Doctor & Patient: The Follow-Up

**Potential trigger warning**

“Exigo a me non ut optimis par sim, sed ut malis melior – I require myself not to be equal to the best, but to be better than the bad.”

I think my doctor is a compatible astrological sign and/or is perhaps magically able to defuse angry women. I realize sometimes it’s a little like talking to a cornered animal or a small child, except when it’s me, because I can’t be likened to either. I’m more like a venomous tornado; if tornados could have that additional level of power.

I genuinely give him credit because he handled my appointment with grace, class, ease, and owned his mistake. I can count on one hand how many doctors I know who would have owned up to a major error. He’s maybe one of three, if that. He is in the teeny, tiny minority because he has managed to maintain his humanity, sense of humor (I’m pretty certain his sense of humor is one of the reasons I like him so much. I can genuinely appreciate someone who has the ability to match my level of sarcasm, snark, and wit. It’s rare.), and the ability to stay grounded. I hope he never changes, because it would be a damn shame. I walked in enraged, and walked out laughing. I’m not that moody, not even for a Scorpio, but again, refer to my opening line.

I spoke, he listened, and we discussed possibilities for me to meet with someone who fits the criteria of what I need moving forward. He could have blown me off; instead he tried to problem-solve, and that is going above and beyond in my eyes. A far more jaded doctor would have passed me off to someone else, simply for being honest. God forbid you point out to another human-being that there’s a flaw in the system, or that they, themselves, are not perfect. Denial is not just a river in Egypt for some.

I’m proud of myself for handling this without reverting back to the old, angry version of myself who definitely would have handled things in a much more brusque manner, and brusque is soft considering it isn’t my original choice of words. Despite being angry, I was calmer than I thought I’d be once I sat down. I know the initial look on my face was anything but cute, but that frosty demeanor is my usual, unapproachable “Don’t fuck with me” look. I have scared postal workers with that expression; I know it’s not a good face. My doctor, all credit to him, seemed concerned, but unphased. He knew something was wrong, he just didn’t know what it was. Once he heard me out, everything was okay. In no way, shape, or form was he pacifying me, nor did he come off patronizing. I know the difference, and I would have walked out if he’d tried it. He’s too smart for that level of nonsense, and he earned another layer of my respect for keeping things real.

I know a lot of people would not have gone back. Many would not have been able to go back and be honest with him, but I’m no ordinary patient. I believe in full disclosure, even if I keep certain things private and keep pieces of myself to myself. I still don’t believe in accepting bullshit from anyone and eating it politely with a knife and fork. That’s not my style, nor will it ever be. I lack the ability to bite my tongue. I’d rather be honest and say what I’m feeling, as opposed to keeping it inside. That’s not healthy.

As I write this, it seems as though my ulcer is acting up once again, so I definitely don’t have time to hold any more stress or anger inside my body. I need healthy outlets, and writing has always been my first line of defense. It’s one of the clearest, most concise forms of communication. You don’t write as long as I’ve been writing if you don’t have something to say and have some serious talent to back up the words, otherwise, words are just that; words.

Did I feel better walking out of this appointment? A little. I’m glad I was myself and got the majority of the anger out of my system, but ultimately I still came away upset, just not at the doctor.

He admitted he wouldn’t have asked me certain questions if I’d looked more closed off. If I had looked like I had a wall up, he wouldn’t have dug so deep. Apparently my “packaging doesn’t match my pain”, his words, not mine. I do like him, so I let it slide, but that comment stayed with me for days and it’s going to bug me.

I immediately wanted to point out that just because a woman has makeup on, it doesn’t mean she’s an open book. Yes, I answered his questions. I did side-step a few, whether he noticed or not is another subject entirely, however, is wearing makeup what’s hindering me in getting proper care? It made me wonder if this has been an issue for the past ten years or so; the simple fact that I don’t walk into doctor’s appointments looking like death, which is usually how I feel on the inside. Do I need to walk in a drooling, incoherent mess? Is a face REALLY all people are paying attention to?! Is everything artifice? I do believe it’s called an “Invisible Illness” for a reason. Thirty minutes of my time, or less, to look human may seem ridiculous, but that time calms me down so I actually go to the damn appointment. Some doctors recommend coloring books to their patients as a form of therapy. Well, makeup is art therapy for me. It wasn’t even my best work, it was just mindless self-expression. Let’s not judge the broken, pretty mess by her “packaging”. Let’s not make assumptions. It sort of makes me want to show up in sunscreen and mascara next time, just to screw with him. However, that’s my “It’s over 90 degrees and I’m going to the grocery store in sunglasses” look. I try to look a little more human and pulled together when I’m face-to-face with someone. Not because I am trying to impress them, but because it’s something I do for me.

In hindsight, I realized that nearly all of my doctors, both past and present, are men, save two. I read a report about myself once that said I was “impeccably well-groomed” and it angered me. Obviously the doctor who wrote it has zero idea what it takes for me to be so “impeccably well-groomed”. I have an appointment in August, but I’m not about to ask another woman how she feels about my eye shadow blending skills. <rolls eyes> The first time I was there, the nurse went on and on about how good I smelled. That’s such a girl thing because my friends do it all the time with me. Women notice things that men do not. Men are more visual, but I don’t wear makeup for men; I wear it for me.

In my dealings with my beauty blog, I have sponsors, so I’m occasionally paid to write honest, unbiased reviews and I’m constantly trying new products revolving around hair, nails, skin, and makeup. It’s something I do for fun, something I hope will one day become more. However, the pain I experience has already held me back these past few years in terms of expansion, of starting a YouTube channel, and branching out. I re-branded last year, but my confidence levels are nonexistent, so if I’m not comfortable posting a photo of completed work to Instagram, then I’m definitely not ready for a camera in my face 3-4 days a week when I need to be filming.

Despite support from friends and family that I am definitely skilled enough to do it, I don’t feel ready. But does that mean I should be taken less seriously when seeking medical help? NO. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in my case, its skill-set. That’s not even 1/100th of what I can do in this world, and by judging me for it, you’re taking me down to less than a millimeter. That’s an unacceptable thought process. I personally know some of the most stunning people who are suffering just as badly as I am, and if you didn’t know them, you wouldn’t know what is going on because they have trained themselves to fake smiles and laughter. I will never fake a smile, not will I fake laughter or any other emotion, but yes, I will use an art form. I assure you, it’s not a mask, it’s just product.

After my appointment someone asked how I was feeling mentally, and I said “Let’s face it; I’ll never be okay. This is not fixable. Maybe if someone had done something to help me when I was six, or seven, or eight, I’d be okay now, but they didn’t. I feel neglected. I feel like my life isn’t my own. No one should have to carry this pain with them, this knowledge, and have to keep on living.” I then realized I’m deeply upset, and there’s no fixing it. I could go to a hundred doctors and there’s no cure in sight. I don’t know if there ever will be. There are always new medications in the pipeline, but a cure? No one ever talks about that, do they?

Ultimately, I am who I am; imperfect, shattered, hilarious, loyal, honest, goofy, inappropriate, sharp, creative, determined, the family protector, a permanently exhausted night owl, incredibly direct, a girl’s girl to the core, the person everyone turns to in a crisis or for advice, the girl “most likely to take a bullet for you”, the person described as “part lawyer/part doctor/part pitbull”, the psychic/spiritual guru for friends and for many of my close family members, mother to Cat and Kitten, a kickass Godmother, a truly amazing sister, an introverted extrovert, the girl who’ll sing anywhere because she hates wasting her voice training, the very best friend anyone could ever have, and the last of the matriarchal cooks in my family. I wear so many hats and own so many titles. That’s my “normal”.

In all the positivity, there is also a lot of fucking pain. You can’t mask that. No one sells “You’ve been through hell” concealer (I’m trademarking that, so don’t get any cute ideas.), or everyone in this world who suffers from an invisible illness of any kind would be stocking up. I look in my own eyes and see it. They may look sparkly and green in the right light, to the right person, but to me, that’s predominantly a sign of intellect and personality, nothing more. I have a dark, twisted sense of humor. People either enjoy it or they stare at me and say “I don’t get it.”, which usually results in the response “Bless your heart.”, mostly because I don’t have time to explain it to someone if it goes over their head. I’m quick-witted and even quicker with my sarcasm. You either get it or you don’t, but it’s not intended to be offensive, unless my tone changes or I intentionally speak a different language in
front of you.

Suffering from depression isn’t just abysmal highs and lows. For me, it’s living in pure darkness and trying to find shards of light scattered here and there. Light comes in many forms for a creative type. I love learning how movies are made. I am fascinated by certain aspects of history. Certain artists intrigue the hell out of me, and they remind me I should be painting twice a month. I actively study parts of the world that most people will never see in person. I learn new languages. I have traced my ancestry back to 85 B.C., which was no easy feat, and I’ve researched cats so thoroughly that you can ask me anything about domestic or big cats. I never stop learning. And yet, I openly and honestly discuss suicide in the same breath. I don’t believe in hiding it. I don’t believe in masking the pain or lying. I’m not going to sweep it under the rug and pretend. Pretending is what gets you into trouble.

Last month, one of my cousins tried committing suicide via overdose. It deeply affected her oldest daughter and other family members; justifiably so. While they are all taking it personally and questioning the kind of person she is, offended that she lied to them or simply didn’t disclose how badly she was suffering, I’m the one person who seems to truly understand how much pain she is in to have hit rock bottom. I know how awful it is, and I refuse to sit in judgment of her for it. In fact, all I want to do is help her. I’m sick of their attitudes. They’re acting like it’s all about them when the truth is; her pain has NOTHING to do with them and EVERYTHING to do with being strong for decades and finally breaking down. I didn’t realize how deeply it affected me until I broke down in the shower one day. I am deeply concerned, especially now that she is back in the hospital and continually tries to manipulate doctors, friends, and family into letting her out. This is the person in the family who would personally kill any of us if we tried to do something as stupid as what she did, so I KNOW this isn’t her, this is merely illness and an extremely dark, low point. What they deem as selfish, I see as a diamond in a pressure cooker. That’s precisely how a doctor once described my own situation to me. I try to remember those words whenever I reach my breaking point, but it’s not easy to hold on to mere words when your support system is nonexistent.

I spend 97% of my time alone, in pain, so how could I not think about suicide? Between the stress and the isolation, it’s hard not to. and I refuse to lie or pretend. I’m not good at being fake.

There are days when I’m taking a long walk, just to clear my head, and there’s this little voice hoping I get hit by a truck or a bus, or a car not paying attention. Unfortunately with my luck, I’d be in a body cast and no one would ever think anything except that the driver was an idiot who didn’t see me. No one would ever think I had anything to do with it, and for the most part, I likely wouldn’t be thinking about it either because I have “city brain” and I’m very careful when I’m walking, but there have definitely been moments where I’ve nearly been hit because a driver wasn’t paying attention and each time, a large part of me was sad they stopped or that I was paying attention. It’s sad to admit, but it’s also honest, and human. I despise my life and almost everything in it. I find it pointless to pretend that it’s okay. I am 1000% NOT okay. I cannot remember a time when I was okay. Passable? Yes. But okay? No. Hell, I don’t even know what okay looks like or feels like. When people ask how I’m doing, I don’t lie and say I’m okay when I’m not. You know how cashiers and customer service reps often ask how you’re doing? My new response is “I’m too honest for that question.” I don’t play the game and say “I’m good.” or “I’m okay.” because lying is not my first instinct, and when people lie to my face, I look them in the eye and say “Do you want to try that again?”

As I constantly have to explain to other people, my ties in life are different from theirs. My Grandparents are gone. My parents are gone. I have a handful of cousins I am close to, and in truth, I don’t feel like I can discuss my life with them because they’re so wrapped up in their own lives (quite frankly, it’s ALL I hear about. Sometimes they talk at me, and don’t even ask how I’m doing. This can go on for months at a time.). I recently lost my Great-Aunt, who was the last tie I had to my father’s side of the family in this country, aside from my cousins (her grandchildren) who I am currently trying to tune-out because they’re stressing me out with every phone call or text message. I haven’t heard from my brother in months and constantly live in fear that I will get a phone call from a hospital, the police, or the country coroner’s office. I come out of my skin every single time my phone rings and I don’t know who the caller is. Every day of my life, I question my existence. Between migraines, the physical pain, and the emotional pain, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in sticking around. Why would any sane person allow themselves to go through this kind of torture day in and day out?! Suffering to this extent is inhuman. I wouldn’t allow Cat or Kitten to suffer like this, so why am I allowing myself to live in such a manner?

I used to stop myself from acting on these thoughts because I was afraid my brother would be the one who found me, and I couldn’t do that to him. His best friend committed suicide in 2005 and it left him devastated. I didn’t want him to find his sister dead; I was certain it would break him. Especially after we lost our parents. My brother isn’t me; he’s not the strong sibling, nor will he ever be. One of my best friends lost her brother to suicide, something none of us could ever have anticipated, and she has told me that no matter what I am going through, it’s a permanent solution to problems that are “temporary”. However, you can’t say that to someone who has spent the majority of their life in agony and who rarely, if ever, knows happiness.

Nothing I’m going through is temporary. It is all quite permanent and very real. I don’t think my other friends are aware how much I’m hurting, nor has anyone ever inquired. I’ve only recently realized how one-sided our conversations are. I support and strengthen them, but who supports and strengthens me? My relationships and friendships are solid, but I will always be the black sheep. I’m needed when I’m needed, but where do I go when I’m in need? To a doctor and/or a licensed therapist, and right now, I’m not okay to sit with a therapist weekly, or even bi-weekly. I am gutted, and I don’t have the emotional capacity to sit and discuss anything when I feel like an empty shell. I don’t like wasting someone else’s time, nor my own. My last two therapists dropped out of my life during really awful periods when I most needed support. The last one disappeared completely during one of the worst times in my life. I genuinely trusted her. I’m not ready to be hurt like that again, nor will I allow it. She was the only therapist I’d ever liked, and her not so much as returning a call or referring me to someone else was incredibly unprofessional and rude. It’s something I’ll never forget or forgive. There is always a professional way to do something. It’s one of the first things I learned in business, and I was eight years old at the time! I cannot forgive stupidity when I know that the other person knows better.

So my appointment went well, and I’m glad for that. I genuinely DO like this doctor. I wasn’t kidding about following him to China. That’s one of the highest compliments I can pay him. I’m certain he knows it was genuine. He will be lucky if I don’t super glue myself to his leg at my last appointment, and for some reason the image of that in my head is hysterical beyond words. Oh, Lord, RELAX! I’m joking. Sort of.

He’ll be getting one hell of an online review when I get a moment to collect my thoughts. Not because I have to write one, but because he deserves it. I’ve never written a review for a doctor before. I’ve recommended my former neurologist to people in need (He is genuinely a kind, caring doctor who did his best for me.), but this is different. I want him to have an amazing review moving forward on every website I can slap one on, and I’m just insane (and sane) enough to get one posted everywhere known to man. I don’t actually know anyone who could write something better, and that isn’t ego talking, it’s mere fact.

For obvious reasons, I have protected his name this entire time. As I’ve said before, many times, “privacy is not a setting”. I adhere to laws and boundaries, even if some of them are personally defined. After all, this is still the Internet and while I do talk about a lot of things openly and honestly, I’m also an incredibly private person.

Even when he stops being my physician, I’m still going to feel protective of him; I discovered this accidentally. A family member made some outrageously derogatory remarks to me about him while I was in the process of writing this, and I’d never felt more defensive and protective of a doctor in my entire life. You would have thought she’d taken a shot at my mother, which is one thing that, to this day, is very likely to get you punched in the fucking face. Thus far, no one has deigned to do it to my face. One person made the mistake of doing it via e-mail, and I decided it was an act of pure cowardice not worthy of a response. People know that if they did it to my face, I’d kill them and tell God it was an accident.

My reaction to this family members’ truly insane comments regarding my doctor were to take a deep breath and pause before saying “Did she actually just say that to me and think I’d accept it?” However, she had, and my exact words were “I’m a very good judge of character and unlike you, I trust my judgment and intuition. Number two, this is someone you have never met, spoken to, or spent five minutes in a room with.” I was SO angry, she’s damn lucky she was in another state, or there’s simply no telling the level of fight it would have escalated to.

The following day, she casually contacted me like nothing was wrong, and I informed her that it was incredibly disrespectful and inappropriate for her to take a shot at my doctor and attack a stranger based on her personal experience of working in a hospital. You can’t go around assuming that every doctor is egotistical and arrogant. Far more was said than just that, and I refuse to give the insanity credence by repeating it. However, nothing I said was negative or led her into this series of hateful, rude, callous, inappropriate, man-hating remarks. She knows less than nothing, so it came completely out of left field and I was NOT having it. She did end up apologizing to me for her outburst, calling it an “occupational hazard” from watching the behavior of the doctors who work at her hospital, but that’s a blanket, bullshit excuse and she knows it’s completely unacceptable to me. I’d love to chalk it up to her usual idiocy, but much like attacking my work, which I’d never allow anyone to do, you do NOT attack this doctor. I may have been mad at him for an isolated incident which she doesn’t know about, but I did not disclose anything more than facts when I wrote about it, and she doesn’t read anything I write. This is someone I respect. That means he’s done something to earn it.

When you find a good doctor, however brief the encounter may be, it’s important to let them know which qualities they possess that they need to hold on to in order to survive as medical professionals. They might lose sight of that from time to time, so a solid reminder will remain in the back of their minds. Like anything else in life, there are always things that bring us back to the here and now and remind us of who we are during challenging times. No matter who we are or what we do for a living; we all have those moments. No one is perfect.

It’s a sad jungle out there. Finding someone amazing who cares and genuinely wants to help people, and isn’t egotistical, is very similar to finding a unicorn. Apparently, they DO exist in the medical community if you search hard enough. There’s an immense difference between having a healthy ego and having a Donald Trump complex.

In one of the most screwed up healthcare systems in the world, anyone that becomes a medical doctor in the United States has just completed four years of medical school and, depending on their chosen field, there is a 3-7 year residency or fellowship process after graduation. It puts the average physician over $175,000 in debt, if not more. Yes, they are choosing to become doctors, and no, most of them don’t go around earning our respect as patients for many reasons. One of which is insurance companies dictating far more than they should be allowed to. This has been going on for years, though. It is NOT all related to the ACA. However, there are still so many good doctors out there. Bedside manner isn’t a given. It is often learned, and so much more is learned by taking time out for your patients. In their efforts to help people, they can become doctors that focus solely on research or they can practice medicine based on their field choice in the state(s) in which they are licensed.

What makes this doctor stand out from all the rest? He’s fully engaged. He’s not distracted, dismissive, or daydreaming while you’re talking. He is 100% in the room. He’s not only listening, he hears you. Given the chance; he never would have given up on me. He’s simply too determined. You can fix broken bones, and I am using that as an emotional metaphor. Emotional bruises heal, eventually. But a doctor not giving a damn whether you make it or not? That stays with you forever. I know, because I’ve lived through a plethora of doctors who didn’t give a rat’s ass about anything, least of all me. I was never a person or a patient. They couldn’t be so bothered to return a phone call, or do anything other than rush me in and out of their office. They had no intention of ever helping or making a difference, but if you’re not an experienced patient, you don’t know the signs of what separates a doctor from being a licensed physician to someone who has greatness in them. I’m well-versed, so I do know the difference.

I lucked out. I found the needle in the haystack on my first try here in Massachusetts, but he is leaving, and I’m all out of super glue. I am glad our paths crossed. I think I’m a better person for it. Broken, pretty mess and all.

Yes, he knows I’m a writer and that I wrote the angry piece. I was incredibly honest with him. I will not be so forthcoming with the next doctor, or any others, up the road. Trust is something you earn, and I cannot give of myself again. He is getting a copy of the first piece, and this one, at my last appointment. He’ll probably never know how much his ability to care and treat me like a human-being undid damage every other doctor did along the way. All I can offer is my respect, appreciation, and heartfelt thanks.

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam-“I shall either find a way or make one.”

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Doubting Myself

All writers have moments when they feel unprepared. Me? On occasion I will say “I wish I were talented.” or “I can’t write this.” In other words, even the best of us have bad days. Or weeks. We all have a little doubt, or we’d be completely full of crap.

I hold it in really well, but I have a lot of doubt when it comes to material I haven’t been writing since day one.

When I first began writing, I did toy around with some fiction. I spent about four or five years writing it for FUN, and when I moved from one state to another, I trashed every single printed page and everything I’d saved it to. Why? Because I took a look at it, saw my growth, and realized that even though it had been fun, it was infantile compared to what I truly wanted to be writing. I didn’t ever want to come across it again because it was nonsense. I decided then that it was okay to read fiction, but it wasn’t in my best interests to be writing it. I did not personally excel in made-up worlds.

Fast-forward and I’ve since created a Dark Urban Fantasy series, which I will be refocusing on at some point in the future (Meaning not today, but soon.), and I am currently working on something I’m not completely comfortable with. However, it is allowing me to explore my emotional depth, and maybe that’s the entire point. Maybe that’s why this story haunted me for months. Maybe it is a reminder that I’m human, and that not every part of me has to be put into storage under lock and key. There are certain lines in the book that are straight out of my own life.

More than once I’ve caught myself saying “Do I have to publish it under my name?” Yes. Yes, I do. I cannot worry about the thoughts of others. I can only tell the story, and move forward. There will be good reviews, bad reviews, and middle of the road reviews. I’m used to that, because not everyone likes my writing style and plenty of people like me even less. Regardless of what people think or say, I still have to tell the story.

For the last few days, I took it upon myself to do some research. I read a lot to see if anyone had anything similar out there, as a precautionary measure. Even if I didn’t know about it, someone could still accuse me of a form of plagiarism. My determination after a few books is that after a certain point, a lot of stories start to blend into one another. Everyone tells their stories a little differently. Some are good, some aren’t, but ultimately I need to stop worrying. Comparing and contrasting isn’t my job. Writing IS.

And so I sit here today, as per usual, with a lower back and left shoulder that are in desperate need of medical treatment. Just walking yesterday killed me, and by walking I mean 3 ½ miles worth. I have no idea how I’m functioning today.

No, I’m not being stubborn. The insurance I had doesn’t cover the doctor I want to see, who is local, so I switched temporarily, just to be able to get in with ONE doctor until I can find someone to see me on the other plan. They told me it wouldn’t go into effect until May 1st, but that I am still covered regardless and not to worry. However, when I went to pick up my medication yesterday, I was already covered by the new plan. I stared at the pharmacy tech and she said “They’re SUCH liars. You can speak to five different people in a day and they’ll all tell you a different story. This happens every day, all day long with these people.” It isn’t the first time I’ve thought that in regard to this company, she just got it out of her mouth before I said something equally as honest.

Technically, I should be at Urgent Care instead of sitting here writing. Alas, this might be another one of those weeks where I don’t get to prioritize my health because of outside circumstances beyond my control. The doctor can’t see me until the end of the month/early May, so Urgent Care seemed like a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they have bankers hours and I don’t want to show up only to be told they don’t take my insurance. I’d probably lose it on someone. As it is, I have until June 29th to change my insurance AGAIN and then start over with a whole new set of doctors that will be G-d only knows where! What’s the point of having health insurance when no one is accepting new patients OR they’re so far away, it’s utterly pointless?! It’s extremely frustrating to me.

And so, I write. I write through the pain, I try to write it out of my system emotionally, and I desperately try not to sit here in tears when the pain is too much (which is 99% of the time).

There are days I’d like my original life back. One where very few doubts entered my mind, and where being able to walk, sit, stand, think, etc., were not issues because my life wasn’t chock full of agonizing pain.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Page After Page

nobodycaresabout

In less than a month, I’ve written over 220,000 words. Does that sound like a lot? It is. To do it in such a short period of time is a testament to me pushing myself to write every single day, and not to give up when I’ve felt stuck. Even if I only managed one page on a bad day, I still parked my ass in front of the file and went over it, and over it, and over it. It’s called determination, with a healthy dose of bat-shit crazy thrown into the mix.

I’ve written, rewritten, proofed, edited, done additional rewrites, changed the direction up, added new characters, strengthened characters I liked, and here I am, still trying to figure out the true direction of the story. For the first time, I wrote something 100% unplanned. I let it haunt me for three months before I said “Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.” It’s become so much bigger than what I first thought, and I’ve found most of it incredibly easy to write.

The challenge in the work is getting in touch with things I’ve personally found difficult in my life. It’s been therapeutic to work it out on the screen in front of me and allow myself to be authentic within the confines of a fictional novel. Instead of saying “That’s decent, it’ll do.” (something I never say, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing), I’m finding myself excited to get up each day and return to work.

During a radio interview Nora Roberts explained how she began writing under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Her publisher had, and I’m paraphrasing here, told her to “get a hobby” because her books were selling so well. Instead of deciding to actually take that advice and learn something new or do something fun, she decided to channel it into writing something else. I remember hearing the interview and laughing, until I realized today that I’ve sort of done the same thing. Instead of staying in my comfortable world where I’m 100% writing the truth, I’ve opened a door into a new genre for myself, and have found it’s equally as comfortable, if not more so. If you had suggested this to me ten or even five years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Instead, I’m breaking personal records on what I can achieve. I feel proud of that.

I hate reading things that make me roll my eyes. I hate reading things that don’t feel realistic, to some degree. I also hate feeling like I’m writing the same shit a thousand other people are writing. It gets boring very quickly.

I hate timid characters. They annoy me. I hate the damsel-in-distress nonsense. This is the 21st century, and I don’t know a lot of weak women. Unless you’re writing a period piece set in a different century, lose the giggly, shy female that you’d either slap or kick if you were to meet her tomorrow. Let someone in junior high write that crap.

Some of what I’m writing touches on gender roles. What makes a woman truly strong? What makes a man the right person? What makes a couple work well together? How do you stay strong through difficulties, your own idiocy, lapses in judgment, etc. I prefer to focus on the humanity. What are our characters if not perfectly flawed human-beings?

I have come to realize that most of my female characters (some, not all) are a version of me. If Erika Girardi can be Erika Jayne, then I can channel aspects of who I am into characters, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. I find it incredibly empowering.

When writing male characters, I work hard at channeling the men I know. There is no such thing as the perfect person, but there is such a thing as “the right person for you”, regardless of gender. Several of my friends described me as their soul-mate, from a friendship perspective. I firmly believe we have multiple soul-mates in life that we meet at different times. Some are with us forever and others come and go, leaving their mark. That’s real life. I’m virtually incapable of writing something and not bringing real life to it.

So as I sit here this afternoon, struggling with a scene I feel is emotionally crucial to the story, I have to remind myself to just be real. Take a deep breath and push through. And when I feel like I can’t focus, then it’s time for a break, but I have to get it done. I have to finish it. Maybe not today, but as soon as I can.

Let’s face it; no one would believe I wrote it if it were emotionally false.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sick Writer

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I find myself unable to concentrate this afternoon as I work on what I can only hope is my second to last draft. Everything is coming together nicely, but my health is taking an unhappy turn.

It only took six and a half months, two applications (the first of which they lost and didn’t tell me about until January!), and a plethora of phone calls to find out that my health insurance has finally been approved! The utterly daunting task of finding a primary care physician, a neurologist, and someone who can actually diagnose and treat whatever the hell I have is overwhelming.

Over the past few years I’ve come to wonder if I was properly diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Sure, I match all the criteria, but is that what this truly is? There are so many other pain-related autoimmune disorders, and disorders that are pain-related and neurological. I wasn’t tested for the majority of them and it’s been a while since I was retested for Lyme Disease. In turn, I’ve decided to meet a new doctor and simply give him/her a list of my symptoms. I’d need to have blood work and tests done any way, so I’d rather start fresh and not even bring the word Fibromyalgia up to a new physician. I want someone to come back to me with a clear-cut diagnosis and a treatment plan. I don’t want to be jerked around. Nor do I want to be judged or treated like a drug addict for saying it. I haven’t been on prescription pain medication in five years. If I’d been addicted, it would have posed a serious problem. Instead, it was just an asshole doctor playing with my life. A doctor who lied to my face when I asked about his residency at a local hospital (it’s how I was referred to him, by a nurse that had worked with him). He’s the only doctor in the United States with that precise first, middle, and last name, so why lie about where you did your residency? It’s common knowledge with a little research. That wasn’t the only indication that something about him was off. Being dropped as a patient without warning was the icing on the cake after his in-office behavior.

My migraines have progressively gotten worse. I am currently on day ten of a migraine that has destroyed me. Each day I’m a little more hesitant to eat or drink, because anything can trigger my headaches now, and I simply don’t see any correlation between food, drink, and when I’ll get slammed with a headache. I can be okay for an hour or two, and the second I sit down to put the information into the migraine app, I get slammed with horrific head pain, nausea, etc. These are clear signs that I’m NOT okay and that I need to make sure a brain MRI is done soon. The last one I had was of my brain and spine. The brain scan is usually 35 minutes with and without contrast, but the spine takes longer and the position is extremely uncomfortable when you suffer from serious lower back pain. I ended up having a claustrophobic panic attack inside the machine. That had never happened to me before, so this time, I am going to make sure I’m armed with Valium, Xanax, or whatever a doctor can give me so I don’t have a meltdown in the middle of the test. I’m not usually claustrophobic at all, but I now know that MRI machines and snow storms cause me to go into pre-panic meltdowns at the mere thought. It’s the exact opposite of who I am, so it’s hard to explain why this is suddenly happening to me. I hope that whatever this is, it doesn’t not require surgery. I did some research and didn’t like what I found. 😦 This is precisely why I hate when people say “You could have this…” and I end up Googling it to educate myself on something I’ve never heard of before, only to convince myself of the “What Ifs”. A case of the “What Ifs” will only increase ones’ stress levels and anxiety, so why do people say shit like that”?! It’s one thing if I’m with someone and they’re displaying signs of a heart attack or stroke, in which case I am getting them an aspirin (for the former) and calling 911, regardless of which situation it may be. I don’t have to be anything more than concerned, and get them medical attention as quickly as possible.

The nicest thing a person can say when I’m suffering is “I’m concerned. Make an appointment and I will go with you.” If you’re going to say one thing and not mean it, then I’ll go whenever the fuck I go, but it won’t be on your terms.

I sit here this afternoon, really praying I don’t end up in the emergency room or at Urgent Care over a migraine. I’ll pretend that the stomach pain I’ve had on and off since Sunday is an abdominal migraine. I’ve never been diagnosed with them, but the symptoms come with a lot of my migraines these days, depending on the severity. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to put two and two together. In fairness, what will either place really do for me? Not a whole lot. I’d be lucky to leave with an abortive, like Relpax, and a referral to a neurologist. That doesn’t help me, but would they do blood work on site? Yes.

I’ve already had to cancel my appointment with a Physician’s Assistant due to transportation issues. I don’t feel good about that, but it’s a huge scheduling conflict. Not every appointment in my life can be at the crack of dawn, especially when I am having severe issues falling asleep and staying that way. An early morning appointment means no sleep for me until I return home, and that’s if I can sleep at all. It then screws up my schedule until a week’s worth of Melatonin can correct the problem. So unless I’m sleeping well, I don’t commit to appointments that early because I cannot guarantee I’ll be able to make them. If I’m awake at six in the morning, chances are I’m in pain or didn’t get an ounce of sleep. I’ve got allergy medicine knocking me out most nights, and kind that is marked “non-drowsy”, so I’m not being stubborn, but I am owning my limitations.

Normal walked out the door a long time ago. I can’t expect anything to give me my life back. All I can do is muddle through the pain and pray that someone will eventually hand me the correct diagnosis.

Wishing everyone who celebrate a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Have a good weekend, one and all.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Checking In

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Hello everyone! I hope this finds everyone in a good place, or at least, not a painful one. Life happens and I know it’s not all roses, sunshine, and ice cream. 😦

I didn’t mean to drop off the planet for a bit, and in truth, it hasn’t been that long. Even still, it’s unacceptable to keep everyone out of the loop.

About two and a half weeks ago I began writing a piece of fiction that has been haunting me for several months. I began my third draft this morning of an 80,000 word novel. It’s a genre I was unaware I could write, but I am thoroughly enjoying my time spent (About 8-14 hours a day) with these characters. And even though the characters keep changing their strengths and personalities on me, each trying to be in the lead for who is stronger, I am finding myself doing all that I can to keep their best assets in tact, and complete this for submission to an agent. I wouldn’t need representation if this wasn’t a “hobby genre”. It’s the polar opposite of anything else I’ve ever written. It will appeal to people who read the genre, but not so much to the average reader, and that’s okay. None of you will be obligated to grab a copy, unless I self-publish, in which case, there will be freebies available (for judgment). And even then, more than half of you won’t like it. Hell, I myself am learning to be comfortable with this new side of myself. She’s always existed, but suddenly she was handed the keys to go for it, so why the hell not make an effort?

Aside from that dose of positive news, I’ve been plagued by migraines, fell down the back stairs last week while taking out the recycling (I thought I’d come away with a few bruises and some soreness, but apparently I banged myself a lot harder than I originally thought.), and just plain haven’t felt like myself.

I am spending the majority of my time writing and rewriting. I can’t complain there. When I declared the first draft to be “missing something”, I banged out a 20,000 word change that shifted the entire story in a few direction. So what is my problem? Finding the right way to stop the story. Doing a “one and done” novel has never been something I’d anticipated attempting. I like writing series work. It allows for expansion and growth, and takes the reader on a journey. A book should be more than words on a page; it should mean something. Regardless of genre, you should come away educated, enlightened, happy, sad, or a plethora of other things, but you should still gain something from your time spent reading an author’s work. Even if you hate it. However, agree, here and now, not to tell me you hated something I wrote. Respectfully decline to comment on it, don’t read it a second time, but agree not to tell me you hated it. 😉 I’ll have plenty of detractors, and I do, but it’s so much easier to say “Congrats on your achievement.” than “I hated it!” While not the most diplomatic person on the planet, I’ve never told a single friend of mine that writes that I hated their work. I’d rather say something isn’t my taste, and not be disrespectful to what I know is not easy work to start and complete.

The days and weeks have flown by since I started writing this new body of work. The fact that I allowed it to simmer inside my head for so long is the culprit behind being able to get so much down so quickly. That, and the fact that I type over 100 words per minute.

If all else fails, at least I know I tried something new.

Wishing you all a wonderful end to this day. I will be back as soon as possible. Currently immersed in a month in this year we have yet to take on. 🙂

Be happy, healthy, and safe everyone.

Until next time,

L

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Descent Into Hell Is Easy

The Descent Into Hell Is Easy-“Facilis Descensus Averni”

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I can accept a lot of things about other people. Damn near anything, but I cannot accept lying, betrayal, stealing, drug addiction, abuse, and/or the acceptance of abuse in a relationship.

As I’ve discussed in the past, I’ve lived through an abusive relationship. It was a roller coaster and the damage done is, on occasion, still present within my mind. It took a long time to fully emerge from the mental and emotional damage the relationship did in terms of screwing with my sense of self. There are some lingering effects that still remain, despite my best efforts. However, I walked away. I did not, and have not, looked back.

I am the product of an abusive home. It took my mother a long time to muster up the strength and courage to leave, but she did something so many people in her position would never do. She knew things were never going to get better, and she (finally) realized she did not have to stay put and witness G-d only knows what else. I was always proud of her for walking away. I never stopped believing that my mother deserved better. Her response was always the same, “My marriage may not have been what I had hoped for, but my children are everything and more.”

When you repeat the same patterns in your relationships (One person is not a pattern. Two is early on-set pattern. Three is a flat-out problem.), there comes a time when you have to take responsibility for errors in judgment. You have to take a look at yourself and own your part in continuing to accept the behavior as “normal”. Perhaps by beginning therapy to work through your issues in order to have healthier relationships moving forward. It’s important to do something constructive to help you put thoughts into action. You should do whatever the hell you have to in order to be rid of the cancerous person that is bringing you down. It might seem drastic and/or cruel, but that’s precisely what it is. Abuse can and will make you sick. No one needs such negativity in their lives.

Good, healthy, solid relationships do not cause you to be afraid, depressed, unhappy, jealous, miserable, suicidal, angry, hurt, and they NEVER cause you to cry. There is an immense difference between happy tears and tears of misery.

Quality relationships do not have to be defined via social media. You will see zero presence of my personal life on my social media accounts, and there’s good reason behind my decision. I believe in protecting that piece of my life because once you open the doorway into it, there’s no way to slam it shut. Even just mentioning certain people, at times, has felt like an enormous invasion of my privacy, but I will do it if there’s a reason behind it, especially if someone’s life is hanging in the balance. Ultimately, I feel like shielding someone I love deeply is more important than the vanity of showing off. What else is social media if not a form of showing off to the world? Unless you’re using it to showcase work, talent, creativity, etc., it isn’t very real. It is also one of the top issues couples have between them these days.

Whenever someone tells me their boyfriend or husband is friends with all of his ex-girlfriends on Facebook, I already know they doubt him, because in reality, how many people feel the need to be friends with every single ex they’ve ever had? No one I know.

When someone hesitates to state that they are in a relationship with you, when you have already stated you are publicly, and amongst yourselves, that is called a RED FUCKING FLAG. Pay attention to it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already had a thorough background check run on him and everyone he associates with to make sure he is 100% single with no children, and that you’re not his side chick/mistress. No one wants to be with someone who is dishonest AND has Dexter-esque skeletons in his closet, or qualities within his private persona. I’ve known too many people who were leading double, or even triple, lives. I’m not sure how they found the time, because living one life with one person is hard enough.

One aspect of abusive relationships is the push and pull. They want you, and they don’t want you, mainly because they do not like change. It’s NOT because they don’t want anyone else to have you. They fear change, that’s all. They “love you” one minute, and they also have an opposing side that doesn’t truly resemble hatred, it’s simply disingenuous and emotionally detached. Not everyone is capable of genuine love, and this is important to remember. As the abused party, you have to realize this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. They may come from the absolute best family you’ve ever met; that means very little when they lack the ability to treat you the way you deserve to be treated, or worse, believe they DO treat you properly.

Another result of the long-term abusive relationship is being the recipient of “guilt gifts”, as I have come to call them, especially in relationships which involve cheating. He fucks up and post-fight, you’re “rewarded” with flowers, stuffed animals, jewelry, chocolate, an expensive vacation, amazing restaurants he’s never taken you to before, you get the gist of it. He thinks these “gifts” mean everything is forgotten and forgiven, that you can keep on “as normal”, and that is precisely where he is wrong. I can guarantee something; his behavior isn’t going to change just because he sent you flowers or bought you something to “shut you up”. Make no mistake, that’s what he is doing. I used to know men who only ever bought flowers for their girlfriends or wives when they’d screwed up royally and didn’t want to sleep on the couch, or in the garage. The ones who were cheating spent a fortune on jewelry. Those weren’t “because I love you” gifts. They were GUILT, plain and simple. The gold and diamond industry is, on occasion, built not on love, but on guilt.

There is also guilt and a plethora of bullshit apologies in physically abusive relationships. Now I’ve never personally experienced a physically abusive relationship outside of my childhood, or I’d be in jail, and there’s a reason for that; I will not tolerate it. I WILL fight back. After several warnings regarding sneaking up on me and/or not announcing one’s presence, I broke a guys’ nose and gave him two black eyes with the force of a well-placed elbow. They truly did not believe I’d do it, but I’d spent weeks saying “Don’t come up from behind me without announcing yourself, because I will react. I am instinctively trained to react as though you are a threat.” Again, this person did not believe me. I don’t know that he learned his lesson, but I gave so many warnings and no, I didn’t do it intentionally. Maybe you can sneak up on a girl who doesn’t have city street smarts, I wouldn’t know, but for me, a warning is enough. “Don’t do this…” is the best I can give a person. My Uncle (G-d Rest and Bless His Soul) did not believe in allowing me to be a victim.

Normal men with healthy attitudes towards women, love, and life don’t keep making such enormous, unforgivable mistakes. They keep to their word, will be where they say they will be every single time, and don’t ever have to buy a “guilt gift”, unless they were SO busy at work they forgot your birthday, anniversary, or had to skip a major holiday. If they do come home with their tail between their legs, it’s not because they were epic fuck-ups or intended to hurt you. There’s a difference. They’ll be honest with you.

Deep down, all women know when they are genuinely loved and when they are genuinely being lied to by their significant other. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only time someone shows you their love or the false kind of “love”. It should be a year-round thing. It doesn’t always have to be large displays of affection either, it can be something as simple as making you breakfast when you’re in a rush, bringing you coffee/tea each morning, or taking care of you when you’re sick. It is the little things that build intimacy and show you you’re loved. If someone knows how I take my tea within a few weeks, that’s a sign that they’re on the right track, because they’ve obviously been paying attention to things I do for myself, as well as things I do for them.

To this day, red roses make me queasy. I sold a gold necklace, including the engraved pendant that came with it, and two rings from that horrible relationship. I donated an FAO Schwarz teddy bear to a charity, because I could no longer allow it to be in the same space with me. I felt immensely liberated in those decisions because I was no longer bogged down by the heaviness of emotions left behind. All evidence of the relationship was wiped clean in those moments. I never have to go back and I do not have to choose to re-live it with anyone else, not unless I choose to divulge the information. There are a few photos that remain, and I don’t have to keep them.

Sometimes I am still haunted, slightly, but ultimately, I would rather be with someone normal, someone who understands that loyalty means remaining loyal, than be with someone who can’t tell the truth, and who thinks it’s okay to cheat when it most certainly is not. I refuse to cry over any relationship when I have the intelligence, self-esteem, and common sense to walk away from anything and anyone. I am stronger in my ability to place my self-worth over someone else’s negativity and drama.

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Unfortunately, when you’re in an abusive relationship and you continue to stay, after a while, even your family and friends will stop believing you because your false mask, the one you’ve chosen to show while in the relationship, is one you’re choosing to keep in place. It’s quite similar to covering up bruises with makeup and continuing to allow yourself to be beaten. I’m not sure which is worse, but what you’re doing is a HUGE LIE. It’s encouraging the behavior and allowing it to continue in a vicious cycle. For what?! You gain NOTHING from this merry-go-round of hell. In turn, any support you may have had from family and/or friends will be gone, because they will come to believe you’ve been lying about your relationship all along. They will come to believe that maybe, just maybe, you’re an attention-seeker who cannot be honest, not even with herself.

I am one of the most loyal friends in the world, always ride or die, but when I question that in someone, something is very wrong. I dislike people who force me to question my judgment. In fact, it pisses me off. For some reason I find myself unable to sympathize or empathize with people who keep going back for more. I’m strongly considering cutting ties with a friend for this very reason.

While I value the friendship and absolutely adore her,.she obviously lacks the ability to hear what I’ve been saying to her from day one. You can’t agree with me and say you know I’m right, but continue to do the exact opposite of what we’ve discussed. It’s unhealthy, and I won’t perpetrate that unhealthiness back into my own life because it inevitably results in a phone call at 4:00 a.m. where I then have to calm this person down and get them to agree that this is the end of the relationship, that they deserve better, that it’s making them sick, and that they need to focus solely on themselves for now, and that they need to start by making a clean break.

Ultimately this person is an adult and can do as they see fit, but I can’t listen and be there for anyone if they are constantly refusing to follow through on sound advice. That’s a waste of my time and quality oxygen, not to mention it disrupts my sleep cycles. I will give 110% of myself if you’re actually going to listen to what I’m saying and hear me, but I am NOT going to waste my time if you keep going back to your abuser. If you truly want out, I will be there for you. I will help and I will listen, but if you’re going to go running back to what’s comfortable, to your version of “normal”, then I’m out until you get your shit together.

Having written this, someone will inevitably read it and call me, feeling betrayed. If you have to call me, please re-evaluate your circumstances before attacking me. I did not name names, nor has anyone’s confidence been betrayed. I could be talking about ANY of my female friends and/or acquaintances, or even myself (Yeah, not likely.), so before attacking, get off your high horse. This isn’t about you, it’s about facts.

I don’t think it’s bitchy to question a friend’s motives on this level. I am happy you trust me enough to come to me, but be honest. If the relationship is SO horrible, why keep going back? Are you that deprived? Is that what you truly believe love is? Call me crazy, but I cannot be with someone who has zero respect for me and makes that clear. I cannot be with a person who tells me he is going to keep cheating, and that I should “learn to accept it”. Those are DEAL-BREAKERS. No sane person stays around for that kind of trash-talk from anyone. I’m more apt to knock a guys’ teeth out for talking to me like that. No truly smart man would EVER say that to my face, either. He might very well hide behind a computer screen or a text message, thinking such things will keep him safe. They will not. My mother didn’t raise a fool. I will hunt his ass down.

The same holds true in reverse, gentlemen (When I use that word, I’m pretty much thinking about Tom Hiddleston. He’s my visual example of a classy gentleman.). If your partner is disrespecting you, cheating on you, lying to you, etc., then I fully expect you to pick your ass up and walk away, even if it is terribly painful. The only issue on this level is if you have children in the picture. If you do, file for joint physical and legal custody immediately. Don’t hold back. Don’t stop fighting for your kids. Even if you’re angry with the other person, do not let your children know that there is a huge issue. They already know, because they can feel the tension and they’re not stupid. Do NOT speak ill of the other person in front of them, even if you are utterly blind with rage, be sure to hold your tongue as much as you are able. That person may be a great parent, and a horrible partner, but you don’t want your children to see you as unwilling to fight for them, or hear you talking trash. Children repeat things and they don’t truly forget.

While my life was quite different in this respect, I can tell you that my father was physically present when I was growing up, but was never emotionally present. He worked hard, he provided, but there was zero love or warmth whatsoever. I can count on one hand the times he genuinely spent caring about his children. Overall, I feel he viewed his wife and children as nuisances, nothing more. If we were sick, he’d yell about the money being spent on a doctor’s visit and/or medicine. Talk about unrealistic. Kids get sick and accidents happen, that’s life, be it with children or anyone, really. When I fell on a sheet of ice and fractured my elbow, he had a tantrum over the fact that I did it early in the year, before the deductible was met. At the time, I knew NOTHING about such things, I just knew I’d fallen, couldn’t feel my elbow, and that the pain was awful. My Mom took it seriously because she was the responsible parent. Always. I didn’t fall on purpose, but to hear him yelling at her over the phone was downright ridiculous. She cared more about me having a potentially broken elbow, but he cared about the doctor’s visit and the x-rays at the radiologist’s office. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized we were by no means as poor as he implied to my mother, blaming her for years about not working because she just “had to raise HER  children”. Not even “our children”, always “HER children”, spoken with pure disdain. We were upper middle-class, but my father mismanaged finances in terrible ways. My mother raised her kids and went back to work, and she did that to gain financial freedom from my father, because he controlled finances the same way he tried controlling all of us.

He was the type of person who should have stayed single and never should have had kids. My mother was the type of person who followed the list of pre-set rules placed before her (Get married, have children, live your life even if it’s not perfect, etc.), mainly because she wanted to get married and have children more than anything in the world. Her marriage may have been horrible, but her children were truly her world.

I was raised entirely by my mother & Grandmother. At about age thirteen, I began raising myself (I fully believe this was a smart move because it definitely helped shape who I am today.) and I helped raise my brother. My father never once asked me to spend summers with him or asked me to visit after we were safely away from the abuse. My brother spent every summer with him (I chalk this up to him being younger and Daddy’s boy.), and did not experience anywhere near the level of abuse I did because, for years before we left, I physically put my mother and brother behind me to protect them. I never knew when things would escalate to extreme physical abuse, so I took my role as protector quite seriously. It was not perfect, but I did my best. You can hit me, but I’ll hit you back, and once my father discovered I wasn’t afraid of him, it only made him angrier. It was a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive environment and this went on for years. No matter what my mother said or did, her words and actions would never have stopped him. Walking away changed things, but the abuse did continue in a different way.

I would spend years hanging up on my father when he’d get abusive with me over the phone. I had to reiterate to him that I was an adult, and over a hundred miles away from his abuse and wasn’t going to take it because I no longer had to. Sometimes he’d wait five minutes and call back, and other times he’d simply call the following day, as though nothing had happened. He’d turn me into the bad guy because I placed boundaries on the relationship.

Thankfully, in my intimate relationships, I do not look for a father figure. I had a couple of good male role models to keep me from going totally off the rails, but I definitely notice red flags in pretty much every relationship I witness, especially people I am close with. I have warned my brother that if I ever witness him treating a woman or children the way we were treated that I will personally remove them from the situation. I would never allow him to become my father. I hope he knows he’s better than that, because he’s likely reading this.

Sometimes my friends will call me, upset that a husband or boyfriend isn’t where he said he’d be. “He’s ignoring my calls. He’s not answering my texts.”, that sort of thing. I 100% know when someone has hit DISMISS or DECLINE on their phone. It’s a total douche move. Unless you’re in a business meeting or you’re performing life-saving brain surgery, there is no need to hit that button. Let it go to voice mail. Don’t be a douche bag..

I will grant someone a low battery excuse here and there (it happens), but how many grown men do you know who turn off their phones completely unless something is up? Not a single guy I know over the age of twenty. They might silence their phone for work purposes, they might put it on vibrate or airplane mode, but ultimately if a guy hasn’t called you in 6-10 hours, you talk regularly each day, and have left multiple messages, he’d better be in a fucking hospital because there’s no quality excuse he can provide.

“I lost track of time.” Mm-hmm. “Uh, my battery died and I lost my charger.” The words are spoken as a blatant lie, not as a statement of fact. Especially when you find a working charger in his glove box or center console. Or when he returns and his battery is at 75%. Dishonesty is dishonesty. The first time a man lies should be the first and only time you accept it. It’s your sign, do you need it to flash in neon and sparkle?!

Men are men and women are women. We’re very different indeed, but smart women are practically trained from birth to smell the lie. If ever the government truly wants ISIS stopped, they need only recruit military teams full of fierce women because once we lose our patience, we’ll take you down with little remorse.

Here’s the difference on my end in a relationship of any kind; I call to say I’ll be late. It’s called RESPECT. Hell, if I was going to be five minutes late to anything, I’d call whomever I was meeting. The same is true for my hair stylist, nail technician, etc. I firmly believe in being polite and respecting people’s time and concern for my well-being. If someone tells me they’ll be here at 6:00 and it’s 7:00, I am going to call and make sure they’re safe. Granted, very few people care about me, but those that do would definitely notice if I didn’t show up at all. In truth, it’s probably 80/20. Most people wouldn’t notice unless I disappeared for over 48 hours. They still wouldn’t be able to tell the police what I look like, what color my hair and eyes are, how tall I am, what I was wearing, my approximate weight, or if I have any identifying marks or tattoos. My height is incorrect on my ID by a good inch or so. You have to LOVE other people’s awareness and attention to detail.

I make sure my phone is fully charged before I leave the house. I keep my ringer on, even when I really want it off. I never know when there will be an emergency and quite frankly, that’s why I have a cell phone. For emergencies, and to communicate with family and friends out-of-state and overseas. Sometimes the best part of a person’s day is getting a text message to let them know you’re thinking of them. It’s a mood-booster.

I always tell my brother “If you don’t feel like talking, text me so I know you got there safely.” I always, always tell him to be safe. I always tell my friends to be safe and to text me when they arrive at destinations, just in case. A few months ago, when a close friend was worried about a trip and how it might turn out, I let her know I’d contact a friend in the same state if she needed to get out of the situation, and I did that without even asking the other friend because I know she’d have done it in a New York Minute. It’s important to check in with people.

My brother will be the first to tell you he KNOWS I care, even when I say otherwise, because no one else would ever send him fifty texts and twenty e-mails for dropping off the grid for six days. He misplaced his phone and the ringer was off, so he and several friends couldn’t find it. They were calling it for days and it kept going straight to voice mail. He knew I’d be pissed. By the time they did find it, one friend saw my last text message on the screen which was something along the lines of “I am calling the cops and having your phone tracked, you KNOW BETTER than to ignore me for six days without expecting me to react.” Poor guy freaked out and ran to my brother to say “I found your phone. HOLY SHIT, your sister does NOT mess around. You’d better call her immediately. She’s scary, but at least you know she loves you.” They were literally ALL apologizing to me at the same time. What can I say? It’s a gift. 😉

My real point is this; if someone is harming you with words, actions, hands, fists, etc., then you do NOT stick around for more. The nursery rhyme “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is absolute BULLSHIT. It’s a terrible lie we tell children, which only sets them up for disappointment because at a certain age, many children become vicious little replicas of their parents. Words and actions, among other things, are the reason most people are in therapy trying to heal parts of their psyche. There is zero shame in that.

One of my rules is that if you hit me, I will 100% hit you back, and you’ll be sorry you pushed me that far. I’ve been told not to be proud of it, but here’s the thing; I was taught to defend myself, not to lay down and allow someone to harm me. I may not beat you to death (unless I see red, and then I make no promises), but I’m not going to allow myself to come to harm if I have the ability to stop it. And if you’re using words, I’m going to walk away. You’d have better luck bringing a knife to a gun fight.

When you see red flags, please pay attention. I’ve known people who didn’t pay attention, and they paid horrible prices for ignoring the signs, and/or their intuition. An old friend was once “engaged” to a prisoner she became pen pals with, and inevitably began visiting several hours away each week while going to school full-time and being a single Mom to a young child. When he finally got out of prison (and it took her quite a while before she admitted the prison part to me), she eventually found out she wasn’t the only person he was “engaged” to, and she called me hysterical, because she now had to wait weeks for the results of an HIV test and was being tested for other STDs as well, and she was really scared. Sometime during that waiting period, she dropped off the face of the earth and I never heard from her again. Suddenly her phones were both disconnected, she stopped answering all correspondence, and as a last resort, I tried contacting her Mom to make sure she was safe. No answer. To this day, I still worry. I’ve searched over the years and have never found her. I never found a missing persons report for her or her son, and she lived with her mother, so I feel like a report would definitely have been available and/or made public to find if something bad had happened. For me, that is quite scary and I often worry about it. Could I have done more, said more? I will probably never know, but I genuinely hope she is alive, happy, healthy, and thriving. She was a good person with poor judgment, but she was also someone who simply wanted to get her degree, raise her child, and enjoy her life. She deserved that, and more.

When a person cheats on you, it has nothing to do with you. There is often something wrong with them, it’s not something you’re doing wrong, or not doing right. I can’t fake a polite hello to someone I hate, but there are people faking entire relationships! I’ve never understood it, and I likely never will. If you experience the sense that you’re being cheated on, you’re probably right, or quite possibly paranoid, you be the judge on that one. Just remember this piece of advice: Your intuition never lies to you. Unfortunately, some people mistake firm belief for intuition and they wrongly accuse people of heinous things, so be careful and do a little research before confronting someone.

One thing I’ve noticed about every ex of mine is that none of them are married or in happy, healthy relationships, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t the problem. Okay, to be fair one IS married, to the person he cheated with, and I openly admit I pray for the poor soul that has to put up with his psychotic shit.

Early on in their marriage, I was informed by close, mutual friends that he was cheating on her. She was pregnant with their first child at the time. I felt bad for her, because I’m sure she believed in him. He was, at the time, a VERY good performance artist when it came to lying in a relationship. He could have shit on someone and told them it was raining, and people would have believed him. That’s how good a liar he was. I don’t believe those things ever truly change, but I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to deal with. I pray for her, but I do not owe her anything. She & I only met once, briefly, but I immediately knew something was wrong when she looked me in the eye. I said something incredibly uncharitable to her, and, at the time, completely unlike me. Instead of denying it, she put her head down in shame. She said nothing, because she obviously had no defense. Apparently she didn’t see that as a red flag though, because she’s still with him.

Since he was the abusive relationship, I try not to think about it too much. I’m clueless how he was able to walk away from me and be engaged to her and married almost instantly when a ring was still on my finger. Yes, these things DO happen, and YES, I questioned my sanity for years after the fact. However, I’m also proud of myself. He didn’t take me down with him. Having dignity and self-respect saved me. I don’t have to take care of a narcissistic control freak who refuses to admit his faults. I have zero ties to him, and for that I am eternally grateful. I dodged a bullet. I wish I could say the same for so many others who put themselves through such complete and utter hell because they’re not strong enough to truly put their foot down and walk away.

Be honest with the person in the mirror, because that’s who you have to live with. Know your worth. You don’t have to be an adult reliving his or her childhood experiences. I’d rather go to therapy and work on me, than stay in a relationship that gains me nothing but pain. I already suffer enough without some asshole making it worse, so I’m going to keep making the right choices. I’m going to keep good, solid people in my life who would never dream of causing me such heartache. The types of people who are smart enough to realize that I’d cheerfully rip their heart out if they hurt me in such a manner.

The descent into hell IS easy, but you can make better choices. You can choose to ascend. You can choose not to allow someone to break you. Hell does not have to be “normal”. Let’s face it, there’s nothing “normal” about any of it. Be true to yourself, and don’t ever let someone drag you down to their level. You’re better than that.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

relationships3
Apart from the blatant spelling errors and text-speak, I think this is a good idea!

Motivation

I’ve always wondered what motivates people to be judgmental about things and/or people they’ve never attempted to understand. Character trait, flaw, or simply their nature? I’m never certain, but it grates on my nerves.

The majority of my family looks down upon me with much disdain because I’m “a writer”. I’ve never understood, nor will I ever, why having an actual talent marks me as “not good enough”, especially considering 99% of them have never read my work or heard me speak in public. If you think reading my work is interesting, it’s an entirely different experience hearing me express myself in a public setting.

Here are some facts about how I arrived here, as “a writer”: After realizing I’d never be an Olympic gymnast because my parents refused to let me move to Colorado Springs and train on my own, I set out to be a police officer. I studied forensic science. My goal was to be an FBI agent at some point. I was then stricken with an illness that started taking small dreams away from me, until it took the larger ones with it, as well.

I’m a trained singer, but never pursued it professionally on any level. I love it, but it’s not my passion. It’s an interest, a talent, but it’s not my life.

My writing, though? It has always stood out, from day one. Anyone can put words on a page, but it takes talent to tell a story and convey emotion. I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t give something back to me.

I don’t judge the person who decides to become an accountant, even though I’d personally die a slow, painful death to use that word in conjunction with my own name, so why does “writer” sound a whole hell of a lot like “street beggar” when it comes out of the mouth of so many people? Why is it so incredibly disrespected?

I never set out to be a reporter or a journalist, but I did study journalism. I took a plethora of creative writing classes, for which I was eventually banned. I refused to adhere to what the professors determined “proper writing”. I wanted to write the truth and I wanted to write what I believed in. I did not want to write nonsensical bullshit I had no interest in or no opinion on. In their minds, I was disrupting the entire program by refusing to conform. It’s hysterical when I think about it now, but at the time, it was incredibly frustrating. There were so many mixed messages everywhere I turned. To this day, there still are.

Last year someone told me I should, and I quote, “Get a real job.” Having been nothing but a writer and editor for so long, no normal 9-5 job will hire me. When you can’t get a job at a grocery store part-time and not a single store in the mall will hire you due to a lack of previous retail experience, it’s downright insulting. When Walmart and fast food places take a pass on you, you almost question yourself. “What have I done? Did I do something wrong? Why aren’t I ENOUGH?!”

It took a few months of unadulterated shock, but I realize now that it simply isn’t my path. It never was, or it would have fallen into place. If that’s a disappointment to someone, then that’s their problem. That anyone would encourage me to be less than who I am is a testament to how they perceive me, as opposed to how I perceive myself.

I’m not perfect. I make an exerted effort to be who I was raised to be; strong, smart, independent, sassy, honest, loyal, and real. I’ve been through a LOT. The past ten years or so have greatly challenged me and greatly harmed me, and while that is no excuse, I do feel it takes some people a little longer to get back on their feet when they’ve walked through hell-fire barefoot. If you’re 100% healthy and able-bodied to do just about anything, that’s great. When you’re throwing up 70% of your week due to excruciating migraine pain, are barely able to complete simple tasks like cleaning and laundry without feeling weak and drained of your life force, and have to fight off taking a nap at 10:00 in the morning, then you might very well be capable of holding down what some people consider to be a “real job” or a “normal job”, whatever that may mean to most people. However, I respectfully disagree that writing is any less a “job” or any less “real”.

Does writing always pay my bills? No. Does editing always pay my bills? No. Do they help me make ends meet and provide me with a strong sense of self? Yes, if I’m careful with every penny. Will I continue to struggle? At times, all good writers have struggled. There are times I will make decent five figures in a year and other times when I’m barely able to eat.

I’m motivated to write because it’s part of who I am. I’m good at it. I try very hard not to judge what other people do to pay their bills, get an education, etc. And yet, I’m judged because being “a writer” is apparently something others deem unworthy of respect. It may not always be glamorous, but at least I have strong command of the English language and know precisely how to hold someone’s attention.

I’m not motivated to hurt others or disrespect their lines of work. I don’t care if you work at a gas station or an insurance company. I don’t care if you’re a lawyer, a nurse, or a locksmith. I do, however, care if being “a writer” is something you believe is beneath you.

It’s so much more important to be a good person, to be honest, real, and loyal to those you love. I believe your health is your true wealth. I believe all of these things are far more important than the number of zeros in your bank account. Life is short, and while money can make you comfortable, it can also make you complacent. If someone had handed me a black American Express card instead of notebooks, pens, and computers, I’d probably be a very selfish, shallow, ignorant, vapid human-being, with no real understanding of the world around me or the immense value of those I hold dear.

So, I have two words to say to those who simply do not understand what it’s like to have genuine talent and follow through on it, regardless of where the path takes them. Yeah, those are the words.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED