A Family Vacation Sans the Family: Part 2

My mom and I flew to Chicago and before we went to see my grandfather in Orion, we spent the night at her boyfriend Paul’s house. In addition to Paul’s company, we enjoyed the company of Paul’s cat Seven and Paul’s assortment of aquarium fish. When I posted a picture of Seven on Facebook and said it was my mom’s boyfriend’s cat, a friend commented that any guy who owns a cat must be a good guy. I tend to agree.

The drive from Chicago to Orion, which we made in our rental car, was about three hours. In the course of our conversation on the journey, my mom revealed that a few years ago she had eaten a box of dog biscuits and enjoyed them. I looked at her like she was crazy.

Along the side of the road she pointed to a large building and said “That’s the mental hospital I went to.”

“You mean the mental hospital you volunteered at in college or were you put in a mental hospital?”

“The mental hospital that I volunteered at. You think I was a patient at a mental hospital?”, my mother replied incredulously.

“Well, I don’t know. You did reveal that you ate dog biscuits…”

I had no desire to eat dog biscuits but about halfway through the journey I did get hungry for human food. We stopped at a rest stop, where my mom handed me a ten dollar bill and headed to the bathroom. I decided to go to Sbarro. The pizza looked good, so I decided to get two slices of it and the breadsticks looked good too, so I got two of those as well, and of course I needed a drink. It ended up being more than ten dollars and I was left in the embarrassing situation of not having enough money to pay for my food.

I called my mother over and she came to my rescue….shouting at me in front of the cashier, “You spent more than ten dollars? How much did you buy, Fatass?!” Of course she just made an embarrassing situation even more embarrassing but perhaps she had a point, since I ended up not being able to eat all the food I got.

Perhaps it was my mom’s turn to be embarrassed when in the homeward stretch of our journey to Orion, she rammed in to another car. The car stopped and when I saw that the man who got out of it was wearing an NRA shirt, I felt nervous but thankfully there was no damage to the car.

Before we arrived, we had to figure out our hospitality arrangements. Uncle Jeff and his wife were staying at my grandfather’s house so there was no room for us there. My mother discussed the situation on the phone with my Uncle Chris. Afterwards she  discussed the conversation she’d had with Chris with my Uncle Jon, who lives with my grandfather. She reported that she’d dropped all kinds of hints to Chris that she wanted him to let us stay at his house (i.e, “I just spent all this money on renting the house in Wisconsin. The last thing I want to do now is spend money on a hotel”) but he hadn’t bitten so we would have to stay at a hotel.

Although I’d never stayed at the hotel we were staying at before, it was familiar to me because it was attached to a Friday’s restaurant we always go to when we visit family. This trip was no exception.

At this dinner the family had some scholastic achievements to talk about. In August my cousin’s wife Lexi had graduated from nursing school and I had graduated from college. At around the same time my Uncle Jeff decided to go back to college. He’s such a dedicated student that he was doing his algebra homework at the restaurant table. I wish I could have helped him, but math is not my strong suit.

Unfortunately there was also some less pleasant conversation around the table, such as political disagreements and my Uncle Chris’s rage over Fridays not having baked potatoes. As for me, I was pretty satisfied with my dinner. I’d gotten my usual Friday’s dish of steak with sides of mashed potatoes and broccoli. For dessert I decided to try something new. I can’t remember the name of the dessert I ordered but it was some kind of S’mores drink that included chocolate and marshmallows. It looked delicious but it was disgusting.

Even more dismaying than the drink was the discovery that I had a cold. Colds in September and colds when you’re on vacation feel especially miserable and unfair.

The next night we celebrated my grandfather’s birthday at Red Lobster. My grandfather has hearing problems and restaurants like Red Lobster are loud, so he didn’t say much of anything and he isn’t smiling in any of the pictures we took that night because he has no fucks left to give when it comes to pictures, but I think the celebration made him happy. Having to pay the bill for everyone at the table did not make my mother happy.

The next morning my Uncle Jeff called the hotel room to ask us to meet the family for breakfast at a diner. He said the specified diner was about fifteen minutes away from our hotel but it ended up being more like forty-five minutes away, which also did not make my mother happy.

After breakfast, it was time for my mother and I to go to Wisconsin.

“Where are you going?” my grandfather asked as we prepared to exit the diner.

“We’re going to the house we rented in Wisconsin”, my mother replied.

“Oh”, my grandfather replied with what seemed like a twinge of sadness and regret.

“It’s not too late for you to come with us. Do you want to come?” my mother asked hopefully.

“No.”

I knew it had been a long shot.

My mother and I said goodbye to the family, got in to our rental car, and headed to Wisconsin.

Image may contain: drink and food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Family Vacation, Sans the Family: Part 1

I was hoping to go somewhere really awesome this summer. Iceland was my first choice. For a while it looked like Iceland might be a possibility, but then it became apparent that due to financial constraints and academic obligations, it just wasn’t feasible.

My mother suggested a family vacation at a cabin in the woods somewhere in the midwest. at the end of September. In this case the family would include me, my mother, my grandfather, my mother’s three brothers-Uncle Jon, Uncle Jeff and Uncle Chris-and my aunt, Ana Claudia. It wouldn’t be the most exciting vacation, but we would all be together as a family, and that was the most important thing.

The problem would be convincing my grandfather to go. At this point in his life he is not very adventurous, and not very open to travel. When my mother asked him if he would like to go on a family vacation in a cabin in the woods, as predicted, he said no way, but my mom was not ready to give up. She decided to try to convince my uncles to go on the vacation, and then convince them to force my grandfather to come with them.

I don’t want you to think that my mother wanted my grandfather to be dragged in to the car kicking and screaming, or that she was advocating the use of restraints or handcuffs. My grandfather lives with my Uncle Jon and he lives not far from my Uncle Chris. He relies on them for transportation, food and companionship. My mother figured that if my  uncles told my grandfather they were off to a cabin in the woods for a week and then jumped in the car, my grandfather would have no choice but to jump in the car after them.

My mother talked the situation over with my uncles for a while, did some internet research, and then presented them with a few options for our vacation destination. Eventually they decided on a lakefront house in Wisconsin. The house was beautiful and spacious, as was the surrounding area. It allowed dogs, so my grandfather’s dog, Riley, and my Uncle Chris’s dog, Lola would be able to accompany us. My uncles agreed to go and to make my grandfather go. My mother made the reservations and the payment.

Meanwhile, visions of us all spending quality family time together danced in her head. She pictured us playing board games together, watching TV together, and chatting late in to the night. It would be a vacation and then a memory, that all of us, especially my grandfather, would treasure.

This vision sounded nice to me, but I was careful not to get too attached to it. I know that life, especially life in my family, often doesn’t work out as planned. My mother had had a similarly idyllic vision for our move to the house across the street from Uncle Chris a few years ago and that had been a total disaster. So much so, that we moved back a month later.  Furthermore, I did not think it was a good idea to plan a vacation that included my grandfather without his consent.

About a week before the appointed vacation time, my Uncle Jon announced that my grandfather really did not want to go to the cabin in Wisconsin and he was not going to force him (it was pretty clear that he himself didn’t really want to go either.) My mother tried to convince my grandfather to come, but her efforts were in vain. It was too late to get a refund on the reservations.

My mother lamented the situation she found herself in and questioned how her family could do this to her. I hated to say “I told you so” but…oh, who am I kidding, I enjoyed saying I told her so. “There’s no way you could have possibly foreseen this outcome”, I uttered sarcastically.

I, for one, was falling over in unsurprise at how things had turned out. In fact, I would have been more surprised if everyone had happily agreed to my mother’s vacation idea and kept their promises.

The beginning of the planned vacation coincided with my grandfather’s 92nd birthday. We wanted to spend time with him but we didn’t want to entirely lose out on our investment in the cabin in the woods. We decided that instead of immediately going to Wisconsin, we would go to Illinois first and spend a few days with my grandfather and family. Then she and I would drive to Wisconsin by ourselves.

On Voting in the Midterms at my Elementary School

On the morning of November 6th, 2018, it is raining heavily. This is a disappointment to me, because I have a mission to complete that day and I want to complete it as soon as possible. I also can’t help but fear that this terrible weather is a harbinger of a terrible outcome at the end of the day. On the other hand, the day of the last major election had started out beautiful and sunny, but had ended in disaster. The heavy rain the following day had reflected the overall mood of the nation.

Finally, at around 2pm the rain starts to let up. I put on a rain slicker, and walk out among the puddles and fallen leaves. It’s time for me to vote.

The path I’m walking is a familiar one. My destination is a place I have been to many times before, a place where I spent many days of my childhood. Yet it has been many years since I’ve set foot in the building.

I can’t help but question the wisdom of allowing the public to vote at an elementary school while school is in session. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about such a practice, but a spate of national tragedies has made me see things in a horrifying new light. As I walk to my former elementary school to vote, I don’t know that the next day there will be a mass shooting at a bar in California, but if I’d been told that then I would not have been surprised. Mass shootings have become commonplace and expected. Our country has a major gun problem but most of the politicians in power won’t do anything about it. I wrote to a state representative about gun control earlier in the year and was pleasantly surprised to a get a response. I hope to vote for candidates who will advocate for gun control.

As the stone face of my elementary school comes in to view, so does the tiny Special Services building, which served as the town’s library when I was a small child. I made use of special services all through elementary school and beyond. When I entered Kindergarten, I had a diagnosis of elective mutism. That meant I could talk, and I often did talk with people I knew and was comfortable with, but with strangers or people I wasn’t comfortable with, I would remain silent or near-silent.

It is not lost on me that elective has the same root word as election, that as an adult I am going to symbolically make my voice heard at a place where as a child I often refused to literally make my voice heard.

I follow the signs pointing to the polling location and realize I am standing in back of my first grade classroom. The sign plastered on the window of my first grade classroom says “Vote Here” in English, Spanish and Chinese. Gazing in to the window, I can see the students sitting at their desks. I can’t help but remember that in 2012 a man walked in to a first grade classroom with a gun and murdered 20 children.

While some people have only blurred or faded memories of elementary school, mine are quite vivid. Wicoff School holds a special place in my heart, and I have many fond memories of it, but I also have some bad memories. The worst memories relate to complications from my elective mutism. They relate to times when I was too afraid to speak up for myself, to defend myself, to advocate for my basic needs.

That cluster of desks in my first grade classroom evokes memories of the little girls who sat at the desks that bordered mine, accusing me of cheating on my spelling test by copying their answers. Rather than accusing me directly, they complained about me amongst themselves and within my earshot. I wasn’t really cheating on my spelling test. I had no need to, as spelling was my strong suit, but rather than tell my classmates this, rather than defend my honor, I sat in silence, my head pressed down close to my paper, tears pooling in my eyes.

One time, in first grade music class, I had to go to the bathroom really badly, but I was too afraid to ask the teacher if I could leave the classroom. Finally, after about half an hour had passed, I stood up in front of the class and said I had to use the toilet. The words had barely left my mouth when a stream of urine trickled down down my jeans and gathered in a puddle on the music room floor. I had peed my pants in front of the whole class. I had waited until it was too late to make my voice heard.

****

When I was in Kindergarten, my father became a U.S. citizen. He had immigrated to the U.S. from Romania a few years before I was born. When he achieved his citizenship, my family threw a citizenship party for him in our home, which was located across the street from my elementary school. My father still lives in that house and I visit him frequently, so the elementary school is often on my radar. I see and hear the children playing and shouting on the playground.

My father’s citizenship party included red, white and blue streamers, miniature American flags and a cake that said “Congratulations.” My godmother composed a song about my father’s immigration journey and serenaded him as she played her guitar. I got the impression immigration was something to be celebrated.

In third grade my class went on a field trip to Ellis Island. I proudly pointed out the names of my father and sister on the wall of immigration and I traced over a sketching of them with a pencil and notebook paper. Of those children in my class who had a relative on the wall, none of them had a relative closer than a grandparent, but there I was with a parent and sibling on the wall. I got the impression that immigrants were welcomed in this country with open arms.

The public discourse on immigration has changed now. The president of our country ran on an anti-immigration platform, and he regularly flings vitriol at immigrants. The immigration wall in this country that gets the most coverage is the hypothetical one, which is being proposed to keep immigrants out. As his presidency progresses, the president’s rhetoric against immigrants becomes more brazen and outrageous. Now he’s proposing an end to birthright citizenship, meaning babies born on American soil to immigrant parents who are not American citizens would not be considered American citizens themselves.

I know that Trump’s ire toward immigrants and their families is really only directed at those with dark skin, so people like my father and I are ostensibly safe from its ramifications, at least for now. The Latin American immigrants who I teach ESL to are not so lucky. I hope to vote for candidates who will advocate for immigrants and push back against anti-immigrant policies.

***

I did not vote in the 2008 presidential election, because I was locked up in a mental hospital. By the time I left Wicoff School, I’d shed my diagnosis of elective mutism and learned to talk to strangers but throughout my life, I would be plagued by all kinds of developmental and mental health problems. In 2008 my mental health was at its absolute worst.

“Obama’s going to lose by one vote,” my mom joked, as she visited me in the mental hospital on election night.

Another diagnosis had recently been added to the litany of diagnoses I’d received throughout my lifetime: schizoaffective disorder. My behavior had become so bizarre, that doctors assumed I must be experiencing hallucinations and delusions. I was not. My behavior was a reaction to mental anguish that I could not voice.

The doctors asked my mother if she wanted to become my legal guardian. My mother elected not to do that, but if she had, my right to vote may have been taken away.

***

When I was in elementary school, I had no way of knowing what the world would be like once I reached adulthood. I had no way of knowing that an invention called Facebook would allow me to reconnect with some of my classmates and teachers from elementary school. I had no way of knowing that the day of the 2018 midterm elections, Facebook would also allow me to have an argument with strangers over the importance of voting.

I had no way of knowing that one day my country would elect a president who had less maturity and self-awareness than most of my elementary school classmates and who displayed behavior that would not be tolerated at my elementary school. I had no way of knowing that one day I would see my country threatened by a mainstream agenda that went against all the morals, values, and even the science I was learning in elementary school. I had no way of knowing that one day I would return to my elementary school to vote.

As I step in to the voting booth and use my fingers to light up a vertical row of X’s in the column that says Democrat, I have no way of knowing how the midterm election is going to turn out. But I’m glad I’ve made my voice heard.

Image may contain: Kira Popescu, smiling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Grief Awareness Day 2018

It was with great trepidation that I approached the yellow building in front of me on that April afternoon earlier this year. The building resembled a large house but it actually contained an organization that provided support to children who had lost a parent or sibling.

I had responded to a call I’d seen on Volunteermatch for facilitators for a support group for grieving children and had scheduled a tour of the facilities but as the date approached, I was having second thoughts. I wasn’t sure I was equipped to deal with grieving children. How would I possibly know what to say to them? I considered cancelling the tour but reasoned that I could go just to see what it was like and if I didn’t want to do it, I just didn’t have to follow through with the application or training.

The man who greeted me and the other people who had shown up for the tour started by saying that a common misconception people had about the organization was that it was a clinical organization staffed by mental health professionals, when it’s actually a social support organization, with support groups run by volunteers.

We were given fliers that listed statistics about childhood grief and loss. The most staggering statistic was that one in seven children will lose a parent or sibling by age twenty. I had been fortunate enough not to lose a parent or sibling by age twenty but a few years later my luck ran out.

I was as blindsided by the grief that accompanied my stepbrother’s sudden and unexpected death as I was by the death itself. The truth was I had not been close with my stepbrother but I found my mind and my body reacting to his death in ways I couldn’t control. I got shingles, I got pneumonia, I had nightmares and daymares.

Our tour guide showed us the volcano room where children could go to throw balls, to tumble around on the floor, to get out their energy, their anger, their intense emotions. He showed us the hospital room where children could recreate and act out the experiences they’d had with a dying loved one on a hospital bed. He showed us the memory box room where children could put arts and crafts they’d created to signify their person who died in to shoeboxes. He showed us the picture wall that displayed photographs of the loved ones who had died. He showed us the hallway in which all the participants gathered in a circle to pass around a talking stick and say the name of their loved one who died. He showed us the individual rooms where the participants divided by age groups to discuss their losses or engage in expressive arts related to their losses.

By the end of the tour I knew I wanted to be a facilitator. I signed up for the training in August.

***

In August I and about thirteen other people spent four days essentially learning that everything we’d previously learned about grief, every idea about grief that our culture reinforced, was wrong.

Grief is thought of as something horrible but the organization’s name, Good Grief, reinforces the idea that grief is actually a good thing. It’s a natural reaction to love and loss.

Our society behaves as though there should be a time limit to grief. After a week or a month or a year the person who’s experienced a loss should stop grieving and move on with their life. Good Grief believes that there is no time limit to grief.

Good Grief also believes that the famous Kubler-Ross stages of grief are not universal nor do they proceed in a linear fashion. There’s no need or pressure for anyone to progress smoothly from one stage to the next.

We were taught that as facilitators, it was not our job to judge anyone for their grief reactions or to try to “fix” their grief.

Society urges us not to speak ill of the dead but Good Grief has a saying that “assholes die too”, so there’s no need to always put the deceased on a pedestal.

Many people think that young children have no concept of death and that they do not feel grief. Good Grief teaches us that this is nonsense. Even children who lose a loved one when they are too young to speak or to remember their loved one grieve.

We are taught the art of empathetic listening and the difference between sympathy and empathy. We are asked to create a timeline of our own losses and not just the losses that involve death.

When asked in a follow up survey if I felt I benefited from the training and if I’d recommend it, I do not hesitate to say yes. When asked which age group I’d prefer to work with, I choose the youngest age group Good Grief serves: the three to five- year-olds.

***

As the children in my group arrive on my first day as a facilitator, it is impressed on me just how young and small they really are. Some children walk in to the room clutching stuffed animals. Others clutch the hand of their surviving parent.

My co-facilitator and I begin the group by asking the children why they’re at Good Grief. Some children loudly and freely volunteer information about their lost loved one. When one boy says that his mother died, he also mentions that his cat died. I know how very real and painful pet loss can be to a child, having experienced pet loss as a child myself.

Other children reply in tiny voices that are barely audible. Then there are the kids who don’t mention their lost loved one at all. One boy says he’s at Good Grief so he can play. His sister says she’s at Good Grief so her brother can be there.

However, when directly asked who in their life died, they all tell us.

I figure that sibling loss is rare, so there will be no kids in my group who lost siblings, but there’s a little girl who lost her brother and a little boy who lost his sister.

Somehow, it hadn’t even occurred to me that there would be children at Good Grief who don’t even remember their lost parent but there’s a little girl in my group who lost her father when she was just one year old. It makes sense that such children would be at Good Grief when you think about it though. Even though those children don’t remember their parent, they feel the absence of that parent in their lives, especially when they compare themselves with their peers.

That’s the gift that Good Grief gives these children-a place where they are not alone and they are not different. A place where they can be around other children who have experienced similar losses.

***

While children do experience grief, they do not experience it in the same ways that adults do and it would be a mistake to address child grief in the same way we address adult grief. It’s just not realistic to expect a group of three to five- year -olds to sit around a circle for over an hour and discuss their grief in depth, like the adults and teenagers who participate in Good Grief do. Therefore, we address their grief through art, play and stories.

We read a story about a monster that’s in distress because he’s got his feelings all jumbled up. He feels better once he learns to label his different feelings. We have the children make heart keepsakes to remember their loved ones by. We have them draw pictures of their loved ones. And we give them time to play freely and just be kids.

Before each group, the directors of the program give us a plan for activities to do and topics to discuss for the night but my co-facilitator and I know that with small children (and sometimes with adults as well), things don’t always go according to plan, so we try to be flexible and realistic about our expectations.

There are times when the kids are distracted and hyperactive. There are times when they don’t pay much attention to the activity we’ve laid out for them, when they don’t seem willing or able to make the connections to grief and loss.

Yet there are also times when the children surprise us with how much they do understand, with how willing they are to engage with their grief and be vulnerable.

When we did a lesson on emotions and breathing techniques using a variety of different animals as examples, we figured we had totally lost the attention of one little boy. He sat in a corner of the room playing with toys and not making eye contact or responding to any of our prompts. Then when we got to the last animal, the lion, he stood up, puffed out his chest and let out a deafening roar.

When we put jars of snacks on the table with labels for the feelings they were supposed to represent and then scooped out a certain amount to put in to the children’s baggies in accordance to how often they reported experiencing that feeling, I figured the kids would only pay attention to the food and ignore the feelings (I also figured that since fear was represented by raisins, we’d discover we had a lot of very brave children.) But after we’d completed the activity, one girl was so interested in the feelings that she asked a facilitator how often she experienced the labeled feelings and scooped snacks in to a bag for her accordingly.

When reading a book called The Invisible String was on the agenda, we figured connecting the concept of an invisible string to the concept of maintaining connections with a loved one after their death was beyond the capability of these children and tried to brainstorm ways we could explain it to them after we’d finished the book, but after we’d introduced the book and before we’d even started reading, a girl in our group volunteered that you can have invisible connections to people after they’ve died.

Then a boy chimed in with, “You can text people after they’ve died. You can text them from your heart.”

***

Before we end group each night we perform a closing ritual. We gather the children in a circle, hand each child a small electric candle which they switch on, and we turn off the lights. Then as we go around the circle each child switches off their candle and says goodnight to their person who died.

The boy who always mentions the death of his cat along with the death of his mother, says goodnight to his cat too. One of the girls says “Goodnight, Daddy. I love you. See you when I get up there.”

***

A few weeks ago in post-group for the facilitators, the leader of the group mentioned that Good Grief  had t-shirts for sale, which we were all encouraged to buy. The t-shirts were blue with the word grief written in white lettering at the top. Underneath it was a black equal sign and underneath the equal sign was the word love written upside down in red lettering.

“Does that slogan have any particular meaning?” a facilitator asks.

“Well, what do you guys think?” the group leader replies, opening the question up to everyone.

“Grief equals love turned upside down”, a facilitator sitting across from me articulates.

We come to a general group consensus that the t-shirt is saying that grief stems from love  and that when you lose someone you love, the love you feel for them is upended, transformed and mutated in ways that wreak havoc on your life, yet it is still ever present.

As soon as I get home, I go on the Good Grief website and order a t-shirt.

***

I realize that while it may be awhile before the kids I work with at Good Grief can fully understand all the forms love can take and all the ways it can warm, break and mend your heart, the concept of loving someone is one they seem to intuitively grasp and love is a feeling they genuinely experience, along with their grief. The two are, after all, inseparable.

The book I read about the monster and his jumbled feelings ends by saying that there’s one more feeling that hasn’t been mentioned. I show the children the big, red heart illustrated on the page and ask if they can guess what that feeling is. The children are all smiles as they shout out “Love!”

One of the questions we’re repeatedly told to ask the children is what activities they enjoyed doing with their loved one who died. When I ask the boy who lost his sister what he enjoyed doing with her, he replies softly with words that are unintelligible to me but I hear an L sound and an- er sound.

“You played Leveler with your sister?” I reply uncertainly, thinking that perhaps Leveler is a new video game I haven’t heard of.

“No, I LOVE her,” he corrects me emphatically.

Later that evening that same boy is playing with a toy phone and tells me he’s going to make a call.

I’m about to suggest he call his sister but I stop myself. It is my job to follow the child’s lead in play and facilitate what Good Grief calls their grief work. It is not my job to lead the child or to impose my own ideas or suggestions on them.

“Who are you calling?” I say instead.

“My sister,” he replies.

“What do you want to say to her?” I ask.

“I love you,” he says in to the phone.

These kids seem to intuitively understand that death ends a life, not a relationship. I’m not sure whether they understand that grief is the price you pay for love. While I wish they had not had to experience such tragic losses so early in their lives, I hope that when they do understand that grief is the price you pay for love, they consider it to be a price worth paying.

***

Last night in post-group, the communications director for Good Grief reminded us all that today is Children’s Grief Awareness day and she requested that we share our stories of the work we do for Good Grief on the internet, to raise awareness.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Image may contain: 4 people

Image may contain: Kira Popescu, smiling

Image may contain: one or more people

Oh, Shit

Sunday was a beautiful, autumn day. My mother and I decided to go for a walk at the Delaware Raritan Canal. The colorful foliage combined with the shimmering sun and the flowing river created a breathtaking scene that we enjoyed experiencing and taking pictures of. My mom wanted me to be in the pictures she took, but I refused because I hadn’t put on makeup and didn’t want to be captured in nature in my natural state.

The Delaware Raritan Canal goes on forever so we couldn’t have possibly walked to the end of the trail but we could have walked further than we did. After we’d walked about two miles, I told my mother we had to turn around because I had to go number two (Actually I have no idea if it was two miles. I pulled that distance out of my ass. Please pardon the shitty pun.)

My mother would have liked to walk further but she understood that when you gotta go, you gotta go, so we headed back. As the minutes passed by, my need to crap become more pressing and urgent.

“I have to go really badly”, I said.

“I think there’s a port-a- potty in the parking lot”, my mom replied.

“Ew, port-a-potties are gross.”

At first I thought I would have the luxury of snubbing a port-a-potty if and when I encountered it in the parking lot but as I bemoaned the fact that the walk back to the car seemed to be taking so much longer than the walk away from it, I began to realize that was a luxury I might not be able to afford. As gross as port-a-potties were, they were better than crapping your pants in public.

I’m not opposed to relieving myself in nature, but unfortunately this was not a secluded area of nature and no secluded areas were available. There were people all along the trail. A woman I passed had dropped her key on the ground and was searching for it. I would have liked to have been a good samaritan and helped her find it, but I just didn’t have time for that. By that point, my fear was no longer that I would have to use the port-a-potty, but that I wouldn’t make it to the the port-a-potty in time.

The really terrible thing about having to go to the bathroom in an area of nature that’s filled with people but not toilets is that you have nowhere to relieve yourself and if you end up having an accident, other people are going to witness it. When I was in first grade I peed my pants in front of the whole class. In second grade my classmates asked me if I remembered that time I peed my pants. Of course I remembered it then, and I also remembered it about 25 years later as I walked along the Delaware Raritan canal, hoping  I would not soon be having a similar experience with number two.

Every time I crossed paths with another person, I found myself sucking in my breath. If I had an accident would they gasp in horror? Rush to my aid? Pretend they didn’t see it? Then I started thinking that it would be kind of rude to leave a turd just sitting in the middle  of the walking path but how was I supposed to pick it up? Was I supposed to carry it back to the car?

“Are you going to crap your pants?” my mother asked pointedly.

“I don’t know….”

“One time when my friend Margaret was running she crapped her pants. Then there was the time my friend Sally’s son…”

“You’re really not helping matters.”

“I’m just saying that if it happens, you’re not alone.”

“When you put that kind of imagery in my mind it…uh…speeds things up. Kind of like how hearing running water makes you pee.”

“How about you sit down on that bench over there?”

“No, that would make things worse.”

“Don’t worry.  We’re almost at the parking lot and I’m almost positive there’s a port-a-potty there.”

I kept looking ahead in the distance for a glimpse of the bridge that would lead to the parking lot but it appeared there was nothing but trees and stream for miles. After what seemed like forever, I finally saw the bridge, which I thought was my beacon of salvation. As I crossed over it, I exhaled in relief, thinking another part of my body would soon be able to exhale as well. But(t), alas, as my eyes expectantly scanned the parking lot, I realized to my dismay that there was no port-a-potty.

“I guess you’ll just have to wait until we get home”, my mom said.

“I don’t know if I can”.

“You can do it. Please don’t crap in my car. I don’t want to have pay to have it cleaned.”

I pressed my ass down in to the passenger seat as hard as I could, hoping that would, uh, help keep things contained. I’m not religious, so I didn’t pray but as my mom drove, the phrase “Please don’t let me crap my pants” kept echoing through my head.

We considered stopping at a gas station but I decided against it. I reasoned that not only are gas stations disgusting, but you need a key to get in and I imagined crapping my pants in the middle of the gas station convenience store as I waited for the cashier to hand me the key.

“We’re almost home”, my mom reassured me as the last light before our house turned green. I was glad I’d made it this far, but I wasn’t naive enough to believe I was entirely out of the woods just yet. The universe can have a cruel and ironic sense of humor.

Thankfully, the universe ended up cooperating with me this time. I walked in to my bathroom with a sense of relief and gratitude. I’m sure you can imagine what I did next and don’t need to know the details.

Phew, that was a close one.

I’m not sure why when I finally write another blog post, I choose the topic of almost crapping my pants, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this story and weren’t too grossed out by it.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

 

 

I’m not okay and I just want to sleep all day

I usually try to put some kind of positive spin on the miserable things I write about on this blog but today I won’t be doing that. Today I’m just going to admit that I’m really struggling emotionally and that I feel really helpless and hopeless.

Where do I begin? Well, I’ll start by saying that despite my very youthful appearance, I’m actually 33 years old.  Wow, that’s an odd preface for explaining why I’m horribly depressed but bear with me. At 33 most people have or have had a job, a partner and/or kids. I know not everyone has all of those things but everyone I know has at least one of those things.

Then there’s me. I have no job now nor have I ever had a job. I’ve only had one boyfriend  in my life and that was over a decade ago. I have no children. I live with my mother and I stay at home alone all day while she goes to work. I have no drivers license and little access to money. These days I spend much of my time either crying or sleeping.

I’m not sure if the intense fatigue I’m experiencing is caused by my depression but my depression certainly makes me want to give in to the fatigue. I know sleeping until 2:30 in the afternoon is not a good thing to do but it seems like there’s little point in getting up when I’m just going to cry and feel depressed and isolated.

Of course if I don’t like my life I should change it but I feel powerless to change it. I’ve worked with three different job counseling agencies that specialize in finding jobs for people with disabilities but none of them have been able to find me a job. I avoid entry level jobs like cashiering not because I think I’m too good for those kinds of jobs but because my disability means those jobs are too difficult for me. There just isn’t a market out there for people who are 33 and have no job experience.

I do volunteer work and I consider it valuable but I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not the same as having a job. I want to have the satisfaction of knowing I can provide for myself financially. I want a place I can go to from 9 to 5 every day and the social connections that come with it. I cannot help but feel deeply ashamed of the fact that I’ve never had a job.

I’m also ashamed of the fact that I’m a 33-year-old virgin but that doesn’t mean I want to hook up with just anyone. I want a life partner but I’m never in situations where I’m likely to meet anyone and I don’t think I’m very attractive as a mate when I’m unemployed and live with my mother. I can’t stand the thought of advertising myself on an online dating site when I have such low self esteem and when I know so many creeps hang out on those sites.

I know that I’d make a terrible mother but that doesn’t change the fact that I desperately, desperately want a child with every ounce of my being. I don’t begrudge anyone their happiness but it’s really hard to log in to social media and be bombarded with baby pictures, pregnancy announcements and birth announcements from my friends, just like it’s hard to listen to people talk about their kids, their partners and their jobs. Why aren’t I good enough to have the things that everyone else has? Why am I so uniquely defective that I cannot achieve even one of those things? It’s horrible to feel so triggered by people just going about their ordinary lives.

I know comparison is the death of all joy and I know everyone does things on their own timeline but I want those things for myself because they sound like amazing, fulfilling experiences, not just because everyone else has them and I’m left with little hope that I will ever achieve those things on any timeline. Fertility doesn’t last forever and society seems to have decided that since I didn’t get a job according to the proper timeline, I’m not worthy of ever having a job.

No one is going to make me feel better by telling me about all the negatives that come along with marriage, parenthood and employment. I’m aware of those negatives. I want those things anyway because the positives outweigh the negatives. I don’t need people who have a job, a partner or kids telling me it’s okay to not have those things. Obviously they wouldn’t really feel okay not having those things because they pursued them for themselves and they don’t know how devastating it is to be my age and not have any of those things. I’m also not under the impression that having those things would suddenly make my life perfect.

I don’t need people affirming my self worth by reminding me that I’m a published author or that I graduated from college or that I’m doing so much better than I was before. All of those things are true and I’m proud of all those achievements but they cannot make up for the gaping hole that is left in my life by not having a partner, a job or kids.  It’s just really, really hard to want those things so badly and feel powerless to achieve them. It’s really, really hard to feel left out of a club that everyone’s a part of and to spend your days in loneliness and isolation. I’d like to think I’m not alone but I feel very alone. I do not know of a single other person in my situation.

I feel imprisoned by a past I cannot change and I can only see my loneliness, my longing and my depression getting worse in the future. My time to have children will run out and the people I care about will die, while I’m left miserable and alone, watching everyone else’s lives go by, longing for a world I can’t have.

Help.

 

The Kavanaugh Confirmation

Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Just as I suspected, the FBI investigation was a sham meant to appease sexual assault survivors before the inevitable affirmative votes took place. Two of the three “swing voters” voted to confirm Kavanaugh. In her speech Susan Collins said that Ford gave a compelling and believable testimony but there was no evidence that Kavanaugh was guilty of what she accused him of.

No. You cannot have it both ways. They cannot both be telling the truth. One of them is lying or mistaken. Since you voted to confirm Kavanaugh, clearly you think that person is Ford. Don’t act like you’re sympathetic to Ford or have any respect for her when you just gave her a huge “Fuck you” by voting to confirm the man who sexually assaulted her.

It’s disappointing to see not only men discounting the voices of women, perpetuating misogyny and upholding the patriarchy, but women as well. Susan Collins is just one example.

In a post-hearing analysis a commentator said that for many Republicans it’s not a question of if the sexual assault happened. They think it’s fine that it happened and shouldn’t disqualify Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court. Sadly, I think that commentator is right.

Then there was talk of the partisan divide, the us vs. them mentality, the notion of voting along party lines no matter what flaws the individual candidate may have. A commentator said that what it all really comes down to is pro-life vs. pro-choice and that the real reason democrats hate Kavanaugh is because he’s pro-life.

I’m pro-choice but if a pro-choice Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted women, I would not support him because I know someone who supports a woman’s right to have an abortion but considers himself free to sexually assault her is not really pro-choice, just like someone who stops caring about human life once it exits the womb is not really pro-life.

It’s no secret that I despise the Republican Party and everything it stands for. I would definitely prefer not to vote Republican but I know that Democrats can have unforgivable flaws too and that sometimes you have to put country before party.

I roll my eyes when republicans accuse democrats of being hypocrites for preaching tolerance but being intolerant of intolerance, yet I have to admit they have a point when they accuse democrats of being hypocrites for ignoring the sexual assault allegations against Bill Clinton. I’ve also spoken out against those democrats who were outraged about Al Franken being fired over sexual assault and who felt the need to point out that his accuser is a Trump supporter.

The most galling response to this whole thing has been the one that turns men in to the victims. Those poor men are never safe from having their lives ruined by sexual assault allegations. Don’t sexually assault people and it shouldn’t be a problem. Where are all these supposed cases of men being destroyed for accidentally brushing up against a woman or telling a woman she looks nice? Because I’m only seeing men being held accountable for raping women, groping them, forcing themselves on them.

And far from proving that men are not safe, recent events have actually proven that men are free to sexually assault women with impunity. Brett Kavanugh did it and now he’s a Supreme Court justice. But let’s rub salt in the wounds of all the sexual assault victims who have been deeply traumatized.

I’m lucky in that I’ve never been sexually assaulted in the way that Christine Blasé Ford and numerous other women have been but I’ve experienced unwanted sexual advances and harassment. I’d be surprised if there’s any woman who hasn’t. When the me too movement was first trending I wrote a blog about a scary experience I’d had with sexual harassment. There was also the time I went to a frat party and had my crotch grabbed by a drunken frat boy multiple times. I never went to another frat party again.

There are those who will say that someone’s life shouldn’t be ruined by a mistake they made when they were 17. If those people feel that way, they should turn their attention to the inmates in this country who are serving decades or life in prison for non-homicide crimes they committed when they were 17. Not being able to serve as a Supreme Court justice does not qualify as having one’s life ruined.

There are those who will say “innocent until proven guilty.” Since that is a standard that applies to criminal cases in the court of law and not job interviews for legal positions, those people should turn their attention to the inmates who are languishing in prison despite no evidence or exonerating evidence. They should turn their attention to those who have been persecuted due to racism, rather than those who are benefitting as a result of white male privilege. The fact that the Republicans’ talking vagina Rachel Mitchell said that she would not have criminally prosecuted Kavanaugh for a sex crime is irrelevant because no one was suggesting he be criminally prosecuted. We were suggesting he not be appointed Supreme Court Justice.

Last week I watched a 60 Minutes interview with Donald Trump in which the interviewer asked if he thought it was okay for him to have mocked Christine Blasé Ford in the way that he did. He replied that it didn’t matter because they won. I can’t remember if this was before or after he yelled at the interviewer “I’m the president and you’re not!” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone like Brett Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court justice when I consider the kind of guy who appointed him and who is unfortunately our president.

Even though this development is disheartening and disappointing, all is not lost. Even though Christine Blasé Ford could not stop Brett Kavanaugh from being appointed, her testimony made a difference. It may not seem like she made a difference in anything that matters because patriarchy insists that men in power are the only ones that matter, but we are seeing just how contagious her bravery is. So many women are coming forward with their stories and are putting an end to their decades of silence. Clearly, the Ford testimony mattered to them. I don’t usually sign petitions or letters on the internet but when asked to sign a letter thanking Ford for her testimony, I added my name to the list.

I prayed for a miracle when it came to the Kavanaugh vote and that ended up not happening but I’ll set my hopes on a blue wave in next month’s election. The time may be ripe for a wave since when it comes to stories of sexual assault, the dam of silence has burst and the floods of anger are pouring forth. I know that thoughts and prayers won’t cut it though so I plan on getting out there and voting. You too.

The Kavanaugh Hearing

On September 26th my mother told me that the following day her friend Sally would be staying home to watch the Kavanaugh hearing. I’d heard that Brett Kavanaugh had sexual assault charges brought against him and that his supreme court nomination was being called in to question but I didn’t know the hearing was the following day. Since Sally was staying home to watch it, I figured it must be a big deal and I decided I would watch it myself.

Being jobless and home alone all day is a real sore spot for me and in general I hate it but on September 27th, 2018, I was grateful to not have a job and to be free to watch the Kavanaugh trial in its entirety.  Ultimately I would have wished for the Kavanaugh hearing to not be happening in the first place because I wish that no women were sexually assaulted and I wish that Kavanaugh was never nominated and I wish that the man who nominated him had never been elected president but since it was happening and it was all the rage and all the buzz across the nation, I was glad to have the privilege of being glued to my television set.

I actually fell asleep waiting for the hearing to begin and as I drifted in that no man’s land between sleep and wakefulness, I heard the horrifying details of Dr. Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. I was fully awake as Ford was questioned and “cross examined” for hours regarding her experience.

Going in to the hearing I was pretty sure Dr. Ford was telling the truth. By the time Dr. Ford finished giving her testimony I was 100% positive she was telling the truth, just like she was 100% certain Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her. When asked how she was so certain by someone in the courtroom she replied “The same way I’m certain you’re the one standing in front of me now.” I thought that was a solid answer but I also liked it when she responded to questions about her memory with her expert knowledge of neuroscience and how human memory works.

It was clear that she did not want to be there but she felt compelled to be there out of a sense of duty to our country and to all the women who have been sexually assaulted. It was clear that being there took tremendous courage on her part. She had no reason to lie. It would have been much easier for her to stay quiet but she chose to speak out. As a result other women who have been sexually assaulted have spoken out and more will continue to do so because as one of the judges said, courage is contagious.

Everyone acknowledged that Dr. Ford’s testimony was convincing, heartbreaking and harrowing. Everyone acknowledged that it would present a challenge to Kavanaugh. And then Kavanaugh walked in to the room with all guns blazing.

Like Dr. Ford he cried throughout his testimony but unlike Dr. Ford, he also yelled and got belligerent. He swore he never assaulted anyone. He went on about how unfair and outrageous it was that he was being accused of such a thing when he’d always been such an upstanding citizen.

Some people thought he seemed credible and that the intensity of his emotions suggested  he had been wrongfully accused while others suggested he was putting on an act and crying crocodile tears. I personally do not doubt that his emotions were genuine. I think he was every bit as angry and upset as he appeared to me. However, I don’t think it was the anger of a man who was wrongfully accused. I think it was the anger of a man who was rightfully accused. It was the anger of a man who was suddenly being held accountable for actions he had gotten away with all his life. It was the anger of a man who was used to praise and adulation having harsh words spoken against him. It was the  anger of a man having a position he felt he was entitled to jeopardized.

He opened with some conspiracy theories about how the democrats were out to get him and shared some anecdote about how at dinner the other night his little daughter said the family should pray for Dr. Ford. I guess the anecdote was supposed to be heartwarming but I found it nauseating because the subtext seemed to be “My daughter is so pure of heart that she was able to find compassion for this evil woman who wronged our family.”

Kavanaugh acknowledged that someone may have assaulted Dr. Ford but was adamant that it wasn’t him. If someone assaulted Ford and several years ago Ford claimed that someone was Kavanaugh and this whole thing is a Democrat conspiracy against him, how exactly does Ford fit in to that conspiracy? I guess in 2012 the Democrats anticipated that six years later Kavanaugh would be nominated for Supreme Court justice and they realized they had to somehow stop him from getting the position so they came up with a devious plan. They searched far and wide for a woman who had been sexually assaulted by an unknown man until they found Dr. Ford and hypnotized her in to believing it was Kavanaugh that did it.

I don’t really know what the supposed explanation is because maddeningly, Kavanaugh was never asked to give one. This was in contrast to Ford who was asked to explain everything. She freely admitted when she didn’t remember some things and later that scumbag Trump mocked her for it.

Kavanaugh kept trying to claim he was exonerated by the other people at the party saying they don’t remember the event but it doesn’t work like that. What are the chances you would remember a small party you went to 36 years ago if nothing significant happened to you there?

Even putting aside the issue of sexual assault, Kavanaugh clearly lied in court multiple times. For example, boofing is not farting like he claimed and Devil’s Triangle is not a drinking game like he claimed. In other words, he committed perjury but sadly no one seems to care. It’s just another example of him being immune from consequences for his actions.

As I listened to Kavanaugh repeatedly evade the questions he was asked, I was reminded of something my friend Delilah says. When she asks someone a question and they reply in a way that doesn’t answer the question, she replies to them “That’s the answer to the question …… I asked you…….”

Brett Kavanaugh,  “I went to church every Sunday, I was captain of the basketball team, I graduated at the top of my class, I got in to Yale, I volunteered with the developmentally disabled, I’m a respected lawyer” is the answer to the question “What life accomplishments are you most proud of?” You were asked if you would consent to an FBI  investigation.

Of course that begged the question of why he wasn’t advocating for an FBI investigation. Dr. Ford said an FBI investigation would be helpful and you’d think Kavanaugh would be eager to have his name cleared by the FBI since he’s so innocent. Also, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but going to church, going to Yale, getting good grades-none of that precludes being a rapist or sexual assaulter, just like being an alcoholic does not preclude achieving any of those things. I don’t know if Kavanaugh is an alcoholic but does anyone actually believe that he only drank in moderation and never blacked out from drinking? I’ve got a bridge to sell you…

I realize this is kind of like criticizing the paint job on the Titanic but was anyone else horrified that all those creepy, rapey, sexual comments were published in the school yearbook? When I heard about them I assumed one of the dirtbag students had written them in pen when he signed Kavanaugh’s yearbook but no, they were there in print with the school’s approval

Anyway, the hearing was a circus and a shit show. The Republicans became outraged on Kavanaugh’s behalf and made him out to be the victim. Men turning themselves in to the victims in this me too era is really disgusting and I have to agree with the commentator who said this hearing  was a big “you know what” to women but since I don’t have to abide by FCC guidelines, I’ll say it was a big fuck you to women.

As I said on Facebook, with all the men whining about how terrified they are by the me too movement, a business that specializes in manufacturing microscopic violins could make a real killing right now.

Most of the commentators seemed to agree that nothing was really accomplished by the hearing because people were just going to see what they wanted to see. It was described as a political Rorschach. Sometimes Rorschach tests are used to diagnose mental illness and I say that if you watched that hearing and your sympathy is with Brett Kavanaugh and not Dr. Ford, there’s something wrong with you.

Most of the commentators also believed that Brett Kavanaugh would be appointed to the Supreme Court. My heart sunk when I heard that because I’m afraid they’re right. I was happy when after being pressured by sexual assault survivors in the elevator, Jeff Flake delayed the vote and ordered an FBI investigation in to Kavanaugh but I’m afraid that was just a stopgap measure meant to appease. Now the FBI investigation is complete and signs are pointing to Kavanaugh getting confirmed. I’ll probably have more to say when/if that happens but for now I’m going to hope against hope that the senate does the right thing and votes against Kavanaugh. This is not a man who deserves to be a Supreme Court justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Online is Out of Line: The Best Worst Thing That Possibly Could Have Happened

I was very pleasantly surprised by the general response I got from the friends from my past I reached out to. They told me how happy they were to hear from me and they bore me no grudge for my years of silence. When we talked it was as though those years of silence had never happened. We picked up where we’d left off and I felt as comfortable with them as I had years ago. One friend told me that getting in touch with me had made her day, summer and year. The feeling was mutual.

I ended up talking to some of my old friends on the phone and getting together with some of them in person. When I’d been deprived of genuine, face to face friendship for so long, having it again produced feelings of giddiness and euphoria akin to first love. I began to wonder why I had wasted so much time on that forum with people who did not like me, did not appreciate me and did not have my best interests at heart when there were people out there who loved me, appreciated me and wanted nothing but the best for me.

I realized that the way I was viewed by that forum in general is not the way I’m viewed by people in general or the world in general. Many people view me as funny, witty, intelligent and empathetic.

I realized that as powerless as I had felt on that forum, I now had a choice in whether or not I continued to let the people there have power over me. They could not make me feel inferior without my consent and it was time for me to revoke the consent I’d given them. I could refuse to wear that scarlet B they pinned on me.

I knew I was continuing to be mocked, snarked on and torn apart en masse but so what if those people didn’t like me? I don’t like them either. So what if they think I have major character flaws and behaved inappropriately? They have some major character flaws themselves and engaged in some wildly inappropriate behavior themselves.

It was hard for me to shake the notion that since I’d been banned from the forum and those people hadn’t, they were right and I was wrong but I just need to look to the larger world to know that authority figures don’t always make the right decision and justice is not always served.

I can’t even say the moderators made the wrong decision in banning me though. There’s a lot I could say to the moderators about that but this is what I’d like to say to them most of all: Thank You.

Thank you for getting me away from those toxic people and that toxic environment. Thank you for giving me the impetus to seek out better people and better environments. I know a lot of people claimed that forum would be better off without me. I’m not sure if that’s true but I do know I’m so much better off without that forum.

 

When Online is Out of Line: The Scarlet Letter

Whenever someone was banned from that forum I was a part of, the moderators posted an image of a troll being struck by a bolt of lightning and the word ‘banned’ appeared under their user name. They would also be added to a thread titled ‘banninated’ which served as a kind of banning hall of fame. It included a list of the people who were banned, a description of the reason they were banned and a link to the thread in which they were banned. The rest of the thread was devoted to mercilessly mocking the banned members and speculating about their lives. This of course, was in addition to the mocking and speculation that occurred in the original thread in which they were banned as well as the mocking and speculation that occurred in various other threads at random times.

If the banned member was active in the Facebook group associated with the forum they would be removed from that group upon their banning. Many current and previous members of the forum would unfriend or block the banned member on Facebook upon hearing of their banning.

Before I was banned I would sometimes participate in the roasting of banned members. It gave me a sense of camaraderie and a feeling that I was a part of the community. Once I was the one who was banned, knowing that I was being torn apart by the community and that I had become a persona non grata felt awful.

It was as though I had been branded with a scarlet letter but instead of wearing an A for adultery I was wearing a B for banned. I was an object of scorn and a punchline of jokes. In being represented as a troll I had been dehumanized and rendered as ugly on the outside as I felt on the inside.

Perhaps being rejected from that community would have been easier if I’d had another community to turn to but I didn’t. Of course there are a lot of other internet forums out there and I did consider joining a few of them but ultimately decided not to. Who’s to say I wouldn’t be just as hated at those places and treated just as badly, maybe even more so?  The truth was that as horrible as that bad baby names message board could be, as far as message boards went, it was not one of the more horrible ones. In fact, I think it was one of the nicer ones.

The prospect of reaching out to people from my past was in the back of my mind but it was a scary prospect indeed. What if I was just as annoying, rude and immature as all those people on the forum said I was? What if all those negative things those people said about me were true?  Why would anyone want to be friends with someone like that? People had been friends with me in the past and had applied positive descriptors to me such as funny, intelligent and empathetic but that was then. I had changed over the years. Maybe I had, as one forum member suggested, experienced a decline in my mental abilities. Maybe I had become, well, the kind of person who got banned from message boards.

There were people from the forum who even now, liked me but maybe those people were wrong about me and everyone else was right about me. After all, my best friend from there had been banned herself.

I drew comfort from my forum friends who told me that being banned was not a reflection of my worth and that those horrible things those people had said about me were a reflection on them, not on me. Yet my ties with those comforting friends seemed tenuous. I feared they would ditch me like Karen and Weasel had. Then I would literally be friendless.

Fear and loneliness continued to eat away at me until one day I decided to start making friend requests and sending messages to friends from my past. I knew I was taking a risk but decided it was a risk worth taking and I would just have to hope it turned out better than when Bernadette and I had decided exposing Marcia’s lies was a risk worth taking.