Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Waste of Time

Recently I ran across a travel article and was horrified to read that the writer considered a visit to the Alamo a waste of time.

To be fair, the writer also dissed a few other well-known tourist attractions. He was primarily focused on the structure of the place. Granted, the Alamo, sacred mission and symbol of all we hold dear in Texas, is pretty dilapidated. There isn't much to look at. And maybe it doesn't hold much fascination for a non-Texan. But perhaps it should.

Those of us who love history and historical places clearly do not visit them for the accomodations. Historical places are... well... old. They are musty. They are usually not air conditioned. They rarely have decent bathrooms. No, we make the trek because they are precisely what we expect them to be - tangible proof of struggle and triumph.

And the true purist would be offended anyway if someone came along and spiffed the place up a bit.

I visited Plymouth Rock once. I am not a descendant of one of the original pilgrim families. The rock itself was small and somewhat unimpressive. But that did not prevent me from looking out over the landscape and imagining the hardship of the individuals that settled there. It did not keep me from feeling a sense of loss as I pondered what happened to the villagers. The rock told a story.

I visited Austria once. I am not a descendant of one of the ill-fated Jewish families of that region. The countryside is gorgeous, and it was evident to me that the citizens of Austria would prefer not to dwell on the autrocities of the holocaust. But that did not prevent me from marveling at the irony of the ugliness that occurred at the hands of one egotistical lunatic. It did not keep me from being overwhelmed by the mere thought of the countless numbers of lives lost. The land told a story.

I visited New York City once. I am not a descendant of one of the immigrant families that were herded through Ellis Island on their quest for a fresh start. The Twin Towers were still standing then. They were simply pretty buildings to me. But that does not keep me from gazing at my photographs and recalling the events of September 11th as they unfolded before us courtesy of modern technology. It does not keep me from swelling with pride when I remember the unprecedented patriotism that arose from the despair. The towers tell a story.

One day there will be little remaining evidence of the destruction of the Twin Towers. Growth and progress will take over and Ground Zero will be a well-documented memory. Will tourists stand in that spot and say, "Huh... there's not much here. What a waste of my time..."?

God, I hope not.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Monster

I used to be one of those short-sighted, opinionated types that believed that if a woman was abused by a man, and she didn't leave immediately, she was either a fool or a masochist.

I was wrong.

Nearly 20 years ago, when I was between marriages, I spent several months in a toxic relationship. It didn't start out that way. No, not at all. In the beginning, he was sweet and attentive and generous. Things deteriorated gradually, with him "teaching" me how much I deserved the treatment I was receiving. By the time he broke my body, he had long since broken my spirit.

The police weren't much help. They finally took my reports seriously when he broke into my apartment while I was away, setting off the alarm. I guess having to respond to a burglary was more compelling than two black eyes.

I learned a lot about the dynamics of domestic violence, lessons that make me a better therapist and a more compassionate human being. I recognize the ways in which I benefitted from the ordeal, although I would give just about anything to erase the memories and end the nightmares.

I recently had an inexplicable urge to search for The Monster online. (Isn't Google an amazing vehicle?) What I found was not what I expected. The Monster is dead. He died about a month ago. He left behind a wife and children. The obituary stated that he had moved back to his home state and was serving as a deacon in his church. I wondered if he was still smoking pot and beating up the nearest woman when he couldn't score a fix. I wondered if he had accepted Jesus as his savior.

Another thing I wasn't expecting was the ambiguity I experienced upon reading of his demise. Was I supposed to feel relieved? Happy? Sad? Angry? Envious? Worried? Grieved? Retraumatized?I felt all of those things and more.

Another reminder of just how human I really am.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Sometimes, when you keep your feelings to yourself, because you think it will be easier on me, it makes me feel worse.

Sometimes, when you point out to me how wonderful or beautiful one of my children is, when you know I have two, it brings out the tigress in me.

Sometimes, when you are really polite, because you think it is the genteel way to behave, it feels as if you are afraid of me.

Sometimes, when you tell me everything that is happening in your life, because you want to include me, it gives me too much to think about.

Sometimes, when you say everything is going to be okay, because you want me to feel better, it seems as if you would really just like for me to stop crying already.

Sometimes, when you give advice, because you want to fix things, I feel as if you don't have confidence in my ability to find the answers.

Sometimes, when you remind me to look at the bright side of things, because there usually is a bright side, you seem to be telling me that I have no right to be upset.

Sometimes, when you go into a whirlwind of activity, because there are things that need doing, I wonder if I am not getting enough accomplished.

Sometimes, when you do all those things for me, because that's your way of letting me know how much I mean to you, I really just want you to sit beside me and hold my hand.
Sometimes, when you give me my space, because I am distant, I really wish you would come closer.