Both Sides of the Glass

Let’s begin with something basic…

Glass Half Full or Empty
Is the glass half full or half empty? photo credit: Joseph Greve


Some people would look at this glass and say it’s half full of water. Some would say it’s half empty. Would you argue one group is correct and the other is wrong? Our ability to expand our critical thinking seems to be at the point of regress. Too often, we rail against anything and everything that is contradictory to our beliefs, and yet, sometimes both sides CAN exist simultaneously and be true. It’s possible for one person’s experience to tell them the glass is halfway filled, while also being correct for the person whose experience tells them it is halfway emptied.

The same basic idea applies to all kinds of things, such as people. You may know a lovely gal that’s been nothing but kind throughout your acquaintance, while my experience may be that she hurled curse words at me for not pulling out fast enough when the light turned green. Does either define her as a whole? No. Can both views of her exist and be true reflections of something in her character? Yes. However, going back to the regression idea, I’d argue that social media allows us to become more and more vocal about what we think with less impetus to listen to someone with an opposing view. That just dumbs us down and makes us sheep of whoever is spinning the narrative we identify with and latch onto. When faced with an alternate opinion or view, the collective “we” typically ignores it and continues on, steamrolling over the experience someone else is trying to share. Are all those things worth listening to? Hell no. But we’re robbing ourselves of intelligent discourse by automatically shutting out 50% of people simply because they believe something contrary. When that happens we end up glossing over basic tenents of morality by shutting out someone’s truth (or yelling at them about their stupidity) because it’s too inconvenient to hear or entertain. *sigh*


Now let’s move on to a more complex version of the glass idea:
It’s possible for a woman to be assaulted or raped by man that others label a “nice person”. Both of those experiences can coexist, regardless of how contradictory they are. Someone can be a criminal to one person and go home and show a completely different face to others. Most people that knew Ted Bundy thought he was a handsome, charming guy, and look how that turned out. So yes – both realities, no matter how contradictory, can coexist, making a witness to either version accurate and truthful.

(**Don’t run away just yet, please! I know you probably didn’t see the assault angle coming, but if you’ve found your way to this post, chances are you know me personally. Therefore, I ask you to base your opinion of this argument on your personal thoughts regarding me, if necessary. I’m not even talking about all women – or men – of the #metoo movement, or faceless people you’ve never met. Let’s just talk about me for right now.**)

I was raped. Multiple times. And I have been assaulted sexually… by a different man. *And* I have been sexually harassed by even different men. And the sad part? My story is not that original or unique. Let me tie this to current events and then we’ll come right back to me, okay?

Recent news is chock full of headlines about Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, if you’re living under a rock in the US, is currently undergoing hearings and seeking confirmation for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. In the midst of these hearings, a woman has come forward claiming he sexually assaulted her in high school some 30+ years ago. Her claim has been met with stiff resistance from some, staunch support from others, and very little middle ground of people interested in just finding out the truth… which, in the end, should be all any of us seek. Each time I hear negative comments about her thrown about and witness the character assassination she is undergoing, it frustrates and saddens me. The length of time since the alleged incident doesn’t make it potentially less true, but that is one of the largest hurdles she has to overcome in the court of public opinion. It’s important to consider, though, that her silence all those years doesn’t automatically mean she’s lying. The timing of her accusation isn’t necessarily part of a bigger plot to derail the proceedings or delay them until the next election is complete. I wish, for just a moment, we could all step back and seek out the humanity we seem to lose when something doesn’t go our way –  particularly in the political arena. (Sidebar: The hypocrisy of the politics alone is mind-numbing. Both sides of the aisle try to stall Supreme Court nominations every time a seat is available – hell, the last vacancy was during the LAST presidency and yet the republican led senate stalled for over ELEVEN MONTHS, making it impossible for the sitting democratic president to have his suggested nominee considered… all so the incoming republican president could take over the process with his choice. Are we so hard pressed for judges in this country that it has to be THIS man and it has to happen RIGHT AWAY? No. So, please don’t come at me from that sort of political game-playing angle of ‘if this then that’, or I will bury your argument immediately. It has no place here.) My point is, please take political agenda out of the equation and consider facts before condemning this woman and deciding she’s a fame-seeking liar. If Kavanaugh is going to be responsible for helping to shape our justice system, we should be interested – regardless of our politics – in at least hearing what this woman has to say. Even if it means waiting a week to try to confirm his seat.

But let’s get back to me, okay? …. My rape and assaults were, for the most part, also when I was in school. It may surprise or disturb you to know I was being catcalled by full grown men when I was as young as 13 years old. Before I fully entered puberty, adult males were yelling across streets and out car windows all the sexual things they’d like to do to my body. When I was in the 8th grade, and before caller ID, I received threatening anonymous calls telling me if I didn’t do whatever twisted things the man on the other end of the line wanted, he would hurt me or a member of my family. He said he knew I was in the house alone and had followed me there as I walked home from school. Could be, even at that very moment, that he was calling from a short distance away just waiting for me to flee and seek safety with a neighbor…. (Please note – also before I made it to high school.) Some years after these incidents, I was physically and sexually assaulted, and also raped. One assault happened on a summer night as I stood outside less than 15 yards away from, and in full sight of, a group of friends. While they were engrossed, laughing and cutting up with each other, a guy tried to get in my shorts and then wrapped both hands around my throat and said I would cease to breathe if I tried to call out for help. I wasn’t even eighteen. And while I was strong and athletic, his anger and sense of power made him stronger. And though I had plenty of courage, the rage in his face terrified and silenced me. It wasn’t 30+ years ago for me, but decades have passed since then. And like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, after it happened I shut my mouth. My silence, for the most part, lasted for a very long time. After suffering through the first unwanted advance, I had learned vitriolic public opinion and condemnation is akin to being assaulted all over again. I knew a large portion of people thought the ‘men’ that did these things to me were “good”. Their family and friends hadn’t seen the anger under the surface. Were blind to their need to exert control…. or their inability to hear and graciously accept the word “no”. Those people that knew these “good” men had experiences vastly different than mine, but that doesn’t make me a liar or a lunatic. It may be impossible for me to testify to the exact date or the names of the people that laughed and hung out so near me when I was choked, but I can tell you the way his breath stank in my face… how certain I was he meant every horrible word that came out of his mouth. It is well within my ability to fully recall how dismissive his voice was when he told me I was trash, that no one would ever love someone like me, and that my body was broken and ugly – in fact, I should thank him for wanting to touch it. There may not be witnesses to corroborate my story – how often does someone actually witness assault or rape??? – but I can clearly describe how sore my throat was after being choked, or how my head pounded the day a man grabbed my ponytail and yanked a fistful of hair out. My truth is capable of painting a clear picture of what a hand feels like cracking against your cheekbone, or what a beer bottle sounds like when it’s hurled past the side of your head. Just because I’m not sure if it was 60 degrees or if I was wearing pants, I can tell you on a polygraph or with my hand on a Bible or whatever test of veracity you can create, that every word I’m writing is true. It’s also true that at least some of those men went on to become “good people” to others and some went on to continue seeing women as prey. If I had opened my mouth sooner would it have changed anything? Possibly. But please don’t underestimate the need people have to see things how they want. A guidance counselor once compared my situation to that of a football game, claiming though a team may lose one weekend, they still dust off and get back on the field the next. Forgive me nanny, should you read this, but my innocence wasn’t anything like a fucking football game. Hearing that shut me down faster than just about anything else could. An adult I knew well and trusted thought comparing my body to a game that could be won or lost each week would heal me. Instead it injured me all over again. And yet we question why women don’t come forward sooner to use their voice and seek support or “rescue”.


There isn’t always a safe, trustworthy place to seek rescue and not be judged. photo credit: Joshua Wilking


This has gotten quite long and maybe even a little off track, but I hope you’re still with me, because now we’re closer to the crux of the whole matter. Take what you’ve read above and what you know of me as a person and evaluate whether or not you think there’s any validity to my story. I’d prefer you not inundate my comments with horrible or crude remarks if you think I’m a liar, like society claims so many women are, but if that makes you feel more powerful and draws you into a discussion, it may be a small price to pay. No need to tell me your conclusions about the credibility of my character – I’m just hoping to translate this object lesson (or that of the glass) into something much bigger.

So let’s see if it works. If I asked you to walk up to the next woman you know and say you wouldn’t believe her sexual assault experience, would you do it? Would you mean it? What if I told you that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? Maybe that would make you hesitate a second. Would you be able to tell your wife/girlfriend that you wouldn’t believe it if she said this kind of thing happened to her 10 or 15 years ago? How about a respected coworker? Your sister? Could you walk up to your mother or your daughter and say that? Statistically one of those women close to you has been assaulted in a sexual way. Their personal and intimate space invaded and their view of safety changed forever. So please, PLEASE take a breath before your knee jerk reaction tells you “SHE’S LYING!!!” or you yell, “WHY DID SHE WAIT SO MANY YEARS TO TELL ANYONE???? IT MUST NOT BE TRUE!” 1 in 4 women means at least one person you know has experienced something that falls under the category of assault… so it shouldn’t be a shock that so many women are coming forward to talk about it now that they feel people might be compassionately listening, right? Before you jump on a bandwagon to condemn just because it falls outside the scope of *your* existence, please think of the glass and remember that her story of that man CAN coexist with yours. After all, we all have a side no one sees. I recently heard someone describe it best like this – we all have our public side and our internet search history side. YIKES! But even with all that being said, and perhaps against the odds, I still trust the majority of men. Surprising, perhaps, but I realize they can’t all be painted with the same brush of negativity.

You’ve come this far, so go one more step with me, okay? I ask you to please think about what we’ve discussed and then tackle this question – why do so many people automatically question the story of a woman claiming assault or rape? Have that many women falsely accused you personally that all women should suffer henceforth? Were you as close to that Hollywood star as a brother and can attest to their whereabouts at all times? …..  I recognize there are malicious and vengeful women that will, unfortunately, lie about something as serious as this and ruin the image of an honest man. It angers and frustrates me as much as you, but there will always be those that don’t take the moral (or honest) high ground. That shouldn’t lead anyone to believe that all of the other claims are false, however… Isn’t it bad enough that the onus is on women to begin with? I mean, we women are solely responsible for a man being unable to stop his dick from jumping into us, right? (Again, nanny… I apologize!) If skirts are too revealing or too much skin shows or we smile across the bar or dated him once before or had a couple of drinks with friends to lighten our stress or danced too provocatively to be pure or jogged down his street when he was home or laughed at his joke or slept with his friend or kissed him passionately or said yes the last time…. Any and all of those things should be a green light for a man to ignore any “NO” and hold us down, forcibly remove clothing, and put their hand over our mouth to stop us from crying out for help, right? Right?? ……………… Do you see how broken our very thought patterns are about this? Have you ever stopped to wonder how you’d react to your sister came home from a date bruised and shaking? Or if your girlfriend returned from a jog telling you a man pushed her into an alley and tried to force her to lick and suck his body? What would you do if it was your daughter quietly speaking up for the first time 5 years after the fact? Or we can bring it back to me… Have you wondered how you’d react, knowing me for X number of years, if I said once upon a time a man forced himself into me while tears rolled down my cheeks and my mind went numb and my body lay limp on a rough carpeted floor? Well, at least you don’t have to wonder anymore about that last one, I guess.

Please take care of one another, okay?



Also, I feel I need to say —- not all of you know these things about my past and what I’ve been through. I didn’t post it for a lot of probing questions (even now I’m not comfortable talking about it), and I definitely didn’t post this for sympathy. Please take that compassion you feel and extend it gently to the next woman you encounter with a similar story. Trust me when I say, she’s out there somewhere in your life and she needs you to believe her. xoxo


Actual statistics – not pulled outta my butt –  from the national sexual violence website. And yes – I realize men are also assaulted physically and sexually, and it’s as horrible in that situation as in these. This sort of violence against women is far more prevalent, however, and this is based on my experience, so, there’s that… Thank you for the read and thank you (hopefully) for believing~

Empty …

Empty Chair
photo by Nathan Wright – words from “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables

There’s an empty room inside me. Or tomb, perhaps. Isn’t a tomb typically a large vault for burying something? That might be more apropos… The deed is done, the surgery complete, my insides successfully excavated – much to the delight of my doctor. Tomorrow will be a week that I have been free of all worries uterine… And yet, today it really hit me, as I began to have what would typically be pre-period ovary pain, that my body is no longer as it was. (I know, it’s too much info. But please bear with me.)

I am officially incapable of having children. Boom.


There should be joy, some will say, while others probably wish I would just.STOP.talkingaboutit. Except that I can’t talk about it. Not really. Not in anything more than abstracts and factual statements concerning daily health updates to those that care to ask… My mouth freezes and my tongue ties and my eyes fill up with tears each time I try. And what good would it do anyway? What has been done cannot be undone. Like one of those hidden pictures where you try and try to see the image you’re not supposed to, yet once it becomes visible you can’t go back to seeing it the way it was before. I’m the after image now. This version of me can’t be unseen, and yet I feel completely invisible.

My family is going to read this and tell me, “You can always talk to me!” or “Please talk to me!” But it’s not that simple, you see. Especially with family. And of the very precious few that I’ve felt capable of reaching out to, only a couple have been there and made time for me. Pain compounding hurt compounding heartache is not a good recipe, so here I am. Hoping for some sort of solace in writing it out. Hoping to find some lifeline that will pull me out of this flash flood I’ve been swept away by. An opportunity has died, and with it, a part of me as well. It hasn’t been my focus, though it has been incredible painful whenever the thought slips in… No, I’ve merely been trying to fight off ME/CFS flare-ups caused by the hysterectomy, trying to fight off cold and sinus yuck from my weakened immune system, deal with aches and pains from having all my insides shoved here and there. And each day has been determination to heal and feel better, but today all that got drowned out with the rising tide and now I’m just trying to survive. Praying someone will care enough to notice and hoping no one really will because then they’ll pat me or pity me or something equally as difficult to bear and I just can’t handle that right now. But the problem is, I don’t know what I *can* handle. Strength has never been hard for me – I’ve always been strong in every way. This journey has defied all I thought I knew, however, and I am lost… And every time I try to ask for directions, I end up worse off for my pains.

Music is usually my hiding place for all things. So, maybe if you want to help, you can offer uplifting suggestions or something. My heart keeps getting drawn to what my brother would call ‘sad bastard songs’. Great way to feel understood… baaaaaad way to pull myself up from the dark!


photo by Ian Espinosa - words from "Flood" by Jars of Clay
Photo by Ian Espinosa Words from “Flood” by Jars of Clay

I’m not even sure what I hoped to say with this post, except to echo my original hyste(rical)rectomy post “Please Be Patient With Me“, and honestly, there may be one or two more before it’s all said and done. With that said, I think I’m going to stop rambling for a while and go lie back down for a bit… In the meantime, if I don’t reach out to you, it’s probably because I can’t right now and it’s nothing personal.  And if I *DO* reach out to you, please be gentle with me – I don’t know how long this will take or what will help me through, but I’m doing the best I can.
Be good to each other… this world is tough enough as it is~

Please Be Patient With Me

I’m not sure what I want to write. Not even sure it’s a good plan to be writing at all… but my heart is full of so much right now that it’s making me sick to my stomach and causing a throbbing ache in my head. This will probably be pretty disjointed as I just try to purge some of the excess, so please, try to be patient with me!

Recently, I’ve fallen off the map for a lot of people. One of people I am closest to told me a few days ago they sometimes wished they could disappear. I cynically responded, “You and me both!” But here’s the thing – in a way, I actually have… My life has become such a balancing act of managing stress, paying bills, going to work, controlling ME/CFS symptoms, putting on a ‘happy face’, and trying to meet expectations of others that I’m exhausted before most days are halfway through. Evening finds me stumbling along in a similar pattern night after night pretending I’m getting along just fine while inside… well, inside I’m not. For those that have watched me slowly disappear, I hope you know me well enough to realize it’s not a conscious choice and will accept my heartfelt apology for not being very present. For those that’ve been inundated with my problems and insecurities, I hope you continue to find grace to deal with me while I navigate through it all. If you’re one of those I’ve entrusted with fears and concerns, you’re in an unenviable place, but the only true thing I need from you is your presence and support. That’s all. For various reasons and in different circumstances, criticism has been piled upon me left and right until I’m suffocating from the lack of value I feel… So the vulnerability and extremely low self-worth seeping from my pores? It’s authentic and deep-rooted. If you’re not able to hang with me through this, then perhaps we were never as important to one another as I thought. Trying to open up to someone and being shut down, ignored or belittled really makes it that much more of an uphill climb and I need you on my team right now – it’s small enough as it is! If you care about me *AT ALL*, please don’t turn away. Regardless of what I might tell you in my happier (or delusional) moments, I am not fine. Truly. And my fervent hope is that you *do* care and I might somehow learn to find my value again by seeing I also have worth in your eyes.


For those not in the know, I’m going to try to be brave and open for a minute in case it might go the extra mile in helping someone else one day. My year has been okay so far. Much better than a lot of people, so I try not to complain. Particular incidences, however, have sucked and made everything feel it’s going to shit. (Sorry nanny, if you’re reading this.) It seems it all happened around the time I had a bad month with a dangerous infection behind my tonsil that left me unable to talk or swallow – it hurt to merely breathe. The doc took one look at it and within 15 minutes had surgical items set up in the room to perform what Bobby dubbed my “barbaric John Wayne procedure” (with no more anesthesia than a shot and very little coddling) that involved a scalpel and the roof/back corner of my mouth. I won’t share more detail, but it was pretty brutal stuff that I was told most patients don’t handle well and often pass out from. (I, thankfully, did not, but it sucked all the same.) Around the same time I found out I’m going to have to have a complete hysterectomy. Many women I’ve talked too have said, in almost identical tones, “You’re so lucky! I wish *I* could have one!” And I understand. Honestly. But here’s the thing – I don’t. I never wished that. And although the intervening months have helped me come to a uneasy and precarious acceptance of the situation, I cannot stress enough that it has been devastating to me in ways I can’t put into words. True, my marriage has been rocky and my health is bad, but I always thought I’d have children… Even as I got older and it became an increasingly tiny possibility, even as I accepted in my head that it was never going to happen… even as my husband and I tried to console one another and find joy in other things, a part of my heart failed to accept the terms. So, finding out my uterus is enlarged and riddled with enough fibroids to rival the size of a 3-4 month pregnancy has forced my heart to acknowledge what was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. Something in me died when I heard that. Something that will never be fixed and never be reclaimed. Between that moment and this, I’ve been accused of being combative, lazy, selfish, pessimistic, stupid, and told I’m taking too much time to deal with the situation and need to get on with it… I’ve heard it all. And sadly, it usually comes from a friend not foe. Someone said, in a frustrated and cynical way, that with my astounding tendency for bad luck the hospital should have extra blood on hand for transfusions during surgery. They laughed, I laughed, the conversation moved on, and then I came home and cried. Because that’s truly the way it typically goes. That’s not a pity party speaking, either. CFS has taught me to prepare for the worst case scenario and be THRILLED if things work out even slightly better.

In the midst of all this, I’ve lost the desire to be social. I’ve shut myself off from people that might otherwise help me through. I’ve opened up to all the blackest, darkest thoughts that can crowd my mind and found rare moments of solace – when my sister fiercely said, “that is so fucking unfair!” or my sis-in-law’s eyes filled with tears at the news because she immediately knew where my heart fell in this matter. I’ve tried to “self-medicate” with denial or anger, quiet acceptance… I’ve watched my blood pressure slowly increase alongside my depressive anxiety states, attempting to counterbalance those negatives by being more active while also carefully monitoring my ME/CFS symptoms so as not to push myself into a crash. The last few months have been pretty tense and the juggling act is not for the faint of heart. Yet, quite a few of the people know the situation seem to expect I can handle it all on my own. It’s not that my exterior isn’t tough and my determination stout, but this is harder than it looks…

Plenty of people will read this and it’ll be the first they’ve heard of the matter – some of them the closest people in my life. It hasn’t been in me to talk about it except in the rarest moments – my energy has been diverted toward existing. Toward battling the agonizing pain and exhaustion those blasted fibroids put me in at least two weeks of every month. Toward maintaining a job and as much of a household as I can manage. Toward outward appearances to avoid 1000 questions and painful conversations. Realizing at every turn that I’ve done a piss-poor job in almost every area of my life thus far – relationships, household, workplace, kindness and grace. So, I ask again – please be patient with me…

I know this hasn’t been the most articulate post and it may or may not even fully make sense. It was necessary, however, for me to write it out somewhere. And while my instinct is to keep it private, with so many of my other health struggles, I can’t help but think someone out there might need to know they aren’t alone. Someone might read this and discover another person truly understands… Another woman’s life may be on the edge of a huge change that feels like a period rather than a comma or semicolon of life, and it may give them comfort.

Please take care of each other… and try to remember you can’t tell a person’s struggles just by looking at the expression on their face.

A Non-Moms View of Mother’s Day

My mother is fantastic!  I owe so many of the fabulous things that I am and have to her!  It has always been a blessing to call her mom and I’m so happy to celebrate her – today and every day. The truth, however, is that Mother’s Day is difficult and painful for me… because I am not a mom and never will be.

My beautiful mother!
My purty mother!


Mother’s Day is beautiful, and I always enjoy hearing the wonderful things friends and family share about the special women in their lives.  None of us would be here without a mom of our own – whether biological, extended family, adopted, chosen or unknown.  There are so many types of mothers in the world and a woman who has raised or nurtured a child in any way is an amazing sight to behold.  They multitask; practice phenomenal amounts of grace; act as caretaker, doctor, cook, maid, teacher, moral compass, friend, disciplinarian, cheerleader, counselor… The list, frankly, is too long to fit in a single post.  Suffice it to say – it’s an incredible job and undertaking!

Mothering has got to be the most difficult job!
Mothering has to be the most difficult job – mine excels at it!


However, every year when we celebrate and recognize that fantastic group of women – deservedly – there is a different group of women that suffer in silence.  These are the women that, for one reason or another,  should be mothers but are not.  These are the women that never found a mate to start a family with, endured miscarriages, experienced the pain of infertility, were dealt a life of poor health, are estranged from their children, were unable to adopt, or have given up their child into adoption.  These are women that had a family and lost their children through a divorce… Women that lost a child who ran away, was in an accident, was a victim of crime. These women *should* be mothers, but for myriad reasons are not.

I am one of these women.

“Mother”…  At one point, I couldn’t even say the word without a pang of desperation.  Each time I logged on to social media and looked at my friend’s adorable offspring, I had to quickly scroll past their pictures or run the risk of bursting into tears.  I wrote blog posts about the struggle.  Commercials, TV shows, movies, or families spending time together at the park or a festival I was attending, could send my emotions into a tailspin, and still sometimes do.  I recall painful Mother’s Day church services, hearing the pastor ask mothers to stand and be recognized, only to feel humiliated and empty, like less of a female, surrounded by all of the standing women in the motherhood club…  At times, I’ve held an infant or child in my motherless arms simultaneously being pulled in two directions – half of me honored and rejoicing with the parent letting me hold their precious baby… the other half ripping apart inside knowing that cuddly moment was fleeting and would end with me walking away as barren and childless as I was walking into the situation.  Just writing about it now brings tears to my eyes.

I know parenting isn’t easy and that there are probably times at least some wonder what in the hell they were getting themselves into.  I know individuals and couples that actively choose not to parent, for various reasons.  Still other men and women aren’t meant to parent or are not capable, and knowing that, give their child into adoption so that someone else may provide a life for it…  All people, at some point in their lives, question whether they should or should not have a family and I respect whatever decision they come to in their circumstances.  Please, just understand that it’s difficult for some of us because the decision may not have fully been in our control…

If I don’t come out on a play date with you and your children, it’s not because I don’t love you guys or want you to include me in your lives… If you’re talking about your kids and my eyes look a little red or my smile seems forced, it’s not because I’m not interested in hearing the stories you have to tell.  If you post a picture on social media and I don’t leave a comment or click “like”, it’s not that your family isn’t cute and worthy of a minute of my time.  No matter how I know you – I’m happily your friend, neighbor, family member, or colleague, and long to share in your life and the lives of the youngsters you adore… Just know that some days it’s more difficult to accept my situation, but despite that,  I don’t want you to stop sharing with me!  There are moments that the sting is a little sharper, but it has nothing to do with you – I promise!  Sometimes, my mommy instinct flag is just flying higher than usual.  On those days, there is a lump in my throat, an ache in my chest, and a noticeable emptiness to my arms merely because on Mother’s Day, and every other day, I simply long to be a part of your ranks.

me & mom vols game
I owe so much to this lovely woman!


Please be kind to one another, and please love all women in your life today!

Until next time – thanks for coming along on my journey…

shaken – not stirred

light is gone
nimble fingers of darkness
chase its rushed retreat
leaving me

     no will
     no hope
     no breath
     no life

drenched in tears
and i am
stripped to the bone
peeled back
the layers of

     my mask
     my childhood
     my insecurities

     my love….

and all of the other waste
rises to the surface
waiting to be sloughed off
detritus of my soul

shaken – not stirred


© 2016, Heather M. Tolley, All Rights Reserved

Words of the Past This Wednesday — Poetry From Years Ago

I’ve been working on new posts but have neglected to finish any recently. With that in mind, I went back to some old poems and pulled a few out that caught my eye for one reason or another.  I’m rather undecided about whether or not I think they’re “good”, but still, there is something about most of them that appeals to me.  Here is an untitled piece that is at least 15 years old… Hope you enjoy!

full moon

Closing sunset’s door
night creeps in without offering a candle.
Imprisoning me with the stench of desperation…
it wraps its charred fingers around my throat
and chokes out any hint of light
remaining in my dismal room.

Lulling me with its siren song
the twilight offers a flicker – a flame.
Through the warped and greasy lens of age
I glimpse one last vestige of an ambient dawn
exultant and guileless –
like cartwheels in the sun…

The mirage falters and fades
burning my retinas for the briefest moment
in its glorious jubilation.
And then night returns –
creeping into each far corner
and extinguishing the beacon of my memory
leaving cold oppression
in this claustrophobic room.





© 2016, Heather M. Tolley, All Rights Reserved

reading between the lines

these are words always left unspoken
this is the legacy of my pain
unvarnished remnants of a fractured life
permeated by the tools of shame.

you came to me in such a desperate hour
where i lie huddled in a blackened cave
as i emerged from that deepened shadow
you realized then – i could not be saved.

so i wandered feeling dark too deeply
reaching for a light that never shone
such a curse my barren self lay dormant
but rejection spits out hearts like bone…

and then dust grew deep upon my self-worth
though the calluses refused to form
each day a hike across this frozen tundra
who knew respect was key to staying warm?

which left my heart without a decent chaperone
so softly approach – calm my doubts, my fears
between these notes please hear the love in subtext
i’m only waiting for acceptance here.

Lines of frozen grass

No Solicitation

This incessant noise, thoughtless chatter
is so abysmally abrasive…
It peels the soft insulation off this
pasteurized conversation.
It’s probably ‘a drop in the bucket’,
just a whisper in the void…
If you change your angle, change your tune
evasive action is deployed.

Lower your standard, raise your octave
– stutter “once upon a time” –
When you close your eyes to the greed of need
it’s bound to feel sublime.
Why trouble yourself with a quiet plea
from a desperate, vagrant voice?
Your memoirs are much too important, you know,
and your ignorance more so a choice.

So you stuff your face with the vestiges of
compassion you claim to purport.
Consumer lives are flashy – the rage –
buy the t-shirt to show your support.
Never notice my pain or my silent tears
is this how meaningful I should be?
My words packed away – they’ve no power here…
That voice that you stifled was me.

No solicitation










if your spirit breathes me in

if the spirit is truly carried on one’s breath,
please let me breathe you in.
bury my face in the soft curve of your neck
and, when your heartbeat is in sync with mine,
let’s introduce our lips.

uncertainties are carrion for self doubts we wear
so come to me stripped down
layers of your soul laid bare…
and let’s lie on our tummies in soft spring grass
gaze into each other’s eyes
sharing wishes and dreams
trading secrets on whispers fragile as wings.

would you ache to illicit my laughter
as I seek and nurture yours?
and in joy, trace the lines of my face?
be interested in the phrases between words?
those unspoken nuances of emotion –
the tender underbelly, vulnerable and raw
a quiet self hidden from the world
sacred few only see…

and when my soul stands naked before you
is this the pinnacle or descent?
are they equivalent in your eyes?
unencumbered by placating masks,
have I lost my charm and mystery?
are you paving a way for moments to fade
into plastic, nostalgic memory
so you can toss me on a pile with the rest?

it’s not too late – this is only as lost as you want it to be…
so dare to take hold of fear and
please breathe me in once more
– you’ll find me again
in the warmth of your mouth…
where our spirits first learned to linger

pink gerber pair harmony copy


This is My Body on Exercise… Or, Risks of Exertion as an ME/CFS Patient

When there are days you have to sit down to rest after taking a shower, exercise can prove next to impossible. It can really be a pain in the… well, it’s painful. We’ll just leave it at that for now.

Exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle and a healthy body.  It can lift spirits, provide immunity support, strengthen and tone, and keep everything in good working order… But what happens if exertion is the very thing that makes your body sicker?  The thing that is capable of completely incapacitating you?  Welcome to living in a body run by ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome).  This is my nightmare.

Before I got sick, I belonged to a local gym and enjoyed going 4-5 times a week.  There was a yoga class I loved, a spin class I was finally getting good at, weights that were toning muscles I had forgotten were there, and a cardio room that I used to meet my sister-in-law in so we could use the elliptical machines together.  It wasn’t always easy to go and sometimes I skipped, but I tried to make make it a priority on my schedule.

Fast forward to the present.  My body has undergone quite a few changes in the passing years.  Harboring several different health issues and a humdinger of a coupla chronic illnesses, the gym has become a thing of the past.  Almost like a fairy tale I made up to amuse myself.  It’s been almost seven years since my ME/CFS diagnosis, and a couple of those have felt like the longest years of my life.

What most people don’t understand is how I can usually look fine on the outside while saying I’m so sick on the inside.  Typically, I look pretty healthy.  A little tired, perhaps.  Certainly carrying more weight than I should and than I used to… In general, however, I look like your neighbor or your sister or someone you would pass at your gym.  Meanwhile, the inside of my body is a wreck.  And one of the main things unseen is how it can take every bit of energy I have to make you believe I feel as well as I look.  *sigh*  It’s something of a curse, at times, because people with ME/CFS have to spend a great deal of time trying to convince people that they really are illEven though some are extremely ill.

A bad day with my puppy protector. I could not handle any outside noise that day so I had to wear ear plugs, my head was pounding so I was using an ice pack, but my body temperature was lower than normal and wouldn't regulate, so I was covered with two blankets. *sigh*
A bad day with my puppy protector. I couldn’t handle much noise that day so I was wearing earplugs, my head was pounding, hence the ice pack, but my body temperature was lower than normal and wouldn’t regulate, so I also had two blankets covering me. *sigh*


Please believe that I am not lazy!  I wish my body was cooperative.  I wish I could exercise like people tell me I should.  The truth is, everything goes haywire if I push too hard.  If you have to sit and rest after washing a sink of dishes, you’re probably not at your healthiest… And while I am MUCH healthier than severe ME/CFS patients, it’s nowhere near the person I was.  (For an absolutely heartbreaking look at what severe ME/CFS can look like, please read this recent article from The Washington Post about Whitney Dafoe.)  Some patients can’t leave their homes – others are confined to their beds.  It’s a blessing not to be stuck in bed, and a continuous source of gratitude to know I am not housebound.  I walk as often as possible, manage to work 20 hours a week, and still have enough energy at times to go out with friends and family to a movie or restaurant.  Heck, when all the stars are perfectly aligned, I might even manage a short hike!

hiking boots


What I would ask you to know, however, is that it comes at a price.  When a reasonably fit, healthy person hits the trails or goes for a run they might have sore muscles after an intense workout, but they can get back out and do it again within a day or two.  For someone living with ME/CFS, exertion of any kind (physical, mental, emotional) can lead to days, weeks or even months of recovery time.  In some cases, overexertion is the reason a mild or moderately ill patient ends up permanently bedridden.  It’s a terrifying tightrope to walk.  Never knowing what a few extra minutes of walking might do.  Never knowing if too much housework in a day will put you in bed for weeks.  Living under that black cloud of uncertainty is its own form of mental exhaustion.  My body doesn’t react to activity like it should.  Sometimes walking from the bedroom to the kitchen causes such oxygen deprivation that I have to lean against the counter until my breath comes normally again.  There are days I may manage to get to a hiking trail, only to discover a quarter-mile in that my heartbeat has become increasingly erratic, that I’m staggering because my equilibrium is way off, or that my body temperature won’t regulate and I’m sweating profusely despite the cold or shivering despite the heat.  I’ll confess – there are times I’ve had to sit down in the aisle of a store or abandon a cart full of groceries simply because my legs became so weak that I couldn’t stand anymore.  It has come down to making the decision to finish a task or have enough strength to drive home.  It’s frightening to be okay one moment and find yourself helpless the next… Every system of my body revolts, sometimes at a moment’s notice, and there is nothing I can do but ride it out.  So many random symptoms might attack – chest pains, missed heartbeats, brain fog – just to name a few…  There are so many severe potential risks to being active that, if I’m not having a good day to begin with, it really isn’t worth taking a chance.

Other times, however, I do risk it.  To enjoy the outdoors, to feel like I have a life, to maintain some independence… I tell you all these things so you know the effort and energy it takes, and so you can be a bit gentle with me, or anyone else you know with ME/CFS.  I would also ask, however, that you remember sometimes we dare to dream… we dare to take the chance.  There are some things in life that are worth it.  By asking you to understand, I’m saying you’re probably one of them..  🙂


One of my favorite things to do when there *is* leftover energy is to get outside and hit the trails.
One of my favorite things to do when there *is* leftover energy is to get outside and hit the trails.



As always, thank you for reading!


Observations from an artist, photographer, and dreamer…