YoaHTs: “Thing” 72 – “Sex Pt. 1”

Sex is, above all, entertainment. Yes, it perpetuates a species. Yes, it can be an expression of affection and intimacy, an addiction, a tool, and a weapon. But the bottom line is, after all the fireworks, in a healthy sexual relationship, you’re supposed to feel really, really, ridiculously good.

For reasons I cannot explain, I have discussed sex lately with an amazing variety of people, in entirely unrelated circumstances and from every perspective I could have imagined. I have no professional training in psychology, or sex therapy, but I have no issues discussing sex and, for reasons I’ve stated below, I’m fairly knowledgeable about it, so people tend to feel comfortable talking to me about it. The one thing that stood out – and yes, I am keenly aware of the comedy in that phrase – was that people STILL just don’t know how to talk about it to one another. One would think that such a simple problem is easily solved, but with everyone boiling in their own tea kettle, it’s a problem that seems to require an interpreter in nearly every case. As I listened intently in every conversation, I began to see patterns.*

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Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #78 – Falling in Love

There is no one way to fall in love. It happens frequently, and more than once in every life time. In fact, it could easily happen more than once a day. It is a wish for joy, for connection, for growth. It is NOT a need to possess. 

Since my first “love,” I’ve realized that falling in love and falling in need are two very different things. I am “in love” with many people, for many reasons. I do not covet a single one of them. They don’t validate who I am, or “make” me happy. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends and occasionally, people I’ve never actually met. Sometimes “they” can even be a place or an experience. There is something so unique about them, something so precious to me that having them in my life is immeasurable joy. 

It is often something simple, like the way they laugh, or the way they see the world differently than I do. They contribute to the tapestry that is my life, sometimes in ways I never imagined possible. 

And falling in love means that I want to enjoy them, and watch as they thrive. I want to talk to them, kiss them, touch them, laugh with them, comfort them when the feel need, but NEVER does it mean that they must give anything in return. In fact, they give simply because they are. 

You see, “falling in love” is an outpouring of the most generous emotion we humans experience. It impels us to be kind. Look around you every day, and fall in love with something bigger than yourself, something more compelling. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop feeling “in love” with anything or anyone else. If that were true, no parents would ever have more than one child.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I see my loves deeply, that I “know” them and that I encourage their deepest desires. It is who I am, and if I am “in love” with you, you are sure to know it.

Breaking

“Just think of him as a hairy toddler,” said my new friend, Audra. I chuckled thinking about what it was going to be like interacting with a six year old chimp while trying to film a story that illustrates how generous a human heart can be.

Of course, I was excited, for a host of reasons. Having never interacted so closely with chimpanzees, I was going to see closeup the emotional lives they lead. I knewthat I was going to be engaged from the moment I began working. But it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that gets you.

I didn’t know that I was going to learn more about what healing looks like and what happens when one of us decides that breaking is only the beginning of a powerful journey. Most of us, at one time or another, have suffered something that brings us close to losing all faith in humanity. But it is how we heal that is the mark of our character. With a lot of hard work, and some very devoted people, we will show you how one woman helps these beautiful creatures heal, and how she heals in the process. It is a story that needs telling because it tells us a lot about ourselves. It teaches us what kindness and communication can do for the broken. It teaches us what being human should look like.

Thanks to a constellation of stars achieving an unprecedented alignment, I am involved in this project. One of those stars is a man named Adam Neal Gonzalez, who, I KNEW would be perfect to capture the story on film. It took no time at all for the two of us to get emotionally invested in what Audra is doing with the chimps. I’m not going to sugar coat it and make it sound easy. The animals are beautiful and intriguing. But they are also intelligent, territorial and extraordinarily strong. We keep a respectful distance. It is only because humans are good liars that we hold dominion over these creatures. What Audra does to give them a voice through art is nothing short of beautiful.

Chimping
Chimping

I can’t wait to share that beauty with all of you.

Act IV

The ottoman struggled across the wooden floor, moved unintentionally as she stretched her entire length, pushing out with her feet. “Ohhhhh” she moaned, feeling her muscles respond. He watched her from across the room, amused at how overwhelming the over stuffed chair looked around her.

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Sheets

Challenge piece, a new activity that I am enjoying, in this instance from the voluptuous Dark Night Chronicles . I’m new to writing challenges. It’s a bit daunting, but a whole lot of fun.

I started at the corner, because it had already lost its grip. The ridges and valleys spread out before me, arranged in waves shaped like David: long limbs, bent with the bliss of sleep. Just an hour before, he’d warmed the ridges and valleys, after he’d burned his touch onto my flesh.

And now, as I bent to pull away the sheet that still held his shape, I paused. At first, one knee, then another, my arms stretching toward the place where his head had rested, gathering and wringing the white cotton, losing myself in the chypre fog.

My body called to him, as I wrapped myself in the sheet, and closed my eyes. It would only be a few more hours until he returned, and his force would again heat this now cooled room.

The Year of a Hundred Things: Thing #100

I remember as a little girl having been born in a year ending in 5, counting by 5s and figuring out how old I’d be at the milestone markers. Wow, I thought, thirty-five in the year 2000. How utterly old I will be. Considering that I was in second grade at the time, I lacked perspective.

Life was pretty interesting for me at thirty-five. I hadn’t yet met my husband. In fact, I had made a habit of complicated and emotionally unavailable men. I was operating from the belief that I wasn’t acclimated to a life that included someone else. Seeking the inaccessible meant that I could enjoy the thrill of love without the messy details of commitment. It was genius. And it worked for a while. I had a lot of fun, and no one got hurt. Well…no one but me.

Five years later at forty, I was already married to the man that still tolerates the shifting sand under his feet. I’d resolved that I wasn’t as delightful as I had always fancied myself. In fact, I was a right pain in the ass. Fortunately, he loves a challenge. We struggled in our first few years to have children. I miscarried. We suffered four failed IUIs and two failed IVFs, until finally, after long having accepted that the delight of spontaneous and old-fashioned conception had eluded us, we made a little cocktail in a Petrie dish which became what is now the giggling sprite of the boy we love. So, for all you people who reach forty and think you have nothing to show for it, the two most amazing things in my life didn’t happen until this last decade.

On January 1st, 2015, I will start the countdown to my fiftieth birthday. It’s hard to even form the words, fiftieth birthday. I don’t feel fifty, and from what I’m told, I don’t look fifty, either. I’ll have to attribute that to good genes and a relatively healthy lifestyle. But the one thing that fifty brings me is a sense of peace about who I am.

So, as I stare down the big 5-0, I wonder at what is important to me and why. I wonder how many of you, my friends and readers, will have similar things, and if these pieces will resonate with you. I invite you to share those things with me, as well.

I present these things (and I use the term loosely) in no particular order, except for the last. The last will be the most important because it should have the most attention. The first…well…it’s something I look at every day.

“Thing” #100:

I am a little bohemian. Not a lot, because I am honest with myself (and a bit vain) that at 5’3″ big, flowing clothes don’t flatter. But, I am bohemian enough that, most of the time, I’d rather wear something that is comfortable and eclectic than something high-fashion. And when it has sentimental value, it becomes a talisman against the chronically negative. I abhor the chronically negative. It eats at my creativity and buries my mood under piles of emotional sludge.

So, I present item(s) 100: the gift(s). I have a few things that I wear, or carry, every day that were very thoughtful gifts. A bracelet from my sister, another from a friend who is profoundly connected to her friends’ needs. A have a few, each representing a particular story. In the image below, they lay atop a handmade art journal my sister gave me for Christmas this year. Each time I look at these things, I am reminded that someone took the time to think about me and send me a message in a gift. That is what love looks like. Small messages. These are reminders: little things that are hugely valuable to me.

Thing(1) - The Gift
Thing(1) – The Gift

Peace on Earth

I am a recovering Catholic. I was raised on a steady diet of Hail Marys and Our Fathers, delivered with my little white Rosary, kneeling reverently in the ordered contemporary pews of our Villa Madonna chapel. To this day. I whisper a Hail Mary if an ambulance passes within earshot.

I say that I am recovering because my faith is a glimmer of what it once was as a child. Back then, I believed that through Christ all things were possible. But doubt settled in when I was moved from the loving hands of the Salesian nuns to the hell fire and brimstone of a local school with legalistic Baptist views. My parents were simply trying to blend a family and simplify things. Ohhhhh, the irony. As abstract thought and discernment took root in my pre-teen mind, the myopic fundamentalism preached in that school effectively destroyed my love for my Christianity. I have struggled ever since. I have a scientist’s reason. I understand the physical dynamics of the universe and from that I have come to a place that gives me some peace.

Despite all of that doubt, there is a single experience that returns me instantly to the time when I believed that the Christmas message touched everyone’s heart, regardless of the name of their faith. Standing in the middle of Sacred Heart Church in downtown Tampa during a midnight mass will bring even the most heart-hardened, staunchly doubting mind to the brink of believing. It is then, while wrenching every note of O Holy Night from my throat, that I get a glimmer of what it feels like to be united by one ideal.

Last year, for the first time, I heard Casting Crown’s live performance of “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Such a beautiful message on a day when the whole world looks to the sky for a Christmas miracle. It is based on a poem written by Longfellow after his son was severely wounded in the Civil War. Longfellow was adamantly against the war and was deeply saddened that his son insisted on enlisting. At that time, Christmas wasn’t yet a national holiday, but as he listened to the churches ring their bells loud and clear, he penned these beautiful words.

Even if you have no religion, peace is in you. It’s in every one of us. Maybe if we just sing it out, the whole world, including those who’ve lost sight of it, will find their way. So, on this Christmas Eve, I wish each and every one of you peace. Take a moment and pay it forward. With one voice, one harmony, we can reach every corner of our world with this simple message.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

And the bells are ringing
(Peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing
(Peace on earth)

In my heart I hear them
(Peace on earth)
Peace on earth, goodwill to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

But the bells are ringing
(Peace on earth)
Like a choir singing
(Peace on earth)

Does anybody hear them?
(Peace on earth)
Peace on earth, goodwill to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
(Peace on earth, peace on earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men

Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

And the bells, they’re ringing
(Peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing
(Peace on earth)

And with our hearts we’ll hear them
(Peace on earth)
Peace on earth, goodwill to men

Do you hear the bells, they’re ringing?
(Peace on earth)
The life the angels singing
(Peace on earth)

Open up your heart and hear them
(Peace on earth)
Peace on earth, goodwill to men

Peace on earth, peace on earth
Peace on earth, goodwill to men

 

View live performance here: http://youtu.be/M7670CXvPX0

Writer(s): Brady ThorntonEllis Jr, Johnny R. Cash, Bernie Herms, Bill Wolaver, Carol Tornquist
Copyright: Chappell & Co. Inc., Non-stop Outrageous Publishing LLC, Word Music LLC, Banahama Tunes, Vivian Distin, John Carter Cash Music Inc.

 

Hope

Imagine a morning like any other, as Chaos leaves the quiet shadows of your home where he’s been resting as you sleep. The dog’s tail wags a breeze in front of you as he leads you through your routine, waiting patiently for the tasks that include him. Chaos then rouses your child, whose little voice blends into the symphony that accompanies a day’s first hours. Cereal sh, sh, sh-ing out of the box and into the bowl. Silverware tinkling. Water rushing into the sink. You check on your love, who lies still sleeping. Rest keeps her well. She seems cold, you think, so you cover her with blankets and return to the kitchen to finish her breakfast.

But Chaos is often restless, and a normal day’s routine is just not enough.

The morning of November 23rd, holding a tray of muffins, Todd Williams walked into the bedroom he shared with fianceé Lindsey Winchester. He touched her gently and called her name. In that fraction of a second it took to realize that she was unconscious, Chaos tightened his grip and began orchestrating what became the worst day Todd had ever known.

Hours later, agonized, having watched as doctors tried to determine if there was any hope for her, the rhythmic sounds of the breathing machines machines stopped. The monitors beeped and clicked with less frequency until finally, Lindsey passed quietly at 2:25am, at 26 years old, exactly one year to the day that Todd knew that they’d become a family.

“Why?” Because that is the question one asks when a young person dies. After a loss so shocking, there is a period of time during which real discussions should be avoided as a matter of respect and compassion. Friends, family, strangers needing to rationalize the shock, unintentionally contributing to the emotional drain of reliving those moments over and over again, with each recount of all of the details. In the beginning the waves of tears outlast the conversations, but each day, the number of words increases in between the waves until, eventually, a week has passed, the memorial service is over and the new normal begins to take shape.

When he came to me and asked me to tell this story, I wasn’t sure I could. I knew I would have to ask questions that were still difficult to answer through the raw wound of his broken heart. Along with several of his other friends and colleagues, I watched the private Facebook feed moment by moment, praying that she would recover. Every time Todd posted a comment for us, we cringed until finally we received the one we’d all been dreading. “Lindsey passed at 2:25am.” And then, we wept. We were spread out across the globe, but together we watched our friend suffer through the only medium he had to get to us all at once. We had started the journey with him in the morning, and were stunned and heartbroken for him as he helplessly watched his love slip away. I knew this conversation was going to be hard.

They’d met because she had been searching for a photographer for her wedding. Todd is an exceptional and highly respected photographer but wasn’t available that day. Eventually, the wedding was cancelled, but Lindsey called Todd again asking him to shoot family portraits for her. This time, his schedule was clear. The session was a success, and before they parted ways, Todd and Lindsey scheduled their first date. It began as a bit of a disaster. The conversation was awkward and they didn’t seem to have much in common. But after he left her at her door, something compelled him to call her and ask if they could just take a walk together. The next time they parted was November 24th, the morning she died.

Lindsey suffered with progressively worse and eventually uncontrollable migraines and seizures. She’d seen doctors, who labeled her symptoms as psychosomatic, and had visited ERs in excruciating pain, where they released her claiming she was only after pain medications. The medical community had failed her, repeatedly. So, Todd and Lindsey adapted their lives together to minimize triggers and easily respond to episodes. During that year, Linsdsey began to share bits and pieces of her life, slowly shedding light on the probable cause of her suffering. She had experienced the kind of trauma that leaves behind a trail of psychological and neurological damage. More and more, Todd understood her pain, and with each new detail, loathed more strongly the people who had caused it.

Eventually, our conversation took on the rhythm of healing. After sharing Lindsey’s history and her last hours, he chortled and broke into an inspired story of her mirth, kindness and generosity. It made me realize that she was well-suited for her career in nursing. He told me how, when he returned home from the hospital, he took a few moments to look through her phone. There he found text after text from her to friends and family, inquiring after their health or some ailment they were experiencing, crying with them, laughing with them. She was empathic and understanding, all while she fought demons that few people could see.

He shared quite a few stories in those two hours and his vivid detail not only let me get to know her better, but also laugh with him as though I had shared the experiences myself. Two of those stories stand out because they illustrate not only the sweetness of his “fragile angel” but also her sense of adventure.

The first time she was to meet Mattson, Todd’s young son, was on a road trip to the Georgia Aquarium. It was only a two and a half hour drive, but that is a lot of time for a little boy to be strapped into the back seat of a car. When Todd and Mattson arrived, Lindsey climbed into the back seat with Mattson, rather than sit in the front with Todd. “Aren’t you going to ride up front with me?” Todd asked, confused.  “No. I’m going to ride in the back with Mattson, and we’re going to build a blanket fort and watch The Croods.” In that two and half hours, a beautiful friendship was born between Mattson and Lindsey and it wasn’t long before Todd learned that sharing his loves with her would be a way of life.

It is a feat for a woman to charm an animated, adventurous boy into sharing his father. But it was a shock for Todd to watch Story, his pibble, quickly become Lindsey’s dog. At her mother’s, Lindsey was accustomed to her small Westies, whom Todd affectionately called the “angry marshmallows.” In stark contrast was Story, an eighty pound pit bull rescue that hides in the closet at the sound of the doorbell, and a tough nut to crack. Todd was sure that there wasn’t any way that “the cowardly lion” would accept Lindsey. Yet, after Lindsey came to live with them, every moment that Lindsey was home, Story was glued to her side. Todd and Story became a team in comforting her. Todd had learned her triggers and found that baking her cookies, sometimes as often as three times a day, was enough to stop the seizures. If she rested, Story wrapped himself around her, no matter where she lay. If she bathed, Story tried to bathe with her, failing miserable and accepting a position next to the tub. Todd quietly accepted his role as a spectator in the love affair between Story and Lindsey. He couldn’t begrudge that kind of devotion and in a single year, he shot hundreds of images of Story comforting Lindsey as though it was his singular purpose.

Lindsey and Story

Todd’s passion for rescuing pibbles is legendary. He has always been outspoken and crystal clear in his opinions about unchecked breeding and the deplorable treatment experienced by many dogs. He is a pibble hero, actively involved in rescue, and Lindsey was happy to join the fight. One morning, a few months into their relationship, Todd told Lindsey that he’d learned that one of the dogs he’d been following had been returned to a shelter ten hours away and was on the kill list for 5pm that day. She listened quietly, nodded and then left the room. Confused, he followed her into the bedroom to find that she had packed a bag and her pillow. “It never occurred to her that I wasn’t going to go,” he told me, “and she was going with me.” Ten hours on the road with Story in tow, and then ten hours home with two stinky dogs in the back seat. No complaint. No argument. A sidekick in the fight for the animals they loved. The moment he knew he was happy could have been that moment, or one of a hundred others. There were so very many.

We, his friends, watched their love grow through from all over the world through our social interactions on Facebook. After the news came that she had passed and we recovered from the initial shock, the seventeen of us in his peer group decided that we had to do something to give him hope. We were determined that it should be something that immortalized Lindsey and their passion for rescues. I can’t remember which one of us said it first (I know it wasn’t me), but what began as a donation to a rescue organization became the Lindsey Winchester Animal Rescue Memorial. It took only seconds for all of us to agree that it was the ideal way for us to honor Lindsey and comfort Todd. Robin Bakes set the wheels in motion and did all of the heavy driving. She built the Facebook page and stayed in touch with Carmen Klapper, the founder of Carmen’s Rescues and the beneficiary of the fund. Meanwhile, in the wee hours of the night when the house was quiet, Story would search for Lindsey incessantly, keeping Todd awake. He reached out and someone answered, all of us watching to make sure that our friend was able to function. While Todd suffered through first few days and then the closure that follows a memorial service, we watched as hundreds and hundreds of people responded to the page and to the memorial fund. But the best, most hopeful part, is that thanks to the fund, within 48 hours Carmen had rescued a beautiful pibble now named Lindsey.

On Monday, December 1st, Todd got to meet Lindsey’s first rescue and her namesake. The very talented Tawnya Evans[1] captured these precious, intimate moments with genuine, heartfelt compassion. While exchanging the photographs with me, she wrote “On the way home as I was sobbing. I thought, ‘It just amazes me how each person finds hope in so many different things. Some are our God, some are in people, some are in prayers, some in friends, but it was so wonderful to see the hope shine just a little in Todd when he saw the first rescue Lindsey. His passion for saving dogs is Todd’s HOPE.'” I had been wondering how I was going to start this particular piece, because it was so personal, but Tawnya not only gave me beautiful images, she gave me my inspiration.

Hope. That is where the healing begins.

Both Lindsey and Todd waited to meet for the first time. Lindsey, happy to be in a loving place and Todd, still mourning the woman whose name she bears.

Both Lindsey and Todd wait to meet for the first time.

Todd meets Lindsey for the first time.
Todd meets Lindsey for the first time.
If you’ve ever wondered if dogs are really man’s best friend, you need only look at Todd and Lindsey rolling in the grass together. There is no doubt that Monday afternoon, Lindsey was Todd’s best friend. The unconditional love, the sweetness in this beautiful animal made her the perfect choice as the first dog rescued in Lindsey Winchester’s name. “Today, I feel somewhat close to sane after this,” Todd told me, after his experience with Lindsey and the staff at Carmen’s. I could hear it in his voice. The tiny pieces of his broken heart will eventually find their way back together, perhaps with each new rescue facilitated by the fund. Story’s heart may take a bit longer. He’s still hiding regularly in the bathtub.

Todd and Lindsey get to know one another.
Todd and Lindsey get to know one another.
He introduced Lindsey to her benefactor…

One beautiful girl meets the other.
One beautiful girl meets the other.
And for just a little while, the world seemed less like a nightmare.

Todd smiles at how something awful begot something good.
Todd smiles at how something awful begot something good.

[1] Tawnya Evans, PixelMeThisPhotography.com
[2] Carmen’s Rescues, www.carmensrescuesc.com. You can donate by pressing the “Donate” button on the opening page.
[3] Find the memorial page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindseyWinchestermemorial