Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘friend’

Nothing But the Best

SecondBestSecond Best by Charmaine Pauls
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The story is a beautiful work of art that alternates between the first person account of Molly von Aswegen as a teen, and her later life in Johannesburg, South Africa, as told in the third person. The tale takes place between 1981 and 1984 with 17-year-old Molly fighting for her life in an industrial school (similar to reform school), and the foster homes, jobs, and people she encounters once she gets out. The pacing, and timing, between her past, and present, are done seamlessly and to great effect.

Having most every horrible thing possible happen to her before she turns twenty-one, it is not surprising that Molly has little trust in others, and no self regard for herself. There are only two people that stay with her, and whom she trusts. Malcolm (Mal) meets her at school just before he goes off into the army and to fight in Angola. Neill Mckenzie, who owns the Opera Bakery, is the second person who sees something more in Molly than her life circumstances and reputation. Neill sees potential and a passion for baking. The story is reminiscent of the 2015 film Dough (without the comedic elements), which has an old Jewish baker struggling to keep his business alive in London, and the teenage Muslim boy he hires, who is “nothing but trouble”.

All of the character’s in Second Best are played well. Molly and Neill’s families are from different sides of town, and each member comes to life. Molly’s friend and foes at school, Berta, Mr. de Jonge, and Jessica, are like people you may know, or have known. The Opera Bakery’s obnoxious and self-centered patron, Judge William Brooks, who has power, prestige, and a sense of entitlement, can also be found in cities across the world. Realism, with dialogue, character, and action, run rampant throughout the story.

Second Best is a well crafted, insightful, and entertaining story, that takes you into the heart and soul of a young woman finding her way through a hellish childhood, and discovering if anything reminiscent of self-love, respect, and love, is remotely possible.

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There Goes Our Sex Life

imgresWhen your newborn is literally sucking the energy from you twenty-four hours a day, will the energy to make love with your partner ever return? How do you nurture your relationship, and find time for sex, when you have young children wanting and needing your attention 24 hours a day?

You may find yourself replying to these questions by exclaiming, “Never.” “It’s impossible.” “You’re kidding!” or “We’ve given up trying.” The reality is that you DO have to make adjustments, continually negotiate with your partner and practice the patience of saints, but you DON’T have to give up your sex life altogether.

From the moment your baby comes into the world your lives are changed forever. No matter how long you’ve been together before the birth or how much you’ve read about it, there is nothing that prepares you for the overwhelming responsibility, attention and energy that parenting requires. Rarely do couples talk about how having a baby will effect their sexual lives, yet it can be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a mother or father.

After having time to lavish each other with affection for months or years, before giving birth or adopting a child, you are unceremoniously thrust into EVERYTHING being structured around the baby. In terms of upsetting the apple cart of domestic tranquility, newborns are the most powerful force on the planet. When you sleep, eat, work and make love is predicated and influenced by the newest member of the family. It is utterly amazing how such a little bundle of flesh and bones can have so much control on our full-grown adult lives.

New fathers are particularly vulnerable during this change in life and often come down with the “whoa is me” syndrome. Not only does the baby literally come “between” the mother and father, the baby takes ALL of her attention. The physical bond between mother and child is very powerful. It can be difficult for father’s to accept this reality, even if they thought about it ahead of time. And if, like many men, a father associates sex with love, he may begin to fear that he isn’t loved anymore. This is especially true when the babies mother doesn’t have as much time, energy or desire to make love as often or as long as she used to. In the beginning months she may not want to at all.

Most women do not love their partners any less after the birth of a child; they simply do not have the time, energy and stamina to sexually express their love the same as they did before. Without denying the physical attraction that is part of the relationship dance, most healthy unions consist of more ingredients than just sex. This is where men (and women) can allow patience and understanding to take root, instead of frustration and anger and appreciate the many ways we can communicate our feelings for one another.

Give each other long hugs and kisses. Massage her/his back, neck, hands, arms, legs, feet and/or face. Cook and serve a special meal. Talk to each other and take the time to be present and listen. Don’t assume you each know what the other is thinking or feeling.

If you simply want sex, then find time alone to pleasure yourself. There is nothing wrong with some self-loving and care. Don’t expect your partner to supply all your needs or fulfill all your desires.

Usually, as a child develops, stops nursing and needs less physical attention, a woman’s libido also returns. If you’re the mother’s partner, let her be in the driver’s seat. She’ll let you know when she’s ready. Absence of sex doesn’t mean she loves or desires you any less, it is simply a physical and emotional reality that can arise from having a baby.

As your child grows physically and cognitively, steps into the toddler stage and enters their first years in school, an array of options for intimacy with your sweetheart will be presented. If your child is sleeping in your bed, once they have fallen asleep you can take a mat and go to another room for some mutual pleasure. Make sure to be aware of and adjust the sounds you allow yourselves to make, depending on how deeply your child sleeps.

Another wonderful opportunity is to develop a community of other parents with similar aged children and exchange childcare two to three mornings or afternoons a week. This is not only emotionally beneficial in sharing the experience of parenting, but also allows you to arrange your time, whenever possible, for you and your mate to get together and have a romantic morning or afternoon. If you have other family and/or friends who offer to provide childcare, don’t pass it up, always say, “Thank you. Yes. When and where?”

You can also carry on your romance without having to physically touch each other. Write a love letter, send a card, a gift or some flowers with a note. Stop by your partner’s place of work. If you’re son or daughter is with you, bring them along. You don’t have to stay long. Just stop by, let them know you were thinking about them and can’t wait to see them when they get home. If you’re the person working, take a break on your lunch hour, go home and give everyone hugs and kisses. If you work to far away to drive by give them a call. Let them know that even in the midst of your busy day, you are thinking of them.

As your child or children, move on into their adolescence, teens and early twenties, they become more aware of themselves and of their parent’s sexuality. It isn’t as easy to sneak off into the bedroom or bath while the kids are watching their favorite show or playing a video game. Nor can you linger in bed on a weekend morning, without them figuring out what’s going on. Make sure to have sound proof doors to your bedroom and teach your kids about privacy and knocking before entering a room with the door closed. They will want to have the same respect for their privacy as they age.

Once your child begins attending school there are more chances to rendezvous in a variety of locations. If you can’t make it home, call and talk sex on the phone.

At this age it is much easier to have them stay overnight at a friend or relatives, thus giving you the entire night to indulge in your fantasies or just go out to dinner, dance, a play, movie, etc. You may be able to swing a night at a bed and breakfast or go for a long ride in the country and make love outdoors. The possibilities are almost endless.

One’s relationship will change with or without children. Don’t let being a parent put a total stop to your sex life. You can experience the ecstasy and the agony of having children and the joy and pleasure of a satisfying love life. One does not preclude the other. It depends on your expectations, your ability to adapt and change and to love one another exactly where you are. Learn to love without trying to manipulate, control or coerce the other into some memory you have of how you think things were “before children” or having them match an imaginary image of “perfect sex”.

If you look, listen, feel and pause long enough to see what you have in your relationship and not what is temporarily missing, you may come to appreciate and value your partner in an entirely new light. Yes, having a child will change your relationship and your lives forever, but it doesn’t have to stop you from growing, sharing and loving one another in the most intimate and loving ways.

Teen Romance

imagesCindy was a mature woman of sixteen. I was an immature man of eighteen. We met in the afternoon at a teen drop-in center, gazed hopelessly into one another’s eyes, like puppy dogs, and within hours were talking about hooking up. That night we slept together for the first time and I was in heaven. I’d had several previous relationships, but none had ever been this intense or instantaneous.

Within a week Cindy had her mother’s permission to live with me and my grandmother said we could rent her trailer. Everything was set. Life was good. Cindy taught me the joy of sexual freedom and living in the moment and I obediently followed her every wish and whim to “make her happy”. I was so enmeshed in the sensations of the relationship that I failed to recognize my co-dependent and needy behavior. In my mind sex and love were one and the same.

I continued working at a counseling center and Cindy finished up her last year of high school. I studied Eastern religions on the side and she enjoyed drawing and working part-time at a florist shop. The only “minor” issue was that I couldn’t “make her happy” or give her the answers she was seeking. We were two young teenagers growing up together who had no idea what we were doing, what we wanted or where we were going.

After two tumultuous years we figured the answer to our dilemma was to get married. Why not? Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do? And even though it didn’t mean much to us at the time, we figured the worst that could happen is that we’d receive a lot of cool presents! Getting married was “just a piece of paper” we reasoned. Both of our parents had divorced and we knew we’d “always be together” regardless of any societal contract we may sign.

The wedding turned out as planned. All of our friends and relatives showed up at the reception, we got plastered and received a lot of money and presents. But after the money was spent and the wedding hangover wore off, the realities of what we had done creeped into our daily lives. We didn’t know what being married meant. I thought it implied getting a “steady job” and having children. So, I obtained a nine to fiver at the local phone company and we talked about having kids and buying a house. Lukily, neither the house nor the kids worked out because a year later it was splits-ville, as in divorce, finale, kaput, the end.

Screaming was the only thing that finally got my attention. Slamming the door shut behind her, Cindy entered the living room late one evening and yelled at the top of her lungs, “I can’t live with you anymore. I want a divorce!”

“Why,” I pleaded. “What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” she said. “Why don’t you stand up for yourself? Will you be real with me just once?”

“OK,” I replied, “What do you want me to say?”

“You don’t understand do you?” she replied. I sat silently with my head in my hands. After a deathly silence she quietly said, “I just need some space to be by myself. I moved in with you right from home. I’ve never been on my own.”

“So it’s nothing I’ve done or said?” I asked, my lip quivering.

“No, its not you,” she said.

In fact, it had a lot to do with me. She moved out a few days later and in a month was living with another guy.

Her decision to leave was not entirely out of the blue. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, she had been trying to separate for months. Other than running away, she had given me every clue possible, but I was blind. Her anger and judgments were an attempt to alienate me. She had thrown every name in the book my direction, at one time or another, assuming I’d leave. But like a faithful lap dog I had kept coming back for more.

At one point she insisted I sleep with her friend Lewellen and that we have an “open relationship”. I tried to do as she wished and acted like it was all cool, but it wasn’t. It turns out that the reason she had wanted me to be with other women was because she had already been having affairs with some of my best friends and I assume would have felt less guilty about her own behavior if I’d done the same.

When she left my bubble burst. I thought it was the end of the world. My dependence on her “being happy” as an indicator of my well-being had been total and complete. In the process of making her “OK”, I’d forgotten about myself; my wishes, desires, joys, ambitions and dreams. I had no sense of who “I” was or what made me happy.

Time didn’t heal anything, but it did give me some perspective. Clearly, I had sacrificed what little sense of my self I had ever had for Cindy. As long as I left all decisions to her it would be “her fault” whenever something didn’t work out. I was absolved from all wrong doing. I could blame her for everything. I could wallow in my self-pity and externalize all my troubles. “She did it, not me. She lied to me. She left me. She hurt me.”

I slowly recognized that I had made decisions by not deciding. I had lied to myself. I was equally responsible for our breakup. She tried to force me to be honest and state my needs, but I had cowered from the task. Shock tactics and reasoning never worked. Getting a divorce was what it finally took for me to wake up. It was the brick wall I needed to run into. If Cindy had not had the courage to leave I may have been lingering in a false identity for eons.

Like a snake that sheds it’s skin but still longs for its security, I kept aching for Cindys return. Even though I learned many things about myself since the divorce, images of us getting back together still lingered with sweet agony. Intellectually, I understood such images were fantasy, but my dependence on her for my well-being had been so complete that it took constant reality bites to loosen my grasp and let go of her as my emotional crutch.

Attachment is a strange thing; it can cause bliss and joy or pain and sorrow and you can’t have one without the other. When I grasped for love with Cindy I actually pushed it away with my wanting and neediness. She lost respect for me. The thing I wanted most didn’t want me. There was no substance or core to who I was. I decided to never put all my cookies in one jar. Until I knew who I was and what I wanted, I would not become involved with another woman. I silently swore that I’d never become so dependent on another for my happiness and well-being.

Such self-promises proved to be fruitless. Three more women entered my front door over the next three years and sooner or later left out the back porch. Each time I “knew” it was different than before. But sure enough, as each relationship ended and I had some perspective, it become clear that I couldn’t hide a wolf in sheep’s clothing. No matter how much I wanted to think I had changed, my basic behavior in response to each situation had been the same. They decided when to do what and when the relationship was over; not I. It wasn’t until a conflicted eight-year marriage ended, that I took responsibility and made a painful choice to leave.

After many years I believe I’ve finally figured out how to love and be loved, but I know that isn’t the most original idea that’s ever been planted in my head. I’ve been known to tell myself the most wonderful stories; and they always have happy endings. Every woman I met was the girl of my dreams. It wasn’t until I became more of who it was I was looking for, that I woke up and found the partner I’d been seeking in all my fantasies.

Teacher Warrior Mother Friend

imgresWhen I was a young man (about two hundred years ago), I was lucky enough to discover a martial arts school in my hometown that taught Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. The head teacher (Sensei) was a woman named Professor Jane Carr. The reason I say “lucky” is because I could have innocently become involved with a so-called teacher who had not been well trained, whose only concern was fighting or winning competitions and/or making money. A teacher, who cared more about power, control and prestige then self-control, honor and respect.

Professor Carr was different. She was a teacher, warrior, mother, counselor, non-violent activist and friend all rolled up into one. She expected all her students to work hard to improve themselves in all aspects of their lives, in and out of the dojo (practice hall). She commanded respect, not because of her fighting skills (which are formidable), but because she showed respect for others and would settle for nothing less in herself. Her presence demonstrated and invited those around her to discover their own inner strengths and character. Professor Carr is still teaching (after 55 years), and her daughter is head instructor at the academy. Sensei Carr was recently awarded her 10th degree black belt, making her one of only three people in the American Judo & Jiu-Jitsu Federation to have this degree, and the only woman.

It’s No Big Deal

GoodGrief_180WFrom Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“What are you so upset about? It was only your ex-husband.”

“Come on, get over it. You can always get another cat.”

“Hey, you hadn’t seen your friend in years anyway.”

“They were drunk half the time. Who cares?”

“It’s not the same as being married. You just lived together.”

“You only knew them for two months!”

“Weren’t they old? They lived a long life.”

“No, you can’t come to the funeral. You aren’t part of the family.”

These are just some of the comments that people hear, and a small sampling of how their grief is disregarded, after they’ve had a friend, acquaintance or family member die. The losses they have experienced don’t match the images of who and what is acceptable to grieve in our society. And it’s not just others that cause such pain. We are often our harshest critics. We internalize the conscious and unconscious messages we are fed daily and are often confused with the intensity of our emotions and reactions after a death, when our head is telling us we should not be feeling much at all.

Our response to any kind of loss, especially from death, is our bodies natural reaction to the human condition, even though we analyze it, distrust it and, at times, find it hard to believe.

“Why am I getting so upset over my ex-husband’s death? We never got along and I’ve been better off without him.”

No matter what the relationship was like, it was a relationship. There were attachments, habits and shared time that will always effect one’s life. For some, the never-ending hope of reconciliation will have died as well.

“It was only a cat. I know it’s not the same as a person.”

Your cat or pet was a living creature. We can grow just as accustomed and fond of an animal as we can with a human. The same kind of attachments and memories occur.

“We were best friends during high school, but that was ages ago.”

Some friends stay with us forever, whether we see them often or rarely at all. The time we spend together can leave us with lasting imprints, influences and memories, as well as regrets, bitterness or pain.

“This is crazy. His drinking ruined our family and our lives. He was mean and abusive. Why is his death so hard? I thought I’d be relieved.”

Even abusive, negative relationships can cause unexpected mixtures of emotion. Though we may have separated ourselves from the individual, and learned how to fend for ourselves or are still in contact, there is usually some deep feelings of loss over the years that they were not the parent or partner we had wished for. The realization that they have died can also awaken the fact that the opportunity for them to change or be different has died as well.

“We were only housemates. It wasn’t like we were married or anything.”

Whether as a friend, lover, roommate or relative, living in the same household is one of the most intense experiences in our lives. It’s where we learn how to interact with others and provides daily reminders of our differences and similarities. Whether two people living in the same household have their arrangement sanctioned or accepted by others does nothing to diminish the powerful lessons and connections that develop. We are intimately shaped, both good and bad, by those with whom we live.

“I just met them two months ago, but I can’t stop thinking about them.”

The length or duration of a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of greater or lesser importance or impact. Some people we’ve known for years, yet have little connection, do not effect us deeply upon their passing, whereas others we’ve just met leave lasting footprints. The grief and mourning that result from the loss of a recent or longtime acquaintance is VERY individual and unique to that person, as are our needs in grieving their loss.

“Grandma was eighty-five years old. I knew she wouldn’t last forever, but it feels so sudden. I loved her so much.”

The longer someone you know lives, the harder it can be to accept the reality of their death. Even though you may have had time to prepare and say, and do what you needed or wanted to, it can still seem like it came too soon. There are times when no matter the person’s age, you want them to stay forever and their death is devastating.

“They never accepted me. I should have known this would happen.”

You have a right and a human need to attend the funeral and/or memorial of your partner. Your relationship with the deceased was between you and them, not their family or friends. How your relationship was seen or accepted by others is important in your adjusting to the loss, but not dependent upon it.

There are times when those you expect to be of help are not always able or willing to do so. For some, it is too painful. Others find it impossible to stop judging long enough to listen. When you can’t attend the funeral or memorial, due to the deceased’s family, distance or other circumstances, create your own ritual or ceremony of leave-taking. Invite those who will be present with you and share your loss.

Relationships with people and other living creatures are what make us human. It is normal to question, criticize and judge our selves after someone in our life has died. It is also normal to feel pain, frustration, anger, sadness, relief and confusion.

If you don’t get the kind of support and acknowledgment you need from family, friends or colleagues, then find it elsewhere. Don’t minimize, trivialize or try to forget your loss. Find ways to acknowledge, respect, honor and validate your experience and the reactions that have resulted.

Further reading and support at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Losing A Pet

They say cats have nine lives. I wish that were true, but the facts contradict such myths. Everything dies, including the felines, dogs and other creatures we choose to care for and have in our lives. Most animals tend to have a shorter life span than humans, thereby increasing the chances that our beloved friend will stop breathing long before we leave our mortal bodies behind.

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An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

To add insult to injury; is the often callous or dismissive attitude and comments of others when we’ve lost a non-human friend. People don’t always understand the emotional impact losing a pet can have. They disregard our pain when we try to talk about the cat or dog we’ve had for fifteen years getting sick and needing constant attention. They scoff at our tears, when our affectionate tabby is lost or killed by a car. They belittle our sense of shock and disbelief when the dog we loved and cared for tenderly for the last eight years suddenly dies.

Yet, for some, pets, animals, and companions (which ever you prefer to use as a label for non-human creatures) are some of the closest and endearing connections we experience in life. Being responsible for any of the varied creatures placed in our care takes time, attention and devotion. And, just like people, such continued time and attention creates attachment, bonding and lasting imprints.

The love and commitment we give and receive from our animal friends, in some respects, are quite unique from that of other relationships. Sometimes, they are the only living beings that love us unconditionally and don’t argue, judge or hurt us in any way. They also provide forms of communication beyond words. There desire to be touched, patted, combed, and talked to, provide warmth, softness, connection, meaning and continual reminders of enjoying the present moment.

A lady I recently met was shocked when told by her veterinarian that their beloved kitten had cancer and should be euthanized. She refused and is currently seeking a vet that will give Hospice-type services for her cat, and provide whatever is needed to make sure her family friend dies comfortably at home enjoying as many precious moments that remain. Like human beings, there should be an alternative for animals beyond that of further treatments or mercy killing.

Losing a pet also awakens other losses we’ve experienced; whether recent or long ago. When a cat of ours, named Sushi, was killed by a dog a couple of years ago, I unexpectedly found myself remembering my childhood collie, named Pinky and the grandmother I used to visit when Pinky was still alive.

The loss of your animal friend should be treated the same as that of a human. Talk about the loss; share your pictures, memories, tears and grief. Walk, run, swim, workout, hike, bicycle, dance, play or listen to music a couple of times s a week by yourself or with a friend.

Breathing exercises, visualizations, relaxation, stretching, meditation, affirmations and yoga have all been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and positive endorphins to help the body heal.

Relax in a hot tub, hot bath, shower, sauna or sweat lodge and let the emotions seep from your pores and evaporate with the steam.

Put together a collage, altar, memory book, picture frame, treasure box, video or CD of your cat, dog, bird, horse or rabbit.

Have a service or gathering. Memorials and/or funerals; provide validation of your relationship with that being; acknowledgment that their life was of value; and societal affirmation that all living creatures are to be honored and respected.

If you’ve lost an animal friend, at any time in your life and would like some additional support (outside your circle of family and friends) contact the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals), an empathetic therapist or your local grief-counseling center.

Further reading at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Anger Off the Leash

How to be pissed off. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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Anger can be our friend. Keep it close at hand and, when needed, let it off its leash.

The energy of anger can be used to wake us up, change our emotion or move us from grief and helplessness to action and reaction.

All too often, anger’s been given a bad rap. In and of itself, it is simply an accumulation of energy. It is how we use it that makes the difference.

If you are unaware of feeling angry than it can catch you off guard and harm yourself and others, but when we use the power it possesses to snap out of a bad situation or right a wrong, it is thus used wisely and for the benefit of all.

Don’t “be” angry, use what is called anger and use it well. If you are not being mindful and at ease with the force of your fury and rage, then remain silent and go to a safe place to let yourself explode.

As you know, I used to have quite a temper, but I’ve learned how to judge and blame others instead and realized that it was most likely someone else’s words or actions that triggered my angry response. It does no good to point this out, as they tend to be blind to their ignorance and they just get angry.

Drifting Clouds by Master Tarantino. Page 5-6

More topsy turvy wisdom at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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