Tag Archives: Disorder

Tin Can Shot Full of Holes

#10 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

After my Dad’s funeral, back I flew from Florida again to my  consulting gig near Washington DC, and to Dan the rebound affair, who seemed supportive.  I was so relieved to be away from the funeral pain, and being with Dan at his farm felt good.

tin can shooting cartoonImagine my surprise when within five days of my father’s death, Dan sat down to the nice dinner I’d prepared for him one night and asked me to leave.

“It’s just not happening for me,” he announced. “I want mah house back.  I’m just not comfortable with you.”  He had no feelings for me, he said.  Whu Nhu? After almost two years and endless hours of intensity, I had been completely blindsided.

Later on that night (much later, after the inevitable rematch), I asked if he could let me know what I’d done wrong, so I could at least learn something from all this.  All he could do was repeat “I was comfortable with Maureen (his ex).  But you get so excited when you talk that you wave your hands and it distracts me to where I can’t hear what you’re saying.  I’m just not comfortable with you.”

“I’m just not comfortable with you.”  At the time it seemed merely unjust, but make a mental note of that turn of phrase.  It will prove to be another clue to the big picture puzzle.

I left Dan’s farm and rented a room in an elderly widow’s home near the airport to work out my consulting contract for another three weeks, before I could escape back to California.

My Dad was dead — and still I couldn’t cry for him. But now I was crying buckets on the hour for Dan, a stranger I’d known only briefly over just short of two years.

Over the July 4, 2008 weekend I dutifully googled “Grief” on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website (since taken over by SAMHSA).  I found this on page two, and in all these years, it’s by far the best way to confront grief I’ve ever seen, packed full of heavy truth in each short sentence:

“How will I know when I’m done grieving? Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four step grieving process:
1. Accept the loss
2. Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
3. Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
4. Move on with life.

“The grieving process is over only when the person completes these four steps,” it concluded bluntly.  This short but dense RX has since been inexplicably removed from the NIMH website, but I’ve kept a folded shard of the printout all these years.  And it proved to be deadly accurate.

I posted “Accept the Loss” in Calibri 16 point font on my computer, my bathroom mirror, and taped it on my wallet (still there to this day), but I couldn’t begin to understand what it meant.  I was dead sure that the shattering loss I was feeling was heartbreak over Dan.
I felt guilty but little more for my Dad.

Right on cue as my personal life went down the tubes, it sure did look as if I were in good company and the whole American economy were simultaneously going down in a hand basket.

I was working 14 hour days on a punishing schedule for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) info-tech proposal. I could remember when a Defense Department proposal was just that: a large technical document written for a major defense supplier, explaining why our satellite system or computer system was better than the competitors’.

Here, however, at times I was sure I was in the Twilight Zone, there was such disorganization bordering on panic.  This was a $2 billion project, to be built at hundreds of airports, ports and border crossings around the nation, and every large company in the U.S. was bidding. The company which retained me had thrown their entire budget for a year on this one proposal, bringing in consultants by the dozens — without setting up a reasoned structure.

TSA ChipmunkIt was mass chaos. We had computer gurus in turbans from Bombay, and Brits from London who would joke they were here to take back the colonies (to which I retorted “What’s left? There’s no industrial base…”). We had cost cutters from Lower Manhattan who didn’t care whether the equipment we were proposing to sell to Uncle Sam worked or not, if they could just structure the cheapest bid.

We hardly had time to leave our desks to eat and by the last two weeks they were trucking in catered breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Anonymous signs began to appear on doors spoofing the insanity.  Yes, I saved one and scanned it today (above).  Click on it, it’s a riot.

Through the din, every morning at 8 am there was a voice on the speaker phones throughout the building, the voice of the lady Proposal Manager, literally shouting orders to the massed troops.  One day I had to tear myself from my workstation long enough to go down to the basement super-bunker to interview some of the top brass leading the project.  There in what looked like a 5-foot wide loud yellow shirt was a woman who resembled nothing so much as Jabba the Hut, scratching her arms, chain smoking, and shrieking into the speaker phones. “Well, she’s won $10 billion worth of proposals, so whatever Lola wants,” one fellow muttered.

I really wasn’t very sure I wanted to be in this line of work anymore.  But what choice did I have – starve to death alone?
It was as if that Twilight Zone had engulfed my public and my private life in one nasty slurp.

I was leading a double existence, interviewing top executives by day, then crying into the cell phone to my friends in California on my short breaks, standing outside in the muggy Virginia heat.  It had all been a series of psychological champagne drunks I was on, I told them ruefully, to cover up my divorce, the fact that I had lost my 27-year marriage, my overseas projects, my music, and my whole life.

I couldn’t  “Accept the loss” of my entire life, or my divorce;  I couldn’t accept anything.  I just ran.  First I ran to Dan, then to California dancing, singing Country, sailing, and dating, then back to Dan, I told them.  Now I’ve lost the Dan umbilical cord to the East Coast and I belong nowhere.

So what do you do when the champagne factory shuts down? After everyone left the office at 11 pm I stayed on, churning out Dan doggerel well into the early morning.

I didn’t feel any anger at all while I was crying so hard during that summer of 2008; I don’t recall feeling anything like anger for another four years.  I just felt unloved, deadly lonely and miserable.

SONY DSCBut I still had an empty string bean can with a half dozen jagged wounds, from the day Dan posted it as a target at the far end of a back woods field as part of his efforts to teach me to shoot pistols.  Something inside me resonated oddly, to think that I had actually pumped this piece of metal full of lead.

I may not have been aware of any anger, but my reaction to that piece of junk and the poems told another story which didn’t come out until much later.

Tin Can Shot Full of Holes
(Apologies to Bob Seeger)
July 12, 2008

It’s sitting on the wall ledge above my closet door,
It sits and stares right at me;  I know what it’s staring for:
To think a serious woman like me would be concerned,
For such a pile of tin and rust, and might even get burned.
The more I think about it, the less I can control
A visceral reaction to that tin can shot full of holes.

I met a man in Mexico, he had an eagle eye,
He warned me not to go too far, he warned me not to die;
He warned me there was nothing alive behind his smile;
He smiled so warm right through me it almost seemed worthwhile.
I thought his smile might save him, as bright as burning coal,
But nothing could bring comfort to a tin can shot full of holes.

We went up on the mountain with little more to say,
I did my level best to focus on things far away,
We used tin cans as targets for pistol practice shots,
But never could be certain to hit any given spot.
With Dorothy, I’ve traveled over Oz from pole to pole,
But all I’ve come away with is a tin can shot full of holes.

I hate it when these poems just overflow my mind;
I’d rather more be sleeping and my work is far behind.
I see him in the shadows, I see him in the sun,
I see him on the grasslands, I see him on the run,
He’ll have to run forever, for he’s running from his soul;
My heart goes out in pity to the tin man shot full of holes.

Hit Bottom Yet?

By the time I flew back to California on July 18, 2008, tail between legs, I was in bad shape.  But think you’re hurting now, girl?  Ha.  It was just the beginning.

Now the Great 2008 Financial Crisis meltdown was in full swing, banks were crashing left and right across America, and my aerospace engineering and IT consulting market on the West Coast suddenly folded up like a Japanese duck pop.

“Japanese duck pop” is a semi-controversial term I’ve been accused of making up, but which I’m sure I learned from a Korean War Vet in some global timezone at some point in the 1990s.  Imagine a flock of ducks flying along, and one of them while zipping straight ahead at a good clip, sticks his head directly up his rear… until pop!  He simply disappears, in Incheon Landing slang.

An opera-going friend invited me to an elite dinner party in Newport Beach, where of course I did not use this sort of language.  One thing I know how to do is put up a glamorous front at an upscale dinner party.  The woman seated to my right asked my line of work. “You’re a writer? Fabulous,” she said.  “I run an investment fund; my clients invest a minimum of $5 million with me.  I want to publish a book on my investing method and I’d like you to be my ghost author. Come to my office on Monday.”

Soon I was in her impressive Newport Beach office, complete with fountains in the palm-swept courtyard, taking down her book in dictation twice a week, as she rattled it off the top of her head.  Soon we were talking international finance, and she was talking about taking me on to train me to help handle some of her millionaire investment clients.  Magic!  A new California Dream.

Until one day I sat down in her office – and the investment bank on Wall Street where she kept all her clients’ funds had just gone down in flames, bringing the markets with it.  Her cell phones were ringing, the computers were going haywire, her irate clients were pulling up in limos, and her husband and son were running in and out of the room with slips of paper and messages.

bear_stearns on fire 0808It was like trying to write a book on nuclear war, in the middle of a nuclear war.  There went another California Dream.  The Great 2008 Financial Crisis made an end to that book project, along with major investment banks.

It was also the end of my California defense career, because the Federal proposal consulting market in California suddenly died, never to be born again as of today.  All the technical writing jobs for aerospace engineering near Los Angeles International Airport which I had been eying suddenly were shipped back to the Washington DC Beltway from whence I’d just barely escaped with my life.

I’d put some cash away from all those contracts, but that career was gone, unless I wanted to move back to Washington, world capital of defense consulting, home of the rain, sleet, and the long shadow of Dan Heller.  I did not; I physically could not. I was sick to my gut at the thought of travel to the East Coast.

So I was stuck in my one-room in California, which was actually little more than a shack in a young couples’ back yard, with the clothes on my back, $30K in my ex’s debt still on my credit cards,  my hard-earned savings, and a stellar resume – curled up in a heap on my bed like a spider checking out for good.

Did I mention that I’d tried dating in California? I did meet several fellows.  One was Harvey the Vietnam vet, a sweet man who bore a striking resemblance to Tarzan (he was ripped).  Harvey had survived some horrible experiences in combat, though.  And now I was beginning to feel like I knew just what he had been through.

Summer 2008, I thought, surely was the the end of my world. Surely it could get no worse than this.  One of my journal entries at the height of the 2008 Presidential campaign gave some pretty amazing evidence on my state of mind:

The Helicopter
(Apologies to Senator McCain)
August 2, 2008

My friend Harvey fought in Vietnam as a combat photographer,
At 6’3″ he weighed over 220 pounds.
On one evacuation the GIs pushed him off the helicopter:
“Pansy photographer! We can’t take off with your weight!”
Harvey was captured by the Vietcong.  Eventually he escaped.

Sometimes I have that helicopter feeling:
That my parents threw me out of my house,
That my husband threw me out of my life,
That the economy threw me off of the bus.

I forsook my family and gave up everything for you,
But you threw me out of my life,
You threw me into the world completely unequipped,
To know that I was prey.

You threw me, without ever having been loved,
Into Superman’s arms,
He took me for a flight, and I thought “Oh, maybe this is love?”
But soon he was done — and he threw me off the helicopter
—————————–All
———————————————Over
—————————————————————–Again.

Bang!  You’re dead.  All over again.
I’m MIA — and no one even knows I’m missing,
Or will know whether I die or whether I live…
I’m MIA — and I can’t even run for President;
I don’t even have the dignity of a dog tag.

 

———————————
This is from Chapter 2 Part II of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder – How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

2,661 total views, no views today

Share Button

Surgeon General’s Warning: Rebound!

#7 in my ongoing book series; original post September 6, 2013

I never liked the sticky suburbs of Washington D.C.  My ex had moved us there from New York City years before.  As I was boxing up my three-bedroom Virginia ranch and my life during my divorce, I got a call from a girl friend in Southern California who was gravely ill. When her hair fell out, her husband served her with divorce papers (attachment was not his thing).

BrousBlog8a Newport Memorial Day StanDue to the treatments, she couldn’t remember what happened on a given day in court, so I flew out to help. On my first trip, all I saw was courtrooms and hospitals. On my second trip, I stepped out onto Newport Beach and the beauty of the area hit me hard between the eyes.

“Why not me?” I thought, looking at the ocean, the sailboats, the rows of green palms and red Spanish tile roofs sweeping into the bright blue distance.  Why should I move down the pike in the dreary Old Dominion, shoveling ice and snow to commute the rest of my life — when I could move across the country to a beautiful place like this?  Back to Virginia I flew, now boxing up a storm, with the song of a warm sun, a rolling ocean, and a new life in my heart.

Trouble is, divorce doesn’t come with the warning it ought to have from the Surgeon General’s office:  “Caution: Rebound Affairs Can be Hazardous to your Health.”  Why didn’t the counselors and lawyers at the women’s center tell us?  Why didn’t they tell us that 75% of divorced folks end up in a second divorce?

Why?  Because divorce hurts! It hurts a lot!  So the natural tendency in divorce is to medicate, and many people do medicate, until they learn the hard way to stop. Medicating includes alcohol, drugs, food, or other substance abuse, workaholism, sports, video games, internet fixations of all sorts — anything which changes the subject, anything to avoid facing up to the emotional pain of the loss of an entire life.

Take my sudden Country & Western music jag.  Hindsight stinks, but clearly I was having a profound emotional crisis, emotional pain at a level which I’d later recognize as “break-through grief.”  Suddenly, La Soprano Classique can’t bear classical music, but she’ll bang on the steering wheel to Toby Keith for hours on end?  A clinical case of medicating with music.

At the top of the medication list is the feel-good of a new romance.  But when that’s done on the rebound–
without a time-out to understand what went wrong in the first marriage, or to take concrete measures to heal from such a major wound — then both parties come to the table with a lot of buried hurt burning up their hearts.  Character discernment goes out the window, mis-matches are legion, and even the best people –- each in intolerable pain of their own — eventually project it wrongly onto their unwitting partner. As they lash out, eyes wide shut, it ends in another divorce, more hurt piled on hurt.

Who knew?  “Whu Nhu? He was the Prime Minister of Burma before U Thant,” was again my tag line.  I certainly did not know.  “Whaddaya call a blind doe? ‘No Eye Deer’,” was my other refrain.  I did not get the memo, because for one thing, there was no memo.  Another reason for this book, ‘cos a memo on divorce and the dangers of the rebound sure is needed.

I Thought I Was Dead

In July 2006 when I left home, I had been left “home alone” for dead for so long by my ex, that I thought I was dead.  Larry moved us from New York where we met and married, to Virginia, then left the house one morning, and never came home until past midnight.  For about 15 years.  There was no breaking bread together, no “How was your day?” emotional connection to soothe daily hurts, and for the last 15 years, no physical contact — and no children.

We didn’t have time for that stuff; how could I have kids on airplanes?  We were above all that, we had to save the world! So I furiously trotted the globe on business, organized conferences in Tokyo for diplomats from several nations in three languages, and devoured great music in another few languages.

When I turned 50, a perceptive friend actually asked me if I’d ever thought I’d live past 50, which if you think about it, is a shocking thing to ask a female gym rat as healthy as a horse. “No, I guess not” I blurted without self-editing, “Is it so obvious I’ve been burning at both ends?” I’d been lost in East Berlin in the rain on the wrong side of the Wall, and deep under the Korean DMZ in a miner’s rail bucket. I’d been to so many places on so many adventures that a co-worker asked, “Kathy, is there anything you haven’t done?”

BrousBlog8d Newport boat July 4aWell, er, it turns out there were still a few things, and by Murgatroyd I was going to do them all — and now, starting with a lot of Pacific Ocean water sports.  I really never thought I’d make it to 2010 alive, which encouraged a certain devil-may-care attitude.  (That’s me in red.)

Larry was so callous for so many years that by the time I left, my view finder was filled with nothing but the sheer relief that I was no longer banging my head against his wall of indifference.  Just to be breathing felt like a party.  Just to see the sun and the ocean and the odd palm tree, to be free of the constant adrenaline panic of deadlines, was a breath of air so fresh it made me want to dance, and so I did.

BrousBlog8c Kathy Kayaking Laguna w.hills #63I danced a lot of two-step and wailed to hard rock; I sang a lot of country; I raced sailboats; and ocean kayaked; and hiked; and dated up a semi-tropical storm.  I had no intention of not doing the right thing.  Fun appeared to be the only intensely rational thing to do.

Fact is, I’d taken such an emotional hit with the divorce that I was numb.  I had so much pain from all those decades of being left alone, that I didn’t even know I had pain. ( The technical term is dissociation.)

How was I to know I was serial-medicating a whole landslide of pain with all this partying? Whu Nhu?  I just thought:  “I’m no longer banging my head against the wall! Let’s go dancing instead.”  But reality was that I was in so much pain that I just walked out on Newport Beach and proceeded directly to medicate.

In particular, I thought, love is simple. “I married a bad man, he was mean to me. Now I’ll find a good man to love me,” I told myself.  Famous last words.

The Singing Nun

I knew the global financial markets, but after a 30-year hiatus from dating, I was like a nun out of a cloister on the ball field of romance. As I was boxing up a storm in Virginia, a statistical fluke hit; at least, I thought it was a fluke.  It was to be the first of many. I found myself picked up and dumped into a vat of the ultimate pain medication.

For almost 20 years, every Sunday in August I’d gone to my local pool where everyone knew me as Mrs. Larry. First Sunday in August 2006, while living in my best friend Sandy’s basement, I went to my pool, only to find it padlocked, due to be bulldozed for the construction of a furniture warehouse.

I was weeks from moving to California, and wanted a tan, so across the river I drove to the next pool in Maryland 20 minutes away. It was an innocent family spot where I’d never set foot in my life and in a few weeks would never set foot again; I’d be 3,000 miles gone.

So it was that three weeks out of my home, I was minding my own business in spades, secure in the glum knowledge that Larry found me completely unattractive and certain that no man would ever look at me again as long as I lived. It was 90 degrees in the humid shade and I was half asleep in the pool holding onto a ladder, when he hailed me: “Hey, ladder lady.”

I thought he wanted the ladder, so I swam away.

I was amazed when he appeared minutes later at my lounge chair, a wiry fellow with burning blue eyes, hitting on me like a ton of bricks (not that I knew the term “to hit” at the time). My jaw must have dropped a foot but he wasn’t looking at my jaw. Later he said, “When I saw you, the first thing I noticed was that you weren’t wearing a ring. The second thing was the bikini. I wanted to just eat you all up.”

He chatted awhile, and handed me his impressive business card, which indicated he managed billion-dollar equipment as head of air traffic control at Washington National Airport. “Come to my house for dinner,” he urged. “I’m moving to California,” I said point blank, “I’ll show you my car trunk full of boxes to prove it. It’s pointless.”

I had been with one man for 30 years (including before marriage) and hadn’t dated since college. I was like the Singing Nun out of a cloister, or a dead ringer for Wilma Flintstone with a bone in her hair, from a time capsule out of pre-history. To say I needed to learn about men was the understatement of the millennium (ok, it had been a short millennium so far).

My ex hadn’t touched me since forever and I was a top contender for Loneliest Gal in the Old Dominion. I was already road kill before this truck hit me; I was chum suitable to be tossed to the sharks. I had no tools to handle anything remotely approaching this.

Dan Heller*, for his part, had one heck of a tool box, and was not a man to be deterred. Three Sundays at the pool he came back at me, “Come to my house for dinner.” He had beautiful eyes, and knew how to use them. Finally he figured out that I was fascinated by construction projects and air travel after working on all those Third World development plans on the other side of the world. He guessed correctly that I wouldn’t be able resist a “back stage tour” of the airport.

BrousBlog8e Reagan Nat'l Control TowerThat next Wednesday at 5 p.m. I met him outside the airport office. We climbed into his official Jeep and roamed far and wide, examining the great soaring machines which move people and economic equipment all over the world from angles a mere passenger never sees. We toured the extensive supporting plant and fuel tank farms, acres of new construction, numerous hangars with aircraft of every variety, and I learned the difference between a taxiway and a runway.

The coup de grace was a ride to the top of the new Air Traffic Control Tower which was 99% complete but not yet in service. The control room at the top had a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view of the entire airfield, the great runways stretching to the horizons, the glorious landscapes for miles around, and a layer of fresh-smelling sawdust from final woodworking in progress. We were alone way up there at sunset, Dan was in his element, and I leave you to imagine the rest.

On the fourth Sunday, I folded.

Walking into Dan’s Maryland farm house for dinner, we entered a great room all of pine with a two story vaulted cathedral ceiling, an acoustic I was sure would be terrific for Mozart (if I could bear to sing it again). I sang a few bars; Dan looked bemused. There was a bay window with a sunset view of the lake, and a promising grand staircase. “Ah built this house with mah own two hands,” he drawled, having somehow acquired a killer Southern accent, and proceeded to show off his construction photos.

He was from southern New Jersey, I was from southern Long Island – and I was toast. I had no idea what goes on in the real world. I thought he was looking for True Love.

No, Virginia, there is no Santy Claus, and he sure wasn’t. He had a closet full of hunting rifles and camouflage, and he was looking for a deer to take. Once he had the carcass, he was going to lose interest in that deer real fast. But of course, Ms. No Eye Deer was blind to the obvious.

*All names, except for mine, have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, and any resemblance they may have to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

——————————-

This is part three of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

2,775 total views, 2 views today

Share Button

Plowing Emotions Under

#6 in my ongoing book series; original post August 23, 2013

At the end of last week’s post, after the collapse of my marriage, I was asking “Who Dunnit?”  Who’s responsible for so many divorces in this country?  First the gals and I blamed our men.  Then being an egghead, I blamed the economic crisis for depressing the men.

After that, I blamed electronic devices for replacing face-to-face interaction.  I’d been irate since the ’90s about the rise of the sound-byte society, a decade before neuroscience caught on. [FN1]

BrousBlog6a Tokyo punkIn luxe restaurants high above the lights of Tokyo and Seoul, my diplomat friends and I whined over the sashimi about the decline in personal connection, which didn’t start with email, cell phones, or texts, but was sure coming to a head with ’em.  As we planned development projects for Asia and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, one Japanese official groaned, “Do we really want to export our so-called ‘modern culture’ to these people? Aren’t the Mongolian plainsmen happier in their yurts, without green hair, pierced noses, acid rap, and cell phone cranial transplants like our kids down there have?”

Mongolia? My beef was watching people show up at meals so glued to their devices that they never saw the living beings in front of them. By 2006 when my divorce began, I’d been to a slew of Washington, D.C. luncheons at which I was the only person not fixed on a cell phone screen.

That Christmas 2006, a friend’s daughter went abroad for a college semester in Lithuania.  She was away from home at Christmas for the first time, out of the country for the first time, on the other side of the world in a place barely out from under the Iron Curtain, buried in snow.  Eagerly, the extended family in New Jersey gathered around a wide computer screen to video-cam with Laurie. We could see her beautiful life-size face as if she were with us. After a moment’s eye contact, she turned her gaze down to her lap and left it there, not so much chatting as distantly answering our questions about her adventures.

Finally, I turned to her dad and asked, “What’s she doing?” “Oh, she’s texting her friends,” said the beaming parent, as if it were fine.

Egads, I muttered to myself, face-to-face, look-me-in-the-eye-and-please-be-home-behind-your-windows connection, is becoming a thing of the past. I felt like a dinosaur lost in an Atlantic City casino.

What Attention Span?

Next I went on another egghead tear.  I’d sung classical music a long time and was bummed about the sharp drop in new gigs.

Americans’ ability to sustain interest in a marriage, I journaled, is also related to an alarming drop in attention span.  To me, that was shown by the collapse of interest in longer classical music pieces, in favor of modern 3-minute cuts.  Handel’s “Messiah” and Rossini’s “Wilhelm Tell” used to be household fare; check out the movie score of “The Bells are Ringing.”  But today, more and more orchestras and opera companies nationwide are closing their doors each year. No audience.

I’d sung mucho Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, and the stuff’s got an architecture the size of the Golden Gate bridge. It requires concentration to write, sing, or even just audit.  There’s a scene in the 1984 film “Amadeus” showing how Mozart became famous for extending the length of a musical piece.  Before that, the longest single thing ever written with no silent space was maybe a 12-minute Bach chorus (for which Johann S. took a lot of flack; his average was more like 5 minutes).  Mozart expanded the length of a single vocal quartet to 23 minutes, and expanded the length of an opera from one hour to four.

Beethoven? His attention span was over the top.  The SONY engineer in Tokyo who invented the CD, designed it to hold 80 minutes of music (far longer than an LP) specifically so as to hold Beethoven’s complete Ninth Symphony. (And even then, only with a really fast conductor.)  Check out this video:
What Would Beethoven Do? by Jonathan Keijser   [FN2]

John F. Kennedy said it in quotes engraved on the walls of the Kennedy Center concert hall on the Potomac: “I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.

“I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well.” – October 26, 1963

Sure didn’t seem JFK was talkin’  ’bout today’s music. I wrote the above in 2006 when my divorce began and it was fine as far as it went.

But while I was railing on everyone else, it never hit me that I had a bad emotional issue with it, inside myself.

Emotions R Us

Emotional pain is  an issue for a lot of us. We can get plenty angry in traffic, depressed at a football outcome, or freaked about the boss; that’s the superficial stuff. But when it comes to real, deep emotions that endure, many of us are too shut down to have the depth of serious feelings required for lasting attachment to other humans.

BrousBlog6c General TheoryI found a piece of this puzzle much later in 2009, when a friend stumbled on “The General Theory of Love,” a pivotal book by three psychiatrists turned neuroscientists who expose America’s hate affair with emotions (and several other issues).

“Modern America plows emotions under, a costly practice that obstructs happiness and misleads people about the nature and significance of their lives. That is more damaging than one might suppose,” they say. “Science has discovered emotionality’s deeper purpose: emotions allow two human beings to receive the contents of each others minds…For human beings, feeling deeply is synonymous with being alive… Emotions have a biological function — they do something for an animal that helps it live.” [FN3]

In fact, they say, Emotions ARE Us.  Emotions are who we really are.  I was shocked; I always thought “I” was all my scientific head talk, and America was the Land of the Logical. “Whu Nu? He was Prime Minister of Burma after U Thant,” I mumbled again.

And the peculiar heat of my passion for classical music was actually a sign that my real underlying emotions were almost 100% dead frozen.

Often when I would get up to sing, people were shocked by the intensity. “Sie feuhlt was sie singt! (She feels what she sings,) one German listener exclaimed of my Schubert songs. “It was always going to be different when you sang,” my best friend Sandy remarked, “It was a whole ‘nother emotional experience.”  For decades, I was pretty much obsessed with this music.

Yet I actually knew by the ’90s that I was using music as a stand-in for the communication which was absent from my marriage.

“Most of my best friends are dead,” I used to say of Mozart & Co.

What I did not realize was that I tolerated a marriage with no children, in which my husband never came home, so that I hung out instead with men who died 200 years ago, because neither the husband nor the dead guys would ever present me with the challenge to attach face to face with a live human being.  (Same song as in Blog #5 last week.)

I couldn’t feel my own feelings, so I gravitated to mega-watt classical because at least I could feel Mozart and Beethoven blasting out their powerful feelings.  (I didn’t get until 2012 that “emotionally shut down” is dissociation, another facet of attachment disorder.)

Once my divorce began, however, I did notice a problem with my obsession. Commuting to my latest defense consulting gig outside of D.C. in 2006, I popped in a CD to sing along as usual. It was J.S. Bach’s “Wedding Cantata,” the most glorious celebration of wedded love ever. “Love is better than the joy the flowers feel as they burst forth; now two souls become one jewel,” sings Bach. The man knew, he had 14 children.

“Two souls, one jewel,” I sang… and suddenly I had to pull off the highway, eject the CD, and collapse on the wheel in tears. I loved my husband with all my soul, and never, ever thought it would come to this. This was my first taste of “breakthrough grief,” the devastating emotional pain to come which was just a tiny speck on a distant horizon.

From that day on for over two years, I could not listen to classical music. I got back on the road to work, scanning the radio aimlessly. This being Northern Virginia, there were 3 or 4 stations playing only Country & Western, a genre so foreign to me it coulda been in Transylvanian. But the songs were a riot, with lines like “I met a man in Hollywood, he was a credit to his gender/He really worked me over good, just like a Waring blender.”[FN4]

And boy did I need a laugh or three.  Plus, I somehow had the urge to dance, so I began to soak up this new material like a sponge whenever I hit the road and sang along, really loud.
In fact, I did a lot of banging on the steering wheel…

————————–
This is part two of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

FN1    Porges, Stephen,PhD, Page 15 of 2012 webinar “Polyvagal Theory,”  http://www.stephenporges.com/images/NICABM%20April%202012.pdf : “Well-developed human beings can self-regulate their emotional state by being with other humans,” said top neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges recently.  “But what about people who regulate their emotional state with objects?…We’re in a world now being literally pushed on us, by people who are challenged in their own social and emotional regulation, and we’re calling this ‘social networking.’ We’re using computers, we’re texting — we’re stripping the human interaction from all interactions… We’re allowing the world to be organized upon the principles of individuals who have difficulty regulating emotionally in the presence of other human beings.”

FN2   Keijser, Jonathan, “What Would Beethoven Do?” http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/478793577/what-would-beethoven-do?ref=card

FN3    Lewis, Thomas MD; Amini, Fari MD; Lannon, Richard MD; “A General Theory of Love”, Random House, 2000. http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/

FN4    Ronstadt, Linda, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” 1996

 

3,281 total views, no views today

Share Button

Death and Taxes

#5 in my ongoing book series; original post August 16, 2013

This book was originally called “Death and Taxes,” a spoof on the ironic realities of dating in today’s American post-divorce shark pool.  At the time of my divorce, I was a consultant for several Washington DC arms merchants, and my friend Denise was an IRS official.  I was “death,” and she was “taxes.”

This was supposed to be funny because we were such soft-hearted, loving women; that is, two of the world’s worst co-dependents. It had the potential for a really wild movie script. Some day…

BrousBlog5a Ben Franklin“Our new Constitution is now established,and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1789

We crossed paths the week both our marriages collapsed in 2006, raw, uninformed, and in extremis, at a women’s divorce law seminar just outside the Washington, D.C.  Beltway. “Unfortunately, Virginia is not New York or California, community property states where each gets half the assets,” the female lawyer announced. “In Virginia, ladies, you are basically up a tree. If you go to court, the legal fees will cost you whatever you get from a settlement–and then it’s a black box what the judge will do.  He could easily make you pay alimony to your husband.  If you don’t go to court, you might not get anything, either.”

On that unstable note, Denise and I looked at each other and said, “Doesn’t anyone want to network?” Nothing, in short, was certain–except Death and Taxes. We started to meet ad hoc in restaurants and call each other late at night for moral support.

The first thing we noticed was that neither of us had children (after her 20-year marriage and my then 26-year marriage to my college beau). This detail had hitherto escaped our attention. Had I focused on it at the outset, I might have had an earlier clue that something was wrong, not just with my ex, but with my ability to attach. Until I addressed me, anything else I did would lead in circles. But I didn’t.

Instead, we did what everyone else does: we blamed our spouses. They didn’t want children; they were the problem. Later we realized that these were men who couldn’t attach. Women at the legal seminar would ask each other, “why did you get divorced?” and the cause was always the same: inability to attach.

For example, Denise benefitted financially from her marriage. She would wow visitors from the women’s center with tours of her stately home with swimming pool near the CIA. Her antique tables were piled high with albums of photos of their exotic international travels.

But ascending to the second floor, she would escort visitors to a certain room. Inside, all four walls were filled with rank upon rank of book shelves, shelves along every inch of wall. On the shelves were arrayed: Teddy bears. Rows of pink Teddy bears. Rows of blue Teddy bears. Calico Teddy bears. Teddy bears in cowboy suits. Teddy bears dressed as firemen. Purple People Eater Teddy bears. Teddy bears in tuxedos and top hats and sequined gowns and tiaras. Naked normal Teddy bears.

Denise got to where she developed a dramatic flair for all this. She would silently allow a gal to enter the room, take in the scene, let it sink in, pause, then sweep her arm in the grand manner and proclaim: “And this, is Donald’s teddy bear collection.” Donald was her ex.

Clearly, Donald had better uses for his time, than attaching to Denise. One fine day, he summarily left her for his dental hygienist. She never saw a thing coming and wept for months.

It wasn’t until years later that we realized: he never presented her with the challenge to attach, so she stayed and stayed–until he made it physically impossible for the relationship to go on. Not she.

In a sick system too long

No one at the women’s center could believe the situation I stayed in so long. My ex was sweet during our early years in New York, but once he moved us to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, away from the mobility of the subways, he had me where he wanted me and lost interest.  Larry literally got in his car and left one morning and never came back until past midnight–for years.  I was lucky to see him on Sundays.

Larry had his businesses, his political ambitions, his expensive tennis and other sports, and I was the junior partner assigned to support his mission. I got to be the out-front sales gal and fly around the world doing international economic consulting, while he stayed in his office behind the scenes. In my ten years of global travel, he never made a single trip with me; there was no one with whom to share all those memories; he’d hardly look at the photos.

BrousBlog5b Cat You got a Puppy I’d return from two weeks in Tokyo and Seoul to find that the litter box for our two good-sized indoor cats had not been touched by human hands since I’d left. The cats, at least, had the presence of mind to feel abandoned.

With all his high-level talk it never hit me, but by the mid ’90s, it would have been clear to anyone with eyes to see: under all the words, Larry lived by the law of the jungle. He had less than zero regard for my personal welfare. One day I got a lucrative consulting gig, and before I knew it, he’d quit working and had me out paying the mortgage.

Soon he had me working two jobs, 14 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week. This went on for ten years. The money was gambled away in his business and political schemes; periodically he’d present me with his credit cards run into the $20-$30,000 debt range and say “take care of it.”

I began to suspect something when I finally googled “marital abuse” and read on a George Washington University women’s website that domestic abuse comes in many forms. I was shocked to read that it need not be obvious physical beating or rape, but that there are such things as purely emotional, verbal, and financial abuse which are still abuse for sure. I’d been clueless. “Whu Nu? He was the Prime Minister of Burma after U Thant,” became my running gag on myself.

While it was dawning on me that I was in deep kimche which could not be thought away by singing “Stand by Your Man” another ten years, Larry began taking the equity out of our home. Late one night, he demanded I sign a $280K refinance. When I refused and tried to leave the house, he got physically brutal, bellowing “You’ve got to protect my credit rating.”

I ran for the bathroom and locked myself in, but never thought of calling 911 on the man I loved (never even crossed my mind another two years). At dawn, I crawled out, signed the papers, then looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, “You just signed your life away because you’re afraid to be alone at this age.” I was at the women’s center in days.

Why try to change death or taxes? I’d lived for years as though abuse in relations was just as inevitable. “You’ve been in a sick system so long, you’re numb to it,” Dr. Henry Cloud says; “All your life what was done to you in the name of love was the furthest thing from love.”1 In fact, I was so numb, so frozen, that I was dissociated.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized: But he never presented me with the need to attach, and so I stayed, no matter how miserable I was. And stayed, and stayed, until he made it physically impossible to go on. Not me. He had to beat me into leaving.

Who Dunnit?

Next I blamed the economic decline for badly impacting men. The stealth cause of America’s 50% divorce rate, I thought, must be the economic dislocation tearing society apart. Just as the stock market did not look good, I decided that neither did the guy market. Men were too depressed, too stressed out or too emasculated by the rotten economy to connect emotionally.

BrousBlog5c Work ItI wrote the preceding sentence in 2006, and on the surface, it’s stood up well. More recently this has been dubbed the “mancession,” recession for men.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, between December 2007 and June 2009, jobs held by men made up 70% of all jobs lost, to the point that TV sitcoms about men posing as women to get hired such as “Work It” have emerged.

Men, when all is said and done, have the need to be builders. They are not all hunters or predators. It is men who build sailing ships and cities and airplanes and travel to the moon, and write things like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which require tremendous courage–all of the things which I admire so. We just don’t see a lot of women doing that, because women have a different, important job. A real woman ought to recognize, applaud, and appreciate men for doing their job. But what happens when the economy dies and we pull that rug out from under a man’s feet?

“You betcha! This was a matter of reality and necessity in my generation,” exploded one retired engineer who spent a lifetime building missiles at Boeing, upon hearing my theory. “The Cold War was for real; we had to make those rockets work–or Americans could die. Take away the sense of national mission, and you pull the rug out from under a man’s sense of potency. Do that, and how can men have the self-respect to really love a woman, especially when the women are not as connected to the economic reality and do not understand what is going on?”

Yes, it’s been a nasty economy. But what went wrong with these marriages?  Who Dunnit?  Let the reader beware.

This book spills out onto the page, how I found out the hard way. You will see through my eyes exactly what was in my consciousness (and it wasn’t much at first!) as I walk you through events as I experienced them. You’ve got a ring-side seat in the first row of my astonished brain as I enter a maelstrom which would make Edgar Allan Poe pass out. I do this to you because otherwise you will neither understand nor believe what happens as this mess unfolds. There is no other way to make this story credible.

——————————–

This is part one of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes
FN1  Cloud, Henry, PhD, “Getting Love on the Inside,” Lecture CD, April 2002),   http://www.cloudtownsend.com/resources/, {Co-author with Townsend, John, PhD, of the bestseller “Boundaries,” Zondervan, 2004)

3,497 total views, 8 views today

Share Button