A Key to Me

(This post is part of a series chronicling my Women on the Verge journey. Read all updates in the series.)

When my ex (before we were officially split) moved out of state to take a job (at long last, he would be employed!), I remained in our home where I operated a successful child daycare facility. It was to be a time of figuring a lot of things out for us both.

One of the most telling documentations of his attitude toward my overall capability was a particularly condescending note he left for me upon his departure. I actually came across it recently in a box of memorabilia. I know exactly why I saved it all these years – to remind myself exactly how he thought of me: as a helpless twit. I was 29 years old and had run a bustling daycare for eight years. Yet he was convinced that paying a few bills, scooping out the litter box and feeding the fish was going to put me over the edge in his absence. In it, he suggests that I wear my keys around my neck so I didn’t lock myself out. The phrase “no excuses, now” infuriates me to this day. How dare he assume that I needed a “list of the things to do” to keep the household running! He genuinely thought this list was a helpful, not dickish, thing for him to provide to me. I was incensed because of the whole “paternal” tone of it – an attitude he held in our relationship from Day One. I was quickly outgrowing it.

Ramblings of an insecure jerk

How did my time living, working and running the household alone pan out? Every bill got paid on time. The cats were regularly fed. And most importantly, I never once locked myself out of the house (or felt the need to wear my keys around my neck). I had my shit together far more than he gave me credit for. I got stuff done without him, despite his complete lack of confidence.

That note was written in 1991 – half my life ago. In the intervening years between then and now, in fact, I have made it my mission to NEVER do ANY of the things he was so concerned I’d do. I’ve made a point of defying his image of me; to become a person who doesn’t lose things, forget things, lock my keys in the car…

Well, until today when I did lock my keys in the car. Yep, for the first time in my life.

(In my defense, under normal circumstances, I’d have had my everyday purse with me and I’d have a spare key in there. Since COVID-19, however, I’ve been carrying an abbreviated purse with the bare essentials, and the spare didn’t make the cut.)

I feel like I’ve joined a club. I mean, everyone’s locked their keys in the car except me, right? So now I’m like everybody else. I don’t need to try to be any better than that to be worthy of acceptance and unconditional love.

So now I find myself looking at a different image in the mirror: The Gina who does lock her keys in the car. And I don’t think of her the way I’ve worried I’d think of her for almost 30 years. I’ve been terrified I’d think “Gina who locks her keys in the car” was exactly who he thought I was (stupid, careless, shiftless…) and prove him right. That’s a big ol’ chip I’ve been shouldering for a long, long, long time. In a way, I’ve allowed his skewed outlook to remain in my psyche for decades, continuing to exercise a measure of control over how I’ve lived my life. 

But no more; that fear of becoming that version of me is officially shattered. I feel like part of me has finally allowed herself to join the human race. I don’t have to be perfect to be a responsible, worthwhile, good person. I’m fallible and that’s okay. I’m unburdened with his bullshit at long last. Those were his conditions for loving me; not mine.

I am, and always have been, more and better than he could see. And now I can see that too.

It can take such a long time to recognize that which keeps us small and in fear but when we challenge those misconceptions (even by accident) they can fade away in an instant.

Posted in Observations a la Gina, Women on the Verge | Leave a comment

She Doesn’t Know She Can Fly

(This post is part of a series chronicling my Women on the Verge journey. Read all updates in the series.)

I’m going to start out, Gentle Reader, with an outlandish proclamation in which I hope you’ll indulge me: Cats can fly. Oh, I know they’re wingless, but for the sake of argument, would you not agree that a creature who can effortlessly “launch” itself seven (or more) feet vertically from the floor to a shelf near the ceiling has, in a sense, defied gravity in the same way as does flight?

Gravity-defying Desi!

Several years ago, we were privileged to have a cat named Desdemona – Desi for short – who could perform the exact aeronautic feat I’ve described here. One moment she’d be standing beside the refrigerator, the next she was safely, silently atop it. She never hesitated, not for a moment. Desire, action, destination. No wiggle-butt preparation-to-jump. Like the Nike slogan, she would just do it.

Sadly, Desi left this earth in 2015 and she and her fearless feline spirit is sorely missed around here. Fast forward to today, when we still are privileged to share our home with sweet, lovable cats. Our current configuration includes five year old Eggs Benedict and two year old Fee. Eggs is a gray domestic shorthair as was Desi. And while he’s quite adept at leaping from the bed to the window sill or from the table to a nearby shelf…he’s no “Flying Desi” by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, his little sister Fee is clearly awestruck at his jumping ability. I’ve frequently spied her watching in what can only be described as amazement as he leaps gracefully up or down from one surface to another. Honestly, I don’t think she knows that she could.

Eggs the Brave!

But of course she can. She’s every bit the cat he – and every other feline – is. She’s simply not aware that this ability resides in her because she’s never tried; never tested her own natural cat-ness. I watched her just today, staring down from the window sill at the floor as if she were contemplating a leap off the rim of the Grand Canyon. I saw her start, poised for action, then suddenly chicken out. I could almost sense her inner dialogue: 

“Nope. Too big a leap. What if I can’t? I’m scared so I won’t even try.” 

Fantastic Fee!

Instead of a dramatic flight to the floor, she opted for the safe, well-rehearsed route – a short hop off the window sill to the hutch, then a jump down to the ground. It was kind of sad for me to see her not take that leap that I know she can. Instead of merely being aware that other cats can do it, she could at long last know that she herself could do it. Would she be proud of herself? I wondered. Would she come to a new understanding of what she was capable of? Would she feel like a more full-fledged cat if she could find it within herself to take such a leap of faith?

She doesn’t know she can fly…because it’s never occurred to her that she could. 

She doesn’t know she can fly…because she’s never tried. 

She doesn’t know she can fly…because she considers flying to be for others, not for her. 

She doesn’t know she can fly…because she’s afraid. 

She doesn’t know she can fly…because she’s only Fee.

But what could she learn if she leapt?

Posted in Observations a la Gina, Women on the Verge | 1 Comment

How Dare You Dismiss the Seriousness of the COVID-19 Pandemic!

I am LIVID upon learning that there are those who either don’t believe we’re experiencing a pandemic and/or do believe that we’re “overreacting” to it. Well, to those, I’d like to extend an invitation to go fuck themselves. And I have a right to say that because of what my husband and I have been through the last two years.

October 18, 2018, my husband Scott was diagnosed with colon cancer. Against our will, we were forced to join a club that day. A club that would claim the lives of 606,880 people the next year while my Sweetie was undergoing chemotherapy, hoping he would not be included in such a statistic himself.

It is in this emotional space that I craft a message to YOU, you self-important jerk who insists that this is all some sort of political game or hoax. COVID-19 has, in a mere five weeks, taken the lives of 55,000+ people in the U.S. alone. Indulge me in a little simple math here: 

If you multiply that five weeks by a nice round 10, you come up with 50 weeks which is just a few shy of the number of weeks in a year.

If you multiply the number of deaths in those five weeks by the same 10, you come up with 500,000. (And that’s with mitigation, in other words, responsible, mature people stepping up and making the personal sacrifices necessary to flatten the curve.)

Gee, that’s kind of close to the 600,000+ annual deaths from cancer, isn’t it? And still you claim the number of victims of COVID-19 is insignificant. That’s a conservative number of potential cases, by the way, considering how, because of its manner of contagion, the number of cases grows exponentially. 

Furthermore, you go on to say that taking precautions, like shutting down businesses, physical distancing, wearing face coverings and gloves… are unnecessarily inconvenient. Aww, ain’t your life rough? In fact, you may go so far as to say that imposing such precautionary measures infringes upon your rights as an American citizen.

Really. Measures to protect the lives of others, not to mention your own, are “inconvenient” and “un-American?” Do you realize that you are consciously choosing to put yourself and your personal desires ahead of your fellow citizens? Is that the kind of person you are? The kind of person who, when presented with a simple, painless (albeit slightly inconvenient) means to help save the lives of nearly half a million Americans this year chooses to bitch about your degree of inconvenience?

When precautionary measures ARE taken, this disease’s (unlike cancer, heart disease, diabetes…) occurrence CAN be impacted. WE can make a significant difference in how many people’s lives this virus impacts. It’s like a superpower we possess as humans; that we can take a measure of control over something that has potential to do us grave harm. All we have to do is act selflessly for just a little while, in the grand scheme of things. Doesn’t seem like a lot to do for our fellow humans.

I can’t stress strongly enough how I wished there had been something I – or anyone – could have done to prevent my Sweetie – or any patient – from having to go through a cancer ordeal. But there is no such action. But for those who may contract COVID-19, there is. I see, though; you can’t be bothered. YOU want to go out to eat. YOU want to get your nails done. YOU want to go to the movies. YOU want to stay in your comfortable bubble of privilege, denying that the world, in only a few short weeks, has changed profoundly. YOU don’t want YOUR life – you know, the one you deserve, to change an iota, even to help others.

How dare you, you selfish bastard.

Posted in Soapbox | 2 Comments

Listening to Trump is Like Living With My Emotionally Abusive Ex-Husband Again

In case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live with an emotionally abusive husband, all you have to do is listen to Trump. I’ve been triggered by him every day of his presidency – and for a large portion of his candidacy. It’s infuriating, exhausting and so ignorantly condescending that it breaks my heart. I started to jot down a couple of the ways the president reminds me of “him” on Facebook and before I knew it, I’d written an entire blog post. I’ve written it all in one long paragraph not because my editing skills are lacking but because this endless bombardment of thing after thing after thing after thing is precisely how it feels when you’re living in the trenches with a narcissistic douchebag. This was written very much as a stream of consciousness; I’ll keep it as raw as possible to retain its sense of the reality in which I lived for 10+ years:

He always believes he always knows best and is always right. He believes he has total power and control over every single thing in the relationship (and often outside of it). If he says it, it is fact (“so live with it”). He will talk over you because he knows better what you’re going to say than you do. The only agenda that matters is his. You are only there for him to use at his whim. Disagree or be unavailable to do his bidding and there are very bad consequences. You will be discredited, undermined, embarrassed publicly – not to mention reminded of your place in private. Your emotions will frequently be tested and manipulated, just to prove “whose side you’re on.” When and if he changes his mind or course of action and you dare to question, he will deny that he has, even though you witnessed it. Should you press the issue, your sanity or ability to judge will be brought into question. His desires ALWAYS are more important than yours. There is no compromise because his are the most important needs/wants (duh!). He THRIVES on creating drama, then insists on praise and recognition as the “hero” when he “solves” the problems he has himself created. He believes himself to be the smartest person in any room, a natural born leader of people. He’s a boastful braggart with not even a shred of humility. He does not care about your accomplishments. If he can utilize your knowledge or talent to make himself look bigger, better, wiser, he will, but gives your input no acknowledgment whatsoever. He subscribes to “magical” thinking, convinced that, if he wants something to be true or false, happen, or not happen, he can “will” it into being. He believes that his actions are always correct, just, and appropriate. Even in the face of contradictory evidence, he will insist that he is right, YOU are lying or being dishonest. He, in fact will lie, cheat, steal and even admit to horrible acts while twisting his words and “motives” to make these atrocities seem inconsequential (because of the big “special” person he is, compared to others). He can never show or admit confusion, weakness or lack of knowledge, because he is an “alpha” male. Those who do not know are considered “stupid.” Those who do express emotions or any sort of what he considers “character flaws” are inherently lesser humans than he. But how easily awed he is by those powerful few he looks up to. It’s nothing short of hero worship and under their spell, he’s as gullible as can be. He feels he’s is entitled to better things because he is innately better than others. One of his favorite expressions, borrowed from an old friend, was, “Ya know why the poor are poor? Because they’re POOR at doing everything.” Oh, today “someone’s” awakened in a surly mood… Bet it won’t be 15 minutes before he’s making sure mine is just as shitty. He’ll find something to pick at or on or about and first, blame me; second, blow it out of proportion, times 10. Whatever fouls his mood surely couldn’t come from within himself, for he is perfectly fine. It is others and the world that is flawed and out to make him miserable. Oh, and the hissy-fit to full-on rage! That’s always a treat. He’s so fucking sensitive, you never know when his fragile ego will be riled. What will his reaction be this time. Griping and bitching, angry stomping, wild man punching walls and me? Who knows? I’m always be on the alert for the next wave reaction to something that displeases his royal highness. Most everything does. He very rarely experiences pleasure. Even less often demonstrates remorse or compassion. No lean, mean, fighting machine himself, he never misses an opportunity to comment negatively on someone else’s appearance. He frequently makes mention of my flaws, then expects gratitude when he generously offers to “overlook” them. The blame game is constant. His world sucks and it is all (fill-in-the-blank’s) fault! No one ever shows enough (or the right style of) gratitude for that which he does for them. He’s always “owed.” He’s crass and vulgar; he says simply awful things about people. A bigot, racist, misogynist… he can say something crude about anyone without ever entertaining the notion that it could be hurtful – or even incorrect. He never shies away from making a scene in public because he feels that expressing his feelings as they come up is more important than any kind of inner examination. He went to several therapists over the years, but once he was given certain prescriptions, he would be miraculously “cured.” When the medications stopped working, however, those professionals were soon dubbed “hacks.” Even as a grown woman, I got no acknowledgment of my own competency. He was incapable of trusting that I could live without him making certain that every detail of my life was planned for me.

I soon proved him wrong on that count. My last straw came when he exercised a particularly devious manipulation on me, attempting to make me responsible for the consequences of a decision he’d made. Nope. I put my foot down. He didn’t like it but, as he ultimately always did, he ran to Mommy and Daddy to make it better, made me out to be the “bad guy” and limped away with his tail between his legs. That’s what bullies do when you finally stand up to their tyranny. They’re the ones who were running scared the whole time.

Are you falling in love with this sweetheart of a guy yet? Before knowing Trump, you would have thought I was making this character up out of thin air, wouldn’t you? Are you going to vote for this fine, upstanding individual? Yeah, I didn’t think you would.

Posted in Memories, Observations a la Gina, Survivor of abuse | 1 Comment

In My Room


Finding Inner Peace at Home While the World’s in Turmoil

This COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve decided, is going to change me. And I’m not only going to let it change me, I’m going to encourage it to do so. In some ways, it already has. I find myself striving – even more than usual – to find meaning and satisfaction in the “simple” things. To find a sense of profound, inner “enoughness” and peace. And that means approaching the minutes and hours of my days with mindfulness. I’m hoping to nurture a new relationship with time and how I spend it.

Today I woke up and, instead of going directly to my laptop to check news and email, I took two glorious hours for myself. No media – not even music – just me. I spent the time in “my” room – one of the spare rooms upstairs where I keep my favorite things: memorabilia, keepsakes, photos… I guess you could call it my “she shed.” It’s currently in shambles – more like a huge walk-in closet than a room – so I don’t spend as much time in there as I would love to. 

But today I did spend some quality time there. I pushed aside boxes and bags of stuff to clear a pathway into the room. My gaze fell upon the view outside the window. I’d forgotten that we were expecting a dusting of snow last night and I noticed how it had settled in the crotch of the big ‘ol oak tree in the front yard. The sky was cloudy but bright and the street quiet, but for an occasional passing car. From out the window, my eyes moved to the sill, lined with Beanie Babies – cute and meaningful reminders of the years I spent as a daycare provider. Then to inside the room, to the rocking chair (another remnant from daycare days). It was piled high with random…stuff: Games, photos in frames, books, a couple old purses, the jar from a long-ago burned Yankee Candle containing little random bits from around the house.

This room also contains my altar, which I spent a generous chunk of time regarding this day. The altar was the one part of the room that’s been arranged and maintained for a long time. It’s comprised of shelves in a nook on which I’ve arranged some of my life’s treasures. Childhood books, dolls, stuffed animals, photos, items that evoke memories and, in many ways, represent me like no others. I’ve only referred to it as my altar since last year, however, when I began Kelly Carlin’s Women on the Verge course. Early in the lessons, she encourages us to claim a sacred space for yourself and assemble that which is precious and centers you. I didn’t need to start from scratch; I just refined my shelves and I had my altar!

I decided to follow my whims as I began this day in this new way. I sat on the beautiful oak floor – a lovely surprise that, in an attempt to set up the room as a special place of reflection several years ago, I’d discovered beneath the carpet. I moved a few things from here to there, organizing like items, consciously trying to avoid having a plan and follow my heart. This was the mission: to play with my stuff, like I did as a child, without agenda or any purpose other than to be in the experience. I did decide that, while the floor was good, the chair would be more comfortable. I moved the mess onto the floor, took a seat and rocked a while. From that vantage point, I sipped my tea and wondered what treasures were contained in that jar. So I investigated, and discovered:

  • Two tiny keys, maybe from luggage?
  • LOTS of paper clips (Why do we have so many paper clips? We are not an office!)
  • Crystals from a pair of Mom’s candle sticks that I’ve always wanted to repurpose
  • More key rings than two people need
  • Some sort of electronics adapter
  • A pair of earrings I’d forgotten I’d lost (and two earring backs)
  • Two tiny incense holders
  • A nylon strap for…something
  • Three buttons
  • A zipper pull that I wanted to put back on a favorite hoodie
  • An adorable little sun dangle that “someday” I’ll incorporate into a craft project
  • And to prove Mom was with me, two safety pins. Backstory: After Mom passed away in 2010, my sisters and I cleaned out her bedroom. When we got to her drawer of slips, we noticed every one of them had several safety pins attached to the straps. They weren’t holding anything together, she just always had safety pins on her person, should the need arise. I took a safety pin and strung seven more of them on it – representing her seven children. At her wake, I pinned it to her slip, in case she should need one, we’d be there.)

It was like finding a mini time capsule from a previous attempt to clean/organize clutter. And sorting through these tiny things occupied me for minutes on end. Where did they come from? Why did we keep them? My focus was steady on these tiny objects for a while. I wasn’t raging at the news. I wasn’t anxious about the uncertainties we and so many others are facing. I was, for a little while, at the beginning of my day, giving myself the gift of feeling free, unburdened and truly alive.

I’m already looking forward to spending a couple more hours in my room tomorrow, playing amongst my stuff and rediscovering myself. I wonder what I’ll find – and feel – when I look in other places and find more long-forgotten physical memories. I’m also looking forward to the resulting calm that ran through the tapestry of the remainder of my day. I’m amazed how profoundly an affect a couple hours of respite had upon my spirit. I felt nourished and revitalized.

With this crisis, the world is offering us a huge opportunity to reset our lives; to reassess what we value and how we spend our psychic and emotional energy. It’s calling for us to just be still and notice our lives as they are, right here and now. I’m heeding its call by looking inward more deeply. I hope you can take some time while the world is on “pause” to find something that helps you recreate and check in with yourself at a slower, more centered pace. I believe that’s the silver lining of all this; it may be saving us from ourselves. If we listen and stop resenting and resisting it can change us all for the better. Sometimes even nature has to use her outside voice to get our attention.

Bonus because you deserve to hear one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Posted in Inspiration, Life, Memories, Observations a la Gina, The personal development of Gina | 4 Comments