Tag Archives: road maps

Reclaiming Myself


After a far too lengthy “sabbatical” from my blog, I am planning my return on the New Year. For those who’ve befriended, followed & supported me along this path, I am deeply grateful. After the “When the Map Flies Out the Window” & “…the Crazy Lady Entered”, I kicked my reclamation of self into high gear! WOW!

I fled my shrink- not without a certain amount of trepidation- and began a new path. My time and my energy, often hindered by Fibromyalgia & the accompanying “Fibro fog”, was spent on this massive and challenging new path of my journey through this world. Thus far, the choice has proven excellent, if not a bit strenuous; somewhat emotional and containing a little side of “grrr” at the previous years wasted in a stupor of meds and non-productive therapy.

I am now ready to return.. a few short days away..and hoping that I find my voice has gained clarity. A part of me feels my words may have come from one pill or another and that it is no longer there. The reality check comes from loved ones, who’ve retained writings of mine from so long ago, unfettered by a fog-bound mind & spirit. Again, thanks to all who’ve stuck by me and to those new people who’ve found me & not been acknowledged.  I haven’t checked in for awhile, so I didn’t realize you were out there. My lack of acknowledgement, though out of ignorance, is nonetheless rude.

See you in a few days! Happy New Year…and dare to throw that map out the window, it’s an incredible journey when uncharted!

..and then the crazy lady entered


Just like moons and like suns,         
With the certainty of tides,                                           
Just like hope  springing high,                                                                                                             Still I’ll rise.

                                 Maya Angelou        

I have ruminated on the things that I once loved about being me, just me. More than anything, it was a spirit of adventure, of following the journey wherever it led….and it led to some amazing places.

When I left that little town  back east, roaring into the night on a 1942 Indian  motorcycle  in which  I had  been at least halfway responsible for rebuilding and restoring with my own  small sixteen year-old hands, I never looked back. We rode hard for New Hampshire, a child’s romantic teen dream of escape from a world in decline and into a marriage about which I’d no concept. Small town New England held no charm for me. I was a high school drop-out with a mechanic husband and a little second floor flat in an old duplex. It was comfortable enough and I tried to teach myself the rudimentary tasks of being a housewife. I was a far better mechanic. The town itself was picturesque, with little squares, a diner where the locals held court and the fresh mountain air was foreign to my New York and New Jersey nostrils and lungs. I actually missed the smell of bus exhaust, the noise of traffic and the anonymous hustle by which I’d survived. I was not accustomed to being Mrs. (fill in the blank), the friendly and all-too-familiar local charm. It was 6 months before I demanded that we return to the world I preferred…not that dreadful little town that my parents chose but something more familiar. We again embarked on a night’s journey, this time towing the vintage bike behind a newly restored vintage car. My husband…a term so ridiculous in retrospect, considering my age, obliged me in every way possible. Three months later, a friend of his introduced me to pot…in my mind, akin to heroin! It was not.  It was good and I began to look at the world around me and realize that it was 1968 and everything was changing. There was an excitement in the air that had never been and I wanted to know , to be part of it. I did the only thing I could..I called my mother and her fiancé and requested refuge. My mother was delighted to accommodate me and sent Charlie, her soon-to-be husband, to get me quickly, lest I change my mind. It didn’t take long to realize that I had no forgiveness in my heart for the past and the situation with my mother grew untenable. My step-father was the only buffer in a simmering war between us. I had no money, no prospects, no aim but I left.

I wandered back into New York where I found everything imaginable happening! Being born in Brooklyn, it was always home to me and my love affair with New York has never waned. I love the noise, the people, the 24/7 life that I’ve never found anywhere else. At that time, movements of all sorts were afoot: civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war and everything in-between. I attended the first Earth Day in Central Park! I still look at old news footage of marches, so many in New York, knowing that I was among the thousands of faces in the crowds. The reality, though, was that I needed money of some kind, so I found a receptionist position in a county office, which led not to the drudgery I feared but to more freedom. I worked for brief periods but most of my time was spent on activism, hanging around college campuses, experimenting with minor drugs and living on and off in a commune. When I grew restless, as was my habit, I would hit the open road with my thumb out and off to parts unknown. During one of my trips to see my family for the holidays, I happened into a store where I met a Puerto Rican conga drum player, all looks and charm, living in Hoboken,, N.J. and there I was again. I had a great apartment on the first floor of a brownstone, the park featured in “On the Waterfront” across the street. I took a job in the garment district and spent six months in a crazy life of playing it straight by day and spending nights in Latin clubs with my heroin addict and barely English-speaking lover. Then I woke up. He disdained my politics, my commune past and my feminist ways and I abhorred his drug-addicted, womanizing failures. Again, I left. Back to the farm in Canada, to heal my wounds, regain my wits and grow restless for more travel…and yearning to be free of the sub-zero temperatures and hip-deep snow. The farm was spectacular in other seasons but winter was brutal and I was not made for that…nor am I a farmer. So, I rolled some cigarettes, a little weed, donned my hiking boots and layers of clothing and headed to the Trans-Canadian Highway with the first person willing to drive me the 15 miles out. On it went…

More trails than I could have imagined, more people who became friends, still fondly remembered, more impulsive but priceless experiences. I met another love: he on his post-college summer and me with my thumb out. We married in Los Angeles and, lo and behold, I once again ended up in suburban New Jersey! What were the odds? I tried my best to be a suburban working wife, converted to Judaism and had cocktail parties for people who I considered vapid and annoying. I lied my way into a management position at a chain bookstore, where I worked for several years…my respite from the Short Hills Mall women by whom I was surrounded. I soon found a guru fresh from India and that, along with my ongoing consumption of pot, kept me there for six years before the dam broke. It was an emotionally wrenching time: I was leaving a man I did not want to hurt but staying was worse; my father was dying a long and slow death from a broken heart which he drowned in alcohol and my company had me under pressure for transfer to the second largest store in the chain…in Los Angeles! My divorce was final in March, my father passed away in May and I took my transfer in July. I left all I knew to begin again. Success was short-lived. I was still grieving, trying to fix a business that I was sent to troubleshoot and one day, I tossed it all. I ended up living in the desert, trying my hand at alcohol. The party didn’t last long and I did get and stay sober for many years. Life settled into a pleasant groove.

I figured it was time for that G.E.D., followed by college and an Engineering degree. I acquired a nice vintage (of course) restored Mercedes, had a townhouse at the beach  and , best of all, a great group of people in a 12-Step program. I married again, moved to Oregon where I found love at first sight in Portland. It was the first place since childhood that felt like home to me. My marriage didn’t last but life in Portland did.

I made wonderful friends, took up activism on other fronts, returned to college and then university. I majored in Political Science, minored in Journalism and Creative Writing; transferred on to another school and left to work full-time on a major political campaign, followed by a stint in the Senate Majority Office. When I left, I went to an art school.I was independent, outrageous, self-appointed “Hostess at the Party of Life”. I worked and lived among many dear people who were at the center of the HIV/AIDS crisis and lost many friends to this still ongoing plague. I still thrived until I made one last, really bad choice.

I returned to my family of origin, thinking I had a place at the table. The results of that have been recounted in earlier posts. I am back in my beloved Portland now, blessed with an exceptional man who loves me as I am, a cat and a companion dog round out our little family. As I’ve noted before, it has been a decade if curses and blessings, about evenly split. I am still healing, the emotional and physical toll remains and while my spirit rises, my body has taken on the burden of the trauma. My material possessions are few and I teeter on bankruptcy, living below the poverty levels, but I am alive and blessed. I have regained extended family that I believed lost to me forever and these things buoy my spirits on the days when I think I cannot face another sunrise under these circumstances. Gradually, in spirit anyway, I am re-entering my own. I try not to look too far ahead, but stay close to present. It is what I must do if I am to succeed.

Oh yes, and laugh..more at myself than others, often irreverently, sometimes sardonically, but laugh nonetheless. If I lost that capacity, I would truly be mad. The jury is still  out on that.

They Like Me! They Really…wait, I’m not Sally Field here.


“I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.”                    

                                                               Katherine Hepburn

This is my best friend, Harry. He is awesome! We are inseparable, it was love at first sight & he is my “companion animal”. Harry is unfailingly present, loves without condition, is without judgement, listens to me whether I’m complaining or recounting some good news..yes, we have long conversations. He doesn’t care what I look like and is always happy to see me. It’s hard for we humans to live up to that kind of Buddha-nature. I know I don’t and I’ve been terribly disappointed when other people fail as well.

Many of the good people who lived around me when I first moved into this area and found my world crumbling have since moved on. That’s okay…it’s what we do. They were more than just neighbors. They were friends. Self-appointed, at first; guardians in my grief; entertainment when I needed a laugh and social directors when I cloistered myself. Over the years, it became give and take and we shared holidays and special occasions, laughter and tears, life’s trauma and drama and all the other things that go into friendship….and professed our love and bonds with each other. To me, that means something and I assume it does to others. So, where did that all go when each moved as close as shouting distance or as far as a 3 hour drive? I’m still here, but they’ve all but vanished from my life. Yes, I’m hurt.

One who lives nearby comes around at what seem  moments of opportunity or crisis. Visits usually finished with promises of a girls’ night out or some other activity that we once enjoyed. They never come to fruition. Much in the same way, my friend who retired and moved farthest…to a dream place for me…spent years begging me to join her on her pre-retirement weekend jaunts. I eventually did and loved every moment. It is a wonderful place! When she left for good upon retiring, it was with many heartfelt words  to me, I cried and she made me promise to use the open invitation she had extended. She even broke down and got a pc to keep in touch with her friends here. I’ve received exactly one email in 4 months and saw her on one occasion when she had an appointment in town and dropped by the apartment to see her son, who still lives here. We had an all-too-rushed visit,  loaded some things into her car, I cried again and she drove off. I, of course, agreed that I would come to see her soon and she assured me that her door was always open. Not an email or call since. I did call her last month on a whim, asking if I could drop in for a couple of days. She agreed that I could take the bus out…4+ hours…spend the night and return home the next day! Now, why would I spend 8 hours total riding a bus, to spend maybe 6 hours total visiting and the rest sleeping? I wouldn’t and I didn’t. To say I felt out off would be an understatement.

So, what’s the answer? I don’t know. I find myself caught between being reluctant to open up to new friendships and finding new friendships…albeit, online…that seem more meaningful than the ones I spent years living with daily. As in love, so it is in my friendships: I try to give of myself, be present, drop what I’m doing if needed, work at overcoming my fear of not being as good as those around me. I am left to suppose, that as it says in the little picture on the left, just take another shot. The world is full of amazing people who do have the capacity to be good and honest friends, to not feel obligated to pretend or speak in empty platitudes, wo can even enjoy each other’s silences. My dearest and truest friends have either passed away or are geographically out of daily reach. I find myself lonely for the company of those with whom I can share…good talk, new books, something newly discovered,maybe a little gossip and always a laugh or two. That’s when I realize that I have limited in common with those in whom I feel such disappointment. With one, it is books & the sea; with another, it is hip-hop and being rowdy girls. Overall, not well-rounded and deep relationships that will span decades….hell, they’ve faded as the saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”. Yet, I cared and do care enough about these people to feel pained by their actions..or lack of.

Again, I ask myself why I should be so disappointed. The answer remains the same: I don’t exactly know. I guess I believed these people worked hard to open me up, to bring me back into the world, to be my friends even when I was not particularly loveable. So getting dropped on one’s ass, as it were, makes it all seem so senseless. For all of my attitude, for all of my armadillo-like exterior, I am still that shy little girl who never wanted to be noticed, lived through a fair share of bullying and didn’t believe anyone would really like me if they got to know me.

Life doesn’t come with a handbook, so we’re all just winging it…some better than others.My dog hasn’t run away, my cat still loves me & my fiance has the patience of Job, so I must be doing something right. I know I have qualities to bring to the table and, at my age, I can’t believe I’m still trying to figure out how to meet new playmates! We grow, the scenery changes, but it’s still the schoolyard and many are still finding their niche.

When the Map Flies Out the Window….


Misleading Road Sign

You’re driving down the road with the top down, best friends along for the ride, top down and, though you’ve hit some bumps and had a few minor breakdowns, the trip’s been great. You’ve got the top down, you’re with your best friends, it’s a great day and you’re making your way to the next exciting destination when, suddenly, the map flies off in the wind! Shit!

Now you’re in the middle of nowhere and you realize that you’re travelling alone.The beautiful day, the best companions you know were a daydream that abruptly ended when that map left your car…not the convertible gliding along on the breeze but the clunker you bought for $500, driving through some blighted area long since deserted by

  

anyone with any semblance of a brain and the only places in sight make the Bates Motel look like a spa vacation. Suddenly your Janet Leigh in a blinding rainstorm, running from a life no longer bearable  and with few options available. What are you going to do? That was how I felt about one the singularly most pivotal moments in my life…except that, unlike Janet Leigh, I had neither a crisis of conscience nor  intention of turning back. Given the circumstances few people would. My back story was different and what drove me was not a crime….at least not one I perpetrated.

In this most unlikely of places, the pre-pubescent shy girl that I was, already feeling that she was an unwilling traveler on the wrong road, found it could be worse…much worse. As I tried to acclimate myself to my strange surroundings, the hands of strangers reached out. Actually, it wasn’t a reach so much as a grab…I was being kidnapped! Yes, kidnapped! Four grown men had seemingly decided, as one, to yank this young stranger off the bleak Main Street on this drizzly evening…from this, the “safe” and small town, away from the Brooklyn,N.Y. neighborhood that had been home to generations of family. My gut always told me this was wrong but what say has a child? Now, here I was, being restrained and driven who knows where and for what purpose?

The drive ended deep in a wooded area. I was dragged from the car & thrown to the ground. They talked among themselves, passing around a bottle of schnapps, from which they eventually forced me to drink. This is when I learned that one never knows what one’s reaction will really be until placed in a situation where “fight or flight” becomes part of the scenario.  Logic would dictate that a petite 12 year-old facing 4 grown men intent on violence would be best served by submission. What I know is that logic played no part in what followed, pure instinct took control of this child. When told to strip my clothes, I refused & found my clothes being roughly torn from me…each garment followed by a demand to strip the rest; each demand refused.

Finally, naked, being told to get on the ground. I did so and as they again talked among themselves about what was to follow, I began scrambling-part crawling, part running. I had no direction but to escape. I didn’t make it more than a couple of yards before being dragged back. My failed escape followed by the first rape and another escape attempt. 

 I fought all four with all my might but the horror of multiple rapes, sex acts I’d never even knew existed and more fighting and escape attempts. I’ve no idea how long this went on but it seemed an eternity. I was oblivious to my injuries as I wondered if my life would end here…and, if so, I wanted it known that I fought. Then, it was over. They threw my tattered clothes back at me, instructed me to dress and drove me to a dirt road. As they let me out of the car they advised me that this was my chance to survive, to find my way home. It came with a warning that this act came with a warning: should I tell the story or identify them to anyone, ever, they would return and this time, it would cost my life. 

I did make it home that night. There was no hiding from my parents…it was 3 a.m.; I entered the house battered, clothes in tatters and refusing to speak. I finally had to tell the tale; spent 2 weeks recovering in an isolated pediatric hospital room and the perpetrators caught. Unlike today, there were no advocates & poor counseling available. My family was left to our own devices and they were not good. In fact, they kept it secret & just tried to move on. The unexplained absence of our large & close-knit clan was unknown to me until 3 years ago, when tears were shed by those who would have helped had they known. To them, my mother’s leaving was not a shock; my father’s decline into the bottle was stunning & my leaving home, the act of an out-of-control teen whose world collapsed.

The hearings and final trial took almost 3 years. In that time, I endured being ostracized by the locals because I was new and these were 4 well-known guys, washed-up post high school jocks with little potential; my father began drinking and spiraled down into alcoholism and eventual death; my mother ran away…from the situation, from her own guilt, from a family that was never her wish to have. She lives alone, isolated & bitter, turning on anyone who attempts to bring the world in or her out. After many periods of no contact, our estrangement seems permanent, she unable to look at me…a mirror of all that went wrong; me tired of being the hated child whose presence was always just tolerated. I have many family members, both blood & not, who love me as I am; value what I bring to the world and teach me self-acceptance. I no longer need to seek out a mother who will never love me and always see me as a reminder of a life she never wanted.

So, the map flew out the window long ago and it was the best thing that could have happened. I left the wreckage of my family at 15, had a crazy brief teen marriage; found myself in the ’60’s, no longer the timid girl. I participated in the various movements of the time; moved to a commune in Canada..where I found myself  keeping  journals, where I lived on and off for 3 years and would leave on hitchhiking trips….no maps, no destination. I managed 48 states; Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula on one of those crazy buses filled with locals & livestock. I married 3 more times…all great guys. My wanderlust was too great to stay settled. I’ve had several amazing careers; attended several colleges & universities…my thirst for knowing about so many things and writing, always writing. Reading old entries and amazed at where life has taken me and certain in the knowledge that all experiences that take us out of the status quo are part of who we are today. To change any one of them would be to change ourselves in unknown ways. While the kidnap/rape brought years of tragedy, it also freed me to go on a journey far beyond my imagination…no regrets & no do overs needed. Writing is marking life in the present and leaving amazing reflections for the future.

 Until this blog, it was my secret. With the exception being long letters to extended family, resulting in “you must write!” phone calls, I hid what I believed would wither when exposed to light.

the next four journals

Now, my uncharted trail has led to another place I never thought I’d be…online, writing for anyone in the world to see & I am so happy right here, right now! From Brooklyn, N.Y. to Brooklyn, Portland, OR…and the journey continues.