Grieiving

Do men and women grieve differently?  Do different cultures grieve in different ways?  Do different families observe different grieving practices?  The answer to these questions is yes and no.  Funeral practices throughout the world, and edicts about how the dead should be treated vary from place to place.  Grief itself is something that in many ways is universal and has to be experienced and not sublimated.

Death of loved ones is painful. The older they are the more we justify their death by saying, well he or she had a good and long life.  If that person left small children behind we tend to elicit more sympathy and pity.  It death was sudden or death was long and slow in coming we also react differently.  Sudden death is shocking, a long and protracted battle with illness such as cancer means that often death is met with relied; the pain and suffering is over.

I believe fully that grief of any kind, whether it is the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or the death of a pet, has to be walked through.  What I mean by that is however overwhelming, we must allow ourselves to FEEL the sadness, grief and loss.  We must allow ourselves to remember the good times the bad times.  The way we do this culturally, at least in the West, and in most of the World is to gather together and remember that person’s life, however brief or long.  It is called a funeral, a memorial and it allows us to express our grief and eventually move along.

I have lost many people as have my children, we eventually move away from loss and back into life again by allowing ourselves to grieve.  Since my children were small I always insisted they attend funerals and to be part of that cultural process we call grief, loss and remembrance.  I have heard others say they don’t attend funerals they don’t like them.  That is funny.  No one likes a funeral, except perhaps for the ghoulish and professional grievers.   To hide away and never express grief and to try and prevent others from experience their own sense of loss is not only selfish but unhealthy.

At the relationship level I know that many women have been able to move on unscathed because a lot of us do our grieving for the end of relationships while in them.  The angry partner, the abusive partner, women tend to stay in relationships trying to fix them, once they realize they are unfixable they often come to terms with that inside the relationship.  Thus, often able to move on seemingly unscathed.  In reality they have already done the grief work necessary prior to the split.

How we accept loss, how we remember the dead, how we reflect on the end of relationships is an ongoing process.  The most important thing is that it has to be accepted openly, we have to confront our fears of death our own mortality and say goodbye.  On another level we need to be less selfish and support each other, that is what funerals are meant to do.  Closure.  Remembrance.  Goodbye.

The 20th century was one that began in grief and death, and one would think we would all know how to say good bye to the dead.  Walk through the city centre of any large Western city and observe the statues, the obelisks, the memorials to the dead.  They are not there to be ignored but to remember.  Remembering the dead is not in any way ghoulish it is human and how we become better people.

My family lost a young friend this week and now it is time to say goodbye. Remember the saying, that how a culture treats its animals is a reflection on that culture?  What about our attitude towards death?  If we cannot or will not allow ourselves to grieve, to FEEL then I believe we have nothing  but static, selfish and stunted characters.

Keeping Secrets

Keeping secrets, especially dangerous ones is unhealthy.  In my last post I wrote about the secret of child abuse.  But there are other secrets that are worth being uncovered.  In my partner’s family, he has two grown daughters.  Two weeks into knowing him he told me that his children were likely not his.  His wife had an affair etc etc.  Well you know the story.

So two grown women have two fathers or at least a biological father that they don’t call father which is not really a big deal.  We are past the struggle to perpetuate our genes in the Darwinian sense right?  What I have learned from a relationship with someone from another culture is that my sensibility to be open and honest, and answer questions honestly is a liability in his culture.

When one of his daughter’s was talking to me about men, I jokingly said so was you dad jealous of your mum going out too.  She thought it funny and said no but good for you because this means he wants to spend time with you.  This intimate conversation led to another one, her paternity.  When she told me her parents had argued about this I said I know, and this may surprise everyone but I said it doesn’t matter , the one who raised you is your dad .

Cut to the chase, I was  scolded like a child in no uncertain terms by my partner for  having this conversation.  Not my place to have.  Ok I can accept that, but err every single person in your family has told me but okay.  The daughter in question is in her mid 30’s.  She knows the story.  So it bounces back to me, I am the bitch in the story.  This has played out a couple of times with my partner’s family.  My words are passed along and repeated to him by a family member out of context and he comes home in a fury.

What to do know.  Apologize?  For what not keeping their family secret.  To be honest the negotiating I must do to stay in this relationship is becoming overwhelming.

Secrets are really dangerous.  That dad’s partner of almost three years knows their “scariest” secret must be awful.  It is clear, I am an outsider.  I am not to know anything of their lives.  So at mid-life I know find myself in the position of having a split family.  He has threatened to never allow his daughters to come our home, and basically called me a liar because he wanted to hear my “version”.  But  there is no version.  Only that I once again said something that was true, that I have heard both daughters and fathers talk about several times and agreed I knew the story.

And now begins the end of me keeping anymore secrets.

#I Stand with Dylan

Between the ages of about 4 and ten I was systematically sexually abused by my maternal grandfather.  I also slept in the same bed with my youngest aunt as a child and witnessed him sexually abused her, she would have been about 12 to 15.

When I was 19 years old and pregnant with my first child I reached out for help, and back in the dark ages of the 1980’s I sought support from an incest survivors group. Yes, that is what they were called back then.   In that group I learned it was not my fault, that my own child would not be abused because I would keep him safe and I also learned that abusers are surrounded by enablers and family that will stand like a wall to protect him.  There was no one to protect me. I believed however, that by speaking out I was saving not only my own sanity but my child’s as well.

When I came out to my family, fully believing that it was their problem not mine, every single family member that I grew up with shunned me.  In fact my aunt who was also abused told me, privately, yes, it bothers her but she doesn’t think about it.  Publicly she got on board with everyone else and said I was a liar.  I remember it all as though it happened yesterday, they called me names, called me a liar, all because I upset their proverbial apple cart.  My  mother, wanting to be part of my life and to be able to see her new born grandchild offered to come to one on one therapy with me.  What that accomplished was her telling my therapist she knew but it was the 60’s she didn’t know what to do.  My therapists apt response was , so in the 60’s we didn’t protect our children?  What I am saying here is everyone knew but they put on a public face and by god it was convincing.  If I had not been strong they  may have convinced me that I was crazy.

Instead I became a person who was not willing to keep dirty secrets.  Defenders of Woody Allen say things like, he says he isn’t lying, or he had no history of child abuse.  Well here is the thing, sexual child abuse does not necessarily target every child in a family, it may skip a generation and if you for one second think that abusers are doing it out in the open you are very wrong.  In my mother’s family it seems that the abuse began later in my grandfather’s life.  Consequently it began with my youngest aunt and then me  because I then became the youngest child in their household.  Thus, the elder sisters, my  mother and my other aunt, probably were not abused.  In addition,  from what I have found out since that time  my grandfather started out as a peeping tom.  So what began outside of the home moved inside.

What happens to families in private and what they say to each other in private has zero correlation on how they act in public.  Each person who knew of my abuse admitted to me privately that yes they know it happened (I had the guts to tell my mother when I was 10 what was happening.).  But as an adult and a person who was haunted by the specter of abuse and feared for her own child I needed to have the emotional support of therapy to survive. Because I was fully abandoned by my family and  they threatened to have me committed to a mental institution.

Secrets are unhealthy, but how does a family recover from the telling of secrets? That is a long and complicated process.  All I know is this, when I read anything to do with Dylan Farrow and/ or Woody Allen, aside from being triggered, the pattern of the victim speaking out and the abuser denying is nothing new.  It is all so familiar.  Familiar to the point that Dylan very well could be me.

I could write endlessly about this subject and I may post about it again. But know this, the statistics speak for themselves, to come out, as Dylan did and I did, takes great courage.  As my therapist at the time told me, be ready for backlash and be ready for losing everyone you call family.  She was right.  Every single family member turned against me.  Still, I got through it.  Grew older, had another child, and protected them from both my family and predators.  Keeping secrets leads to sick families.

Dylan needs to keep on speaking the truth and know that millions of survivors also stand with her.

The Strain, or Taking the Sexy out of Blood Suckers

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Warning, do not read Guillermo del Torro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain, if you like your vampires sexy, brooding and charming,  The Strain has no Twilight, sexy brooding teenage vampires or even Anne Rice, sexy vamps. Instead, del Torro and Hogan have created a world where the vamps are rotting, parasitic creatures that spread with a virus like intensity and infect humans with worm filled white blood. Absolutely disgusting!  Yet, also intriguing! Why?  Let’s face it, we all worry about viruses and 14 years into the new millennium we are getting used to seeing new viral outbreaks and worrying about the efficacy of antibiotics. Guillermo del Torro and Hogan have hit a hot topic in a new way.

The Strain is the first in a trilogy and there is something quite reinvigorating about a story line that treats vampires as a virus like infestation.  This infestation rapidly engulfs New York City (and the rest of the world but that comes later in the next two books) turning the newly infested vamps into parasitic monster.  To add to the disgusting transformation these new vamps grow a retractable stinger that grows from their throat to infect and spread the ‘disease’.  In addition their human bodies transform, doing away with sex organs (what!!) and changing human internal bodily organs, after all they don’t need to eat food nor do they have rich red iron filled blood, instead their ‘blood’ is white and writhes with worms.  UGH!!    

Yet, despite the horror of these unlovely vamps I loved the mystery of a plane landing in New York, a still dark plane, no signs of life sitting on the Tarmac at JFK, filled with dead passengers!  Thanks goodness we have Ephraim Goodweather, a CDC doc and his sidekick Nora Martinez on hand.   This is a great twist, vampires as a viral infection but a reminder too that viruses spread like wildfires in the dry brush, and what better army to fight an infection than doctors from the CDC!

Most of us know del Torro as filmmaker, and yes, at times the book does seem set up to be turned into a movie adaptation but thanks to the greed of a billionaire, the desire of an ancient vampire and the energy of Goodweather and Martinez, joined by Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian the story brings new life to an old tale.  I mean seriously, what better historical horror than the Holocaust for evil bloodsuckers to latch onto to hide their activity?  These vampires are opportunistic and evil, and by latching onto the evil of the Death Camps what better way to exploit the worst aspects of humanity. I loved the modern rendering of vampiric evil connected to the worst of humanity?

Professor Setrakian becomes a Van Helsing like character and he is probably my favorite character in the book, a quiet, retired professor who runs a down and out pawn shop but in reality has prepared for the coming living hell wrought by an ancient vampire. He studied these creatures and he is prepared for the coming onslaught! Not believed at first and written off as a crazy man, he eventually partners with Goodweather and Martinez bringing knowledge and a boatload of weapons to the fight.

I don’t want to give away too much but I did just find out that The Strain has been picked up for television.  Thanks to del Torro I think most of the story lines will remain intact, but the more gruesome aspects of the story may have to be tamed for television. I mean really?  Six foot stingers that can suck our human blood …but hey who knows.  I give this one two thumbs up bringing fresh life (no pun intended) to the old vampire story!

Resolution Resolution

I made some private resolutions for the New Year, but over the years this blog has evolved from a news and style sharing site to a personal blog.  Do we need another blog in the world?  Every day billions of blogs are added to the Internet worldwide.  So do we need another blog?  No.  Nope.  But here is the thing, I need a blog, I am a former writer , academic, teacher and deep believer in self-expression to allow me to discover meaning in what is happening to me and in my life.

Living with other people is hard, living with a chronic illness is hard, living with me is hard.  Very few people know or understand my daily struggles, my deep-rooted sadness at not being able to work full-time.  Sometimes getting out of bed is a real struggle.  Other days getting to sleep is a struggle.  But no matter what maintaining a positive attitude is important for good health.  Not because it changes my health but because it makes getting through my life easier and happier.

As for blogging my resolution is to do more.  If you don’t like what I write I urge to read elsewhere.  Aside from blogging more I want to keep up a more positive attitude but also make some new discoveries this year.  Either about myself or other people.   Hopefully good ones.  Positive ones.  Move more, eat better , get out the art supplies (when the light is better!), and love more.  I am also going to get around to reviewing more books on this site, not in-depth book reports on every book I read but books that matter to me or touch me in some way, either good or bad.

xoxoxoxxo

7 Health Benefits of Having a Dog

When life gives you a Jeffrey and you do not have a furry wall a dog will do just fine.

Don’t want to talk to people while walking, plug in, sunglasses on, bangs in place and dog on leash.  If said dog is tres bad tempered all the better!  No one will be rushing to talk to you.  Health Benefit?  You get to stay away from awful yammering people when you have a perfectly good audio book on your iPod.

If you have a small dog the benefits you will reap are ever so numerous! Childless?  The smaller the dog the latest in designer fashions you can fluffy up your dog in.   Is it cold outside and your currently childless?  Well damn!  Getting a four footed, tail wagging, claw waving dog dressed is a cinch compared to getting a toddler dressed to outside and play!

As we age our bodies sag, drag and bag, oh wait, that was another post.  As we age, our bodies are susceptible to little foibles that we didn’t face when younger. Do you find yourself farting uncontrollably?  Obviously , the dog did it!  Even better if you can perch said dog on your lap.  Voila perfect beard!

Does your lower back ache and are you susceptible to back pain?  A dog will solve this problem.  Every time you drop a scrap of food on the floor have no fear, the dog will get it, no need to risk your back and your health.

Are you in the dating market?  Meeting lots of folks but none have that chemistry? Easy peasy getting rid of him, just say the dog hates men.  This works great if you have an angry small dog, or a terrifying large dog, or a weensy delicate dog (just get him to walk her in her pink tutu and matching ballet dogie shoes)

Finally , as we all know dog owners have lower blood pressure, but that is because they share love and companionship with a sentient being that they do not have to account to, give blow jobs to or who borrow their credit card to order strange German bondage porn.

Cheers folks and have a nice night!

Cultural Learnings of ****Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Canada

Or what is good for the Goose is not good for the Gander.  Or is it the other way around?

My partners foreign raised  (as in from a culturally rich but broken almost third world country) daughters have been a perplexing problem from the time I met them.  Meeting someone’s family is a good indicator of who they are, and when I met these grown children I was surprised at the state of their bodies, and their teeth, expecting middle class young people.  But then poverty and health care all over the world is a lot different from what we are lucky enough to have in Canada!

The thing about getting to know someone in mid life is that they come with entire packages of their past life.  That I can live with, but failures from the past or the failure to offer dental care and education for our offspring is a failure of parenting as well.

But back to the proverbial goose, or is it gander?  One of my partners extreme prejudices is about mixed age relationships, not those huge age gap ones, but any one in which the woman is older than the man.  Ergo, all of my past relationships .  Of course according to him age gap relationships are doomed , ignoring the reality that most relationships themselves are doomed anyhow.  In fact most women of a certain age will tell you that younger men are often men that come with much less baggage, prejudice and anger than our contemporaries.  Then again, perhaps with him insecurity reigns supreme.

Daughter number one, the “lovely sweet one”  ( who refused to come to her father’s birthday and excluded me from her wedding) had a marriage that lasted about half a year.   Her latest revelation (that came complete with pictures and details about the joy of sex, Do I dare break it to her that the sex act has been around since ummm forever ) is that since sending her husband of six months back overseas, she has had a relationship with a man that she worked with. One that said husband even knew. Ah, so much for traditional cultures eh?  It seems they come with all the same traditions and flaws we heathens have.

Daughter number one not only dispatched husband with some speed but the new relationship is with a young man ten years younger.  I say meh, who cares really? I believe love doesn’t come with an age sticker or warning label, but her daddy does and he !.

Let’s see what happens when someone gets around to telling daddy.  Will his philosophy about age gap relationships change when he learns his daughter is with someone ten years younger?  Will he be thrilled that she dumped dull, not too bright husband and was having “les affaire” while still married and living with her husband ? ( A strange pattern in this family of women BTW! Why get married?  Why not get divorced?  Is this something we should all be doing?)

Stay tuned, because the only way daddy knows how to react to the complexities of these female relationships is to deny knowledge, shout and tell me I am lying. Fun times in the Okay Corral or was that OK ?

And for fun, he is Azmat just to remind you love comes in all shapes and sizes, after all he was having Hand Party with Pamela Anderson!

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Thinking of some book titles

  • The secret inner world of midlife virgins
  • The Black Death Cookbook
  • What the Flintstones taught me about relationships
  • Me and Fred , the true story of a sexual awakening
  • Fifty Shades of Pink, or get to know your vagina
  • 7 Highly Effective Habits of People Who Sleep All Day
  • Relationship advice for the lazy and stupid
  • Build your own Dalek from stuff you have in your kitchen
  • Put the Pause back in Menopause
  • Take the Men out of Menopause
  • Your dog is not your pet, he is your hostage
  • Cultural Differences aside how to have great sex; don’t talk.  Ever.
  • Genocide, Good or Bad?  A scholarly discussion

To be filed under “stuff I didn’t know “

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I am now six plus years steroid dependent to treat Addisons’s Disease.  A little know illness that impacts the adrenal gland, and results in death if left untreated. The only treatment available are the administration of daily corticosteroids.

Six years in I have travelled thorugh a number of stages, first the denial, as in ” I am totaly fine and life can go on as before ” then the depression when I realized I faced a life of daily medications, endless pills, my permanent outpatient status and ongoing health issues.  Here is the punch line though, I am pretty adept now at managing my illness, I can tell when stress is making my hormones or lack thereof fluctuate.  I recognize the need for sleep and lots of down time, I now longer fight to return to full-time, high stress employment and even live happily within the limitations.  Don’t believe what the countless number of web sites and health sites say about Addison’s Disease though, after describing how rare it is they add the warning, ” people diagnosed usually life long and unhampered lives”.  The suggestion here is that once diagnosed and treated life can continue as before. Not true, sorry to say.

Here is the kicker, with any chronic illness there comes a multitude of side effects from medication.  Change medication?  The meds available for Addison’s are quite limited to three or four different types of corticosteroids.  One of them, prednisone, I quite literally cannot take because it causes excruciating liver pain.  The one I do take has a host of complications such as risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, cataracts, loss of ones circadian rhythm, ie severe sleep disorder, as well as a host of mood swings including depression and suicidal ideation.  Most of this can be counter treated thanks to good medical and psychiatric care.  The reality is the illness itself causes organic depression in the body and the medication one takes to stay alive leads to depression.  How did JFK manage this illness ( I ask and berate myself all the time!!)  The reality is that he took a host of other drugs to counteract the depression such as amphetamines and alcohol.  Because of complications I cannot drink alcohol, eat after six o’clock in the evening.  Eat rich foods, junk foods, dairy etc.  I am mostly okay with that, but here is what really gets me, I never in a million billion years imagined I would be “sick” and in my mind’s eye I saw myself as working on my career until a good old age.  Instead my days are spend managing with care the complexities of illness, medication, side effects and sleep issues.

Even my family, who know me well often underestimate the difficulty of my daily life.  My daughter often forgets I am sick and need help walking the dogs, or am unable to manage food stuff and suffer from sleep deprivation.  My friends and family try to remember, because here is the thing, I often look really well!  As in not sick, as in I look tanned and healthy.  The tanning, a side effect of the disease creates the illusion of health and well-being.  In fact sometimes I do such a good job of not complaining everyone forgets my limitations.  Such as my partner suggesting we add a third (yes third) dog to our retinue of fur babies.  I would love that truly.  But a third dog?  I can hardly fetch my tea in the morning, the difficulty in handling the hot water has in the past resulted in second degree burns (the morning shakes).  So…. no third dog for us.

The real “stuff I didn’t know” is that I am not working, something I imagined I would be doing until at least 65. In addition to that I find pursuit of my life long loves difficult too, such as writing and painting.  The energy required to think straight and to prepare my supplies sometimes seems daunting.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint post.  Not in the least.  In fact I am thankful that of the places I could have fallen ill I fell ill in Canada.  Luckier than some billions of other people in the world.  My life, while maintaining some middle class semblance is limited but not over.  I can enjoy many parts of life, from my dogs to my friends and family and my partner.  It’s just that this thing, this illness, this surprise that came to me in middle age was just that an unprepared for surprise.  How can we ever prepare for the future that is hidden from us?  How can we imagine that our working lives could suddenly stop, just like that for an unforseen reason?  Some of these are issues I plan to take up in future posts but for now, know that my ill temper my inability to join you for dinner, my strange sleeping patterns are not meant to shun or avoid you but my own bodies way of coping and basically just staying alive :)

That is all for now !

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