of brown, and throughout it all sunshine clouds, lightness and darkness, fine tunes every piece of scenery and preps it for another scene.

Montana is pure benevolence on a perfect June day, she’s raging fire and fury leashed from the gates of hell when fire strikes, she’s punishing cold and terrifyingly dangerous when winter storms blast in with icy winds that bare every weakness and take no prisoners, she’s joy and laughter during a burst of rainfall after a long, hot, dry summer, she’s sober reflection as autumn turns the trees brilliant golds and reds against the impossibly blue sky and paints the world in a soft yellow glow belying the darkness and danger of winter to come. She’s my home, she’s my heart and soul, and I will never tire of her, or take such rugged, dynamic beauty for granted.

Sunset hitting the sapphire mountain range as I drive home from work on a frigid winter evening

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Moon Beams

I was born in Switzerland, and although I was very young when we moved to the states, I remember a lot about our lives there. So many vivid memories have stuck with me throughout my life and occasionally circle through my mind like a slideshow compilation of short movie clips.
I remember long treks up mountains to sit among glacial formed alpine bowls, cooling our feet in frigid, clear streams and playing in the lush, green grass. I remember winter trips heading deep into the forest in our car and then abandoning it to ride sleds down a long trail through the woods and landing, after night fall, at a small cabin where we entered into blissful warmth and were treated to freshly made fondue. I remember spring time and the village cows as they straggled in a wobbly line and shuffled slowly and persistently through our village, past our house, and then up into the mountains to summer pasture. In the fall they would filter down out of the craggy peaks and once again become a herd that flowed back down through our village, large cow bells swinging from thick necks and ringing out in a discordant symphony as they made their way back to their winter homes. I remember fields of wildflowers in spring and summer, winter ski trips in whiteout conditions, and fall illuminated by brilliant yellow larch.
One of my most vivid memories though was a trip my sisters and my father took up in to the mountains to collect pine cones for our winter fires. We traveled tiny dirt roads clinging to the mountains faces and winding in to the deep dark forests, where my father let us sit on his lap and steer the car. The magic of being able to drive the car and then wander on foot through sacred-feeling, stately conifer forests was awe inspiring for us little ones.
As we moved among the trees, picking cones as we went, we came to a magical clearing. The forest floor was covered in thick moss, that was brilliant green and more cushioned and softer and even some of the best beds. Little toadstools protruded from the moss, punctuating it’s otherwise perfect surface. It was here my father told us in a hushed, reverent whisper, that the fairies came to play. He told us they emerged on moonlit nights and sat upon the toadstools while they sang, ate and celebrated under the silver light with the other forest creatures. I have never forgotten the images from that adventure that were pressed in to my mind, and to this day, I still think of that clearing, Fairy-Fairy land, whenever the moon sits high in the sky and bathes the valley below in its shimmering, silver light.
Last night with a full, blood, wolf moon, an eclipse on the horizon, and the beauty of the Bitterroot Valley bathed in that perfect, ethereal silver light, I thought it was an ideal fairy night. I thought of that clearing thousands of miles away, probably still unchanged to this day, full of light and laughter and mystical creatures celebrating the beauty of nature and the benevolence of the moon. I hope that’s a memory that continues to stay with me and that one day I can step back in to that clearing and feel it’s magic once again. Until then, every full moon night, I sleep with my curtains open and let a little bit of that magic shine down upon me, while I snuggle down in to my covers, to give in to deep sleep, and dream of another world, another time and the magic that exists among us if only our minds and Imagination will allow it.

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Trespassing

New Year’s Day 2018 dawned cold and crisp, with an icy fog inversion draped over the valley smothering everything below it, like a heavy, frigid blanket, and cloaking every object it touched with fine, glimmering crystals of ice. 

Hoarfost 

After a long time in my home office, working to get caught up with paperwork after the holiday break, it was time for the dogs and me to hit the trail for a much-needed break. The recent heavy rains on top of over a foot of previously fluffy snow, followed by bitter cold temperatures, turned the landscape into an icy nightmare; traveled trails were a cobblestone of lumpy hard ice, and the unbroken snow was stiff and thick, but not frozen enough to support one’s weight. Every step was a hard, deliberate post hole and it was an effort to move short distances. The dogs and I followed our weakly broken trail from the previous days.  Each outing over the weekend we had attempted to make it a little bit farther and on New Years day, my goal was to do the same, hopefully getting far enough to complete a 4 mile loop. 

As we headed farther into the beautiful, quiet forest, coyote tracks criss-crossed back and forth over our trail from a few days before. They roamed up-and-down along our tracks stopping to sniff here and there, at times pouncing in the snow and occasionally following in our tracks but mostly just following along side. Their perfect little ovoid feet left tell-tale tracks on top of the snow crust as they were light enough to not break through. 

Coyote tracks

Eventually the trail had its way with us, as it had the previous days, and succeeded in wearing the dogs and me out.  When we finally we reached the end of our tracks from the previous day, we once again began to trudge through the stiff snow, breaking trail. With the dogs strung out in a line behind me, I went first, punching through on every step and trying to just go another half a mile or more to make my existing trail longer. After a few hundred yards of unbroken, crusty snow, all of a sudden there they were…  Wolf tracks.

Wolf track

I love wolves. I have for many, many years.  What first began as a romanticized idolization of them has changed on to a huge amount of respect and awe at their tenacity, strength and incredibly complex family units. Wolves in Montana are hated and persecuted. They are shot, trapped, poached, tortured and killed virtually all year-round. Despite this they’ve managed to continue to exist and while many die each year during the hunting and trapping seasons, enough have learned to be wary of humans and maintain a tenuous existence on the fringes of our civilization.  In the area that I was hiking, wolves had occurred a number of years ago, but had been absent for the last 5+ years, once our aggressive hunting season on them opened. I had seen wolf sign late last winter and it was heartening to see that they were moving back into this area, even more heartening to see they were still there. 

As the dogs and I stumbled upon fresh tracks and a very large, fresh pile of wolf poop, I felt that familiar thrill that comes with the honor of walking among the wildest of our creatures. I feel that wolves greatly enrich our landscape, and I appreciate the wildness of Montana even more for their presence.  

Although I’ve run into wolf sign fairly often over the years, this was the freshest sign we had encountered in a long time. The dogs immediately became alert and clustered around the wolf scat to sniff and read the messages there, and then wandered around for a tiny bit, sniffing the tracks, letting their noses lead them where the wolves had moved. I have never at any time feared for my safety in wolf country, but I do have concerns about the safety of my dogs as wolves are very territorial and dogs are major trespassers. It’s not uncommon for wolves to kill loose dogs or lion hounds that have been turned loose to hunt without their people with them. I’m very cognizant when I hike with my dogs that I am trespassing on private property; property that belongs to the wolves and wildlife of the public lands and wilderness areas of Montana. 

The dogs were visibly nervous at the wolf tracks and scat, and I gave them the option to move forward and continue our trudge,  but they all looked at me and clearly and succinctly said “No, thanks, we’re good, time to turn around”.  So we turned, as I will always listen to what the dogs need, and began to head back out the way we came, dogs hurrying behind me bumping into one another, as if they were afraid to be the last one in the line. Every now and then one of them would stop and stare into the surrounding woods, body radiating alertness and becoming upright and tense,  as if they had seen something. The others immediately came to attention and stared as well making me feel like something out there was watching us. I chatted along to them to make noise and let our presence be known, and also to calm the dogs and let them know that I had their backs and was watching out for them.  

The dog train

It was a long, slow slog back out in terrible conditions, and it took the dogs a long time to finally take a deep breath and relax. They too knew they were trespassing, and whatever messages the wolves had left, were read very loudly and clearly clear by my trail crew.

 It was a wonderful way to ring in the New Year spending time in the beautiful peaceful, solitude of the forest and rubbing shoulders with the presence of such a dynamic apex predator. I feel so grateful to live in a part of the world where wolves,  bear, and mountain lions still roam in decent numbers, and where I can share my wilderness escapes with some of the biggest predators and diverse wildlife that still exists in North America. I could have pushed on that day, continuing on the loop I had planned, but as much as I love living where the wild things are, I have an innate responsibility to the health and safety of my dogs. I have built the faith and trust we have in one another by promising to always listen to them, see to their needs and especially to step in and care for them whenever I’m needed.  

And so we left.  We left the forest to its peaceful solitude, we left the wolves’ home territory to its rightful owners, we left the forest denizens in peace, and we left appreciating the gifts the day had brought us.  We will be back soon,  but with respect, admiration and with the intent to cause as little disturbance as possible as we will be trespassing once again. 

The trail crew

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Moving Forward

I woke early this morning and lay very still, surrounded by my loving pets, pressed up against me sleeping, and became aware that something felt different.  I realized as I let my mind wander that, sometime in the last few months or so, the red hot ball of anger that fueled my every waking move and thought this last year, had abated.

I divorced after 11 years of marriage last year, 15 years living with the same person, knowing them intimately over time and then suffering the greatest betrayal of my life. I was enraged, hurt, devestated, gutted…all sorts of intense emotions, but the anger rose like lava in an erupting volcano and consumed me. Anger drove my every move, each and every day for the better part of a year.  It fueled me through endlessly long work days, daily mundane chores and through each and every ‘crisis’ with pets, home and property I’ve faced all year.  It became my greatest source of energy and my biggest albatross, weighing me down and exhausting me to the core.  It would flare in an instant and then simmer quietly waiting for the next trigger.  It became this driving force that consumed me in its wake.  What remains is a profound weariness, a bone deep exhaustion that makes it hard to get up and move forward.  All that anger has left me feeling spent and weak and yet I move forward, step by step.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still furious and will likely always be, I’m a Scorpio and true to my sign don’t forget insults easily, especially ones of great magnitude, but my anger has gradually become just a river of emotion now, and not the center-stage driver of every action, carrying me along in its tumultuous rapids.

So what changed?  I’m not really sure…time, certainly.  The passage of time has brought with it a lot of firsts; first solo birthdays, Holiday season, our Anniversay, our divorce, and with each and every date the finality of my marriage moved firmly in the rear view mirror.

As I’ve moved through this year, all the chores and up-keep of home and pets and property have fallen solely on me and as I reflect back on what I’ve done, I’ve seriously kicked some self-sufficient butt.  My place is small but requires much care as it’s an old property and home and needs intensive management to maintain pasture for two horses and keep old things from falling apart too badly.  The pets are numerous, ten of them to be exact, and they are an aging crew.  Each requires love, special food and supplements, attention, grooming, cleaning up after and time spent with.  It’s my greatest joy, being with them, but also is the reason I rise at 4 and collapse at 11…long days of work supporting us and time eked out for my beloved animal family.

Supporting us is my biggest challenge as somehow, despite how hard I work, I can’t seem to make ends meet.  I’ve made many sacrifices for myself financially and am trying to not change anything the pets are accustomed to or to compromise their care, although that day marches ever closer.  Financial hardship creates it’s own intense stress and is my daily companion and the tormenor of my critically needed sleep.  That aside, I’ve tackled every other challenge head on and nailed it.  I’ve become an amateur plumber and installed my own kitchen faucet, cleaned drain traps, and rigged up heating systems to keep stock water flowing in our coldest snowiest winter in over 40 years.  With my brother in-law’s help, I learned to drive a Bobcat and do the yearly corral clean out and pasture dragging.  I’ve weeded, weed-whacked (something I’d always avoided), mended fence, spayed my pasture, yard and agility arena for weeds, I’ve mowed endlessly all summer, moved water for irrigation every single day, and manned the irrigation pump without a hiccup, and through it all, I’ve kept a completely spotless house and am ever so slowly tackling a back log of maintenance stuff that is long over due.

There’s still much that lies ahead and much that is still deeply damaged.  My confidence and self-image are completely shot.  I’ve become deeply suspicious and trust people far less easily now and don’t ever let them to get close to my raw exposed core, except for my family and few best friends.  Those insults to the psyche run deep and may or may not ever change, but who knows?  I never thought the anger would change and now it has.

Divorce recovery, especially in the face of betrayal and infidelity takes time; the statistic I’ve repeatedly heard is one year to recover for every five years together. That puts me firmly on the three year plan but I’m glad to be able to see the progress I’ve made and know there’s no rushing this deal, I will continue to heal on my own time line and am willing to be patient with that.

My solitude doesn’t torture me, in fact it’s become my greatest safety zone and comfort.  I can’t get hurt if I don’t interact with anyone and I don’t have to feel self-conscious or terrible about myself if no one sees me.  That’s where the pets become my greatest saviors and I owe them the moon and stars for being with me and loving me unconditionally through every moment of this journey.  I am forever grateful and indebted to them and try even harder to make their lives as perfect as I can.

And so….  I move on.  Day by day, step by step, letting time heal me, my dogs, cats and horses care for me as much as I care for them, and learning to live again with purpose, confidence and happiness.

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Rage

​I have a red, hot burgeoning ball of rage inside me and at this moment it is focused directly at men. It started slowly, over the last three to four years as my marriage slowly dissolved, and has grown exponentially ever since. It began with the lies and deceit and betrayal that I suffered throughout my last three years of my marriage and it was fueled even more by the injustice done to my family and friends by the men in their lives that also ruined their marriages.  While I endured alcoholic binges, infidelity and manipulative lies, my mother’s marriage was gutted by a serial adulterer,  my sister endured finding her husband in bed with his married coworker, one friend lost her husband to an affair with her best friend, another friend lost hers to a Porn star….and on and in it goes.  One by one these men shattered happy lives, made an illusion and farce out of their wedding vows, destroyed their wives and walked away, completely free of any responsibility or culpability.  And at each wretched insult and each story I hear, that ball of rage has grown and grown and still grows.
The latest debacle of an election and the Nations endorsement of a misogynistic, abusive, self-centered, egotistical, psychopathic maniac and his negative demeaning views of women has only fueled my rage and disappointment. The additional insults of strong, intelligent women in positions of power, being disrespected and dismissed by their male peers, has only added to my rage. I think of Elizabeth Warren being completely demeaned on the senate floor by Mitch McConnell, when he said “she was warned, nevertheless she persisted”, a phrase that will live on hopefully throughout our generations to come as the ultimate attempt to put a woman in her place of subservience. I think of Sally Yates, a brilliant attorney, fired from a position of power and ridiculed by Senator Ted Cruz on the senate floor this week and how she had to stand up to him and fight back. Why must women always have to fight for what’s right? I think of Hillary Clinton and the endless investigations and leaks that ultimately killed her campaign for Presidency…or was it that narrow-minded rich, middle-aged white men couldn’t handle the thought of a female president?  I think of many comments in passing said to me by male peers or acquaintances that have been rude or denigrating or negative or just plain mean. All of that has fueled this rage of injustice and of anger and has, at the same time, made me feel uncertain and vulnerable.  

Today I received a sharp, hard NO from my former boss when I was trying, with my current boss, to help him figure something out. It was a sharp, rude comment designed to immediately shut me up and it worked.  I was a bit stunned and that ball of anger within surged so powerfully, it took hours to settle it back down.  Days like today when I’ve shackled my rage for days, weeks, months, years…I wonder how I can keep on without blowing like the proverbial volcano, simmering and churning, opening my center and releasing all that red hot magna and burning forth with a rage of the ages and taking out anything in my way.

When did it become ok for men to commit such injustices and be able to walk away free?  ….free of any responsibility, free from guilt, free from any repercussions for their actions, free to disrespect their vows, vilianize their spouses all without any recourse for the destruction and havoc they’ve wreaked on the one person they’ve vowed to love, honor and cherish?  How can men demean women, challenge their every step, insult them publicly and never be held accountable?  How can a man ever think this is ok?  And yet, at the same time it is starting to feel like most men are just like this and women are losing ground rapidly despite only having moved a small way forward in the equality department. How can a woman fight back against all this and not open up another barrage of insults, blame and be labeled the aggressor?

There’s a lot of moral deficiency in this country at the moment and my own life feels like a microcosm of the bigger picture.  I’ve lost every thread of trust and in the end, hope.  I’m angry with myself for being manipulated and angry that I was played so easily, over and over again. I’m angry for having worked so hard and tried so long to save my marriage when I now know my husband had no intention of doing anything of the sort and was essentially using me to get where he wanted to go.  I’m angry at being made to feel so vulnerable and being reminded of what society seems to consider my ultimate weakness; love, compassion, empathy and kindness.

I’ve heard quotes and advice about needing to forgive not for the other person but to free yourself from the negativity that anger causes but to me that seems a whole like once again letting men off the hook to go completely free. That’s not how I work and I can never, ever forgive the damage done to me.  The men in the lives of my friends, my family, like in mine, have destroyed lives, shattered trust, eroded confidence, gutted our sense of selves, left us financially crippled and often left us as the sole remaining responsible person for everything in their lives, kids, home, pets, while they move on free of it all, without a moment of care for the destruction they’ve left in their wakes.

And so my rage boils and grows, paralleled and fueled by the absurdities of this current administration and the corruption that’s repeatedly been created by it.  I’ve watched in disbelief and anger after groups of white, middle-aged, rich men laugh and smile as their commander in chief scribbles away order after order that will make it even harder for me as a single, middle-aged woman to make it on my own.  Every insult that hits the media, hits me, in my vulnerable raw state, a little harder. Every step forward I make, I’m reminded of how hard I’ve been hit and how gutted, shattered and demoralized I am.  Every step forward is often a struggle but there’s that indomitable spirit within me that has coursed through the veins of thousands of women before me, that spirit that has made us triumph over and over again despite seemingly impossible odds, to survive all blows and injustices brought down upon us and yes…to PERSIST.  

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Responsibility…

   

 

      I was trudging about early this morning in the inky, winter darkness, following the beam of my headlamp about, searching for dog poos amidst the frozen icy tundra that my yard has become.  We had over a foot of downy, fluffy snow fall with an incoming arctic cold front over the weekend, transforming the tired and brown world in to a winter wonderland of magical whiteness, bitter cold temperatures and wind chills.  Less than 72 hours later we hit 37 degrees with pouring rain before the temperatures dove back below freezing, leaving a virtual skating rink to negotiate.  The ice makes chores in the early morning darkness that much more challenging ading significantly to the long hours and hard work.  As I pressed on with cleaning and feeding, my mind wandered…

   I have 12 animals, all but 3 of them, were acquired by my husband and me, we choose them together and made the major decisions to welcome our new wards under our protective, collective ownership. As I bumbled about in the dark this morning, chiseling frozen poos from the hardening snow and ice and feeding livestock ,  it occurred to me that since my divorce this summer, these 12 beings are now under my sole care…That’s a daunting and serious responsibility.


     Since I was very young, I’ve always been surrounded by animals and was  taught that the animals’ care and comfort always comes first, ahead of mine.  After long, full days on the trail with my horse, I always groomed and cleaned when I returned home and saw that he had plenty of fresh, clean water and ample food before I straggled indoors to clean up and finally feed myself.  My parents were very stern and serious about the responsibility of owning pets and making sure all of their needs were met.  Feeding, cleaning and caring became an  integral part of my life and continues to drive me from bed at an obscenely early hour, every day, to make sure each one of my family has been tended to before I head off in to the darkness for a long day of work.  It’s now my sole responsibility to care for all of their needs before I leave each day.

    When my husband left me this summer, he not only left me but also all 12 of our animals.  I am now all they have and bear all of the physical and financial responsibility for their health and well-being alone.  While I may have never amassed such a large family had I been alone, they are here now, an each and every one, an integral and precious part of my life and are completely dependent on me.  More than half of them are aready seniors or approaching geriatric status and over the next number of years, likely to succumb to the ravages of old age and leave me. I’m scared; scared of losing them, scared that my financial hardships and limitations may dictate what I can or cannot do for them, scared that I have no one else to help care for their needs in their sunset years  and scared that I am solely responsible for their future life and death decisions.  It’s terrifying and sobering.  It’s a huge responsibility and I can only hope for clarity when I need it, strength to fuel long sleepless nights of worry, issues that don’t exceed my limited, scant financial budget, and time to gain the strength and fortitude to handle what lies ahead.  

    My sister, Sophie, received discouraging news tonight about her 12 year old dog, Pika.  While there is much testing and diagnostics to still be done, all is pointing at a serious problem brewing and it has worry creeping in to my life, increasing my anxiety and a making me feel a sense of dread descending on me like a mantle.  I hope this isn’t the beginning of a lot of loss for us, as I can’t handle any more emotional upheaval and can’t imagine anything harder right now than losing an animal family member while trying to put back the pieces of my shattered life and soul.  The last three years of my marriage have left me worn and exhausted, emotionally rent and totally incapable of handling anything else.


   Unfortunately life takes it own path and I won’t be able to choose the fates of my pets and me.  I suppose I could choose to walk away and leave them…rehoming some, euthanizing the old, handing them over to someone else so that I don’t have to deal with them and the hardships we face…I could, but I never, ever would even consider it because with true responsibility comes love and loyalty. These 12 animals, strengths, foibles and all, are all I have now. They are my family, my kids, they bring me love and joy and give me hope and purpose.  If that love includes hardship, pain and loss, I will endure it and I will be there in every capacity I possibly can.  If it includes early hours in darkness, braving frigid temperatures tending to basic needs, I will be there.  If it includes holding each and every one of them while they succumb to old age and the finality of their lives, I will be there.

       It’s not just my responsibility but what comes naturally when you love and cherish another being and when you respect and honor promises you make to always be there.  I only hope I have the strength to do everything right when the time comes…


      

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