This War Rages On

We are the battlefield

Photo by The Creative Exchange via Unsplash

I don’t know the woman who walks past me in the grocery store at 07:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. She’s wearing blue jeans, a cropped top, and sensible slides on her feet. She brushes against me lightly. I’ve forgotten what that feels like. Her hair is everywhere — neatly. It’s organized chaos — a private dancer for the wind.

She excuses herself.

She’s not wearing a mask and upon seeing that I have on mine, she panics. She cannot believe she stepped out of her car, walked into the store, brushed against another human being, and spoke to her — all without the proper face covering.

I deal with this sort of thing daily. I feel like a soldier, manning a station from a deadly enemy as his allies try to trickle in without one of the things combating it — a face mask. She has forgotten hers and I feel the need to reclaim safety for myself and those around me.

I calmly advise her that anyone can make this mistake, anyone. She is a fit of tears and apologetic to the point that I’ve now stepped closer to her with my hands slightly raised indicating that I mean no harm and I motion for her to follow me to the automatic doors.

We exit.

We locate her car. We locate her mask. She’s still apologizing — telling me all the ways she’s done stupid things in life but this is now the stupidest. I don’t think silence is the best response. That would mean, I agree. I don’t. There are a ton of things far more stupid than what we found ourselves rectifying and I tell her this.

The tears pool deeply in the beds of her eyes. She blinks and two tears plop to the ground with a loud thud. I wait with her while she covers her face. We walk back to the store and I spot my cart and the unattended bananas, apples, spinach, and yogurt. I retrieve it. I am eager to finish my shopping and get back home.

She’s still beside herself with intense emotion but there are no more tears — only the puffiness of her eyes and reddened cheeks. And freckles. Freckles I didn’t notice before. She tells me — sweet onions are on sale as well as all-purpose flour and at this early in the morning, pre-breakfast and coffee, I’m struggling not to morph into an Addams Family character and spook her.

I want to move on.

This is my war. The store is my battlefield. She has fought her battle in the middle of a war and I want to move on from it. I let her know the morning is incredibly young and she is in the store early enough to catch all the sales. I wish her well. I mean it.

These days, I always mean it.

She grips the handlebar of her cart, pops it twice, and removes two pieces of tissue from her handbag. She splashes hand sanitizer on the tissue and smooths it over the bar and the sides of the cart. I nod to her and move toward the “No Pulp” orange juice and mouth a goodbye (out of habit).

Her glasses fog up and I miss her freckles. I wonder, what will be on the menu if there are sweet onions and all-purpose flour, both on sale. She follows me. She is talking to my back, luring a conversation.

The gods must dislike me this morning because my energy was zapped the night before at work and as much as I love to empathize, listen, and give my all to someone in need, my body nor mind can take it this morning.

“You like the ‘no pulp’ kind too, huh?”

Oh, this is about the orange juice. While I would love to skip meaningless chit chat, I do love talking about interests with another person. “Yes, I prefer it.”

She smiles. I can’t see her beautiful mouth anymore — her full lips, but I notice the eyes — they light up. She remains six feet away from me but leans in toward my cart and slaps an orange juice in her hands. It lands across her cropped top. I move along to the dairy section. I need cheese and milk. She comes along as well.

*What is going on here? Why does she keep following me*

“I have to get cheese, milk, biscuits, and creamer. They’re on my list.”

“Oh. I need cheese and milk as well. Please, after you.” I move to the side, allowing her to brisk by, and I walk slowly behind her. She glides — it’s not a stutter-step. She is floating toward the dairy section and her everywhere hair bounces as she moves.

*Am I smiling? I am. I am smiling. Why?*

I wait until it is my turn to retrieve cheese and milk. She stands idly by — watching as I retrieve said items, patting her feet while coating her hands with sanitizer. “I’m sorry. Is there a reason you keep waiting for me? Is there anything you need?”

I didn’t want to seem crass, but I am not used to people accompanying me as I shop. It’s a self-sufficiency thing. I’d much rather get in, get what I need, get out, and keep it moving. But this woman, the one whose eyes pool tears quicker than I keep breaths . . . the one with the organized chaos for hair . . . the one with freckles right under her eyes, just above her cheeks — freckles that come alive when she smiles — wants something from me and I have to know. What is it?

“Oh. Um. Well. I like your shirt. I also like your mask. I don’t know what half of your face looks like, but I’m willing to bet it’s likable too. I’m Rain.”

She extends her hand, and immediately, I tense up. Am I supposed to touch her? This is my battlefield. This is a war. A war between doing what I would normally do in the past without hesitation versus not doing it because it could well, kill me . . . And of course, her name is ‘Rain,’ of course, it is.

“Oh. um. Is it okay for me to shake your hand? You are okay with this?”

“Sure. You’ve already seen me without a mask. You helped me get it. I doubt my shaking your hand would do us any harm. But if you’re opposed, that’s okay too. Is it all right for me to give you my number? I don’t have many friends here — moved three weeks ago from Van Nuys, in Cali.”

“Get out! As in Los Angeles? A good friend of mine lived there for years before moving back east. What are the odds?”

Her eyes light up again. Her freckles dance. I watch her patting feet. I don’t know what this is, but I welcome it for a few moments. It feels nice — something I remember doing before — communicating with others outside of work and in person.

“So, is that a yes, me giving you my number. What’s your name?”

“Oh, okay. Sure. That’d be cool. It’s Tremaine, Tre for short. That’s ‘Tree-Maine.” I pull out my phone, hit contacts, and add her name, then her number.

“You live on this side of town, ‘That’s Tree-Maine.?’”

“Haha. You got jokes. Nice. Yeah, I’m about three miles away, right off the highway.” She smiles again. I smile. I give her my number and watch her sway back and forth on the balls of her feet. That’s odd. She must’ve danced in the past or maybe she still does.

“I know it ain’t the right time to be dating. Social distancing is a motherfucker, but I’ve been holed up in my new apartment for the last three weeks and you’re the first person to make me smile since I moved here. You wanna grab dinner one day next week — my treat?”

“Dating? Oh. Is this a date? Are you asking me out? You’ll have to excuse me, I am out of practice on this bit.”

She smiles again and I find myself loving the sight of dancing freckles and everywhere hair.

“Let’s just call it a thing until it becomes whatever it needs to be. But for now, it’s dinner, my treat.”

“Okay. Bet.”

I tell her I must finish shopping. I have work waiting for me at home and a dog who likes to boss me around. She laughs and a few customers look at us. I shrink into myself — hating to be stared at, but okay with it too. That’s odd. Everything is odd around this woman — this Rain whose eyes pool tears and freckles that dance, and hair that does its own thing without any regard for the goings-on around it. I look back, she’s watching me. Eyes curved — lit up. She’s smiling.

This is my battlefield. The war rages on.


*Author’s Note: This is part fiction/nonfiction/fantasy. Originally published on Medium.

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My Body: The Temple I’m Afraid to Touch

Beginning a journey with my hands

Photo by nappy via Pexels

In the past, I had been one with my body — I connected with it intimately in a way many others could not. I knew the softest spots, the places that led me to a peaceful night’s sleep, and the best way to cure unwanted fidgeting. I never feared what moved me — invigorated me — consumed me entirely. My body was a place that knew my touch — it knew what to expect from me. Of late, I have lost my way to the path of me and the treasure is nowhere in sight.

Can I get back to that place?

I’m sure I can, but I lack motivation. I don’t have the time. I’m not interested. My body is now the temple I’m afraid to touch and during a global pandemic, one in which being single is still my reality, touching myself should be high on the list of to-dos. It is not.

How can I get back to that place of consistent pleasure and the relief of tension courtesy of me?

Rachel Otis explains in her article, 3 Ways to Support Your Mental Health with Self-Touch:

Often a sense of release and even relaxation arises when we intentionally tend to our discomfort, even with the simplest gestures.

I hope it is obvious, the focus here is on non-sexual self-touch as opposed to sexual self-touch. A soft caress of one’s neck, a gentle massage of your legs, or even the smooth press of your palm can send small doses of healing to problematic areas of the body — relieving tension and pain. She further explains:

Self-massage can be a powerful way to release tension. After noticing tension in the body, I often direct my clients to use self-massage.

I used to be big on managing the pain in my body with self-touch. I focused on it significantly after a rough day by providing peace and comfort with a warm bath and gentle massages to different body parts while I soaked my cares away.

Now, I sprint home from work, walk my dog, hop in the shower, and do more work — work that stimulates the mind, but does nothing for my body. And then my day ends.

I feel myself fading into black.

What I can sense happening is a fear hovering over me as I’ve forgotten how to gain a sense of comfort by my own hands.

Are you familiar with the saying, “Use it or lose it?” Well, I feel as though my it is lost. I want to fight to get it back, but I lack the energy. I lack passion. The daily grind of my primary job is draining me of everything familiar that required a little more of my time and I am reluctant to divvy out any more of it to something as simple as touch.

Touch is our first language. Long before we can see an image, smell an odor, taste a flavor, or hear a sound, we experience others and ourselves through touch, our only reciprocal sense. — Ofer Zur, Ph.D. & Nola Nordmarken, MFT, To Touch or Not to Touch.

It is clear I miss the touch from another human being and I recognize and understand its power, however; I can provide what I miss most. Where, when, and how I will do this still hangs in the balance. I want to center the importance of rekindling my connection with self-touch around positive occurrences, but those are hard to find now. I have a myriad of stressful events taking place in my life, but I do not want to only turn to self-touch when my life is in total disarray. I want it to be neutral — to use it overall and indefinitely.

Beginning again is only an act of consent (on my part) away. If I am to build a positive relationship with my self and my body in the near future, I must not be afraid to get started. You may think, “What are you waiting for?” and you’d be well within your right to pose that question and I’d say, “I don’t know . . . Maybe a head-start?”

There’s no need of waiting any longer. I will get back to touching myself.

It’s time I give my body the gift it has been missing — my hands.


Originally published in P. S. I Love You via Medium.

 

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The Power of Touch

I am grateful to the editors of such a fine online media outlet such as Thrive Global for publishing another article of mine, entitled The Power of Touch. Working where I work and doing what I do–I’ve made it a point to continue to write about my experiences during this pandemic. Having Thrive Global as another source to host my work is beefing up my “writer’s resume'” and I am incredibly excited about this fact.


Of all the things Coronavirus, COVID-19 has stripped away from us, touch is what I miss most. Being an affectionate person has its downsides, especially during a global pandemic. If you’re a single person and live alone as I do, the comfort of your home and all that’s within it is what you have—it’s all you have. I am grateful to have a small dog who allows me to pour my love into her and returns every ounce of affection I need. All I have to do is beckon her to me and my requests for kisses, loving paw-taps, and lap naps are eagerly given without protest.

While I appreciate my precious little four-legged fur-baby and her ability to connect with me on this level, she cannot replace the power of a human’s touch. As living—breathing sentient beings, we need touch. It is important for our overall health and well-being, and being forced to not take part in something that can sustain us is a hard blow to the heart and mind.

According to Maria Cohut, Ph.D., “Touching, and being touched, activate particular areas of our brain, thus influencing our thought processes, reactions, and even physiological responses.”

Medical News Today, September 2018.

As a healthcare worker, a few things that allowed me to connect with our patients was to shake a hand, offer a hug, or lightly pat someone on the back if they were afraid, grieving, in pain, or simply needed someone to recognize that void and seal it up with a small dose of affection. Now, within my six feet of social distance, while wearing a face mask, gloves, goggles, and sometimes other forms of PPE, I cannot offer the one thing I grew accustomed to providing—human touch.

I have not seen my mother since March of this year. I have endured none of her long hugs, cheek kisses, or hand-holding in moments of being uplifted. I do, however, call her every day after my shift. I do this to give her the gift of my voice—to let her know I am okay, that I made it through another day. I appreciate having this mode of connection with her—that she can hear me, but it does not come close to what we established between mother and daughter: a bond that grew because of touch, because of affection. There is something about being able to lean into the comfort of one’s mother and gain a sense of relief from having done so.


To read the article in its entirety, please click here.

I Can’t Carry Your Bad Dreams

And I don’t want to.

Photo by Harrison Haines via Pexels

My mom called twice this past Saturday, to tell me she’s been dreaming of my father — bad dreams and I didn’t want specifics. I can’t carry the weight of her fears about his life in my veins. I don’t want to bleed his death — don’t want to aid in the byproduct of the potentially foreseen.

My parents have been divorced since I was twelve years old. I am forty. My mom has never dreamed about my dad before, at least, not in the way she’s dreaming of him now. What does it mean when a former spouse dreams about their ex dying more than once?

According to Dream Moods, a list of explanations regarding dying in one’s dreams or death and dying of another in your dreams includes the following:

In such dreams, the death is often represented by someone else. So if you dream that someone is dead, then it means that you want to repress that aspect of yourself that is represented by the dying person. Whatever that person represents has no part in your own life anymore.

The above statement is from the section, “Death means a part of you has died.” I understand this. This is a statement I can get behind to support, but how do I convince my mother of this?

Could these dreams be the signal she needs to alert her in feeling and knowing the pieces still lingering and holding on to their past are finally breaking off — finally dying? Could she be in the beginning stages of renewal so many years beyond their end date?

Writer, Molly Longman, takes the above thought-process a bit further. “Death in dreams actually means there’s some sort of change or ending happening in your life. To the subconscious mind, this represents the end of life ‘as you now know it.’” There are several milestones that have occurred and are on the verge of occurring in my mother’s life.

She overcame hard drug abuse, is cutting back on smoking cigarettes, has cut drinking liquor out of her recreational activities, and she will be fifty-nine in September. With her being so close to sixty years old, we often talk about how hard the road has been for her — for us and we reflect on those times, grateful to be where we are as mother and daughter.


I am not a dream expert, but I have often been told that our dreams have more to do with us than anyone else and I feel as though this could be the case in this instance, but how do I approach this angle with my mom? How do I tell her the deep soul-searching she should try is probably tapping away at her psyche and she’d be wise to get ready to swim?

“I had another dream about your dad. Is he all right? Have you been keeping up with him regularly?”

My responses have been generic, but reassuring. I don’t want to get into anything too deep with her because I want to respect my dad’s boundaries. I also don’t want to start stoking any fires that have no reason to burn.

“Perhaps life is just that . . . a dream and a fear. “— Joseph Conrad

There is a thin line between listening to comfort one parent and blindly assisting them with their clouded beliefs or feelings. It is not in my best interest to give my mom any ammunition to further fuel her “bad dreams.” I want to be able to make her understand that dreams aren’t always what they seem and are often pathways to many doors we should open ourselves.

“As far as I know, Mom, he’s alive and well. Everything is okay on his end. Everything is okay.” And currently, all is indeed well with my dad.

I believe that and even if I did not, it is not my place to state otherwise unless I am told I can. My mom has enough fear within her about these dreams — I wish to aid her in finding her path away from them. “Perhaps life is just that . . . a dream and a fear.”— Joseph Conrad

If you have been having dreams of someone else dying — a mutual friend, a close relative, or one of your children, I would suggest researching the possible why of it — look into what could be transforming within you first.

I would not suggest tossing those bad dreams on to someone else. I assure you, that person is probably carrying enough, they do not need your misguided fears too.


Originally published in P.S. I Love You via Medium.

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