Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I’ve spent most of my childhood and still spend A LOT of my adult life watching TV.

It was my savior as a child, distancing me from the chaos, hate and violence that surrounded me. It was another disassociation I concocted along the way to survival as much as the eating was/is at times.

TV took me to places I wish I were, people I wish I had known and families I wanted to be a part of. My life and TV were parallel universes.

As a young child I was enchanted with Superman, the old black and white TV series.
It astonished me that no one could hurt him-no bullets, no punches, no slaps, and no beatings.
Nada. Nothing. He would protect all his friends and people he didn’t even know from harm.

Of course every once in a while a perpetrator would find some of that nasty green kryptonite to disable Superman’s powers, but he always found a way around it.

I can remember wishing he were my father. No one would hurt me, or call me names and I would always be protected. He was just a super man.

On other channels, shows captured my fantasies. Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show and Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best.

These homes had two loving parents, brothers and sisters who actually liked each other.

The mother always stayed home and never worked and they were never beaten.
Imagine that.

My universe was devoid of any similarities. It’s as if I grew up on Mars. Mine was just the opposite. A mother who always worked, was never home, my father a mystery and gone, and well, you know the background about my brother.

Yet I always found myself airbrushing my existence into their lives, morphing into one of their relatives, where I could find safety, acceptance and love. Where people actually spoke to each other instead of punishing them with walls of silence.

I Love Lucy taught me how to laugh and be funny. Laughter in my house was a seldom visitor.

TV land is where I wanted to live.

I felt a certain kinship with the Circus Boy, a story about Corky; a young boy whose parents were killed in trapeze accident and one of the clowns in the circus adopted him. Corky then became the water boy to a baby elephant named Bimbo. Corky’s life consisted of traveling with a group of misfits whose kindness and love showed him there was hope and healing after tragedies, no matter what kind of freak you felt like.

I was in a circus of my own with the White Tower. At a very early age, I was friends with midgets, drag queens, hookers and street people who were some of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever known and who I felt safe with.

Home was more or less like the Twilight Zone. You couldn’t really believe what was happening. I used to think as a child my mind was playing tricks on me. What I “saw” of the outside world and what was happening with my “inside” world conflicted in every way how a child should grow up.

As the shows reached the end of their lives and seasons ended, I too had reached a point of knowing that this would never be my life. My so-called “involvement” with these fantasy families were archived and put on a shelf.

But there were other channels to explore and watch and other dreams and fantasies to take their place.

One thing was certain. None of these shows were mine. I was a spectator at best.

I was the audience, not a participant.

I was in the cheap seats.

Channels kept changing and so did my life. My years in art school,and working at Yale resembled the entertainment Channels.

It was there I found friends, learned by watching others, how to play and be myself and for the first time truly be accepted, or at least a hint of what it could be like. We were all misfits of some kind. Scientists, and artists who marched to a different drummer.

I fine tuned my portrait photography, had exhibits and thought life was grand and would never end. I made friends with people who I let decide what was best for me, never having the nerve to step out on my own.

It was safe living inside their dramas and never dealing with my own.

But all that came to a crashing end.

Things changed, I changed and this time I was truly lost.

It seemed as if I had run out of fantasies, channels and any kind of hope. Nothing seemed right. Nothing made me happy. There was systemic damage and I couldn’t figure or watch my way out of it.

It’s as if someone had pulled the plug on my view of life/TV.

I realized all of my life had been spent living on everyone else’s show. I had walk on parts in everyone’s play, but never a main character. It’s like when you see a soap opera and the two main characters are talking, you see people behind them carrying on conversation, but they’re not. Their lips move to indicate the illusion of a conversation. My life seemed mute. My existence was an illusion.

I was always living in someone else’s play and it had ceased to work.

I crashed hard, without a net.

Fragments of my life were scattered all around.

Nothing held together.

There was no one else’s life I wanted to copy or imitate. I needed my own.

Truthfully I didn’t even know what I needed.

One last time I changed the channel and found nothing.

The screen was blank. I had to start over. From scratch. From nothing.

I had reached the end.

But then enter, stage left, a producer.

A producer for my very own show on my very own stage.

The definition of a producer for any show is:

“The producer is the person on a movie set who makes sure everyone shows up and knows what to do when—. The producer is the person who shows up on set only when there’s trouble, and then causes more trouble, cell phone in one hand, bullwhip in the other. The producer does all the hard work on a film and gets none of the glory. The producer sits at the right hand of God, and even then sends up notes.”

Enter Dr. Hadar Lubin MD Psychiatrist. Dr. Lubin is Founder of the Women's Trauma Program and the Co-Director of the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven CT.
She is also an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine. She developed the Women’s Trauma Program and has written extensively on treatment of PTSD.

Dr. Hadar Lubin is a stunning Israeli woman with the proverbial wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, teaches endurance within strength and has a gentle intensity that immediately captures your trust.

No accident that in Hebrew, the name "Hadar" means "spectacular", "splendid" and "greatness".

There is a story in the Bible of a woman named Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah. There are several versions of this story. One is that Dinah is raped. Her son born from this rape is taken away from her to become an Egyptian Prince. The bible does not give Dinah a voice to tell of her experience of rape and violence and the pain of having a child ripped from your life, and yet Dinah’s spirit has somehow survived. We ourselves can give Dinah a voice. We can imagine that Dinah found the persevering strength, to go past her victimhood and become truly free. We are most like Dinah when we find a voice to speak of our tragedies, and transcend them.

Dr. Lubin teaches us to find our voice and let it be heard, far beyond a stage whisper.

Dr. Lubin has given me the tools, resources, and guidance to finally stand center stage in my very own life.

It has taken four years to get my character right. There is still a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning left.

There are channels left to change, my character will change, but I will be the only one on stage.

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sweet Dreams

Cupping my hands
Over my ears, wishing
the screaming would stop
I cling to the wall
hoping to find protection
from unkind words, threats
and accusations

Covers over my head, I fold
into a fetal position
I burrow my 5 year old body closer
to the scratched and worn
bunk bed post, finding safety in the
dark corner next to the wall

Praying the further away I get
from the outburst, the more invisible I will be
It does no good
Her words hit me like her belt strap whipped
across my body
Fear within and without

“….ungrateful kids…..I work so hard….
I don’t ask much……fend for yourselves…
maybe I’ll never come home….I don’t ask much”

Hardly a lullaby to whisk me off to sleep
Only sobs and tremors

Her shrieking ends with the slam of the door
The old Black ’48 Chevy grinds it engine
as she drives off into the night


Then a whisper from the upper bunk
“Ssh,.” my 11 year old brother says
“It’ll be alright. Ma’s just mad ‘cause
We woke her up with our laughing.”

He slides his hand down the wall.
“Here, hold my hand ‘til you fall asleep”
I grab onto it, feeling the small warts
on his rough hands.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Fifth Chair

A wedding of a friend
brings five friends assembled
Two couples and myself
Shared memories of thirty years
bond us like a Gordian Knot

Twists and turns of life celebrated,
commiserated, and endured together
act as glue
Everyone has a role
Therapist, mentor, brother, mother,
My role, clown, make them laugh
Remnants of a past life continue
Betrayers and pretenders disguised
As confidants, and mentors
Methodically assume control
never to be questioned
They are never wrong.
I am never right
I am not their equal

It’s a lie I believed
But I am not without blame
This pattern has defined my life
until now

Lives intertwined at one time, so natural,
now seem fraudulent, a lie, a fairy tale for a child
But I am a child no more
Shattering my role as the target
for everyone’s anger, projection and ridicule.

Choosing to uncover my own truths
I am pushed out of the circle
And dismissed
A loss never imagined
four years ago, abandonment, betrayal
A release I now embrace as freedom

I dared turn a mirror in their direction
And saw nothing
No longer playing their game
The lens becomes sharper
The mirrors converge
No more blurred images of my own life
And sadly, but finally, theirs

Four friends sit in a row
With the fifth chair empty
Four years ago that would have
been my seat
The place of the fifth wheel
I sit two rows behind
Rolling alone and on course
Thanking God clear vision
Is finally repaired

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lot 125- Grave #11

September 23, 2008
The days couldn’t be any more different.

Today is an early fall crisp day, full of sun and skies with no clouds in sight. It’s the kind of day that could mark any birth, beginning or just a kick start to a fresh era.

The cool autumn air weaves in and out of the strategically spaced and planted low rising white birch trees. Some feel that to stand here is to be aligned between heaven and earth. The landscape is groomed, orderly and unblemished not only for the inhabitants, but more for the loved ones who come here either frequently or myself, who never come here at all.

Dr. Lubin is standing by my side. Her gentle hand is on my shoulder. I am not alone. Dr. Lubin has reined in the stray pieces to the puzzle of my life and together we have rebuilt the scenes. It's a challenging puzzle. Most of the pieces were missing.
But Dr. Lubin is a master and gifted healer who believes in delving straight into your soul and discovers with you, the buried treasures that have been hidden. They surface and we celebrate together. This journey could not exist without her.

The last time I was here, 20 years ago, was a cold, bitter day in December. The wind whipped it’s fury through the sparse trees, taking with it the last vestiges of the already deadened leaves. The trees as I remember, were so much smaller then.
I tried on that day not to think of you. I tried to find any distraction that would tear my mind from the thoughts of you. We had caused each other so much pain. I don’t think we knew then even why.

So many differences between now and then, so many conflicts, and so many unanswered questions.

I was angry then. I am sad now.

I had questions then. I have answers now.

It’s sad you could not have been part of the dialog of working things out.

That I had to do on my own, like everything else.

You lived angry and died sadly. I disappointed you even in death, while trying to make you happy in life. Our lives were a study in extreme contrasts, from the moment of my conception, to the instant of your death.

I believe, in my Polly Anna world, that I wanted to be born. You, in your brutal honesty, never wanted to give birth to me. You have always made that clear.

What is done is done.

I am not here to accuse, blame or denigrate you.
I am here to thank you. From your mistakes and flaws, I learned how to steer clear of making the same ones.

I don’t know if you would like me any better today. I tend to think not.

Everything you stood for, I was against, and vice versa. I am sure you saw me in later years as cruel and unloving, the same I had seen in you when I was a child. At what point did we merge and become each other?

Strangely enough I Iearned more from you than anyone else. I took whatever you didn’t give me and looked in other places for it and most of the time found it.

From your closed heart, I searched for others with open hearts and learned to open mine.

From your unhappiness I searched how to fill my life with joy and passion.

From your dishonesty and untruths, I learned how to be true and honest.

From your narrow focus on life, I learned now to broaden my vision.

From your black and white world, I learned that there are so many gray areas to be accounted for.

From your silence and disapproval I learned how to speak with kindness.

From your lack of nuturing and love, I am finally learning how to take care of myself and love myself.
We were sent to each other for many reasons. Our journeys so different, our lives so very different. I am still on my journey.
Your journey’s answers remain with you.
I blame you for nothing. You told me in later years you didn’t think I loved you. I told you I did and still do.
How I wish I had heard those words from you.
I am sorry it has taken me 20 years to place this marker on your grave. But nothing would have made you happy.

This marker represents my last endeavor for your love.

Please accept it.

I truly hope you can rest in peace.

I know that now I can let you rest in peace and I can live in peace.

Maybe this is the first and last time we agree on anything.

As I turn to leave, I place a large plant of purple mums on her grave marker.

Next to the mums, I place the photo of my dad.

I want it to feel like a family, my family. And for a fleeting moment it does.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An Ocean of Mercy

Suddenly, like magic, thoughts about work, life, writing and everyday turmoil, thrashing about in my head, come to an abrupt end. It's as if a retaining wall were put in place inside my brain to hold back the flood of thoughts, ideas, beliefs and opinions. Everything comes to a grinding halt.

In its place, from this room, the gentle sound of waves slap quietly against the shore and immediately grab my attention. I look up and out the window, well outside of myself and see nothing but ocean. The light is soft and even on this semi fall day. The ocean is calm and glimmers with reflected light. Peace and serenity surround me.

It is that time of year when summer begs to hang on, but autumn begins to display its change. Leaves begin their transformation ever so slightly and summer days waffle back and forth from warm to cool.

A gigantic pine tree burrows its old and weathered roots into the grassy area twenty yards from the ocean. It is far from a perfect shape, much like myself, but a shape that has been and continues to be be formed and twisted by the wind, and defined by the elements of its surroundings. In spite of its weathered life it remains strong, healthy and deeply rooted. Don't be mistaken into thinking this tree hasn't seen its share of hurricanes, tornadoes or ice storms. The bare patches and missing pieces on this tree, say otherwise. Storms take their toll, yet the tree stands proudly, boldly and even slopes towards the ocean, as if to challenge even more oncoming rages from Mother Nature. The tree can take it.

A woman walks along the shoreline, head down, hands clasped behind her back. Several paces behind a sea gull follows her trail and almost mimics the woman's walk. The woman seems to be looking for something, answers, ideas, or maybe just plain peace. The sea gull's head pokes down every now and then foraging for food.

I sit in my room gazing at the three living species in front of me. I too join them in their quest and challenges.

I came here to try and finish three specific writing pieces. I'm not a nature writer by any stretch of the imagination.
None of that seems to matter now. It's lost in the clutter of my mind that was silenced when I got here. All that's here right now is peace, solitude, and silence, save for the sounds of the ocean. No radio, no tv. no people.
The world has mercifully stopped for a bit.

But I am not alone. I brought someone with me who I have not seen in 60 years.
My dad.

A long lost first cousin called me 10 years ago to tell me he had a photo of my dad when he was in the army. I've never heard from him since- until Monday.

He emailed me the photo of my dad, and it is leaning against the old lamp I am using at this writing desk.

The sepia toned photo shows a young handsome man. I look so much like him, it's scary, but exciting.

Finally a face, my father's face, to put to a name, Dad. A man I have never met but have never stopped romanticizing or fantasizing over.

I have him now.

This room, this time, this view,and his face are all that matters.

Mercy Center
Madison CT.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In the Belly of the Beast

They are sitting as far apart on the tan, expensive, overstuffed leather couch, with pillows at either end, as far as you can get from each other. They are unmatched bookends with a thousand volumes between them. Jake is slouching, resting his right elbow on the sofa arm, head down in hand while his left hand awkwardly brushes nothing off the log of his jeans. Jake is very handsome in a styled scruffy way. He has longish brown curly hair, shoulder length, blue denim work shirt and jeans with a hole in the left knee.

Amy sits at the opposite end of the couch stiff and upright, nestled against the other arm of the sofa as if being any closer to Jake would send her to the bottom of some horrendous abyss. She fold her arms across her chest like a defiant child, and looks straight ahead at nothing. The silence is thunderous. Tension so thick, it seems any sound would break the sound barrier, like a soprano hitting the highest note possible, shattering crystal into shards of glass.

Amy is gorgeous. Short hair, perfectly coiffed, it fits her tight angular angry face. She is wearing a Giorgio Armani pin striped suit and a simple string of pearls around her neck. Professional, tailored and very much in vogue in the corporate world.

Their careers are as opposite as their marriage and dress code appear to be.

Jake is a carpenter, cabinet maker artisan and musician. His passion is his music. He loves to craft with his hands and write his own music. Amy is a high ranking executive in a business conglomerate, a world which hires and fires people as swiftly as you spit out sour milk from it's container.

The world of opposites which once drew them wildly and passionately together, now threatens to rip that world into shreds.
They have been married for 12 years.

They are at opposite end of the spectrum. Amy is pregnant and does not want the child. Jake wants the child. They are here, in this psychiatrist's office to decide whether or not to go ahead with the birth. They already have a 10 year old boy. This is enough for Amy, but not Jake.

The bickering between Jake and Amy begin immediately and nothing is sacred. Jake accuses Amy of having an affair with her boss, which Amy denies, then accuses Jake for being overbearing, jealous and obsessed because of his lack of "performance" in bed. Words fly against each other like bullets.

The psychiatrist sits across from the both of them in his own comfortable chair. There is a square black coffee table separating the unhappy couple and the shrink, a physical reminder that there are boundaries.

The psychiatrist is here to allow them to speak about their feelings. The shrink is a moderator, a referee of sorts. The married couple is here to make the decision together- whether to abort this baby or not..

The couple spits venom at each other, but I immediately take Jake's side. He is likable, still in love with Amy, loves his son and seems to take the brunt of the relationship gone wrong. He wants to continue family life and make it work.

I do not like Amy. Not exactly the motherly type. She is callous, cold and too self absorbed. She is more interested in her career than her family.

Their weakest and most embarrassing qualities are thrown at each other like arrows, like the way Amy feeds her son to Jake's accusation of Amy having an affair with her boss, to indifference to sex with Jake. Everything once right is now wrong. Raw, dirty and unfair accusations bounce back and forth looking for a place to lay blame. The only interruption is Jake or Amy asking the shrink to side with them on a particular issue. The shrink is good. Obviously not his first couple in crisis, he hands out no answers, just throws back the questions.

The shrink brings them back time and time again to the issue at hand. True, this couple has many issues, but the decision they came to make has very little time to be resolved. If an abortion is to happen, time is a factor.

For the next couple of weeks, the sessions play out in much the same way. More accusations, more blame, more hurt.

The third week Amy opens the session by admitting that in the past week, she has slept with her boss.

Jake is crushed. You feel his pain, his tears and betrayal. Jake is angry but pleads with Amy that he will do anything to save this family, this marriage, this home. He loves her no matter what. He wants this baby more than ever.

Suddenly Amy loses it. She begins to scream at Jake for "not fucking getting it at all".

"You just don't get it do you Jake? I don't want this baby! I don't want to be a mother. I'm not even a good mother to our son.
I want my life as it is. I want my career, my freedom, my job. I want to work and travel and not be tied down by a fucking baby. I am telling you right now Jake, I WILL NOT LOVE THIS CHILD!! I will hate this child and this child will mean nothing to me. Do you want to bring child into this world knowing that the mother doesn't want it? I am too selfish and don't give a GOD DAMN about this baby. You will have to raise it and give this baby what it needs, but believe me Jake, it will always know that it's mother did not want it. It sickens to me think about bringing up another child into this fucked up world and this fucked up relationship. I cannot do that to a child. The child needs it's mother and I will not be there, now or ever."

Amy then storms out the door. Both Jake and the shrink sit there is silence. Finally Jake leaves, turns to the shrink and says,
"Thanks a lot, I came here so you could help us decide whether or not to have this child, now you have ended our marriage."

After a few minutes the shrink gets up to close the door and rearrange the pillows on the couch.

While arranging the pilllows, something catches his eye on the couch. He leans over to look. In the area where Amy was sitting is a puddle of blood.

The decision was made for everyone.

From “In Treatment”, the HBO series based on the Israeli Series "Be 'Tipul"

I sit back from the TV in amazement. Suddenly I like Amy. A lot. She may be self absorbed, but she is honest, brutal but honest.

I visualize an almost abstract picture of my mother- pregnant with me and what disgust she must have felt. I would be a bastard child that she never wanted. She never married my father, just fucked him one night in the back of the White Tower Restaurant. I was a mistake, a mistake she never let me forget. I am the mistake. What did she say when people noticed she was pregnant? Did she smile? I doubt it. Who did she blame. Did she pound her stomach with her fists and wish the child inside her would die? Nothing but backdoor abortions in the 1940's, otherwise I wouldn't be here.
Was she disgusted with herself? As I grew older and put more weight on, was I a mirror image in which she hated the both of us even more? She had a weight issue also. She hated men and I was afraid of them.
Unlike this TV series, she had no options, probably had no one to talk to either. But we both survived.

It is clear to me now, my mother was on her own journey and responsible for what she made or didn't make of it.

I am on my own journey, so very different from hers. I am responsible for my choices.

The way I see it, our paths crossed once, and only once.

Maybe that's all we needed from each other.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Price of Healing

Dr. Lubin writes these scalding words on the white board with her fiery red marker. This is the topic of the week for the trauma group. I sit in silence as my fellow comrades in this battle of survival, list what their experiences are with this hot topic of the week.

In the past 1 and 1/2 years we have become mirrors of each other, partners with each other, similar to long term friends, couples who know each other's secrets, finish each other's sentences, laughing as we do. It's a secret club. At times we open the door to each other's pain by asking questions instead of pushing buttons or just being with the moment, as sad and as heartbreaking as it is. We know we cannot change what has happened in the past, but we can change what happens in our future. A year and a half ago, most of us thought we didn't have a future. We have learned how to listen deeply and lovingly to each other. We have a spectacular teacher. Dr. Lubin sets the stage.

We are at times a funny little dysfunctional family, but always working towards that common goal of healing our wounds that have penetrated us physically and emotionally. Difficult to know which one hurts the most.

It's a tough group. No one lets anyone get away with anything. We call each other on our strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. We remind each other of who we are and how we have made it.

The Price of Healing..........There are so many roads I can go down on this one. The Price of Healing Where do I start? Where do I end? Do I end? What has this almost 3 year journey cost me?

The Price of Healing..........How do I describe the depths of dissection my entire life has gone through? Every thought, word and deed I have ever done has been examined, ripped apart, and put back together in some form of functional fashion? I have felt like a frog on the table being dissected in biology class. Nothing left to the imagination. Everything on the table.

The Price of Healing..........Is it the friends I have lost in the past 2 and a half years because I have changed? Is it my voice and my words that offend them, after finally finding it after 57 years? Is it not accepting how I have finally learned how to say NO and mean it? Or is it I have somehow touched on something they have always been good at hiding and they are afraid of being seen for who they are and what they have done to me? I've caught their act and I am now wiser.

The Price of Healing.........Is it the time and commitment I have made to myself with intensive therapy twice a week, so intense and crippling that I was accused of being self absorbed?

The Price of Healing.........Exposing a brother who had sexually abused me along with others who were supposed to be "protecting" me? The dentist, the deacon, the neighborhood baby sitter?

Yes, there is a Price of Healing.

But I would not change one thing about the past 2 and a half years. I am finally moving on.

My mother, the very first perpetrator in my life, set the pace.

It's been 20 years since her death. I have run the gamut of feelings all my life of love, hate and fear.

She didn't like or love me. That I know. I have searched for all these years to find out why. But only she knows why.

Neither myself or my brother have put a grave marker where she is buried. I always thought that she never liked what I did anyway, so why bother. I've long since stopped wondering why my brother didn't.

The Price of Healing.........In several weeks I will be standing with Dr. Lubin at my mother's grave. I finally have gotten her the grave stone she deserves. I think it's time. I will stand there with Dr. Lubin, and I will most likely read something I have written and I will say a prayer for her at her grave. And I will thank her. I will thank her for giving birth to me. I do so love this journey I'm on.

It truly is time for her to rest in peace.

Too bad that The Price of Healing isn't always as simple as just buying a grave marker.