Friday, February 29, 2008


I've had some inquiries about my precious rat boys, so here's some pictures of my special little guys. (Can you tell I got a new camera?)

This is Ulysses. He is the hyper, lovey one. He is always trying to get my attention, especially if I have popcorn.

Here is Jay-Z. He is his own rat, very independent. He is the mellow one. His favorite thing is sleep, and peanuts.

They are both about a year and a half old. Ulysses is 3 days older than Jay-Z, and Jay-Z is the runt (although he doesn't act like it) so Uly is bigger. They are smart little guys- they figured out that if they knock their water bottle off the cage I will come over to put it back, and talk to them, so they have me trained. Actually, Jay-Z only knocks off his water bottle when he's out of water, and it works. I always get him more water and apologize profusely. I talk to Uly in the morning every day as I'm leaving, and in the evening when I come home. Jay-Z is usually asleep. He wakes up when I come over with nuts, carrots, or popcorn. They are spoiled. They get treats every night. They are totally worth it! I am crazy about them. I even mail order their special rat food, Regal Rat. It is the best. It looks like dry cat food, but its much better than the food they sell at the pet store because they only eat it when they're hungry (instead of frantically eating everything I give them immediately). I don't know why. They lost weight when I started giving them the Regal Rat. Pet rats, especially males, have a tendency towards obesity. Too bad they don't run on their wheel anymore. Maybe I should give them more baths- I tried to wash them in the bathroom sink a while ago, and they could not get away from me fast enough! Even Jay-Z was running all over the bathroom floor while I tried to dry him off with a little towel. They forgave me, after I gave them treats. Treats smooth over any people-rat friction. Too bad that doesn't work for everything. I love my rats! They seem to like me okay, too. Ulysses hangs on my every word, and Jay-Z puts up with me, which I appreciate. They are the best little rat guys a girl could have.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Los Angeles...or Seattle?

If I thought I was escaping the rain by moving to L.A., I was certainly misinformed!

Tonight I went to an Oscar party, and since the writers’ strike is over, this was a very happy day in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the red carpet was a red sponge due to the rain, but the fashion parade was still fabulous. I am a gi-normous Coen brothers fan, so I was thrilled they won best picture with "No Country for Old Men". I just went to see it last night with a friend. I liked it a lot although it was exceedingly bloody. It was not a movie heavy with dialog, either, but there was one conversation that struck me as especially profound. The sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones asks his uncle, who had been a police officer, if he would have gone after the man who shot him if he had been released from jail. His uncle tells him no, that when you try to get back what was taken from you, you leave the door open to lose more, and at some point you realize it’s better to find a tourniquet and stop the bleeding.

I brought my camera to the party, but I don't want to embarrass my friends by posting all the surprise photos I took of them, so here's a picture of the lovely spread instead:

Here's me, concentrating intently on the comic stylings of Jon Stewart and watching for the next presenter to slip on a particular spot on the stage:

After I read my one and only poem about sex at my friend's fundraiser a couple weeks ago, I started writing about why I am so uncomfortable with the subject. I produced pages and pages of feverish writing, sometimes pulling my car over so I could get my thoughts on paper, and I fully intended to transfer my musings onto my blog immediately. This proved harder than I expected. My first experience of sexuality was being fondled by my great-uncle when I was 8, and I still associate sex with humiliation and fear. I was disgusted with being touched until well into my teens, when I decided to overcome my fear in the only way I could think of, to do it and hope I would get used to it. I put on an act, developed a persona, that I was confident, grown up, and fearless, and not the scared little girl I felt like. I hated feeling so vulnerable, and I hated the idea that older men would see me as the perfect youthful virginal victim.

I got good at the act, and while it didn't prevent plenty of perverts from going after me, I didn’t feel as much like that helpless little girl. I did feel disgusted with sex, though, that it was something done to me by the guy for his benefit. It felt degrading. I don't feel like I ever developed my own sexual identity, one that is truly a natural part of me and not just what I think is expected. It's hard to even know if I enjoy sex or have the capacity to when I feel like I’m just putting on an act, and afterwards I feel dirty, sickened and alone. I suppose it’s no mystery why I don't feel like I can emotionally connect with my boyfriends, and I find it nearly impossible to discuss my difficulties with sex, especially with a partner.

"By the way, I know I never mentioned it before, but I feel like throwing up when we have sex. Don't take it personally. I know I acted like I was into it, but I was faking and you didn’t seem to notice. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, especially when you were attentive and paying attention to me. I meant well. I really did. I thought I would eventually feel comfortable and safe with you and it would turn into a wonderful expression of intimacy and love, but since I tend to go out with guys who are emotionally distant, self involved, or insensitive, and I interpret the lack of emotional closeness as evidence that guys are only interested in me for sex, I am forced to conclude that we will break up and I will push my hurt feelings down even farther, and then I will try again with someone else who I think is different and really cares about me this time, I hope. I am just fooling myself, though, because until I unwind all these years of feeling degraded and damaged, I will keep repeating the same self-destructive pattern in my attempts to distance myself from the little girl who feels terrified, alone and unlovable. At least with you I was able to pretend for a while that you loved me and there was hope I could trust you enough to let down my defenses. My fear is that if I stop doing this, I will go back to being the person who recoiled from human touch and what if I never get past that? What if I can never stand to have sex without disassociating and the panic and flashbacks become too strong to block out because I'm not in denial about what happened to me anymore? What if I end up exchanging limited emotional and physical intimacy for none at all? What if I open the floodgates and drown in my negative feelings about my own sexuality?"

Maybe you can understand why I have avoided this subject for so long. I was too young at the time to understand what was happening to me and why, and until recently I didn't see any other option but to push it down and live my life as if everything was fine. Fake it until you make it. I figured there was the possibility, remote as it was, I would get lucky with someone who would reach into my soul somehow and convince me that I was more to him than a sex object, and that would prove to me once and for all that my great-uncle and dad were wrong and I'm not some worthless thing, my body isn't dirty even though it was used for the sexual gratification of a disgusting pervert when I was so young, and I'm not trash because I'm a woman and women are sexualized but that's okay because sex isn't bad and degrading. I hope sex isn’t bad and degrading, and I hope that if I'm opening a Pandora's box that my demons will fly away and I will find a good tourniquet in that box.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Say hello to my new glasses! I got laser eye surgery in 2000; before that I was so nearsighted that without glasses or contacts I had to hold something 3 inches from my face before I could identify it. The surgery has been a miracle, but lately some of my co-workers have commented that I was squinting. I was also getting headaches. When I got the surgery they told me that it wouldn't prevent me from possibly becoming farsighted when I got old, and since I just turned 36 I thought, oh my god, I'm so old my eyes are going bad!

Actually, the eye doctor said I still had some slight myopia (nearsightedness) that wasn't corrected by the surgery. I haven't actually gone to the eye doctor since the surgery besides my follow-ups, so it had never been detected before. I'm not a big fan of going to the doctor, even the eye doctor. I only go when I have to. It was a good thing I went to the regular doctor last week, because she said both my ears and my sinuses were infected and put me on antibiotics, and I am finally starting to feel better after 2 1/2 weeks of being very sick. It's been at least 10 years since I've taken antibiotics. They are so overprescribed, and they screw up my stomach, so I have worked to avoid them. I think in this case it was worth it, though. And I love my new glasses! Since the prescription is so weak, they are not like the glasses I used to wear. When my eyes were so bad before the surgery, contacts dried my eyes out, and my glasses were so thick and heavy that my nose and ears would hurt from the sheer weight of them. I was so thrilled after the surgery to not have to wear them.

These glasses, though, are much lighter and they are Dior, baby! Very classy. I was relieved that my eyesight problems had nothing to do with my advancing age (I know I'm not that old, I'm just nervous about getting closer to the big 40) and saw a golden opportunity to make my new glasses do some work for me. I look younger than I am, which is a blessing, but I feel like some people, especially in work situations, don't take me as seriously and overlook my experience and knowledge. And 25 year olds are always asking me out. So I asked the woman who helped me pick out my glasses for frames that make me look smart and professional, and definitely not young. I am very happy with them. I feel smart and professional in them, and I feel like they do reflect part of my personality because I am, deep down, totally nerdy even if I don't look it. I was painfully geeky before hit high school and developed into a goth punk rocker with tits. My physical development certainly affected the way I was treated, especially, as you might imagine, how I was treated by guys.

I am, to this day, pretty uncomfortable with getting attention based on my physical appearance, and still feel a lot like the nerd I was in junior high who was just totally clueless on how to interact with people. I have developed into a very social, outgoing person as I've gotten older, and I love meeting and talking to people. Other people are wonderfully fascinating and interesting, and I feel very comfortable talking about a lot of things. There are definitely a number of topics that I don't know how to approach with other people, though. I'm still working on how to have a public persona that doesn't display too much of my inner life, but does reflect who I am in less of a guarded way. The parts of me and my past that I'm uncomfortable with and still struggling with are usually the parts I try to segregate and block off from myself, and the process of bringing myself together and accepting myself has an effect on my public face. Without really thinking about it, I am feeling more at ease with the person I am around other people.

This blog has really helped. I talk about myself and feelings in the blog in a way I can't do with people face to face, but the experience of expressing these painful things on my blog and getting positive feedback and encouragement has opened me up, helped me feel better about myself, and given me hope that someday I will feel totally accepting of myself and my life, and at peace with my past. I still feel ashamed and apologetic about my feelings and about wanting and needing love and support from other people, and it shows when I'm embarrassed about myself and I let boyfriends treat me badly. Those feelings that I don't deserve to be treated well make me a target for bullies and users. I really got sucked into a self-defeating cycle that was making my guilt and frustration worse instead of better. It's one of those curses of PTSD- being drawn to situations that remind you of the trauma in an unconscious effort to work out unresolved feelings.

I know that I've turned a corner and I am out of that cycle now, because I feel like myself again. Myself, only better, because I'm more confident and experienced, and more hopeful than I've ever been. I believe in myself and I know I'm going to get past this and feel genuinely happy and satisfied with my life. I’m dealing with and connecting with who I was before my brother died, and while that kind of makes me feel like I’m regressing, I have a lot better tools for working out the painful stuff than I did when I was in my teens and early twenties.

A big part of feeling like me again is that I've been doing fun things and enjoying L.A. Filling up my schedule is also a good way to distract me from getting involved in another destructive relationship. An odd thing I've been doing since my brother died is dating guys who are loners, and spending a lot of my time just with them being their loner companion while they took out their weird “commitment issues” on me. (I am super tired of hearing that particular excuse for being a jerk.) This is not me. I am not a loner; I am an extrovert, and this lifestyle always became tedious and isolating for me. I am grateful that I did have had fantastic support even though I’ve been in L.A. less than a year. I love my co-workers. They were there for me when my last boyfriend was acting erratically, freaking out on me, and when we broke up. I enjoy doing thing outside of work with them, like last week when one of my co-workers went with me to the Washington Week taping, and he was very supportive of my blog.

One of my co-workers has become a great friend. She is married and a little older than me (although not so much older than me as she tries to pretend). She is also insightful, easy to talk to, and fun. We are taking a Spanish class, and work out together. Sunday we went to a group hike. There is a group of hiking geeks here in L.A. that has hikes every Sunday at different locations. I have been on their mailing list for a while, but this was the first time I went. We hiked a trail in Griffith Park, and we met some total geeks. (I mean this in a totally positive way, especially since they self-identify as geeks.) I've never had such interesting conversation while hiking. I even talked about my blog and PTSD a little, and I didn't feel self-conscious about it even though I had just met them.

I started a writing workshop for “creative nonfiction” last Thursday. I haven’t been in a writing group since college, and never occurred to me that I could find a structured group for the type of writing I do. This workshop is taught by an experienced writer who runs a number of other workshops, including ones that a good friend of mine has been in for years. My friend, besides her novel writing, is also working on a play that had a fundraiser last Saturday. My cousin and I went, and it was a good time. I read a poem. Since it was a Valentines-themed party, my friend suggested something naughty, so I read the only poem I have ever written about sex. This was a big challenge for me, because as I explained to my audience, I’m kind of a prude. (More about that later.) Reading the poem was amazing for me- I love poetry and I love being a poet, and I felt really good about myself for writing and reading the poem. I wore my glasses while I was reading it, so I felt like a smarty-pants naughty kickass poet.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I forgive you; I release you; I go forward

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse

Today is a beautiful day in Los Angeles- it is sunny and warm and lovely outside. When we have a sunny day during winter in L.A., it feels like spring because the flowers are always blooming and the ground isn't soggy and dead. The weather here really lifts my mood. Apparently the cloud cover in Seattle can make some people claustrophobic, like a friend of mine who moved here from Seattle and probably me. It is open and bright here, not oppressive, although the smog is not good for the lungs. Even though I've only been here since last May, it feels like home. It's certainly not perfect here, but I'm happy to be an L.A. woman. I admire the women here. More than other places I've been, the women here know what they want and aren't afraid to show it.

Speaking of women I admire, I went to a taping of Washington Week with Gwen Ifill yesterday. It was interesting to get a glimpse of how television works, although it went much quicker than I've heard sitcoms do because they film the show in one take. I have never been in the presence of so many Gwen Ifill loving PBS geeks in my life. It was thrilling. Gwen has amazing presence. She exudes the confidence of someone totally comfortable with themselves, without arrogance, defensiveness, or insecurity. She has the kind of confidence that enhances her beauty and intelligence, and draws respect and affection from the show's audience and panelists. From the time she walked on stage the focus was on her, and she seemed to love the audience right back. When she had to walk backstage she would say, "I'll be right back. I'm not leaving you!" The tickets were free, although we were up in the balcony. She waved at those of us in the balcony several times, though, much to my delight.

The way she carries herself and treats people is a perfect representation of why I love PBS so much. My ethics are based on Sesame Street- appreciation for the value of diversity, listening, learning, engagement with the world, humor (in a geeky PBS kind of way), fun, and innocence. PBS is all about the believe that people should treat each other with respect and kindness, without being in denial about how the world often doesn't live up to that ideal. I think that what you see on PBS is more real and less fantasy than you would see on most other networks, and there is true outrage about the corruption and lies in our world. Even Gwen has been the target of at least one unfair and mean-spirited attack, but of course she handled it with class.

This morning, I went to Marina del Rey to see my therapist. My ritual is to go to Starbucks before therapy, and then walk the couple of blocks to the office. I enjoy the air in Marina del Rey, and the walk to and from the therapist’s office is one of the rare times I walk since moving here. I like to think and walk; it’s my meditation. My therapist has been telling me for a while that I am too hard on myself, and when I talk about my family I realize it’s true. One of my struggles with PTSD is that I feel like my memories are blocked out by trauma, trauma that is remembered not as memories but flashes of emotions like fear, shock, and self-reproach. It’s hard, in my mind, to get past the bad feelings to what actually happened. When I think of my past, it’s more like flashbacks than memories, and flashbacks are painful and difficult. I avoid thinking about my past, and that causes me to lose connection with myself. Today I talked about my brother's suicide, which had a profound effect on how I think about myself and is still a source of frustration and guilt. My memories of my life before the suicide and what lead up to Jeff's death are usually blocked by agonizing questions and challenges to myself-"How could I have let this happen?" "I should have had more time with him." "If I would have talked to him differently, maybe he would have opened up to me more." "I wish he would have come to stay with me instead of our dad; things would have been different." "What could I have done to make this turn out differently?"

They are unanswerable questions, and they perpetuate a sense of blame at myself. When I get past those stabbing questions and actually talk about what I was doing and how I was feeling before Jeff's suicide and my relationship with him, or write about it, my impression of what happened is very different. Then I remember that Jeff and I were very close, we talked and visited each other often, we understood each other, and we were very protective of each other. We shared jokes and special ways of acting and talking with each other. Our relationship was especially precious because we didn’t get that kind of unconditional love and support from our narcissistic dad and preoccupied mom. In the last year of his life, I knew he was struggling with depression, and I talked to him about it, spent time with him, and let him know I was there for him. I wasn’t uncaring or uninvolved. I don’t really have anything to feel guilty about, but my frustration about the situation and how it turned out has driven my thinking, and that is when this cycle of dating narcissistic, demanding, disrespectful men began. I totally avoided guys like my dad before that.

So there you go. The short version of why I have such problems with relationships is that when my brother killed himself, I blamed myself for not being able to save him, and lost sight of who I was along with my main source of emotional support. That left me open to men who seem supportive and caring in the beginning, but turn out to be insincere, and so insecure that they built themselves up by cutting other people down. I’m used to this kind of behavior and more accepting of it because of my dad, and I let people unfairly criticize and manipulate me because I’m disconnected with who I really am. I had been strong in defining myself, but I rejected who I was in my anger and grief, and my desire to make up for my “failure” to save my brother lead me to try to “save” other people to repair my self-esteem. That pretty much sums it up. I’ve gone the opposite way with friends, though, and developed much closer, rewarding, and stable friendships than I tended to have in the past. I do have support, and it is a blessing to be self-aware. The one person I can save is me, and I still believe in the PBS ideals of respect and tolerance and people who follow them.