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An excerpt from an email from Cedar:  You know, whoever told you that you have the eyes of an old soldier gave you a compliment.  A soldier that makes it to “old” has better eyes than the rest.  And once you make it to “old,” you usually make it home, too.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last couple days.  What the metaphor of old soldier means to me.  What it means to be a survivor and how one deals with things to become a survivor.  How, after surviving, one makes it home and lives again once there.

I don’t actually talk about my life very much, even here.  If you look closely at my words or listen to me, I almost always talk around the things that are my own personal emotional vulnerability.  There are a few close friends who I will revisit things with, but generally I prefer all the past to stay in the past and not be revisited or relived.  I suspect this is why therapy hasn’t been quite right for me so far. And maybe won’t be in the future, as I very stubbornly believe that there’s little to be gained from revisiting past suffering.  Combined with the fact that I think depending on which angle it’s viewed from my life has either been a series of a variegated horrors (as seen through the lens of protected, middle American, suburban prescriptions for normality) or endless run of luck, continuously bringing me to better and better places (as seen through a lens of the bulk of the non-white, non-wealthy people of the world).  I’d like to live on the pleasant side of the second lens and I don’t see how choosing to treat the past as series of horrors relived in therapy is going to get me to a better place.


I also know that I have a cultural, familial and inherent natural, personal bias toward Stoicism (real, ancient, philosophically ethical Stoicism, not necessarily modern emotionally repressed Stoicism).  This is surely a positive for me as much as it is a negative for me.  And yes, there are times in my life when I need help (now and recent months) and yes it does hinder me from sometimes reaching for or asking for the help I need (because of my belief that my will should be strong enough to carry me through anything).   But I recognize these limitations and I don’t see anything wrong with accepting that I am a specific kind of person who would rather bear the pain until it can be pushed back into a thing of the past than a person who wants to air it out publicly.  I’m only thinking this as I’m typing it, but it seems like there’s something to said for acknowledging the kind of person one is and dealing with things that way, rather than forcing one’s square-shaped being into a round solution hole, yeah?  Which isn’t to say I won’t keep trying to be better at asking for the help and support I need.  I will try and try harder and harder.  And I will continue to explore the options available to me for the support and healing I need.  But I am definitely making sure that I am considering myself through all of this and that I am not going to magically change into a person who wants to talk endlessly about my real, deep, emotional problems or open up in truly emotionally vulnerable way.  I firmly believe that trying to force that on myself is not going to really help.  To take a gross metaphor way too far: I have a huge wound and I want it cauterized.  I know it isn’t infected and I don’t want anyone trying to dig deeply in it to cleanse it, I’m sure cauterization will work just fine, thank you.  My method will leave a permanent scar, but I expect to get the full range of motion back eventually, and I’m not interested in being stitched and coddled in such a way that I’m returned to pristine perfection.

Of course all these thoughts on my nature and how I view myself are subject to change at any moment.  Even now I realize that all of this may either be in line with or completely at odds with my concurrent thoughts about the need for balance and equilibrium in my life.  But those concurrent thoughts are for another day.  Today I am willing myself to be in the moment, to enjoy the sunshine, to see the good in other people and to recognize when I can push negativity aside and just live.

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I woke up today thinking about chairs.  Partly because I have none.  Well I have one, but a cheap, well used rolling office chair doesn’t exactly make for good home comfort.  Ironically one of the first posts I made elsewhere after moving in with Hawthorn was about having a space with a chair to sit in that was all my own in a comfortable place.  I guess I’m still trying to get to that place.  Space at my new house is limited and it is my intention to buy three chairs (something like this, for use for sitting both at my desk and not at my desk, and two dining chairs for when I get a table) and a couch for maximum sitting comfort.

When I got divorced a decade-ish ago, we had a couple used couches and a love seat and matching chair from about the 1940s.  The love seat and chair set were given to us by a friend when that friend’s mother went into long term care and sold her house.  When we separated I took the chair and left the love seat.  It was a big over stuffed armchair in fuzzy deep green fabric (something like this but not leather). At some point my ex-mother-in-law decided she needed to complete the set for display while showing and selling the house my husband and I had lived in.  I refused to give up the chair.  I took nothing in my divorce but my own clothes and this chair.  It didn’t belong to her family (I left thousands of dollars worth of china and furniture that were given to me by my exhusband’s paternal grandmother–not as a wedding gift or anything, but given specifically to me, as a gift, before we got married–I left it because it belonged with his family, heirlooms as it were), it wasn’t worth much, had no sentimental value, she just wanted it because it matched.  I had many horrible, mean phone call fights after my divorce, mostly centering around that chair.  I refused to give it up unless it was replaced with a similar or better one.  No one had any more specific claim to this chair than I did!  This many years later and I actually have no idea what happened to that chair, but I have for years wished I still had a similar chair.

Now Hawthorn has a couple midcentury Danish modern chairs (something like this).  I am quite sure that he told me, when we started dating, that he bought these at an antique store immediately after his divorce and was waiting to have a house to put them in (they were in his office at work for a long time).  He has sat in one of these chairs exactly one time since I moved in with him (they are awkwardly placed in the far corners of the large living room of our old house).  When I was preparing to move I asked if I could borrow the chairs, just for two weeks or a month, until I got a couch and had else where to sit.  He agreed that would be fine.  Since then I have been treated to several discourses on how those chairs are the only thing he got in his divorce and how he gave up the chair he wanted and how important and sentimental those chairs are to him.  1. Our house was filled with pie-safes, wardrobes, an expensive sofa, several antique tables and a huge TV, all of which he had when he was married, all of which he took with him after his divorce.  2.  I’m not asking for them as a gift.  I am a careful, conscientious person who has just had her whole fucking life turned upside down by this guy and all I want is place to sit for a few weeks until I pick out and get a couch delivered.  I’m sorry I didn’t get right on the incredibly expensive couch thing, but I did have to outfit a whole entire household and pay extra rent and a deposit etc. (Yes, I recognize there are thrift stores, but I’m really allergic to animal hair and paranoid about bedbugs and I just want new upholstered furniture, damn it, everything wood can be bought used, but not if it has stuffing.)  Anyway, suffice to say, Hawthorn never said he wouldn’t lend me the chairs, yet the chairs are not at my house and he keeps offering to bring over some of the shitty dining chairs to sit on.  Man, I have a shitty chair, which for my present purposes is still preferable to your rickety dining chairs.

So, I woke up thinking about chairs.  My recent (pre-Hawthorn break up) desire for a good one, my need for one now, my exhusband’s mean-spirited chair fights and now Hawthorn’s chair dickery.  If the absence of desire is the end of suffering, let me tell you, I am suffering over chairs. Grrrr.

I have been thinking a lot lately about listening and paying attention.  This post (especially the comments) identified a lot of things I’ve felt about being a woman.  I think men often hear only what they think I am going to say (and this isn’t limited to men, I think my mother does this to me too).   With Hawthorn I have long felt like he was never listening to me.  Much of this, I know, is because he would ask me 3 or 4 times in an evening if I wanted to do something, as if he never listened to my answer before or he assumed I’d change my mind.  I’m not sure which but it was VERY frustrating.  Indeed it would have killed our relationship eventually, although hopefully in a less dramatic and shitty fashion than it did end. This post on communication with partners has had me thinking a lot too.  I often have no freaking clue what Hawthorn is talking about.  Like he’s using some shorthand that is all words and cues that I just don’t get (or he starts in the middle of a thought, I guess unaware that I can’t read his mind) and now that we’ve broken up and spend even less time together it seems to be getting worse and worse.  And then today Tiny Buddha told me that love means attention.  And let me tell you not being listened too and not understanding sure does feel like a lack of attention.

This is all to say, I guess, that I’ve long recognized the signs of why things would  never work out with Hawthorn in the long run. And perhaps most my hurt over all of this is his hideously terrible timing on the break up and his seeming disregard for me and what I am going through in relation to be rejected at just this time.  Also if he was really listening to or paying attention to me, he would know that lending my his damned chairs would go a long way toward repairing my anger about his assholishness.

Well I’m rather pleased with myself that I’ve managed to keep up with this blogging thing for a month so far.  Eleven more to go!  I tried to do an emotional inventory or progress report on myself last night.  I’m not sure if I was doing it because I had insomnia, or if I had insomnia because I was doing it.  So we’ll start there.

Insomnia: This has actually been a lifelong problem for me.  I have clear memories of my sleep troubles from when I was eight or nine.  It does seem to come in cycles and it does seem to be vastly amplified by stress.  The muscle relaxants definitely exacerbated it the couple of times I tried to take them (might experiment one more time with taking them during the day). The Lexapro actually seemed to help with the insomnia, but left me dull, fatigued and lethargic during the day (plus the intestinal problems made it a no go anyway).  I think that now that I am off the SSRIs, I will add the 5-HTP I was taking back into my regimen as it really seemed to help before and I believe it shouldn’t have ill effects with the St. John’s Wort (indeed they are often recommended together).

Sometimes I think if I could just get the sleep thing together I’d be much better off over all.  Possibly that’s true, but there’s so many other factors that I don’t think I should give too much sway to the power of sleep (though it is healing a and good).

Panic attacks: These had increased dramatically for me in Oct, Nov and Dec of 2010.  Now I am mainly back to having them only at night.  Which doesn’t help the insomnia much but is better than getting them while driving or being out socially.  The Klonopin does wonders for the panic attacks.  I have mentioned (to folks for sure and probably here) that I understand the dependency possibility with benzos like this but you can pry my Klonopin from my cold, dead hands because this stuff is MAGIC.  I think currently I am most relieved at the lessened panic attacks.  This makes all my other problems seem less insurmountable.

Therapy: I think it’s only just beginning to dawn on my how much long, hard work therapy is going to be.  It’s a bit intimidating but I think I am up for it.  Planning on continuing it until I think I don’t need it.  I do hope that this isn’t a forever thing.  I’d like to start setting limits and guidelines for it.  Like can I overcome my hysterical sobbing at the idea of going to the dentist? Can I learn to ask for help with out feeling like I’m doing something horribly, terribly wrong?  Can I create a relationship with my mother that feels good most of the time instead of half of the time?  Can I verbalize what I need out of relationships and set guidelines for continuing my trend of increasingly healthy ones (yes, I know recent events make them seem sucky, but both Oak and Hawthorn are Prince Charmings compared to previous dating history–I think I have already been making strides here and I’d like to continue that).  So within the bounds of all that, I can’t guess how long I’ll go to therapy, but I’m glad to have it as an outlet and a support and I think it’s been helpful so far, at least in showing me that there is a path and there is help.

Blogging: Writing in this space has been incredibly helpful to me.  I feel like it’s given me a place to order my thoughts and shake some of the chaos out of my head.  The vague anonymity of it (I mean I know you’re reading and I know you know me, but I don’t see you) has freed me from feeling judged about what I’m writing and I think I’ve done an excellent job of not self-censoring.  Ordering and writing down my thoughts here has really helped me with being able to later verbalize feelings and opinions on my health and my situation when I am talking to my friends in real life and I think has actually facilitated me being comfortable being much more open with people in person (therapy has helped with that as well).  So even if I am sort of parroting myself in person, I at least am using my own assessments of myself and feeling less confused and more likely to talk about how I’m feeling.

Medication: Clearly it’s been up and down.  I think my decision to make the leap to go on medication was the right one.  I don’t think it worked for me and I glad to find myself in a place to start trying more natural remedies.  However I think there’s a psychological impact of simply having taken the drugs.  I feel better. Period.  I doubt the SSRIs made me feel better in 8 weeks.  Maybe they did, but perhaps just the choice to have taken them, the asking for help and the actively starting to work on my problems is what’s making me feel better.  So sort of placebo effect as it were (with terrible side effects).  It hasn’t been easy, but I am glad to have the Klonopin and I am glad to know I have other options if I get to feeling where I am not doing as well as I’d hoped.

Relationships: Well, what can I say?  I feel confident that my inability to deal with things and see things for what they are (my anxiety and mental illness, basically) caused the demise of my relationship with Oak. I’m sticking by having made those choices in good faith while I was looking for safety and comfort.  I feel that at the time Hawthorm was genuinely offering what I thought I needed.  I did originally seek help not only for own sanity, but because tiny cracks had started to appear in my relationship with Hawthorn and I thought if I could get better I could save the relationship.  Clearly that didn’t matter since Hawthorn had the bad timing to accidentally coincide his break down with mine (or his precipitated mine, or something).  Despite their tragic ends, I think both relationships were good for me and I hope both were signs of a continuing trend toward someday having a strong healthy relationship or toward feeling free to not have one at all and still be happy.

Driving:  I don’t think I’ve talked about it a lot here, but I used to love driving.  Every instance of getting into the car, even to go to the store for milk was an act of freedom, was the possibility that I could just keep driving and go where ever I wanted in the world.  I loved the control of it, the power and that raw, open sense of possibility.  In the past two years I’ve had one car totaled while I was in it, been pulled out of another at gunpoint and forced to the ground, and stopped 18″ shy of dying in a really horrific accident that happened around me like a tornado but somehow left me unscathed.  Even taking an easy, low traffic surface street route to work was becoming cause for increasing panic attacks and incredible tension in my body.  I often wanted to cry when I got into and out of the car.  Recently I’ve noticed that my confidence is coming back while I drive and I feel much more comfortable and relaxed doing it.  I can even feel the sense of freedom and possibility starting to tickle at the back of my brain, like it’s getting ready to come back too.

Moving:  I think this is going to be huge for me.  It has sort of happened rather more quickly than I had planned, but so far it seems int he realm of doable.  Yes, getting my own space to heal and be in is good.  On the one had living with Hawthorn post break up hasn’t been a party but it hasn’t been as toxic as it could have been.  However, I HATED our house.  Of all the ones we looked at I wanted it the least.  Hawthorn chose it for the porch, the location and the architectural details.  I hated everything about it.  Nothing was functional, it was clearly remodeled for looks when it was flipped and not at all for functionality.  The landlord is a lazy jerk and repeated dealing with water POURING in from the ceiling, from light sockets, from door jambs and window sills has been severely anxiety inducing all on it’s own.  The interior colors actually make me angry in some rooms, the space just doesn’t feel psychically clean, either.  I was talking to a coworker (who as far as I know knows nothing about the Hawthorn situation) about moving to my new place today and how it seemed good even though I just moved six months ago.  And my coworker commented that she was so glad I was moving because she felt like I hadn’t been well since I moved into that house.  And it’s true, my allergies have been awful (as have Hawthorn’s), I can’t sleep for the noise the neighbors make, I fret about the ceiling falling on me, and besides the dust, age and other problems, I’m fairly sure the inside of the walls and airducts are crawling with mold.  So here’s hoping that the new place is just healthier all around.  It has a new roof–so no leaks, it has a brand new HVAC system and new ducts–no mold or dust, no past or future pets in the house at all to aggravate my already delicate allergies.  The only health concern really is that the new landlord has a pest service come once a month and I don’t know what kind of chemicals they use.  However since the trade off is no mice, no poisonous spiders and no roaches, I’m very willing to take it as a risk.

Body health: So far I am failing in this category. I’m giving myself a pass because there has been so much stuff going on (all my recovery efforts plus the unplanned break up and moving additions) that it’s been hard to add even more to it.  I have been walking more and doing a little yoga.  My future plans include much, much more exercise: walking, swimming and yoga and maybe hula-hooping?  I really need to make a physical therapy appointment and get going on that.  Just, you know, time and planning &c.  I am probably going to wait on the PT until moving is done.  I will get going on the exercise thing definitely (the community center and neighborhood gym is three block from my new place, no excuses).  I will try not to beat myself up on this and rather congratulate myself as I get going with it.  I know it will help so much to have less pain in my body.  I know it will help my mental health so much just to get the exercise.  I know it will help my outlook to look and feel better.  I could only just get so many duck in a row at once and I’m still herding these little wild running exercise and body health ducks.

I think once the chaos of moving dies down I am going to start working devoting a (certainly boring) paragraph of each of these entries to details sleep, exercise, panic attacks and the like, just so I’m keep better track of it and little more accountable for it.  Seems sensible, yeah?

Astrology:  While I give only limited value to astrology, and at that only as a descriptor not as a predictor, Free Will Astrology has always done wonders for me.  Even if it is just words that tell me how to frame my current thinking, it’s helpful.  This week for me we have: Taurus Horoscope for week of February 3, 2011 — I’ve found that even when people are successful in dealing with a long-term, intractable problem, they rarely zap it out of existence in one epic swoop. Generally they chip away at it, dismantling it little by little; they gradually break its hold with incremental bursts of unspectacular heroism. Judging from the astrological omens, though, I’d say that you Tauruses are ripe for a large surge of dismantling. An obstacle you’ve been hammering away at for months or even years may be primed to crumble dramatically. Yeah, I’m definitely feeling this!   Thanks, Rob Brezsny!  I will also continue to consult my father, who is an astrologer, about things like this Saturn transit of my Fourth House, as I’ve said, I feel like it gives me a framework to work in and understand things and I’m glad to have that.

I think my weekend away with my mom and sister helped me feel less trapped and freaked out.  I spent a whole day with my mom who was really sympathetic about the PTSD (though she later chastized me for not talking about it sooner and I know talking about stuff is something I need to work on, more on that in a minute).  My mom was relatively unresponsive on the Hawthorn situation.  She was sympathetic but pretty much just said that I should try and work it out with him and if it becomes clear that it isn’t going to work out, then just find myself an apartment and move on.  She wasn’t callous about it or anything, just matter-of-fact. But all of it feels less dire after talking to her about it, so that good.

Then I spent an entire day with my little sister, Dahlia, who has her own heap of life drama, so I did my best to be understanding and helpful and not add to her burden.  She felt like my anxiety issues really explained a lot of my behavior in the past year.  She had no commentary on the Hawthorn situation, except to say that if seemed he was going to get my name tattooed on him I should break up with him because that’s just weird. Heh.  No risk of that happening.

Finally I spent some time with my oldest friend in the world, Rose, who suffers from agoraphobia and anxiety and had a really good long talk with her.  She made me feel less crazy and more supported.   She thinks that I should sever it with Hawthorn and beg Oak to take me back. With the caveat that I shouldn’t be making any decisions right now, at least until I start feeling like I’m on an even keel again.

I went to the doctor today and we agree the Klonopin is excellent and helping.  The Zoloft not so much.  Dr. was really unhappy with the side effects (dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, stomach upset) and that it seemed to be making me more jittery.  She didn’t think the side effects would go away if they hadn’t already and really didn’t want to increase my dose, so she switched me to Lexapro, which I’ll start today. She also got me into physical therapy for the tension and pain in my neck and shoulders and gave me muscle relaxants.

The weather here at home is bleak and wintery.  I know some folks love snow but it feels desolate and oppressive to me.  I am, I think, maintaining a fairly positive outlook, given everything, but I’d just assume see that sun while I’m trying to get better.

Friday is my therapy appointment and I’m very much looking forward to it.  I know I have trouble asking for help and I certainly need to get over that.  But I also just have problems talking sometimes.  Like it really is easier for me to write it all out than to say it out loud.  I find often there are things I want to say but the words sort of stick inside me, like there’s some unidentifiable thing forcing me to keep to myself.  Also I really value personal privacy.  I’m unlikely to share a lot of myself with anyone, even a lover or a boyfriend, but it’s never been to the extent where I felt like I couldn’t even if I wanted too.  So I am really going to try and work on being more open (in therapy, not just wishing I would be, but like actively working on it). I want to dissolve whatever blockage is holding in my words and my feelings.

I did talk extensively with Rose about how I feel fine talking to Oak about things. And maybe it’s not just my comfort level of talking to him, but I actually feel like he’s listening when I talk, which is something I don’t experience with very many people. (This is what prompted Rose to suggest I should get back with Oak vs. Hawthorn, not some personal preference, just she thought I should be with someone I could really talk to.)

I’m not homesick like I thought I’d be.  I did have some very nice moments with my family and I’m hard to preserve those as memories I can reflect on on a rainy day.  Something I need to do more of.  I’m considering cataloging some of it here, but some of it feels too personal to even put on paper.  Not because I don’t want to share it, but because speaking it or writing it might somehow diminish the magic of it.

A good trip over all.  I feel more supported and less isolated, but perhaps no less confused than I was before.

Today I called my exboyfriend. No, I called him back. Well, really I called him back in response to his call about my email.

In the course of this past year many, many things have changed in my life.  Some where my doing, my choice, some were not. Right now I’m not even sure I my choices were mine. Or made in my right mind.  Or something. I mean, I own them, I take responsibility for them, but I’m still reeling from them and trying to understand how it all went down.

I had a lovely man we’ll call Oak.  He went away. For six , then twelve, then maybe eighteen months. We wavered and hemmed and hawed then agreed it was deep true love and I decided to wait. Patiently.  Like a sailor’s wife on the shore, dramatically, wistfully, longingly.  I was going to be steadfast and strong. We made plans for the future. A year wasn’t so long to wait.  What was six more months? Oak was 7000 miles away, but we had the internet, it would be fine, time difference be damned.

The thing is I already felt betrayed, abandoned and unloved when he decided to leave.  Obviously I wasn’t good enough for him to want to stay or to wait for me to go with him. But I swallowed it and smiled and wished him great adventures and did my best to remain loyal.

However, merely two months after Oak left, Hawthorn came calling and courting. We had so much in common, but I vowed we’d remain friends, and Hawthorn agreed to honor that. It was nice to have someone to go to the movies with, talk books with, be less lonely with, while Oak was 7000 miles away.

Hawthorn got me a job in his office when I desperately needed it. And then the rains came and my city was completely altered in a weekend by incredible floods. And work changed and life changed and everything was unreal and dramatic. The world started to feel like it was unravelling. My panic attacks had been intensifying for months but the storms sort of pushed  me over the edge. And Hawthorn was there with me, through all of it.  Telling me I was beautiful, and that Oak was insane for leaving me and coming to my house in the middle of the night when I heard weird noises and freaked out (this is more benign than it sounds written like this, I mean only that he made me feel safe).

And so I called Oak, 7000 miles away, and broke up with him.  I told him I was sure we’d never be happy together and that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. I told him it wasn’t about Hawthorn, but simply that I couldn’t wait, I was too afraid I would wait and then we wouldn’t work out anyway.  Oak told me loved me, that he didn’t want to be with anyone but me and that he didn’t understand what was happening.  I broke up with him anyway.

The summer passed.  I cried and cried and cried.  I told myself I was mourning the loss of the future we’d planned. I told myself I was mourning the departure and subsequent broken friendship with my best friend (also partly my doing). I worked and worked.  The floods left so much disaster in their wake; there was lots of work to do. Work to bury feelings and life under.

Fall came and I moved in with Hawthorn.  We scuttled about hanging pictures and painting rooms and cooking dinners and snuggling in.  I took him to meet my parents over Thanksgiving. We planned vacations, we shared books, we had dinner with other couple just like you’re supposed to.  We came back from a week away, went to the neighborhood pub for dinner and there was Oak. Back from across the ocean, unexpectedly, in my city.  Hawthorn encouraged me to meet Oak for a drink and clear the air so I did.  It was awkward.  Afterward I cried and cried and cried and cried.  I told myself it was because I felt bad for what I did to him, breaking up with him when he was too far away to have any say, any recourse in the matter.

Life went on.  We made plans to visit Hawthorn’s family over the Christmas holiday.  Four days before Christmas he broke up with me. No, but he told me he wasn’t sure he wanted long term commitment, that he wanted to scale things back, that he’d never taken the time to be himself and do the things that he wanted to.  That he wanted to still be friends, still work together, maybe to still date me, but he was moving into the guest room and we weren’t going to call it the guest room anymore.

I went to Christmas with his family anyway.  We plastered on smiles.  I took a lot of Klonopin. We came home. Hawthorm painted his new room.  Moved his furniture in.  Helped me rearrange my room so it didn’t look so much like there was big gaping hole of absence in it.

Hawthorn has treated me kindly through all this, been affectionate, we’ve had slightly angry sex once or twice.  He still hugs me in the morning and kisses me when he gets home.  I have always thought there should be space in relationships (ironically the only fights Hawthorn and I had had previously were me asking for more space and him feeling put out).  I wonder if having our own private spaces won’t be just what we need, won’t be the thing that saves this relationship.  And yet, I can’t help feeling hurt and abandoned once again.  Like maybe I’m not good enough, even though I’m assured it isn’t me, it’s him.

And so I emailed Oak and told him all of it, the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the need for safety that had been steering my choices and suddenly seemed so stripped away by Hawthorn’s new room. I guess I thought he should know how the world had turned what I’d done to him right back on me. I asked for his forgiveness (though I suspect, as always, it’s really me that I need forgiveness from).  He called me, I was too panicked to answer (the phone has been continuously problematic for me).  I called him back.  I explained about medication and therapy, about being scared.  I tried to explain about Hawthorn.  I talked myself into staying here, in this house.  Maybe because Hawthorn and I will work it out, or maybe just because, even with everything, it’s a reasonable place to try and get better, to get through therapy before I make any more sudden decisions.  Oak listened patiently.  Offered good advice.  Told me of his own sad life complications.  Told me to call when ever.  Offered the shoulder I really need to lean on.  And long after we’d hung up and gone about our days, as I got ready for bed and sat down to finish writing this, Oak sent me a text message: You are safe and life will get better. If only someone would stroke my hair and say that to me every night before bed, I might not be as screwed up as I am now.

A pair of veteran oak trees with a hawthorn in flower