baptism, mikvah, Negril

Tears and the ocean both being salt water is not

an accident.

Tears met with comfort release our pain


connect us to one another.

For a moment we are weightless,

surrounded by the warm salty water of the Womb.


Beneath the surface, the sounds fall away

(There is only Her heartbeat)

The salt stings our eyes and we must close them now

and wipe away the salt water.

Emerging from the warmth into

the bright light of the Sun,

the cool air moving past us,

the noise of ordinary life around us.

(the tears dry,

their molecules moving into the air, into the sky, to the clouds

to be returned again to the rain, to the ocean)

We are renewed now.


Returned a little closer to who we were

before we left the safety of the ocean we all began in.

And knowing this is one to which we can return


Drip, drip, drip (better times up round the bend)


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Water torture encompasses a variety of techniques using water to inflict physical or psychological harm on a victim as a form of torture or execution

I’d like to start this post by pointing out the term “Chinese water torture” is racist and nonsensical actually. When this torture technique has been used, it has been mainly by Europeans and there’s no recorded instances of the Chinese ever having used it.

Ok, onward and upward.

There’s this book by Lundy Bancroft I bought years ago titled “Why Does He Do That?” It’s about abusive partners and the many myths that surround our ideas of abuse. He’s a counselor that works with abusive men who either want to change or have been forced by the courts to undergo counseling. We often say abusive men need to learn to manage their anger but Bancroft argues that abuse isn’t an issue of out of control anger. Rather, it is a systemic, deliberate process used to control for the benefit of the abuser. They don’t need to learn to control themselves; they need to learn to stop controlling their partner (and everyone else in their lives they’re controlling).

In the book, he details ten different categories of abusers. The one I am going to talk (err-write) about today is the Water Torturer.

We’re all familiar with the idea of water torture. Not the waterboarding done by the US government. Rather, this idea of tying someone down and dripping water down onto their forehead slowly, drip by drip. The drops come randomly and it induces a psychological breakdown.

Lundy uses this as a metaphor for the kind of abuser who doesn’t yell or hit. He is always calm and appears to the outside world to be a great guy. He rarely slips up and lets anyone see what he’s really like. He knows how to push his partner’s buttons and get *her* to scream and get emotional. Then he says “why are you getting so worked up?” “you really need to work on your mental health problems” “stop abusing me.” He doesn’t punch or kick but he engages in subtle physical abuse such as blocking her from leaving the room or following her around the house arguing when she tries to get away. He doesn’t engage in blatant sexual abuse such as rape but rather makes degrading comments about her sexual interests, her appearance or withholds sex. He makes extensive use of sarcasm, put downs, controlling where she goes, controlling money, undermining her sense of self worth, isolating her from friends and family, badmouthing her to other people and gaslighting. Lots and lots of gaslighting.

Because you see, like Harry Houdini who helped popularize the idea of water torture, he depends upon an illusion to keep her with him. He depends on creating distractions so neither she nor the outside world can see what he really is and what he’s really doing.

The good news, friends, is that you don’t have to remain strapped down to that table. The damage done by this abuse is extensive, but most definitely something you can heal from.

You just have to keep in mind the Wizard of Oz is not real and keep your eyes on the little man behind the curtain. It’s hard to do, but you’re a badass so you got this.

I see this a lot in my practice. I have women who come in with black eyes and broken ribs, but more often they come in telling me stories of emotional abuse like this. They’ve been so worn down by it, like a pebble in a stream that becomes small and smooth over time from the water flowing over it. They are too tired and broken to leave. And they’re in love. And they’re addicted to the chemicals our brains grow to crave when we’ve been in toxic, tumultuous relationships for so long.

The University of Illinois did some research and noticed there are 5 stages to leaving an abusive relationship. The first two stages encompass the very beginning of the abused partner noticing there is something very wrong, something that goes beyond normal relationship issues. She’s nowhere close to leaving, but the spell has started to wear off. Stage three, women start to notice the effect of the abuse on their children. They start viewing the abuser’s behavior as abuse on a regular basis. And they start preparing to leave. Maybe they tell a friend what’s going on. Start stashing away cash in case they need to run. Call a domestic violence line. Stage four is an interesting one.

Stage four is the yo yo stage. You leave but then you come back. You might end up yo yo-ing several times before you truly leave. Why? Because he says he’ll change. Because being on your own is hard, financially, logistically (with kids), emotionally. Because he gets other people to guilt trip you. Because he won’t “give up on you.” Because you’re addicted to the brain chemicals. Because this dynamic is comfortable to you. Because you love him.

Stage five is the final one. You have left and you have stayed away and aren’t going back. The researchers define this as having left and stayed away 6 months or more. The abuse can continue if there are children involved and you are forced to have continue contact with your abuser, but it’s much less than before and you can begin to heal and move on.

It’s hard as doctor to have patients in those first four stages. Hard for friends and family too. But you can’t skip stages and you can’t rush someone through them. They have to make the choice to leave and stay left. You can support them by listening without judgement and validating their feelings. If you’re a friend or family, offering help with kids and other logistics can help too. And if they yo yo back, be there for them. They may be afraid to tell you. They may avoid you. Don’t give up on them. The abuser will likely make even greater attempts to isolate his partner if she goes back, so stay in her life whatever way you safely can and let her know you’re there is she ever needs you.

A lot of doctors shy away from dealing with the issue of intimate partner violence because they find it so frustrating to have a patient that won’t leave or who goes back. There are a lot of reasons women stay or return. And the sad reality is, sometimes it’s safer or necessary for her to stay. Being there to keep her as safe and supported as possible is hard, but it can be life changing for her. If you abandon her because she won’t leave, you’re just continuing the patten of the abuser, seeking to control her.

The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. So, if you’re in a relationship with a water torturer, don’t put off considering leaving. A lot of times the reasons we come up with to stay aren’t as convincing if we discuss them with someone outside the relationship like a therapist, domestic help line or friend. Once you’re down in his world of gaslighting, isolation and control, your sense of reality is skewed. You need someone who isn’t riding that Tilt-A-Whirl.

Once you are out, the healing is not necessarily the most fun process. It’s kind of like when someone is getting over opiate addiction. There’s a lot they need to dig out from. A lot of pain and sadness and the practical part of rebuilding your life. But there’s also joy. And as the months pass, there is less and less pain and more and more joy. And you will look back and say, how did I do that all those years? How did I survive? And you’ll see what a badass you are. And that there are far better things at the carnival than the broken Tilt-A-Whirl. And you and your kids will eat cotton candy and laugh and sleep soundly at the end of the day cozy in your warm, safe beds.

Are you a Mary or a Rhoda? Maybe both.(of divorce and white hot suns)


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Someone crying a solitary sad tear

I cried a little on my way into work this morning. Well, not work exactly. I was actually driving to the tire place near my office because I got another flat. Presumably due to hitting the curb too many times trying to squeeze into a parking space in front of my house, a popular place for people from all corners the earth to park. Not that I’m bitter. Anyway, back to the crying. I was crying because I didn’t have a head scarf on. I was crying because my divorce was a little about more final now.

This is not my street but the parking looks similar

I started wearing my headscarves five years ago. Was it really five years? It went so fast. It was after my husband and I had reconciled, for the second time. I decided to wear the scarf for a lot of reasons. I’m sure I’ve written posts about it on here. I covered my head on my spiritual journey of my youth. Covered it studying Judaism, covered it exploring Islam, covered it, ultimately as a Catholic (turned post-Catholic). It was a way for me to remember God each day. But it was also because I was married. Muslim women who wear hijab do so whether they’re married or not. Same with the Amish. But Orthodox Jews cover their hair when they’re married.

And I’m not married anymore. Mostly.

Divorce doesn’t happen in a day. There’s the day you file, the day you tell the kids, the day you tell everyone else, the day you move out, the day you change your name back, the day you write up your custody agreement, the day you divide up your assets and debts (the physical ones anyway. Not sure you ever stop dividing up the blame and resentment but I hope so), the day the decree is handed down. But these are just the outward signs of the true divorce, the one inside you.

I don’t think judges get your wedding rings before pounding their gavel on your divorce decree that looks like an elementary school perfect attendance certificate but maybe I’m wrong

I chose to stop wearing my headscarves this weekend after a year and a half of considering it. I thought and contemplated and prayed and searched my heart and consulted the cards. And I knew it was time. I’m still devoted to God and I’ll still wear it on certain occasions. But, for me, a head scarf is for married women. And I’m not married anymore.

But as I was crying, I thought, why are you crying? It’s not that I miss my husband. I reeeeeeally don’t. It’s definitely not that I wish we were still together. I reeeeeeally don.’t. It was something else. A marriage is more than the two people in it. There are the two of you and then there’s who you thought they were and who they thought you were. There’s the couple you thought you were and the couple they thought you were. There’s all the people in your life and what you thought your marriage was to them. There are your kids and what it was to them. And there are your hopes, the life you thought would unfold over the next 30 or 40 years. Your identity as a married woman, now a twice divorced woman. It is a slow, painful death. But.


It is followed by rebirth. All those contractions and dilating and blood and fluid and pushing until you think you might split in two like a wishbone, are worth it in the end. You emerge bloody and red and crying. You might even have some meconium in your lungs to work out. The air is cold and you miss the comfort of the womb, but there’s no going back. Here you are.

I wish I could say there’s a big boob waiting there to comfort you, but there’s not. After all, you just gave birth to yourself. The only teet is your own. Okay I’m going to drop this metaphor now. It’s getting a little bit too weird.

Where was I? Oh yes, scarves.

When I started covering my head, after we reconciled, if I’m being completely honest with myself, it was about more than God. And it was about more than being married. It was to contain the part of me I had to put deep inside in order to keep my marriage together.

We reconciled because I couldn’t financially afford to leave but we also reconciled because I couldn’t stand to be alone. It took me 40 years to get to a place where I could be alone and not fall apart. Okay, 42; I’ve definitely fallen apart during this divorce process and had to have some very strong external motivators to keep me going. Anyway, when I went back five years ago, it was in resignation. Resignation to the fact I couldn’t afford to leave, resignation to the fact I wasn’t strong enough to leave but I wasn’t strong enough to stay. I knew if I went back this time, that was it. I was in it for the long haul. I couldn’t keep putting my kids through the back and forth. Or myself. I needed to be stable and give them a stable home. I needed to grow up and accept my life for what it was. And so, I knew I had to resign myself to the parts of my husband that always made me want to leave. I had to accept the control and paranoia and misogyny and irrationality and the messy house and everything else. And I had to dim my light, so I didn’t outshine him. And so I covered it with a scarf and said goodbye.

How many of us spend our lives dimming our light to keep the people in our lives happy?

Well, fuck that.

It’s been a long journey of spiritual growth and therapy and a lot of blog entries and a few very good friends. But I have started shining again. Gradually, over these past few years. And now, the scarves are off and I’m aiming for supernova levels.

A photo of me seen this weekend grocery shopping in hoop earrings and platform sandals

It’s not just him. It’s so many people who’ve been in my life. And that’s life. That’s the fallen world we live in where people are insecure and jealous and afraid and don’t realize there’s room for all of us to shine. A million white hot suns. Feel free to stare directly at us, it will not damage your retinas.

And so, I find myself thinking of Gloria Steinem and Rhoda Morgenstern and all the other fabulous, confident, free spirited 40-something women with good hair. I am not someone new. I am just stripping away all the layers I’ve used to dull my shine. The self-imposed vernix. I am becoming more me.

I’m throwing my deep purple scarf in the air, ’cause I’m gonna make it after all.

Aqua Tofana, the cunning woman’s divorce

I recently asked a patient how their Mother’s Day had been and they replied, not good. Their mother had found out her partner had been slowly poisoning her. I asked them if this person seemed the poisoning type, any history of violence or mental illness? No, they responded. It was a total shock. And I thought to myself, why would someone poison their spouse instead of just divorcing them? And then I thought about what divorce is like and I wasn’t as stumped.

My friend told me about a prominent pastor who’d slowly poisoned his wife and made it appear as though she had a terrible chronic disease so he could garner attention and sympathy (narcissist much?). Another friend related to me a tale of a man who had poisoned his wife (by slipping it into her prenatal vitamins) right before she got into her car, hoping to make it look like a car accident but the poison kicked in too quickly and he was caught.

And then a friend told me the tale of Aqua Tofana.

olden times drawing of Aqua Tofana bottle

Giulia Tafana lived in 17th century Italy. She made cosmetics and holy oils for women by trade. But, she also helped over 600 women kill their husbands with a poison she made called Aqua Tofana. She succeeded for decades but in 1659 she and her daughter Girolama Spara were put to death for their crimes. Well, by one account anyway. Another has Tofana dying peacefully of old age and her daughter taking over the family business.

Spara operated as a kind of “cunning woman” who sold charms and cures to the gentlewomen and nobility of Rome. These activities would not only have introduced her to potential customers, but would also have given her a shrewd idea of which of her clients were happy in their marriages and which unhappy – not to mention which might be desperate enough to seek drastic remedies, and be able to keep a secret.

The thing to keep in mind is that in 17th century Europe, women had no rights. Your husband could beat and rape you as much as he pleased. Your father could pick your husband for you. Women had very little control over their lives and divorce was not a thing back then. What was a girl to do? Giulia Tofana had the answer.

Aqua Tofana was a unique poison. It was colorless and flavorless and only 4 drops was enough to kill a man (or, as the primmer source goes, “sufficient to destroy a man”). The wife would put the first drop in his food or wine and he would feel a bit off, a bit tired. Then in a a day or two she would slip him the second drop and he’d feel worse. By the third drop, he was vomiting and diarrheaing all over the place (which she probably had to clean up) and calling for the priest. And the final drop did him in.

Administered in wine or tea or some other liquid by the flattering traitress, [it] produced but a scarcely noticeable effect; the husband became a little out of sorts, felt weak and languid, so little indisposed that he would scarcely call in a medical man…. After the second dose of poison, this weakness and languor became more pronounced… The beautiful Medea who expressed so much anxiety for her husband’s indisposition would scarcely be an object of suspicion, and perhaps would prepare her husband’s food, as prescribed by the doctor, with her own fair hands. In this way the third drop would be administered, and would prostrate even the most vigorous man. The doctor would be completely puzzled to see that the apparently simple ailment did not surrender to his drugs, and while he would be still in the dark as to its nature, other doses would be given, until at length death would claim the victim for its own…

To save her fair fame, the wife would demand a post-mortem examination. Result, nothing — except that the woman was able to pose as a slandered innocent, and then it would be remembered that her husband died without either pain, inflammation, fever, or spasms. If, after this, the woman within a year or two formed a now connection, nobody could blame her; for, everything considered, it would be a sore trial for her to continue to bear the name of a man whose relatives had accused her of poisoning him.

She initially disguised it as cosmetics but soon moved to hiding it in holy oil bottles marked Manna of St. Nicholas of Barri. This was appropriate because a priest, Father Girolama, was getting them their supplies. (A crooked priest??? Shocking, I know, but it’s true). It was also appropriate because what gal doesn’t want jolly old St. Nick bringing her some Aqua Tofana? Slip a bottle of that potion under my tree, Santa!

Is there Aqua Tofana in Santa’s sack?

We don’t know if any of this is true, of course. The witch hunts were still going in the 17th century as part of a broad and violent effort to suppress female healers, midwives, artisans and craftspeople. Maria Mies refers to this process as Housewiferization . European women were being removed from the public sphere and confined to the private sphere of the home. It’s possible the tale of Aqua Tofana is entirely a result of the times. But I think most women would like to think it’s true. Not because we’re homicidal, but because, well, patriarchy sucks. Being powerless sucks. Why shouldn’t those 17th century men have at least been a little afraid their wife might poison them if they treated her like shit?

We don’t have to poison our husbands these days. We can just divorce them. There’s less vomit to clean up. But it doesn’t make nearly as good a story.


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a prose poem on pandemic and human connection (or, angels knocking)


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My receptionist is back and I had an in office appointment today. Almost all of my appointments have been by phone since March 13, 2020, but even with the rare in office appointment, I would greet the patients and have them go into the room with me. Now, she roomed the patient and then I went in. Before I did, I did the doctor knock. That sort of quick, short littler knock you do as you’re opening the door. You pop your head in first and then walk into the room and give your excited greeting. I came really close to crying. I had no idea how much I missed that knock. That moment where you’re standing outside the door and you pause and prepare yourself mentally for what’s on the other side. Sometimes it’s a brief, happy moment. Sometimes it’s a frantic review of the chart that you really should have done sooner. Sometimes it’s a feeling of exhaustion and dread and “can I really make it through another patient today?” If it weren’t for this pandemic, for this seismic shift in how we do medicine, I would have never appreciated that knock, that moment, that island of time and place that is the outer edge of the intimate relationship between doctor and patient. There is joy in my bones right now. The quiet sound of angels singing. A feeling of home in my heart.

Everything’s fine (of sock monkeys and crocodile tears)


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My therapist and I realized the other day that although I’ve been in therapy with her off and on since 2014, we’ve never discussed my childhood. “Well,” she said, “I’m sure you’ve discussed it with the other therapists you’ve seen in the past.” “No,” I replied, “I haven’t. Never.” She asked. if I thought we should and I paused and took a deep breath and said, yes. My life has been a series of fires to put out for so long, this is the first time we’ve had time to get into it. She is clearly not a Freudian. And I have clearly been avoiding this. (My mother’s voice ringing loud in my head “someday you’ll grow up and go to therapy and talk about what a terrible mother I was,” making a pit in my stomach big enough to swallow me whole. The guilt. The shame. You don’t talk about the family to anyone outside the family.

Soon after this, someone tweeted about writing about your childhood and your parents’ reaction. It was a lighthearted tweet but some jackass replied that if one is going to write something negative about one’s parents, they should discuss it with their parents first as he had had an experience counter to this and was not okay with it. Here’s my response:

He has since deleted his comment as you can see.

I mean what I said and yet, I have held back on discussing certain things here. But I’m reminded of the quote:

So, fuck it.

I was reading my fave Viktor Frankl a couple of weeks ago. There’s a book newly translated to English of some talks he gave in 1946, shortly after leaving the camps. He writes about getting out and choosing to stay in Austria and the experience of having so many people there say, oh we had no idea what was going on in the camps. He calls it a deliberate not knowing and says it’s essential to the success of authoritarian regimes. Ordinary people must deliberately turn away from what is happening so that they don’t have to accept responsibility for it, don’t have the moral imperative to do something about it.

And as I was reading it, I thought of my mother. I thought of how much energy she and my father have put into not knowing for my entire life. You see, my greatest fear has always been that my children will turn out like me. They most definitely got some crap genes from me (nature) so I have to know that I am raising them differently than I was raised (nurture). And so, I have to remember what it was like and all the glaring red flags and cries for help and all that that they purposely ignored. Because I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t ignore my kids’ cries for help and red flags and all that.

I used to make excuses for them. It was the 1980s, it was rural Appalachia, not a place mental health was talked about. We didn’t have health insurance a lot of the time. But it’s just excuses. I had a lot of friends, of all classes and varieties, whose parents got them help (tried to anyway). The truth of it is, she didn’t want to be embarrassed and she didn’t want to be bothered. It’s messy, ya know? I remember writing a story in college about a girl who kills herself by slitting her wrists but makes sure to put newspapers down so it won’t make a mess for her mother to clean up. I had no idea the story was about me. I truly didn’t.

When you cut yourself everyday with razor blades, arms and ankles and shoulders and thighs, it is bloody. It wasn’t a thing back then. They still called it “self mutilation.” A friend of mine turned me and my boyfriend onto it and I loved it. I loved it for a lot of reasons, conscious and subconscious. I tried to hide it but apparently something happened that made it impossible to ignore. So they told me to stop. And she said, “You don’t need to see someone do you? You’re all right aren’t you?” And there was only one acceptable answer. “I’m fine.” Because we were always fine.

But my cuts were a reminder we weren’t actually fine. An intrusion into the beautiful little house where she kept her china dolls, four daughters, four dolls. And so my sisters would say that I needed to stop upsetting mom. And they would check me for cuts. And I would find new places to cut that they weren’t willing to look. And in time it blew over. She honestly probably completely forgot about it pretty quickly. They do that, ya know? People like her. They just dissociate out the bad memories that don’t fit their picture of the perfect little life. Just put the cut up doll in a new long sleeved dress and back in her place and everything’s fine again.

Fine. We’re fine. Everything’s fine.

We came home drunk, came home high, came home tripping balls. And they didn’t notice. I thought I was really good at faking them out. My other friends’ parents kept catching them but not me and my sister. We were so much better than them! Of course, we weren’t. Of course, if my kids came home like that I would know instantly. And have to deal with it. And admit things are not fine. And I would. But not her. Not them.

And if my four year old came to me asking for protection because her older sister was bullying her, I wouldn’t say “Toughen up. Life is hard,” and go about my day. If they locked her in a room with a static-y TV meant to terrify her at age 5 because she’d seen Poltergeist, if she was so scared she literally ripped the door off the hinges trying to escape, I would do something about that shit. For her sake and for theirs. I prefer not to raise any of my kids to be dickheads. But she loved her flying monkeys because they did the work for her.

I have to think about these things to remind myself I am a different mother than she was and that my kids won’t turn out like me. They’re already turning out differently. They don’t pretend everything is fine (not at my house anyway). They get mad and sad and worried and frustrated and bored. And they notice when I’m unhappy and ask me if I’m okay and what’s wrong and they try to cheer me up. These things happen daily, generally multiple times a day. And it occurs to me how many millions of time I have stuffed down sadness and anger and guilt and confusion and shame and just generally not being fine. And how many times I have stuffed down the urge to say, what’s wrong, Mommy? Because no matter what I said or how I acted, I knew things weren’t fine. I just didn’t know how to say it. For decades.

I look at my daughter and think, wow, she’s so perceptive. She spots manipulation or insincerity a mile away and she calls you on it. And it’s taken me a year and a half to realize I was that perceptive too. I just didn’t allow myself to admit it. Because I had to survive. Because children die without adults to take care of them.

I think about that study where they replaced infant monkey’s mothers with these cloth monkey dolls and the monkeys bonded to them, clung to them. Those infants turned out much better than the monkeys without one, or with the ones made of wire instead of cloth. And I wonder, did those monkeys grow up and go out in the world and eventually realize their mothers were just dolls, and not real mothers at all? Did the monkeys marry monkeys or dolls? If you’re used to a doll, I’d imagine marrying a real actual monkey wouldn’t feel right. Until you eventually realized being married to a doll isn’t normal at all, and really not a good idea.


I am 42 years old. And up until a few weeks ago, I would have told you I’m not an emotional person. A lot of statements like this “That movie had me crying and I’m not an emotional person.” “I’m not a crier but when she said that, I ended up bawling.” And so on and so forth. I didn’t think I was an emotional person because that’s what they told me. I remember being at the Pittsburgh International Airport and my mom was either leaving for her prolonged trip abroad or returning from it. I was 16 or 17. And my mom was crying and my sister was crying and so on and so forth. And I wasn’t. And it was, oh what’s wrong with her? Why isn’t she crying? And so when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 22, it all made sense as to why she never seemed to express the appropriate emotions. And what it took me all these decades to realize, is that I knew it was all fake. The tears, the words they spoke, the situationally appropriate feelings they acted out. All a performance. A play we put on everyday for ourselves, for the world. I just couldn’t play along. Actual sadness, actual crying, I knew to keep hidden. Like a rabbit crouching down in the field, pressing its soft underbelly to the cool grass, hoping the wolf won’t rip its intestines out. Hoping it will pass by. Never, I mean never, expose your soft underbelly to them. Keep it locked away. Even from yourself.

It turns out, I’m actually really fucking emotional. I cried in front of patients in residency. That is not done. I cry on my way home from a hard shift with my addiction patients. I cry every time my son Max plays piano. I cry at movies, on almost every major holiday, thinking about the future, the past. I’m a crier. It’s taken me my entire life to 1) realize this and 2) let go of the shame around it. You’re not allowed to apologize for crying at my office. Humans are supposed to cry. And if someone feels safe enough to cry with me, I’m honored. Crying, real crying, not performance tears, it’s truly amazing. Every cry is a good cry.

Lena knows the difference between real tears and fake ones. She knows there’s a certain look he gives her that’s meant to make her feel bad for him and manipulate her into acting like she’ll miss him when he goes even though she won’t. And she knows how she’s supposed to act to make people happy. I think she knows she doesn’t need to do that with me. I hope. I’m actively working on it. Working on accepting emotions of all kinds from them and from me. On being honest with them when I’m sad or angry. On letting them know I’m there if they’re sad and that they won’t feel sad forever. Listening. Watching. Noticing. Remembering.

I will never understand how you can see your child’s body bloody and gashed and not want to do everything you can to help her. How you turn away from a four year old asking you for protection. How you tell your daughter she’s a crazy slut and a horrible mother and you’re giving her ex-husband money to get a lawyer and take her kids away. How you mention to her that her uncle googled “Elizabeth Fleming slut” and all kinds of things came up. Show her the tiny little AP wire article in the hometown paper about her turning in the pedophile and mentioning, accurate or not, details about her sex life, and talk about how humiliating it is and remind her how embarrassed her sisters are. And will never understand a man jealous of a ten year old. A man who belittles and degrades his children and his wife, plays them against one another, gaslights and lies. And do you know why?

Because they aren’t real people. They’re just cloth dolls pretending at being human. They’re badly behaved little sock monkeys and I merely, dear reader, relate the facts. Because everything was not fine. And every feeling and word and question and desire and lament and exaltation that I’ve swallowed down, that my children have swallowed down, that so many of us have swallowed down, deserves to come out whatever way we see fit. Y’all sock monkeys can go on deliberately not knowing, just work a little harder at it. The rest of us, we’re gonna be just fine.

M m m my Corona (someone left the cake out in the rain)

One year ago today I woke up to my four year old climbing into bed with me, crying, with a barking cough and feeling like he was a million degrees, telling me his throat hurt. It took a minute for me to realize I felt the same way. By the next day, the whole household, all five of us, had a fever. I’d begun tracking all our temps twice daily on March 13th, when the schools shut down and the seriousness of this virus started really hitting me. On Sunday the 15th my oldest son had a low fever of 100.4 but felt fine. It went away a day later and I chalked it up to a sinus infection. I think he was probably patient zero at our house but it could have been a fluke. We’ll never know. It seems likely we got it before lockdown began. Once it had begun, we followed the rules very strictly (although I did go grocery shopping once and no one was masking back then).

When he came into my room, with his barking, croupy cough, I knew it was COVID. I just knew. COVID, as far as we knew, was still barely in Pittsburgh (we were wrong). It was new enough that new cases were reported on the news. There was one at the Oakmont Sheetz as I recall shortly after we got sick. I remember telling people I thought we had COVID and their skepticism. “I don’t know anyone with COVID,” they’d say, as though they were the Universe. “Well, it’s a pandemic, so someone has to have it. And a lot of us are going to get it by the time it’s done.” To be sick and face invalidation is difficult. It’s hard enough being sicker than you’ve ever felt while having four sick kids while working from your closet while in total isolation without that exacerbating things.

We were lucky enough to live somewhere with grocery delivery but the stores were often out of things and needed to substitute and that didn’t work with my kids. COVID took our appetite and I had to offer them whatever food they were willing to eat that day, which was usually very something very specific.

Our symptoms lasted a week but by day 7 we were feeling good. They were saying that around day 7 is where you either got better or crashed, requiring hospitalization. We remained fever free for 24 hours and I took us out of isolation (the guidelines back then were basically just 24 hours fever free). The best day, though, the fever came back. The other symptoms too. This happened over and over. Sick a week then feeling 100% better for a couple days and then sick again. A month in is when it got worse. We were feeling worse and worse each day. It felt like the virus was eating us from the inside out. All the kids did was sit around on their iPads. All I did was sit around on my phone. We didn’t go outside. Didn’t play. It was harder and harder to force ourselves to eat and drink. I began having episodes where I almost passed out. I told my 15 year old how to do the sternal rub if I passed out and didn’t wake back up right away. I was delirious a lot of the time but didn’t know it. If you’re in total isolation, who is there to tell you you’re not making sense?

It wasn’t possible to get a test in March of 2020. Beyond the fact I couldn’t leave my four year old with severe COVID diarrhea home with his 15 year old brother (no childcare in isolation), they wouldn’t give me on unless I had fever, cough and shortness of breath or a known contact with someone wit COVID. When we were getting worse in April, I went to an urgent care where I used to work and basically used doctor-to-doctor privilege to get one even thought I didn’t qualify. By then it was too late for the test to have been accurate (maybe if I wasn’t delirious I would have realized this? Maybe we didn’t even know that at that point. Who the hell knows). I tested negative but the doc told me he thought it was a false negative given my symptoms.

GOD HELP YOU IF YOU TELL PEOPLE YOU HAVE COVID AND HAVEN’T HAD A POSITIVE TEST. The art of medicine means little these days. People want a test. Few will truly believe you had COVID without it.

The exhaustion was severe and I had to keep working full time. Some days I would do my phone appointments lying down because I was too tired to hold my arms up. By the end of a workday I was so tired, I didn’t have the cognitive energy to watch a movie. I couldn’t follow the plot line. Sometimes I’d just lie on the couch and stare all evening. The fever and chills came and went and brought an awful malaise with them. My joints hurt (left shoulder in particular), no appetite, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, brain fog, a headache that nothing relieved, trouble balancing, flushing, neuropathic pain, extreme muscle tension, back pain, anxiety, depression, mania, apathy, conjunctivitis, insomnia, sore throats, runny nose, hives, and I developed hypertension. No, really. All of that.

My daughter couldn’t really do any distance learning and I really couldn’t handle everything I was handling and also do all the things I was expected to for my special needs son distance learning. I remember calling my daughter’s teacher crying and telling her to fail if she needed to, because I was doing everything I could just to not have a mental breakdown.

I’d lost my receptionist and I couldn’t exactly hire and train another one from isolation, so I was seeing patients remotely and also answering phones and emails, scheduling patients, sending out registration papers etc.

I was also dealing with my soon-to-be-ex-husband having a mental breakdown of his own and financially supporting him. At one point I had to worry about proving we truly did have a fever and needed to be in isolation to a judge since it was interfering with our ongoing custody battle.

And at one point sewage backed up in our basement. It was all very Job-like.

I’m not one to take these things lying down, though.

No one knew long COVID was a thing, so as our fever dragged on, it was scary. I was talking to all the docs I knew and none of them were seeing a fever like that. I began taking our vitals several times a day and recording it. I logged our symptoms and what we’d done that day, eaten. Anything I could think of to figure it out because we didn’t have time to wait around for someone else to do it. I figured out early on the fever was the key to it. Every other symptom you see in other conditions. But a fever lasting this long? It was unique. The fact it came and went was unique. Th e fact it didn’t respond to Tylenol or NSAIDs was bizarre. The fact it didn’t follow a typical fever pattern (worst at night and better in the morning) didn’t make sense. And there was something else: our fevers were synchronized. I could take 10am vitals and we were all fine. Fifteen minutes later I would start feeling chilled and look at my little guy who was now flushed. I’d check our temps and all five of us now had a fever. When it passed, it passed in all of us. That is not normal.

And then one day, ten weeks in, before I’d been able to figure it out, our symptoms went away. The kids went into a PANDAS flare and I gave them all IVIG. They had severe side effects which leads me to think their immune systems had been thrown really off balance. We went to the ocean for a week. And we seemed to be back to ourselves.

Except we weren’t. Looking back on it now, now that we’re truly doing better, we still had symptoms. My one son was depressed and I assumed it was because life is pretty crappy in lockdown, but once his long COVID was treated, his mood improved right away. I had an incredibly label mood all summer. I remember commenting on it to my friend, saying I was exhausted from actively having to reign myself in from being too high or too low everyday. My youngest had developed idiopathic hives. My oldest and my youngest were having difficulty learning. Their teachers were concerned. Our appetites were still off. I still couldn’t sleep.

On October 5th (also a Sunday. What’s it with Sundays?) our symptoms came back in full force. It was bad enough I took my oldest son and I to get tested to see if we’d been reinfected. We weren’t. But the symptoms wouldn’t go away. This time, I was aware of my cognitive impairment and the exhaustion was harder to deal with. I wasn’t going to let COVID ruin my kids’ lives and I sure as well wasn’t going to let it keep me from working. That was not an option. I’m the breadwinner for four kids. If I don’t work, we’re homeless. So, I decided I was going to figure this out once and for all.

I returned to the fever pattern. By now I’d joined long COVID patient groups online and even a COVID survivor physician group. I found other patients with the same synchronization of symptoms. It appeared in a piece in the New York Times. And two of my patients who I suspected had had COVID in February and now had long COVID also had this synchronization of symptoms. This pattern eventually led me to figuring out that our symptoms were actually mast cell based and I was able to develop a long haul COVID treatment for us that has reduced our symptoms by 90-95%. We still get flares but they’re manageable.

I hope someday we’ll be symptom free but I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. If there’s one thing coronavirus has taught us it’s that we don’t know shit. This little virus shut down the world. It’s killed millions. It’s likely left millions with long COVID too. And we still don’t know how to treat it. Not really.

I was sad today, looking back on it. Those ten weeks were so awful. Its return in October. Not knowing if we’d ever get better. People don’t get how scary it was. Remember March 2020? Remember how scared we all were? We knew nothing about this virus except that it was horrible enough to shut down the entire world. A plague. Like a sci fi movie. My kids don’t have normal immune systems so something as simple as strep or flu can knock them down for years. I couldn’t find any other kids with PANDAS with COVID. It’s a small community. I was talking to every practitioner and parent I could and we were the only ones. We were the guinea pigs. After everything we’d been through and overcome with PANDAS and now this? I was terrified. It was traumatic.

And so, I cried today. But suffering and sickness are inherent to life, so I knew there was no point wallowing. There was a party to set up, after all. We had The 1st Annual Spaar-Chiang-Fleming Corona Roast tonight. We made a corona cake and had balloons and glow in the dark axes and a bubble machine (why not?). And we had a coronavirus shaped piñata that we beat the hell out of (at one point my son was worried I was going to break the baseball bat. Damn, it felt good beating the living hell out of that paper virus). We each wrote down something awful about this past year and then something we wished for this upcoming year. We burnt them to send their ashes up to the fairies and saints. And we burned the piñata. The coronavirus is just a pile of ashes now. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I told my kids I’m proud of how well they’ve handled this awful year of sickness and lockdown. I am. And I told them there really will be better times ahead. One of my kids wish was very simple: to return to school. I don’t know if that will happen this year, but it will happen. As my daughter told me when I was upset the pizza we’d ordered for the party was 2 hours late: it’s okay. It’s not like the cake fell and smashed into the floor. The party of our new life was interrupted last March, but it’s only dreams deferred. The cake is still safe on the counter waiting for us. And it will taste that much more delicious when it’s finally time to eat it.

Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh no!

I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing checkers by the trees

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh no!

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
And never let you catch me looking at the sun
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
You’ll still be the one

I will take my life into my hands and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow like rivers through the sky
And after all the loves of my life
Oh, after all the loves of my life
I’ll be thinking of you
And wondering why

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh no!

Oh no
Oh no!

The Moment That Defines Us (In other words, I pulled an Abraham)

The United States Senate chose to acquit Donald Trump today. Everyone in that room knew that Trump was guilty. On top of that, they were the target of his crime. He tried to kill them. His followers still want to kill them. Many of them were afraid for their lives and their families if they voted to convict. We’ve heard nothing from Pence in all of this even though the traitors constructed a gallows from which to hang him. He’s hiding out, they say, because he’s afraid of more MAGA terrorists hurting him and his family.

Hmm, now where I have heard this before? Maybe I’m thinking of everyone from the janitor on up to head foot ball coach and local God, Joe Paterno, at Penn State that did nothing about serial child rapist Jerry Sandusky because they were afraid they’d lose their jobs. Or maybe the dozens upon dozens upon dozens of people who knew exactly what Jeffrey Epstein was doing and did nothing because they were afraid.

Feeling you might be killed is trauma. Being put in a situation where you can either choose to do the right thing and possibly die or do the wrong thing and live is the hardest thing you will ever have to decide. But it’s not difficult. There’s nothing complicated about stopping a child rapist or convicting an ex-President who committed treason and is clearly planning to try it again. There are no murky shades of gray.

To be placed in this position is a tremendous gift. That moment defines you. Everything before and everything after in your life accumulates to far less than the weight this moment carries in deciding if you are a good person or not. Other people have to go their whole lives plugging away at doing the right things day in and out, and always wondering in the back of their minds if they’re a good person. Those of us placed in the hard position outlined above get a beautifully dramatic and swift moment that cements our place in the moral universe.

I had such a moment and faced the very real fear of my beautiful babies, two and four at the time, and I being killed. I chose the right thing. We weren’t killed, but it almost destroyed me. I went through hell for years afterwards but I never doubted I was a good person and that I’d made the right choice. Even if it hadn’t worked out and he had killed me, I would have known I made the right choice. As the Spanish revolutionary Dolores Ibarruri said, it’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

But but but they’re afraid for their families too! Ahhh. Sounds noble to want to protect your family, after all. Even people who are giving and understanding and kind, committed to religion and democracy and equality and all the other good things, falter when you bring their family into it. They justify their choosing what they know is wrong by saying they were protecting their family. Who could argue with that? Me I guess. Clearly I didn’t choose this path. We come to the story of Abraham then.

God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeys but God spares Isaac at the last moment. And God is well pleased with Abraham. I have atheist friends who point to this story as proof the Judeo-Christian God is, well, bad. What kind of loving God would do such a thing? And why should we consider Abraham a good person if he was willing to kill his own son? In truth, there are people who think I’m a bad mother and a bad person to have put my own children’s lives at risk to stop a man from hurting other children. And, in truth, I know this to be true because some people in my life said this to me. It sounds like something you write a three page paper about in your first year philosophy class. The safety of your family versus the greater good for humanity. Or like that train. The one that will hit ten people if you do nothing and will only hit one person if you flip the switch. Do you flip the switch and actively kill someone, or do nothing and passively allow ten people to die? What is the moral thing to do (or not do)?

The moment I called to turn him in, I prayed. I sat in my green mini van on a hot June day. The air conditioner was broken and my vents were blowing warm air in my face as I sat there sweating in a long, black heavy skirt from Land’s End. I sat and I prayed and said, “God please don’t let my babies die and please don’t let me die because they need me. If we die, then I guess that was your will because I know I’m doing the right thing.” In other words, I pulled an Abraham.

Plenty of Atheists make this choice as well, for the record. It isn’t about trusting God specifically. It’s about loving your fellow human beings and everything else in the universe, in the collective oneness. It’s about putting that love above fear. It’s as simple as that. There is no fear in love. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

What people who take the easy way out don’t understand is that it isn’t the easy choice at all. It’s easy for one moment and hard for the rest of your life. You spend the rest of your life trying to make it sound difficult but it was really very simple. If it was difficult, then there was more than one right choice. If it was difficult, you did the best anyone would have in the same situation. If it was difficult, you really had no other choice, realistically speaking. After all, you’re only human. It’s not fair for anyone to judge you.

Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and neuropsychiatrist-philosopher, wrote that “life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Forty-three senators chose to sell their souls today. It was a simple choice that cannot be bent and turned to look difficult. I would assume a lot of them are sociopaths without a conscience, but even sociopaths are human and have a knowing deep within them that they have done wrong. They’ve chosen the easy way and it will be with them always.

Perfect round, firm, bright orange oranges


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When I was a girl, maybe 10 or 11, I would daydream about my life as a grown up. I daydreamed a lot. I had my life figured out. I would be an international accountant (although it should be noted I was already a socialist by then so I’m not sure I really thought that part through) and live in a huge loft apartment in New York City (I really had no idea how expensive it was to rent in Manhattan at this point) and I would be unmarried and adopt two girls from China (I’ve birthed two half Chinese sons so I’ll consider this the one I came closest to following through on although I’ve been married not once but twice). More concretely, I dreamed of being able to go grocery shopping. I loved my weekly trips with my mother grocery shopping at Kroger, Riverside, Bilo, Shop N Save. Those were the days before Giant Eagle consumed every store in sight with her ruthless talons. I pictured the day I would be at the store on my own, picking out perfect round, firm bright orange oranges. Rolling that perfect orange in my hand, pressing on it, feeling the cool shiny skin. My visualization never got beyond this moment. But that moment contained all the possibility my life held. That orange was the world.

I had therapy today, zoom therapy. And we talked about how my life had settled down in so many ways and was going well. I told her I’ve been processing some things like the trauma of getting COVID last spring. And she said she hoped I was taking some time to exhale and enjoy this good moment in my life as well. I said yes I’ve been reading novels and working out and signed up to volunteer. And I said, honestly cleaning my house and doing laundry and cooking dinner are so enjoyable now. I said I thought it was because I’d been sick and exhausted and overwhelmed so long I felt grateful to have the energy for it, and grateful to finally really be making my house a home.

I came downstairs to cook dinner and when I opened the fridge I saw a bag of perfect, round, firm bright orange oranges I had bought at Giant Eagle yesterday on my weekly quarantine shopping trip. And I remembered that moment from my childhood. And I thought, it finally feels the way I pictured it feeling.

You see, my therapist had asked me how it is that as a single mom of four kids and a practice to run I seemed to have the energy for hobbies and all the plans I’d told her I was working on to take some classes and go on some trips alone and et cetera. And I said, well you know I was thinking the other day how much energy and time has been freed up by leaving my marriage because everything was always focused on anticipating his reaction to things. And she said, well you still have that. It’s true he is still in my life to some extent. It’s true I still spend some time trying to figure out how he’ll react to something I’ve done or not done. But I said, it’s so much less. Literally everything I did, I thought, what will He say? If I walk to work versus ride my bike versus drive. If I text a friend. If I wear this skirt or suggest we watch a movie or do an interview on a podcast for the practice. Every decision I made, trying to anticipate his reaction and how I would handle it and if I’d need to shield the kids from his reaction. And if I had the energy to deal with it. And the example I gave her right away was grocery shopping. I said, literally every item I picked up at the grocery store I would stop and try to figure out what his reaction would be. Every. Single. Thing. And she said, oh I had no idea it was that bad. That must have been exhausting. And I said, it was.

And so when I saw those oranges and was sent back to that moment in Riverside thirty years ago, shopping blissfuly with my mother, I knew why it was it finally felt that good to be a grown up out doing my own grocery shopping. Even in a mask during a pandemic. The oranges are mine to buy or not. Mine to eat or not. And when the juice runs sticky down my face, drops onto my kitchen floor, there will be no one there to make a bitchy comment that’s clearly a joke that I need to learn to take. And I will not have to weigh the option of not cleaning it up and getting lectured on how hard he works to clean the house (a lie of course) or cleaning it up and being accused of implying he’s not a good housekeeper (the truth of course). Because as much time as you spend trying to anticipate how someone like that will react to every choice you make all day and night, the reality is that there is no right choice. You are always wrong and they are always right. And if they say an orange is an apple, you learn to say, of course. Because who wants to stay up until 2 in the morning arguing that an orange is an orange?

Actual footage of my husband cleaning
It is clearly an orange

I lived in Manhattan a little while when I was 23 in a tiny 300 square foot apartment on the Lower East Side and rode the F train to NYU each day to study the history and economies of Latin America. I had two half-Chinese sons. I was a card carrying member of the International Socialist Organization for a few months in college. For the most part, I got the details wrong of what it is to be a grown up. But I got the feeling right. It took me almost 42 years to get to that feeling but here I am. A fridge full of oranges and ready to go.

Equitable Distribution (or, who knows if the moon’s a balloon)

I’ve been downloading statements lately. Loan statements, bank statements, assets and liabilities. Which is better than last year this time when I was collecting up another kind of statement altogether, statements scribbled on the backs on envelopes and typed furiously into emails and texts. Statements that showed someone’s state of mind and fitness to guide sweet little souls through this fallen world and raise them up to be joyful and kind and all the other things we ought to want for our children, for all children. Phase 1: high conflict custody battle Phase 2: high conflict divorce.

You have to wait a year in Pennsylvania before you can divorce your husband if he doesn’t you to. It used to be two years but somewhere along the way someone decided you really only ought to be trapped in an unwanted marriage for 12 months instead of 24. Why not 15 or 6.5? Who knows. Who knows if the moon’s a balloon. Anyway, our one year was up in late September. I had filed the papers shortly before our family trip to Disney World (interesting way to experience Disney). We did not physically separate until November 22nd. But September is our official date of separation nonetheless.

The last step before the divorce is final is something called Equitable Distribution. Sounds kind of socialist, no? It’s actually quite capitalist, as it turns out. You have to figure out everything you as a couple had when you separated and everything you owed. You have to determine how much of your medical practice’s value is you and therefore not able to be allocated to both parties (beyond desks and computers and office kitchen microwaves, you must determine how much another doctor would pay to purchase your patient list. See? I told you this was all very capitalist). And then you have to figure out how to divide it up. We have a lot more debt than assets. Like, a lot. So it’s mainly seeing how much debt each of us pays off. We have a house that either one of has to buy off the other or we have to sell it. It’s not all that complicated for us. Not in the logistics anyway.

In other ways, it’s very complicated.

You may recall, dear reader, when I discussed the concept of a psychosocially complex patient (in this entry). My soon-to-be-ex-husband and I are having what I’d term a psychosocially complex divorce. High conflict divorce makes it sound like we’re screaming at each other across one of those long boardroom tables like an episode of LA Law where I’m a sketchy plastic surgeon who’s made a fortune selling a fat melting cream on infomercials and he’s the scorned husband fighting to get my fortune even though we all know what he really wants is his old wife back, the one who paid attention to him before she became big time news. That is not at all what our divorce is like.

Here is how it will go: my lawyer and I will gather my documents and come up with what we think is a fair proposal. The soon-to-be-ex-husband will counter with a nasty email to my lawyer and series of texts to me telling me divorcing him makes me a bad Christian, pleading with me to work this all out without involving lawyers, casually suggesting we just put this off 6 months before we finalize it, and a series of messages that alternate between contained rage covered with fake kindness and messages that are just openly rageful. As a bonus, there will likely be screaming eruptions in front of the kids at drop off and pick up. Oh, and let us not forget threats by him to take me for alimony. Because, ya know, it’s 1957. Maybe our divorce really would fit in on LA Law.

I’d like the divorce over with. It’s time. The kids and I had a return of our long haul COVID symptoms in October but have since recovered (I kind of discovered a cure for long haul COVID, but that’s another post altogether). I am finally feeling physically good for the first time in a very long time (I realize I’ve said that before but I really mean it this time). My practice was on the brink of collapse thanks to the whole worst-economic-downturn-since-the-Great-Depression thing but I got notice I’m getting a second PPP loan yesterday which means my practice will have a cushion to survive the next 6 months or so. My house is clean. My kids are doing chores and drinking water at dinner and taking showers without arguing with me. My laundry is kept up on. My office files are finally alphabetized. I’m reading novels and binge watching Hulu. Yeah, I’m feeling *that* good, guys. I’m starting a reasonable post-COVID exercise routine and eating healthy. I’m planning out running The Beast on the Bay in September and section hiking the Appalachian Trail (slowly. like, it will likely take me 20 years to complete kind of slowly). I’m volunteering with an Appalachian advocacy group working to bring green jobs to Appalachia.

I know, I know, I’ve said this before. And maybe it will all come crashing down again. But I’m hopeful. I’m finally standing on my own two feet and running my own home and my own practice. Taking care of my physical and mental health. Adulting like a champ. I feel like I will finally get to do some of the things I should have been doing in my twenties, the things well adjusted people do in their twenties. When you should be on your own for the first time like I am now. When you leave the nest and have some time to be yourself on your own before you get married and have kids and a consuming career and all that. And, no, I don’t mean I’m ditching my kids, quitting medicine and running off to work in a coffee shop near campus where I can pick up 21 year old guys and smoke weed and talk about … whatever Generation Z talks about. I mean I’m going to work on my house and take up hobbies and meet people within those various hobbies (hopefully), and do some solo traveling once the world opens back up. I’m going to settle into me. And enjoy me.

My bedroom is finally clutter free for the first time since we moved in. And for the first time in my life, actually. I have the furniture and the bedspread I picked out. There is a TV on the wall and a Peleton in the closet. A sealed fireplace with candles in it. Novels on my nightstand. Windows with a view of my oak tree lined All American street. I do not allow my soon-to-be-ex-husband to pick the kids up or drop them off here. It is our space and he is not allowed, not even on the street in front I see so clearly from my bedroom window. It makes him so damn angry. Angry because this is his way: to get an inch from you and stretch it into a mile. But I will hold the line, airtight boundaries. There is just too much to lose. Because there is nothing equitable about divorcing a narcissist. And if you think there is, you, my darling, will never get away and find your way to a beautiful bed in a wonderful old house in a quaint neighborhood in a state that knows we all need 12 months to be sure we’ve had a glimpse of the wonderful life that awaits us when we are finally divorced.

who knows if the moon’s
a balloon,coming out of a keen city
in the sky–filled with pretty people?
( and if you and I shouldget into it,if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we’d go up higher with all the pretty peoplethan houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away sailing into a keen
city which nobody’s ever visited,wherealways
Spring)and everyone’s
in love and flowers pick themselves.

-EE Cummings