Marry Me

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Niece1Herisme and Niece2Herisme are turning into beautiful sweet puffin muffin teenagers.  Even an objective observer would note their individual beauty and powerful brilliance.  I am totes not just saying that because I am their AuntHerisme.  I am SO serious, y’all.  Seriously. Watch out, world!

 

There was a realization for me about a year ago to compare NiecesHerisme to when I was making the big transition from being just double digits to a true teenagers – you know that BIG 12-13 year.  The year I had a pivotal experience of being pursued as a bride.  Not in a sweet puppy love from another 6th grader way, but by an actual full-on adult man.

 

When I was in 6th grade, my family was relocated to Germany for my father’s work.  We moved to just outside of the capital of Bonn at the time.  Yes, this was before reunification.  Yes, I am old.  Yes, I love Beethoven too.  To give you an idea of where I was developmentally: While I had “blossomed” so to speak (precocious menstruation commenced at 10 ½), my brain was still operating in the Santa-IS-SO-REAL-because-I-have-seen-his-sleigh-fly-over-my-house-with-my-own-amazing-eyeballs zone.  It has been reported that I engaged in a full out tear inducing screaming match on the playground over this.  Allegedly.

 

I still have the bag I decorated for that Christmas to use as my stocking, as ours were packed away on a ship headed for Europe.  My glitter adorned handwriting resembles what you might see a cherubic first or second grader produce today – both in content and style.  When we had to pack our own suitcases for the journey, I dutifully placed everything into my suitcase according to MotherHerisme’s list of instructions.  There was a ton of room remaining in my suitcase, so I unpacked the dolls and stuffies from the moving boxes.  I chose the ones I felt would be most vulnerable to overwhelming heartbreak and worry being stuffed into a box on a ship, and put them all into my suitcase.

We were scheduled to stop at GrandparentsHerisme’s home in Athens, Georgia for a few weeks while packers finished up at our house. MotherHerisme came to inspect our suitcases and she was not impressed with my clever fix to helping alleviate the mental stress of my stuffies and dolls.  Turns out, the extra space was meant for the Christmas presents we would be receiving at GrandparentsHerisme’s.  MotherHerisme is far from heartless and did permit me to keep one doll and one stuffy in my suitcase.  It was a tough emotional experience – but everything worked out well.  I survived.  The shipped dolls and stuffies survived.  Christmas was celebrated and we boarded an airplane for Germany.

 

So very developmentally different than a 6th grade girl today –

very very much different.

 

Our housing had not yet been secured when we arrived to Germany.  FatherHerisme’s company had us stay in a hotel in the city while we waited.  Not just any hotel – a super duper 5 star beauty.  We had three rooms because BrotherHerisme was not legally permitted to share a room with either ParentsHerisme, SisterHerisme or myself.  Parents in one room, girls in one room, sweet baby boy in the 3rd room.  We kept our room connection door open between the kids’ rooms, running back and forth, making our own fun, like hooligan kids do.

 

Living in a big fancy hotel in a big fancy city was an entirely new experience for all of us.  The only travel we had done up to this point in my life consisted of camping or staying with relatives.  FatherHerisme dictated a very frugal conservative lifestyle.

 

Fancy 5 star hotels and their guests are not living frugal lifestyles.  We had breakfast delivered to the room in the morning before school.  We had a driver who picked us up in the morning, drove us to school, picked us up in the afternoon and deposited us back at the hotel.  We dressed for dinner in the hotel dining room or we wandered the streets of the city to find a restaurant that would permit children in the dining room.  At that time in Germany, dogs were regular restaurant guests, but children were not welcome.

A Balkan restaurant around the corner from the hotel, took pity on my mother one evening when she was trying, solo parenting with 3 children, to find a place which allowed children.  They sat us in a booth by the kitchen door to be less conspicuous.  We ended up eating there a lot over our 4 year stay in Germany, and almost every night while we were in the hotel.  When I was older, my mother shared with me that the restaurant owners gave her free before and after dinner sweet liquors to keep up her good health and stamina with 3 children.  Occasionally she would permit us to have a tiny sip.  I’m fairly certain this factored in to our frequent dining choice of the Balkan Restaurant.  My memory order is champignon schnitzel mit pommes frits und eine kleine lemonade, bitte (I beg your pardon of my awful memory of German).

 

The thing I loved the most about living in the hotel, other than the extra chocolates the cleaning staff would leave for us, depending on how tidy we left our room, was the pool.  They had a pool in the basement!  Prior to this, I had never seen an indoor pool except at the YMCA.  I loved swimming.  I still love swimming.  The best thing about the pool in the hotel was that as long as BrotherHerisme or SisterHerisme went with me, I could go as often as I wanted to!  SisterHerisme could not be bothered by the silliness and fun that exuded from every pore of mine and BrotherHerisme’s body (she was totally, like, a High School teen and stuff).  BrotherHerisme and I would put on swimming suits, sneakers, grab a towel, race to the elevator and swim, swim, swim!

When we first arrived at the hotel, though, neither one of us had a swimming suit with us.  It never crossed my mother’s mind that a pool would be available to us.  MotherHerisme tried shopping for swimming suits (pre-internet, we had to scour retail spaces called department stores for things.  Google this ancient ritual for more information), but other than ridiculously expensive resort wear, no swimming suits were available, due to it being in the middle of winter (again, Google ancient shopping seasons in the 80’s).  Luck found us when MotherHerisme was befriended by another American Lady who also had 3 children, the same ages as we were.  We borrowed their extra swimming suits and were off on our fancy hotel pool adventures.

I was super excited because the swimming suit I borrowed was pink.  All pink.  I was a super pink girl and this completely fit in my super pink world.  BrotherHerisme and I were unstoppable in our swimming goals!  We held our breath the length of the pool.  We jumped in and sat on the bottom for tea parties.  We raced back and forth.  We splashed and squealed.  Happy hooligans at the poolagains.

 

One fun pool afternoon with BrotherHerisme, there was another person there.  Usually we had the place to ourselves.  I suppose fancy hotel guests are not into pools, I don’t know.  It was a man who greeted us in perfect English and played with us.  Having come from insulated MidWestern Suburbia, it never occurred to BrotherHerisme or myself that we shouldn’t trust a polite adult.  There was no “stranger danger” curriculum back in the day.  We readily included him in our play.  After this, he became a regular at the pool when we were there.  He even started bringing us treats to the pool: candy, French fries, milkshakes, cookies etc.  We were having a grand old time at the pool.  ParentsHerisme were completely unaware of our shenanigans, other than knowing we were safely together, safely in the hotel, safely in the pool area.

…(to be continued)…

Love, Ms. Herisme xoxo

The photo of the artwork, Aztec Josephine Baker by Alexander Calder, was taken by me at the NGA-DC in the East Building, Tower 2 Calder room, just before exiting to see the giant blue rooster.

This is not a secret code to challenge your brain.

Fortress of Solitude

latestIf you know the source of this image, please let me know so that I may credit them

There has always been an urge in me to find my fortress of solitude wherever I have landed.

 

As a child, it was on top of a rock down a gully towards the creek in our backyard.  The trees surrounding the rock permitted just enough space for a stream of sunlight to break through and spotlight directly on the rock.  I believed that when I sat on the rock I was invisible to everything except for G-d.  It was my direct contact with G-d and protection from the world.  I would sit there for hours, daydreaming, reading, drawing, playing barbies etc.  Occasionally I fell asleep there until the sunlight stretched itself out of range and I could hear my mother calling me back to the house.

 

When we moved to Germany, my bedroom balcony became my fortress.  It was a shared balcony with my sister’s room.  She never came outside to use the balcony, so I claimed it as my own and remained unchallenged for the duration.  The balcony looked out onto our small sloped garden and a wild hill.  At the top of the hill was a nursing home with balconies for residents.  Sometimes one of these older people would wave if I looked their way.  It always seemed to me that they were angels looking down to see what was happening in the world. They appeared other-worldly and therefore did not feel like an interruption to my solitude, but rather an integral part of it like the sky or a ceiling of protection.

 

Returning to the USA, we moved back into the house we left.  I had a room to myself by then because my sister left for college.  The rock I left behind was now covered with overgrown woodland plants.  The trees were much larger and unable to allow space for the sunlight to pass through onto the same spot as before.  My fortress relocated to the now massively overgrown willow tree at the top of the gully’s entrance.  I kissed a boyfriend there once and felt sad that I had breached my fortress’s solitude.  Of course, I enjoyed the activity.  What I did not enjoy was having opened the space to someone who clearly did not have the same reverence.

 

Moving on to college, I lost my ability to establish a space for myself.  Everything was geared towards this forced temporary instantly intimate community at all times in all places and all spaces.  It was too much for me and I believe was a pivotal point in my health, due in part to the lack of solitude.

 

I developed my own portable fortresses.  Headphones, disc player, books, weight, etc  to now phone, earbuds, laptop, books, foldable sport chair with cover!  Anything to help me disappear.

 

Events in my childhood, and adulthood propelled me to have this drive.  I’m sure that a few of you can guess those kinds of events: sensory sensitivities, molestation, rape, emotional abuse, blah blah blah, hotel stalker tried to purchase me as a bride when I was 12 (the stories of so many of us).

 

Exploring how to carve out healthy spaces for myself is another area that matches with my boundary works.

 

My foldable chair with lid is blue – like the frozen tundra of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.  I like it and register your surprise at that, if you know me and know that I detest blue furniture for myself.  But this isn’t real furniture.  Plus, FORTRESS of SOLITUDE.  Well, it’s more of a safety blanket, really.  So, I should call it “Linus’s Friend” instead. Nope, that does not have the same impact, even though I love Linus.  Superman for the win!

 

When you see me with my chair at the pool, park, games, concerts, etc it does not mean that I do not want to engage with you.  I like you (except Green Lantern)! It gives me a defined space to be, that’s all.  I am a work in progress using the tools I have available to me and I like having something in common with a superhero, even if he is the enemy of Mr. Batman.

 

 

Love, Ms. Herisme xoxo

 

Joe Jackson and such

There’s something going wrong around here

 

Ahhh, 1979.  Many of you weren’t alive then.  I was.  I was living in Germany wild and free on my bicycle, sneaking onto the ferry, eating spaghetti ice and liquor filled chocolates (as one does in childhood).

 

I knew everything.  EVERYTHING.  Being all pre-pre-teeny. And I marveled at it all.  I was the kind of kid who unwaveringly knew that magic was spiritual and real.  I could feel it in my very essence and could see it everywhere. I could tune anything out in an instant in order to experience some magical sense.

 

Fast forward, fuh reahls, to today.

 

All of the wrongs swirling around me, in my brain, on my skin, in my house, with my family, in my town, in my country, in the world etc  are completely overwhelming.  I have had a few tantrums.  Most of mine are internal because they cannot be tolerated in my current personal circumstances, or in writing (not posted bc feeeeeeelings), or on almost daily brief #$%^@&#*$&^%^% phone convos with my endlessly patient life-long soul sister.

 

My life-long practice of flipping the switch and tuning out has a name: disassociation.  It’s so very difficult for me to embrace tuning in for any period of time to purposeful sheer sharp painful unpleasantness.  This is why I cannot tolerate the Zoo.  Also, it recently occurred to me that this is why I excel at creative diplomatic problem solving.  I am compelled to make the difficult things disappear, be worked through, resolved.  I am quick, concise and no nonsense about resolution.  Even if the resolution only happens internally for myself, it happens very quickly.  I do not linger in distress.  Not by will, but by instinctual life-long self-preservation practice which is now ingrained habit.

 

It’s like my “meet-er/great-er” disease that is joked about in various circles I have inhabited throughout my life.  When someone is approaching, or I drive past someone walking on the road etc, I can’t stop myself, I greet them.  I make eye contact.  I say, “hello!.”  I wave.  People receive this as me being super friendly.  I am not.  I am, by practice, anticipating and resolving any potential friction we may experience as two humans, by offering a greeting as a peaceful cleansing wash over our potential interactions.  Again, this is not pre-meditated or meant as a manipulation, it is an ingrained habit I have cultivated over my life as a means for survival.  It’s a tangible example of my switch flipping mechanism at work.

 

The other day in therapy (SURPRISE! I’m in therapy), my therapist was attempting to get me to connect with my own skin as I am currently waiting on results from my latest melanoma biopsy.  She attempts to bring me back to and connect with my physical self.  My brain is supremely resistant. (insert life story here)  It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  She says things like, “when you place your hand onto your arm, does that feel pleasant or unpleasant?”  I feel like an idiot because I do not know.  I can clearly feel that I am touching my arm (I do not have a neurological disorder), and that my hand is warm, my arm is cool.  I do feel things when I am pointedly asked to think about them.  It would not occur to me to wonder how my hand feels on my arm, to even be aware that I have placed my hand onto my arm, or that my hand was warm and my arm was cool, if I wasn’t asked about it.

However, what has me disturbed is that niggling notion that I am supposed to know if my hand on my arm feels pleasant or unpleasant.

I do not know.

Not in an obtuse or try-to-guess-what-I-am-feeling way. I truly do not know.  Then my hand and arm feel like nothing because I am trying to figure out what is pleasant or unpleasant, and worried that I cannot tell the difference that seems like it should be easy to describe.  Then – WHOOSH – I am gone off into thinking about trees and how do they feel?  My son, how does he feel?  How is his arm?  Does he still have the tick scar? How strong my son looks when he does chin-ups with his gangly boy arms. etc. I bet the universe has arms it is desperately trying to hug us with to quiet all of our earthly crazy fear-based interactions.  Why can’t I feel anything yet?  Is my hand even warm? Gah!  I can’t feel it!

 

So, anywho.

PTSD

Melanoma.  It’s on the skin that I am in.

I hope that therapy is not a pass/fail thing.

 

Which brings us back to Joe:

 

Tonight’s the night when I go to all the parties down my street

I wash my hair and kid myself I look all smooth

Look over there! (Where?!?)…

 

 

Love, Ms Herisme xoxo

 

Hopefully not on the verge of a nervous breakdown

Hopefully still on my NewPath