Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Divination Project: Part 8: Saturn

It has been difficult for Alice to write for the last few days.

After she posts Part 7, she feels like a giant weight has been lifted and that she can move forward with her life. On Sunday evening, Carl tells her she is the most intelligent person he knows.

This is after they have slept together. She doesn't know how to respond. She is wondering what his motivation for telling her this is, because he doesn't give out many compliments. What does he want? Is he love bombing her?

She recognizes instantly that this is why she doesn't take compliments very well, why they unsettle her on a very basic level. She suspects a hidden motive.

"I have told you this before, haven't I?" he says.

"No, you have not. I would remember," she responds. Would she remember? Her memory feels so unreliable. He knows so many very intelligent people - probably some of the most intelligent people in the country, since they live in an area with one of the highest education rates, and his friends are mostly retired engineers in their 50's through 70's. His friends are people who design semiconductors, power supplies, antennas, rockets, artificial intelligence.

She's been picking up poop, doing dishes and laundry, maintaining the vehicles, and trying to get someone she doesn't know already to buy her art, with little luck.

Twenty-five years they have been together and he has never told her this. She is pretty sure. It seemed like he was always questioning her motivations for everything she did, so she would have remembered if he had suddenly made some declaration of inherent trust in her wisdom.

"What's funny is I have heard this from many other people," she tells him.

In a way, she feels like it is too little, too late. Does he expect this one-liner to make up for everything? Well, she will know if he can keep up the positive vibes in the coming days whether or not it is sincere, or just placation.

When she hears him lightly snoring, she puts in her earbuds and listens to music, tears falling down her face. For 25 years she has felt she had to constantly prove herself, and she is so tired.

***

Lou has left for a trip to Australia. She tells Alice that Australia is where her heart is, and Alice thinks about how badly she would like to go someday. Lou is divorced and has been single-ish for a few years. Alice and Lou have known each other on the internet for probably 8 years, but didn't get to meet in person, despite living in the same town, until two years ago, when Alice decided to take a few of Lou's yoga classes, and then hired her as her personal trainer.

Lou is highly intuitive and is a healer. She was also in some abusive relationships, including one with a boyfriend, which she cut off recently after three years with him. Alice and Lou talk a lot during Alice's sessions. When Lou was with her boyfriend, she was a different person. Now that Lou is single and dating, she is playful and full of ideas. She tells Alice about the men she is seeing and how she is feeling about them. There's not an intense soul connection, but they have great sex. Alice is enjoying getting to know Lou better, and learns a lot about herself from listening to Lou. Lou has a place she lives with an ex-boyfriend who doesn't charge her rent in exchange for her being kind of a mommy to him. This is an arrangement Alice thinks she could handle just fine with the right guy. She's a pro mommy.

They both like to fart around with astrology and tarot. On Sunday morning, Lou sends Alice a funny post about brutal horoscopes.

Under Leo, it says, "Leo will interrupt conversation to talk, and they will place themselves bodily in the way of someone who is trying to leave before the Leo is finished saying what he or she needs to say. All Leos want parades on their birthdays. Leos never marry because no one is good enough for them. If they do marry, they keep their spouses locked under the sink."

She shows it to Carl and he laughs. It is all true. He takes note of the sink comment in particular, and Alice is happy that astrology has pointed out a tendency that he might be more mindful about.

Alice's is true, too.

"The Aquarius loves a party. Anytime, anywhere is their motto. It is not unlikely that an Aquarius will consider a wake a good place to meet chicks." Okay, this level of truth is a little scary. It's not that Alice goes to funerals to meet people, but she can and does meet people and gets into deep conversations anywhere and everywhere, and is not above laughing at a funeral. She kind of wonders if this might be related to having so much Native American ancestry. "Aquarians use the phrase 'Dude, man...' frequently when describing philosophical concepts. Aquarians have out-of-body experiences on a daily basis. If you are talking to an Aquarian and he or she zones out, consider the conversation hopeless. He or she is talking to the guy three feet away from you. Aquarians are fun because they channel people. Plus, if you tell them to, they will run around naked. Aquarians like astronomy because they've been to all those places. If you want to know what the food is like on Saturn, ask an Aquarius. They can also walk on water if they try really really hard. This usually happens in the bathtub. Aquarians can allow themselves every possible vice on the planet, and don't think twice about it. This is why they piss everyone else off. They are cosmically entitled to do this. Most rock stars are Aquarians."

It's really hard to be a rock star while being kept under the kitchen sink, but Alice has been trying.

***

On Monday morning, she's feeling a little bizarre. She sleeps in because Carl has taken Nolan to his Geology class, and decides to see what her skin container is looking like. She's really indulging in sloth, and kind of wants to record it for posterity. She snaps a few photos of her laying in bed in a babydoll negligee and decides she loves the way she looks. She can't believe she actually likes the way she looks. This is a woman who never lets anyone take her photo, or secretly hates it when they do.

She's feeling up after Carl's compliment. She feels like part of her intelligence is knowing when to apply effort and knowing when to take the opportunity to relax.

She decides to post the picture on Instagram with a musing about how odd it is that she is seeing her own beauty, finally. She still had a bunch of unread message requests from the last time she did something similar, and over the next few days, a few more come in, all from men. Some of them want to sell her kratom, which she's sure she doesn't want or need. Most of them have a sexual vibe and she wonders what their intentions are, but despite being able to fend off two overtly sexual solicitors in person before Halloween, isn't sure where these kinds of things might lead.

She thinks of other women who post pictures of themselves in the vein of body positivity, and wonders if they also have a lot of strange messages from men. Some of the men are also trying to spread a message of love and light, and so she follows those ones back.

One of them comes in censored, and she is not sure what to do with that one. She's wondering what her readers would do. Probably most of them would ignore it, and that would be the normal thing to do, right?

She and Carl had watched a documentary about sexting several weeks ago where she learned that photos of women sent to men can be posted anywhere on the internet, and wonders if these men are trying to get her to play a little game for their own fun, or to sell whatever photos of her they are hoping she will send. It seems like a potentially dangerous game to play, but also maybe harmless, if it's with someone she trusts.

She learned early on in her relationship with Carl that men can and do fantasize about women they know or see, and so she knows that this has happened over the years anyway, and doesn't worry about it. A male friend told her this about her recently, and she said she was happy she was able to help him feel pleasure, even if she wasn't there physically. She thinks there are a lot of worse things men can use their time and energy for.

***

Over the weekend, Sally needs a new winter coat and picks a few out online for Alice to order. To save on shipping, Alice looks through the other offerings on the two websites, and discovers the motherlode of sweater dresses, and a sale - buy one get one for $10. Alice loves sweater dresses, tights, stockings, and velvet during the winter. She loves feeling like a big cuddle. The initial offering that she can't refuse is a lavender chenille v-neck sweater dress. She has shrunk out of many of the things she wore last winter, now out of plus-sized clothing, and she's been meaning to buy some new sweaters, anyway. The initial order comes over the weekend and much of the stuff is too big, so she must return it to the local store. Unfortunately, she has to re-order things from the website, but the replacements come quickly.

When the replacement clothes come on Monday, she tries them on in the kitchen. Nolan is gone, and Sally is still asleep. Sally comes down while she is in the middle of swapping one dress for another, and apologizes and turns to leave.

"You don't have to leave. You've seen my body before," she says. Carl is there, too, and has obviously seen her body. Nolan is at school. Sally sits down at the kitchen island, and Alice steps into the nearby bathroom to look at the sweater dress she has just donned in the mirror. The lavender chenille one is not flattering, but she doesn't care. Sally comes over and pets her arm.

"This is amazing. You have to keep it," she says.

"I know! I feel like a stuffed animal!" Alice replies.

She knows it looks dumpy, so she jokes to Sally that she used to have this giant Mickey Mouse pajama top she would wear, and since she had to retire it, the lavender chenille sweater might just have to take its place. Carl used to moan and groan about the Mickey Mouse sweater being a subtle message to him that she was not in the mood. Sometimes she did put it on, knowing that it was like kryptonite to him. Eventually she had to throw it away because it had too many holes in it.

The other sweater dresses are, well, let's just say they're a little more daring than she is used to wearing in public, but last week she wore one of her old ones to school and got lots of compliments. She figured if she couldn't wear a sweater dress in public, she wasn't confident enough to model, so she had to be brave and give it a try. She calls her own bluff.

They're a little short for a woman in her 40's, maybe. Or is that even a thing? Maybe that is a level of shaming she needs to transcend. Someone has to be brave, right? That gives permission to others, if they choose to see it that way, rather than be judgmental.

***

Alice has also received her new bras and tries them on. To her delight, they fit perfectly around her ribcage, and she won't have to bother with sending them back. One is maybe a bit too tight in the cup, but she'll just have to deal with that, she decides.

Her breasts feel like such a liability. Each year her doctor tells her she needs to have a $1200 mammogram. She has conflicting feelings about this, having had two scares, in which radiologists always pronounce her breast tissue too dense to make sense of, and then they order an ultrasound, which is less expensive, anyway. She thinks it is stupid that the insurance company or imaging center or whatever requires her to schedule an appointment for an expensive test that may increase her risk of cancer and also not tell anyone anything, and also cause Carl to be upset. She knows many other women whose breast tissue is too dense and who have to fight this same fight every year. How many sessions of coupon-cutting does it take to earn oneself an expensive and potentially useless mammogram each year?

Carl actually used to design mammography units when they lived in California and has mixed feelings about their safety. He is an expert on radiation. Going to the dentist with the kids is always frustrating because of the dentists' insistence on annual x-rays. Everything in the world is moving away from trust in the expertise and intuition of people and toward the hard numbers provided by machines, because people have this inherent belief in the accuracy of machines. But the thing is, machines don't have any wisdom or intuition.

One year Alice had gone to the dentist, who told her she had a cavity in a molar in the upper left quadrant. At the time, she did not have money to fill the cavity, so she just let it go. She never had pain in the tooth, anyway. Six months later, she went to the dentist again and he did another x-ray, finding cavities in the lower right quadrant. He instructed her to make an appointment on the way out, and she asked him, "What about the one in the upper left quadrant?"

"What are you talking about?" the man, who had been a dentist on the news at one time, questioned.

"I had one in the upper left quadrant six months ago. Does it not show up on the x-ray?" she asked. The dentist had a fancy shmancy new x-ray machine with digital processing in it, which Carl had warned her about. Many of the post-processing techniques can amplify any sort of irregularity, making it appear more emergent than it really is, or turning nothing into something. So, if a patient chooses to have a very early cavity drilled, it wouldn't have the opportunity to heal.

Yes, heal.

The dentist looked really flustered. He went into the file system on the machine and brought up her x-ray from six months prior. There was the "cavity" in the digitally-processed file, in the upper left quadrant, nowhere to be seen in the new picture, even with processing. The dentist started sweating.

"Well, I don't know what to tell you. Why didn't you get that one filled?" he stammered. He was now sweating profusely.

"I didn't think it was a hurry. It didn't hurt," Alice said.

It was from that experience that Alice became a believer in the human body's ability to heal, and also very cautious about the use of diagnostic imaging.

Carl would like her to get a new mammogram this year, and she doesn't really want to, because if she has breast cancer, she's not sure she would undergo treatment anyway. It would be too much of a financial burden on Carl, because any huge thing like that makes it harder for him to retire someday. She'd be better off in that situation if she were much poorer or much richer.

Her last scare happened after an underwire broke in her bra and she had gone skeet shooting with her mother. There was a lump in the bottom of her left breast about the size of a little smoky sausage. Then, there was another one under her right underarm that was similar, and her doctor found a troubling mass above her right breast, and ordered a diagnostic mammogram. This was the only mammogram she has ever had, and the film was completely unreadable. The radiologist sent her into the back room with Carl, and an ultrasound technician squeezed cold gel onto her breasts and fumbled around for a while in the dark and quiet.

When the technician was done, they waited worried in the dim room for the radiologist to come in. It was at this moment that Alice realized the masses were from being poked by the underwire in her aging bra (for just one day), and then shooting with the 20 gauge rather than the 12 gauge shotgun at the dude ranch with her mother a month or so earlier. The muzzle velocity on the 20 gauge is much higher, but a new man who filled in for the sheriff had told her to use the 20 because it is lighter. She only got 5 shots off that year before she had to stop because the shotgun had left a huge bruise (where the new mass was). For a few years prior, she had shot many rounds out of the 12 gauge shotgun with the sheriff of the county without getting a bruise or getting tired.

"It's benign. Just some fibrous masses," said the radiologist. Fibrocystic breast disease means that she will be a human pincushion if she doesn't put her foot down. She's had this talk with many friends, and has four who are survivors, who have varying opinions about what to do.

Vitamin A is protective against fibrosis, she wants you to know. Not everyone converts beta carotene easily. She has been more mindful of getting enough Vitamin A since the skeet shooting and old bra incident. Now the only lump in her bra is a piece of labradorite she carries for good luck.

She had started taking Vitamin K2, which aids in bone mineralization, in the months between the two dental x-rays. Maybe it healed her cavity. Who knows.

***

In the afternoon, she takes Sally to Lydia's house to hang out with Lydia's daughter. Lydia has a day off her job as a bookseller and so Alice joins her for a half hour to catch up on things.

Alice tells Lydia what Carl said to her the night before about her intelligence and Lydia says, "Yeah, well it's true."

Lydia is extremely intelligent, even though she didn't finish high school or go to college. Alice has realized that a lot of people who struggle in school do so precisely because the school system is not serving them appropriately. It fails people on either end of the bell curve, really. She knows lots of parents who insist on trying to make the system work for their above-average children, rather than just recognizing that the system doesn't really have resources to nurture significant talent in children. If the kids' parents have time, then they can supplement the child's education. If they have lots of time, they can supply the education entirely. It doesn't even require that much money, even though people often think it does. People spend a lot more on designer clothing.

Lydia has been offered a managerial position at the bookstore, but doesn't want to take it right now.

"I told you so!! What I said, what I said," laughs Alice. They had a discussion a few months ago where Alice mentioned that Lydia's household was one of the few where the housework was shared pretty well among the members of the family, without having created adversarial relationships. Lydia is a big fan of Nintendo and gamified everything in their lives, especially chores. She had a fun, playful spirit and people were always drawn to her for this reason. Alice had said she would make an excellent manager, and that she thought it wouldn't be long before she was promoted.

Lydia asks what is going on with Campbell, and Alice fills her in.

"Really? 'Put a pin in it?' So, everything is just on hold?" Lydia asks.

"Yeah. Funny, isn't it? I feel like I get this big break and then he finds someone to stick his dick in, and I'm just out in the cold," Alice says.

"Sorry," Lydia says.

"You warned me," Alice reminds her. "Thank you for that. She is pretty. Older, has grey hair. Kind face. He is apparently totally mushed up in the head about her, or at least that is his excuse." Alice feels a twang of pain, wondering if as long as she stays with her family, opportunity will always pass her by. Men will always act like they are interested, but unless she can go the whole 9 yards, she will get passed over for someone who will, at least by a man. Plus, men will always end up distancing themselves from her when they discover the true nature of her relationship with Carl, she realizes. She is tainted goods. They want a woman who can stand on her own two feet, who isn't dependent.

The alarm on Alice's phone goes off. She has to set alarms for herself because she gets so lost in conversation she will forget to leave if she's going to get on her with day, and she is supposed to meet Charlotte to write at the coffee shop in just 15 minutes, after she has returned the ill-fitting sweater dresses.

***

She tries to text Charlotte, but her phone never recognizes Charlotte's last name when she talks to it while driving. Luckily, Charlotte texts her and she can just reply.

"I am sorry, I am running late," Alice says.

"No worries. I will wait in my car or go in and get coffee," Charlotte says.

The traffic is unusually thick out to Centerra, and when she arrives, someone is driving 5 MPH in front of her through the parking lot. She feels a little worried for inconveniencing Charlotte, but otherwise is happy to take the slower approach. Alice's mind is quite busy, so slowing down is usually a good thing.

At the store, a beautiful young woman who is differently-abled helps Alice and she takes this as a definite sign to slow down. She has some really nervous energy after launching Part 7 into the Universe, and can't wait to see Charlotte. She remembers how cashiers often thank her for her patience, and thinks of Lydia's experience in retail dealing with impatient cashiers, coworkers, and sometimes managers, and decides that often that energy can be tempered with just a bit of patience from any direction, which she can surely provide. Any sense of hurry is in her head, even though she hasn't had much in the way of solid food, yet.

***

When she finally gets to the coffee shop, Charlotte is still in her car. They decide to "go for a walk" (Charlotte's words) before heading into the coffee shop. The day is sunny, the first one in quite a few days, so they walk along the trail behind the coffee shop and share their new vape pens. Charlotte's is blueberry, and she decides to lend it to Alice for the week. They get lazy about trying to hide what they are doing. They are writers. Some writers do this kind of stuff to get past their shame and dig in to find the words. Life can make it hard to find the words.

Alice couldn't hold it inside for long. Charlotte had been proofreading her writing so she wanted to let her know that she felt like maybe Jeff had sent her a smoke signal after Part 6, and that she wrote Part 7 as a way to let him know that the ball is in his court, and smoke signals don't count anymore. But she hadn't heard from him, so maybe it is all a figment of her imagination. She feels a twinge of pain in her heart when she says this. She worries a lot about maybe having delusions of grandeur, or erotomania, which can be indicative of the prodromal phase of schizophrenia. She doesn't know her maternal grandfather's health history, and she carries a polymorphism in her catechol-O-methyltransferase gene, which regulates B-12 recycling as well as dopamine, and has been inconclusively linked to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia and cannabis use may have some connection, too. Siggy has told her that she does not have schizophrenia, but she hasn't told Siggy that she believes the Tarot might actually be channeling something. The scientist in her squirms when she thinks this. And then, she thinks of most of the world's population that believes in something out there, and wonders whether or not most of the people in the world have schizophrenia, too.

Or maybe he just has no idea he is playing a game with her. And in that case, he's totally not the guy, by definition. The right guy will know how to play.

One day in therapy, Alice told Siggy she finally realized that everyone is at least a little bit crazy. As in, "We're all mad here." Siggy smirked. It was part and parcel of therapy for Alice to throw out diagnoses for Siggy to refute. Alice sees the Tarot as kind of a computer simulation of what could happen for a person given certain actions. It might not resonate for a person if they can't imagine themselves in that energy. But sometimes the energy is right on, and can be helpful in guiding elevation in consciousness. At the very least, Alice thinks the tarot to be potentially useful in her creative work as a writer and artist, but it is proving to be much more powerful than that. She would really like to believe that if one's heart is in the right place, the Tarot can guide them to manifest whatever will bring joy and abundance to as many people as possible. But she also believes that she can't possibly know how that will manifest in her life, just that she has to follow a loving path to figure out what that is, because in doing that, the Universe will guide her, step by step.
 
Yeah, Alice is an idealist like that. It's probably her best quality. Sometimes she slips up, because she is human, but she really really does want to be an agent of compassion and love in this world, and she believes if that's what she really wants to do, and she practices it as much as possible, the Universe will make it more and more rewarding. The Universe will bring people who share the same vision to change the world.

When Charlotte and Alice go into the coffee shop, Alice orders a ham and cheese croissant. She desperately needs some protein. And then she orders a caramel and white chocolate latte to go with it. The barista asks her if she wants sweetened or sugar-free whip, and it dawns on Alice that they may have changed their cream vendor, because she doesn't remember these options from before. There is only one producer in the area that doesn't use carrageenan, something Alice used to put on rats' paws in the laboratory to cause pain in order to test the effectiveness of opiates. She cannot believe this is a common dairy additive, and wonders how many people eat this and believe they have lactose intolerance. Charlotte is clued in to carrageenan's effects as an excitotoxin like MSG, and that's why she likes to come to this particular coffee shop. When Alice asks, the barista informs her that yes, they still use the trusted local vendor for cream. These kinds of things annoy the hell out of Carl. Over the years he has made no bones about being bothered by Alice's peculiar requests, which originated through her trying to help Nolan with his sensory integration issues. She discovered she had a lot of the same issues, actually, and has learned that many people have the same issues, they just haven't taken the time to figure out what is at the root of their depression or their heartburn, because it takes time and energy they simply don't have. But Alice and Charlotte do.

Charlotte is so very compassionate. Alice wishes that Charlotte could extend the same compassion to herself as she does to the other people she knows. Charlotte is teaching Chi Gong, participating in an Eckhart Tolle Power of Now discussion group, and reading a Deepak Chopra book. Alice read Chopra's book on parenting when she was pregnant with Sally, and everything resonated with her. It was probably around this time that Alice and Charlotte first met on the internet, long before they would meet in person. It was a relationship they had both put mindful effort into over the years. They had both witnessed incredible transformations in each other, sharing insights and helping each other along.

They talk about how powerful NaNoWriMo has been for both of them. Alice has an idea about creating a website where people in abusive relationships can write anonymously about their experiences and maybe have patrons. Alice shares a lot of herself with other people and never gets monetary reimbursement for her effort, and she wonders if this is part of what is keeping her stuck... giving away so much of herself without expectation of any return. But she knows inside that she could just start charging money for many of the things she knows how to do already, which she enjoys, and probably make an okay living.

She asks Charlotte if she should write out several endings to her book in kind of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" kind of way. She always liked those books when she was a kid. She jokes to Charlotte that she could write each one out as a separate piece of erotica and then put them on her site for money. Then she asks Charlotte if every writer who Charlotte knows ends up writing erotica. Alice knows three women who write erotica, now, so why not, she thinks. But then she wonders if she will get the same amount of catharsis from writing about her fantasies as she gets from writing about her trauma, and she doesn't know.

Alice brings some oracle cards with her, and Charlotte wants to do a reading for Alice.

The middle card in the spread, the challenge, is Leap reversed. Charlotte reads from the book, and the passage talks about letting go of what doesn't serve her highest good anymore. Charlotte thinks this means Jeff, but Alice points out that we often don't know what the Universe has in store for us for our higher purpose, and that it is possible it is time to let go of Carl, or maybe even just fully let go of thinking she knows what is supposed to happen in her life. Alice doesn't think she has to make up her mind, anyway, because she believes the Universe will give her little signs along the way. She knows how to navigate the pain in her current relationship, so nothing is pressing, and she can work on it. It's really hard, but she's growing a lot and making a lot of progress through the challenges, and Carl is growing, too. She knows so many people who divorced and held on to a lot of the pain, rather than trying to heal, and she knows that the pain of his parents' divorce is part of the reason why Carl hurts so much, so she doesn't want to do that to him, again.

"Yes, remember," Charlotte reminds her, "no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."

"Exactly," Alice replies, "Plus, there are many fish in the sea."

It's so hard, though. Is life supposed to be this hard? she thinks. Her life has been so hard. She never really got to be a kid. Kind of like Drew Barrymore, who also lost her childhood around age 7. She really just needs to be a kid again. She needs someone to play with her, to be her friend, not her daddy. She thinks of Jeff's last Instagram post, a picture of himself with a good old fashioned cardboard robot. She loved making things from cardboard. She knows what joy is and she wants to share it with the world. She doesn't want to give her brain trust and energy to engineering companies for free anymore.

Alice cries openly in the middle of the coffee shop. She is not embarrassed. Charlotte does not leave her, but gives her a hug. Charlotte didn't get to be a kid, either, so she understands.

"It's nice to have a best friend again," Charlotte tells Alice.

"Yes, it is," Alice says, holding her arms out for a hug.

***

Carl had left her crying on a bus bench on their 22nd anniversary this year, on the eclipse, while waiting for a table at a restaurant in Fort Collins. It was right after they had seen the Mister Rogers movie, and she had pulled the car over to comfort him as he cried before heading to the restaurant. It was the day of the total lunar eclipse, July 27. Multiple horoscopes had told her that some undeniable truth about a relationship would make itself obvious, and there it was, staring her in the face. She had told him about her concern that after giving her life to raise her children, she would be heading into caring for all of their parents. She is pretty sure that will be the case with her parents, because her sister is perpetually under water with her career and children, but at least their parents have a supportive community around them. Carl's parents have very few connections in their community, and Carl's sister, who is most close to them lives an hour away in Denver. Alice and Carl have been told in no uncertain terms that the reason they are executors, administrators, etc. is because they are the responsible ones, and neither of them can get over the feeling that they are being punished for being "responsible" which essentially means that they have asked their parents for very little over the years in comparison with their siblings. Alice has done research online and has figured out that women on average give up $324,044 in lost wages and social security from caregiving. Their other siblings have two income households. Earlier in the week, Alice was put on the spot by Carl's mother in front of another family member in a healthcare career, asking her to review her medications for her post breast cancer care, since she had just had another seizure. Alice had simply mentioned to Carl while sitting on the bench how uncomfortable she was under the circumstances, while crying, and Carl got upset with her and walked away.

She wasn't sure what caused him to walk away - was it embarrassment for her public display of emotion, or was it frustration that she had been, in his eyes, living off the fat of the land, and now unwilling to give back?

Siggy had asked her once if people ever told her she was selfish. Nobody ever said that out loud to Alice's face, but she worried about it.

***

Later last week, Carl had realized that maybe the United States wasn't the good guy. That maybe the United States is actually a narcissist. He finally sees the evil in believing that vengeance is the answer, which he admits has always been his belief.

Alice suddenly realized, in that moment, that she never really understood Carl, and wonders if she ever will understand him, or anyone.

It probably doesn't matter, as long as she understands herself.

***

When she gets home after picking up Sally, Carl is visibly irritated again. He informs Alice that he has purchased tickets to see their client in January and also to California in early December. She ordinarily would panic, but she is still relaxed from the toke she had earlier with Charlotte. She tells him she hopes he isn't getting all riled up over hosting Thanksgiving, that it need not be perfect. When she cleans for guests, she does so because she thinks it an opportunity to tidy up. She never feels like it needs to be perfect. She is worried that the family might think she needs it to be perfect, so she is sure to tell Carl and Sally several times that it doesn't need to be perfect, and she tells Nolan he doesn't have to help if he doesn't have time. It's near the end of the semester and he is overwhelmed with homework and projects.

Carl seems calmer after having dinner. She goes upstairs with her phone and the Blueberry flavored indica Charlotte lent her. She watches all the current Tarot videos and is struck by one discussing her need to leave an energy which is keeping her back. A person who can't celebrate when she is happy. A person who is always competing with her. In the next few days, Alice would feel, according to the reader, an intense need to make a 90-degree turn in the relationship.

Holy crap, Alice thinks, this sounds just like my relationship with Carl. Siggy had asked her if she felt he would be willing to see a therapist now, and Alice had been hesitant to ask him at the time. But now, she had realized that so much of her being was tied up in his moods from his disappointment with work that she was needing a lot of cannabis to make it through. It was only fair for her to explain this to Carl so maybe he could get his wife back. Yes, this is what I need to do, she thought.

She sends the video to Charlotte, who transcribes the eerily accurate words into text, amazed at the accuracy of the reading.

***

The next day is Tuesday, which is typically a busy day for them. Carl has his networking lunch that day, and so Alice ends up driving Nolan out to Greeley for his gig as President of the English Honor Society at the community college. Typically Carl drops Nolan off at his morning class in downtown Loveland, but this day, he comes upstairs to find Alice clothed and brushing her teeth with a towel on her head, and says to her, "Oh good, you're taking Nolan."

From the tone of his voice, and his demeanor the day before, she is afraid to decline, but bothered because after Monday she is feeling like an uninterrupted morning at home would be awfully nice.

Galaxy Tarot App notifies her that the Tarot Card of the Day is The Fool. As discussed previously, Alice is a Fool, and so she takes this to mean that she can't expect anything in particular from this day, but that it will probably be a good one. She decides to be brave, and she feels the Fool energy, anyway, so it shouldn't be difficult.

She drives Nolan to class wearing the towel on her head.

When she gets home, she takes the towel off and goes to her studio to catch up on her Tarot class.

After a while, Carl comes down to her studio. His mood is clearly low. The other engineering consultant in the area was going to fly with him to Asia, but changed her ticket to a different airline at the last minute. Carl really hates traveling alone. Also, he hasn't been able to choose his seats.

It's way too early in the day for this, she thinks. "I have been thinking... do you remember how you said about a month ago that you were willing to see a therapist? I think that would be a really great idea. It's difficult for me being your only emotional support person right now."

She doesn't mention that online it is mentioned in many places that a woman never act as her husband's therapist.

He is not happy.

He goes to his networking lunch, but to the wrong restaurant.

When he comes home, he is even less happy, and barely speaks to her. Then, when he leaves the house again, he calls her to ask her to make his seat selection for his flight, just as she is settling in to meditation. She stays on the phone with him, clearly discussing each of the seats, concerned that when he goes on the trip he will not be happy with what she chose for him. She fears his anger, and then realizes how ridiculous this is. She cares for him and is doing her best. If he doesn't understand that, it's his problem.

In the afternoon, Alice goes to Maggie's house. They are going to paint together, but Alice doesn't have her art stuff with her, so instead they end up sitting in Maggie's sunroom, using Alice's vape pen and some hash in Maggie's PAX2. For folks who don't know what hash is, it is "the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant (Wikipedia)."

Alice and Maggie have a lot of catching up to do, because they haven't seen each other since the Doors concert. Alice gripes about asking Carl to go to therapy. Maggie talks about her own family's therapy experiences.

Alice offers to model for Maggie, but Maggie isn't interested this time. Alice thought to mention it because she was trying to keep up her efforts in the positive self image department, slightly concerned that by the time Adam can get together with her again, she will chicken out. Thank goodness she doesn't model this day, anyway...

The solar installer guy comes early for an appointment, and Maggie needs to manage Cujo, her German Shepherd. Alice uses her phone to Google "work at home marriage," and learns that it's common for men who work at home to become increasingly isolated and controlling, and for women to end up taking on the larger burden of chores and becoming depressed. This actually gives her hope, because often when she realizes something has become a certain way because they have just fallen into a pattern that is easy to fall into, the awareness allows them to choose to be different.

It's like seeing an evil and calling out its name to dispel it. The Native Americans have this concept in the word "wetiko" - Google it when you get a chance.

The women take Cujo on a hike up to the top of the Devil's Backbone and they look out over the city, talking about how hard their husbands' jobs have been over the years.

Maggie and Alice talk about what's next for Alice, and Alice says she doesn't know. Maggie tells Alice that her honest advice is that she needs to get out there and talk to people and write about it because it's what makes her happy and she has a lot to share with the world.

Alice jokes with her about writing out all of her fantasies as a Choose Your Own Adventure end to her book, and then asks her if she thinks doing that will help her let go, or make it harder.

Maggie thinks it will be harder to let go because it will make them more real.

They both tell each other how happy they are to have each other in each other's life, and Alice feels abundance.

Alice leaves at 4:45 after her alarm goes off to take the kids to Lydia's house for Top Gun Tuesday. Every year for several years, Lydia and her old best friend celebrated Top Gun Tuesday on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Lydia and her friend had a huge falling out during a very stressful time for Lydia, and they aren't talking anymore. Lydia's daughter Saoirse, Sally's good friend, still wants to have Top Gun Tuesday, so she invites Nolan and Sally. When Alice gets home, she finds Sally and Nolan dressed up in an improvised flight suit and Navy white uniform, complete with aviator glasses. From first glance, their costumes are very convincing, but on closer inspection, Sally has an olive green raincoat tucked into her skinny jeans and round Flipside Arcade stickers for badges on the shoulders and chest. Nolan had on khaki pants and a white button down shirt emblazoned with duct tape "stripes."

She drops the kids off and watches them go in the front door of the church-turned-house while Lydia's husband steps out the side door, waving. Alice waves back. Maybe she should stay and chat with him. He spends a lot of time alone outside, smoking and watching videos on his phone, standing next to a propane heater. He is a lot of fun, and Alice considers him her friend. But she also thought there might be something exciting to look forward to at home...

The elusive empty house. Alice was almost never home alone, in 17 years. She could count the number of times in the first 15 years after Nolan's birth on one hand!

She quickly runs by the post office to get the mail for their business and then pulls into the driveway at home.

When she gets there, she realizes the trash cans she had wheeled to the garage door to go into the garage are gone, and that Carl is most likely home.

She enters the code to the garage and steps carefully around the mower in the dark. The bulb on that garage door opener has been burnt out for years, and she could have changed it 25 times in the amount of time it has taken to type this chapter, but she hasn't.

The car he took is in the garage. He is definitely home.

***

She walks into the kitchen. It is just the two of them, and his energy is heavy.

"Have you eaten?" he says.

"No," she answers. "I am hungry."

"Would you like a brie sandwich?" he offers, reservedly.

"Yes, please. That sounds nice," she says.

She empties the dishwasher and reloads it while he is making the sandwiches. They don't talk as much as they usually do, and it dawns on Alice that they are never home alone and that this is a real gift.

"Hey. I know you're not happy, but we have the house all to ourselves until 8:30. Do you really want to spend this time in an icky way?" she offers.

"I don't know," he says, coldly.

She takes a gamble and calls his bluff. She takes off her shirt, exposing her new bra to him. He shakes his head.

"Oh, come on. Anyway, if I can't feel comfortable naked around you here in the house, then I can't do this modeling thing," she reasons.

No response. She remains quiet for a while, thinking.

"You know, it's been forever since we have fucked in the living room," she says.

She looks at his face. "I see your dimple," she says, and then she takes off her pants.

She eats her whole sandwich and then some blueberries, standing in the kitchen in her bra and panties. It feels wonderful. Liberating.

"Aren't you getting cold?" Carl says.

"No, not really," she responds.

"I'm cold," he says.

"Well, we'll have to warm each other up!" she announces.

She hears her phone give a notification, and checks it. There is another message from an unknown man. "Wanna see all my dick pics?" she says.

"You have dick pics?" he asks.

"No, I don't know what they are, really," and she accidentally clicks on the one that is censored, and it is a portrait of a younger looking male, smiling, with a little heart on the side. No penis. It was actually quite sweet. Now she wonders if she has unfairly judged all the messages she got from the men.

They lie down on a studio sofa by the window with the lights out. They are there, in the quiet, saying nothing. He is feeling her leg, her belly, her side, her arm. Rubbing, gently.

"I love our living room. It's so cozy. It's nice to get to be in here like this, just... natural. You know?" she says.

"Yes, it will be really nice when the kids go," he pauses and softens his voice just a little, maybe to a level he thinks she won't hear, but she does, "If you stay."

That pang pokes her in the heart, and she swallows. He knows she is just waiting to answer The Call, whatever it is, and in the meantime it is with him. What he doesn't know is that she hasn't given up hope that he heals and they are able to answer the next one together. He doesn't know that she and Maggie were dreaming up businesses the four of them could do.

He is still gliding his hands over her body.

She remembers a few months earlier when she tried to get him interested in the Tantra, and he didn't understand what was in it for him, and thus didn't want to learn about it. She had read an Instagram post about rebuilding passion in a relationship through spending some time not "going all the way" - just maybe holding hands, or feeling each others shoulders.

She tells him about it, and he indicates that he won't be satisfied with that level of connection, but still continues touching her gently.

As they start to get more serious, he asks if they should close the curtain.

"No, the light is out. That is fine," she says.

***

About a year ago, Alice became interested in reading about Female Copulatory Vocalization. In other words, the noises women make during sex. There is some amount of research in humans showing that these noises serve to increase pleasure in both the male and the female.

So let's think about this for a minute.

How many households with children in them get to take advantage of the benefits of female copulatory vocalization?

One of the things that Alice learned about herself in the shower was that if she let herself make just a little noise, the release was better. So when she saw the research showing that making noise made sex better for men and women, it made sense to her.

She remembered when Sally and Nolan were little and slept in Alice and Carl's bed, there was a lot of shame from the Christian Fundamentalists for sharing a bed with children. In a lengthy discussion on some attachment parenting board, some people who had lived overseas commented that in various other cultures, parents often have sex in the same room as their children because that's just the way it has to be. There is no shame in it. One woman even recalled that boys are allowed in the women's side of Japanese bath houses with their female relatives until they are about 14 years old.

So, one day, she decides that she doesn't have to be so quiet, that maybe it is actually healthy for her children to hear their parents' lovemaking a little bit, and that ends up being somewhat of a game changer.

Kind of like adding cannabis to their sex life.

Carl and Alice have a little game they play called "Top 10," where they compare the most recent orgasm to their top 10 of all time. The best ones moved from being in the early years of their relationship to the time when they added cannabis.

Cannabis + not having to be quiet = Yowza. It was easily one of the best. Definitely in the Top 10.

***

She lay there, too sensitive to move, drifting in and out of sleep. All of a sudden, she wakes and says, "Why in the hell would you think that because I was asking you to see a therapist, I didn't love you anymore? I was asking you to see a therapist precisely because I do love you! I think a therapist can help you work through a lot of your work issues, and can maybe even help you figure out what you want to do next in your career! I want the best for you, and I think a therapist can help you better than I can."

She gets divine inspiration like this a lot after orgasm.

But she can't remember if he said he would go or not, because she was on Saturn when he replied.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Divination Project: Part 7: Fucking Adults

<Click here for Part 1: Mind Fuck>


It is now Saturday afternoon. The agenda for the weekend is to clean the house for Thanksgiving next week. Alice and Carl have decided to host because energetically it makes the most sense. Carl loves roasting the turkey and Alice's mom loves to make a fuss over how beautiful it looks. Since Sally spends so much time at home, and her inner neat freak has taken hold, she tends to go around the house tidying up. Nobody knows where anything is anymore, but that's okay. It's around there somewhere. They don't have too much to do to get ready for their guests this year, so Alice can get a little more writing done.

***

Nolan wrote his first app for the Google Store several months ago, and had to make a hard decision about whether or not to lie about his age, or have one of his parents submit the app for him. The whole family finds this rather ridiculous, especially Alice, who by Nolan's age had gone to the World Championship with her OM team, had etched windows for million dollar homes in Castle Rock, had led the most successful Junior Achievement project in the nation, had made a relief map of the Gulf of California for the Jason Project which was displayed at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, had been the first minor on her church's session, had gone to Washington DC to learn to write and debate bills and meet her senators and representatives, had vocal and instrumental solos, had "grown up" jobs typing foreclosure and HUD legal documents and transcribing medical research, and, and, and. Alice was one of those lucky young people, who, although emotionally abused, was thoroughly supported and encouraged in her leadership pursuits. It was because of this that she had a reasonable idea of what risks were worth taking in her life.

Ultimately, she left the decision up to Nolan. She had seen a disturbing pattern among parents where they removed the decision-making process from their children's lives. She heard from community college instructors and through the news from university professors that incoming freshmen and sophomores had absolutely no executive function, and she had a feeling this came from not having any control over their own lives. Many parents, she noted, had no idea what the difference between encouragement and control was. Parenting advice when children are toddlers tends to revolve around giving children choices between two things, and she noticed that a lot of parents stayed in this paradigm rather than helping the youth understand that choices become more and more complicated as a person ages. So, we end up, as a society, with people seeing things in a very binary fashion, rather than being able to go with the flow.

Alice realizes that Nolan might not be aware of all of his options. He could "accidentally" choose the wrong year, and then apologize after the fact. It was short-sighted of Google to not include people under the age of 18 in their community program. Nolan's project, called "Where's My Stuff?" had come in second for the hackathon, earning him rights to submit his app to Google, which helped inventory items in a house using voice recognition through Google Assistant. He had helped the other two programmers whose projects came in first and third. His project was written in response to Alice and Shayla's repeated discussions about how 90% of their brain power was dedicated to keeping track of stuff for the family, and what a ridiculous use of brain space that was. Alice was proud of Nolan for using his exceptional talent to help people. His application had received enough downloads that he was sent a free Google Home.

Ultimately, they felt that Nolan should have his own name on his project. Both Alice and Carl felt icky about parents who lived vicariously through their kids. Parents should have their own achievements, they felt. It is wholly narcissistic to put pressure on one's child to perform, and part of the burden of narcissism in this country.

Nolan and his father were the only two people who made it through the tensor flow (artificial intelligence) exercises that Google had given their group to solve in Boulder. Nolan was programming physics simulation engines before he had even taken physics. Okay, Nolan still hasn't taken physics because he has to take a CLEP exam to get credit for high school physics, which Alice finds ridiculous for him. Nolan and Sally are capable of learning anything, because they are given the support and encouragement they need to learn, and learning is not made stressful. Lots of other kids, even homeschooled kids, have blocks around learning because of fear that they can't do it, because of the unnecessary pressure that was put on them to learn something when they weren't quite ready (but the average student their age should have been ready, according to the Department of Education in that particular state). Alice has been very careful to let her kids learn in their own time, so when it comes time, it is easy for them.

"What about holes?" a friend of Alice's mother had once asked. This woman is an expert in tech education and has two kids, now adults, who have graduate degrees in their respective fields. The older one followed a very traditional path and is a professor in the UC system in California. The other one had a lot of trouble in school, so the fact that he has had a successful career in the art world in New York City and a graduate degree in Art History from Yale is a surprise to everyone. Not to Alice. He needed some time to detoxify before he knew what he wanted to do.

"You don't have any holes?" Alice asked her. "I have lots of holes in my knowledge. I look at them as an opportunity for something to learn later, and also a source of humility." In fact, Alice has built an un-library in her home around this very idea. Her books are there, because she doesn't have time to read them all, as a reminder to her of all the things she doesn't know yet, and might never know. It was easy for Alice, for a lot of years, to become frustrated with people for the things they didn't know, and then, all of a sudden, like a ton of bricks (or books), she realized that she was in a unique position, not having to work outside the home, to read whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, unlike most people. To become enlightened. Most people are too busy to learn, and too exhausted to notice when The Universe is trying to teach them something. Furthermore, having tried and tried to share her knowledge with people, she realized she needed to wait until they asked. If she tried to teach them, they wouldn't have it. Plus, if the lesson came to them when they were open to it, it took root on a deeper, more meaningful level. It is that way for her, too.

***

She doesn't have any idea what the hell is going on with Jeff. He had clearly been interested in her on some level when she was no longer his student, but she grew tired of his "subtle mind bullshit" as she called it to her friends, and made several attempts to bring things out into the open to discuss them. Like fucking adults. Well, mostly. First she tried playing his game and telling him that she's had lots of crushes over the course of her marriage, and that it's normal and she's usually able to let them go. Wishful thinking on her part, of course, since it takes years for her to do this. He told her he didn't read her emails, and Carl was so happy to hear this, because he knew it represented a major fall from grace for Jeff.

From her natal chart: 292 Conjunction Sun - Mercury 4 degrees 12': Your opinions are usually strong and you are an independent thinker. You tend to be proud of your opinions and thoughts and might easily get a bruised ego if you are not "heard," if your opinions are pushed aside or ignored, or if your opinions are criticized. You are expressive and possibly a very animated speaker. You are also very witty and others enjoy your playful and sometimes mischievous sense of humor.

It triggers the wound in her of the little girl who was silenced. Because although she was certainly empowered on a lot of levels, she has been silenced a lot in her marriage and by men in general, especially in employment situations. In fact, a big reason she decided to stay home with Nolan was because not one, not two, but three female scientists had told her that the chase for tenure was not worth it, and having children was much more rewarding, and she imagined as a scientist, fighting to get your voice heard in the sausage party that science was at the time must not be so easy.

If she hadn't needed to continue taking Nolan and Sally to class that semester, it would have been so easy to let go. When Jeff came by after that week when he told her he didn't read her email, she purposefully averted her gaze when he came by to play his "eye fucking" game with her. Nope, she thought. Not playing anymore. I was trying to have an actual discussion, but you only want games. Is this your way of showing me respect? Feminist my ass. She was simultaneously delighted that he still wanted to see her, and unnerved by his performance in front of Sally. Damnit.


They were accidentally entangled through a couple of situations she's not ready to write about right now, so she still had to interact with him. It was excruciatingly painful. She tried telling him to have a good life after he moved to Denver. He had really gotten under her skin in a way no man had before, and for her sanity, she felt like she needed to cut him loose. Then she apologized and told him how much his friendship meant to her, and how her life was improved since he came along, which was true. That was all true. But then he sent her an email saying thank you and that she would work through the "layers," and she knew he knew, as if her splitting behavior wasn't a clue. Damnit.

So then, she sent him a coy email about being able to be satisfied with very little. Crumbs, she said. She didn't need the whole cake, she said. That's how she got herself into this fucking mess. She asked the Universe for it by not valuing herself enough! And you know what? The day she did that, she got bit by a black widow while out on a walk with Carl. Jeff told her he is terrified of spiders. Of all the spiders in his bedroom (what the fuck?). Alice is not. And she's still not. And she got bit by another black widow six weeks later when she was channeling her ego again. She's still alive. Spiders are just a warning.

So after that, she wrote him an email clearly expressing her feelings to make things right with the Universe, and when he responded, he said he was "flatted" but that he was seeing someone. She wondered if this was the same person he told her about with whom it "wasn't going anywhere." Well, she is certainly capable of having a "not going anywhere" relationship, if that's what he wants. She just wants an emotional connection and some passion in her life again. With a fellow creator? Hell yes. A friend who sees the hardware store as the playground it really is. A friend who doesn't feel like he is in competition with her, like Carl does. Carl admits feeling competitive with her and she is tired of it. She wants a relationship where she isn't controlled, but unfortunately, Jeff clearly has some control issues himself with respect to communication.

He said he didn't date much, which she took as code for, "Fairly safe regarding STDs." Is that how she was supposed to take that? She wasn't used to talking in code. She was typically more direct. She thought. Except for all those goddamn signals she was giving that she didn't know she was giving. Damnit.

He had told her that he got in trouble once for kissing a friend, and Alice felt really badly for him for that experience. She would have been really flattered if he had tried that with her, and thought about it often. They had been discussing the male and female perspective of relationships - a dangerous subject when there's a little chemistry. Or a lot of chemistry. It felt like a lot of chemistry to Alice, anyway, since her libido skyrocketed around him.

She will probably never know if Jeff is as fucked up in the heart as she is over him. His actions still leave her feeling puzzled. She wonders, a little bit, if growing up in a feminist household can make a man a coward. That thought makes her sad. Despite what other women might say, she thinks it is important for men to make the first move, because by putting their hearts up for offer, they are indicating they are willing to have some skin in the game. (Double entendres always intended, especially when metaphorical, as the sacred feminine is receptive in nature). She worries that feminism is going to kill flirting, just like it has attempted to kill motherhood. Both men and women need to be strong, and communicate well, and be nurturers, she decides. Or maybe he thought he knows better than her and decided to protect her from her own impulsive behavior. Ahem. Like she couldn't think for herself. Or maybe he just didn't want to be "the other man," but that's not the vibe she got from him at all. Maybe he wasn't aware of the vibe he was putting out? Is that possible? If it was for me, maybe it was for him. Nah, he's 40 years old and single. He knew what he was doing, she thinks.

Pearl, who is now 70, told her this kind of connection is quite rare, so Alice has been careful not to close it off entirely, but she's tired of feeling crazy. Maybe the whole thing is in her head. Nice. I'm crazy, she thinks. It's lovely all the tools men have at their disposal to make women question their sanity.

***

Things had happened very quickly with Carl, since he is a good communicator, but she learned through reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Roberta Estes that a woman should always question the man who is in a hurry. The man who is in a hurry is insecure. Not working through his own shit. Not strong for himself.

Things are now tolerable with Carl. She can force herself to be "in the mood" with a little weed. She can force herself not to take his mindless insults personally with some deep breathing. She can process their marital trauma through writing. But emotionally, she isn't sure she can open up to him anymore. He had not been allowed to feel much as a boy, and is therefore ashamed of having feelings, and incapable of supporting her with hers. She has reached a level of acceptance about it, for all those years she had to get her emotional needs met through friendships rather than her marriage to the son of someone with exceptionally strong Kansas homesteader blood. People who never cried. Never got sick. She would be reminded of that a lot. Or maybe it was the sports-focused-locker-room-banter-style communication of his father's family. He was the son of the popular kids. Stupid vanity and pride fucks people up, she thinks.

She knows lots of other women in the same situation. Lots. It is a common theme in her friends' marriages over the years. So, if they can deal with it, so can she, she decides. She can do it through whatever means necessary. Alice is resourceful.

But in making this realization, she also realizes she is not going to put up with any more men who are not going to treat her like she is any less than the fucking amazing woman she is. Men who shame her for her feelings. Men who don't respond to her emails. Men who are impatient and immediately go find someone else to fuck. Men who treat her like she is disposable.

Carl has never once planned a vacation for them. He tells her regularly that he has difficulty shopping for Christmas or Birthday presents for her because she buys everything she wants. She has to plan any sort of anniversary celebration. So, it had been pretty clear to her for years that she doesn't mean much to him, because if she did, he would make a better effort. Her friends have always told her they would never put up with all the hours he spent on the computer playing games, but they didn't realize that after a few years she discovered that was her ticket to freedom, but not in enough time to really take advantage of it before his buddies' significant others put the kibosh on the constant gaming. But for him, all those years, tolerating the stress of work was how he showed his love. That is how, Alice realizes, a husband becomes no more than a paycheck. If that's all you provide, that's what you become. She would gladly trade the paycheck for actual love and respect. Money is overrated. She hopes her children would make the same choice. She wants them to not be afraid to follow their hearts.

Crumbs. Crumbs of love and respect they give her, when she gives her all! Fuck them. Maybe this is why women become lesbians, she thinks. She had thought about her friend Katie in this way, but she realized it was because Katie was controlling and manipulative, and it was anxiety mutating into lust, not actual love or attraction for Katie. Katie is a straight-up bitch. Not many people can do Katie. None of Alice's other friends could. But if Katie had been through a bunch of relationships with men who treated her like that, Alice understood. Katie's husband is passive aggressive, but some of that may just be due to Katie's controlling behavior. Maybe it was time for Alice to become a bitch, too. Hide her heart away. Issue orders, judgment. Alice is not even sure she has this in her.

Maybe she is only attracted to Jeff because of the taboo circumstances, or because he is actually encouraging to her, and that stimulates anxiety about her relationship to Carl and mutates to lust. She may never know, though, because Jeff doesn't value her enough to answer her goddamn emails.

So, fuck him, she thinks about Jeff. Campbell had told her she deserved better than Carl. Told her to forget Jeff. That Jeff was nothing and treated her poorly. She felt sad when she read that text. The only thing Jeff did wrong was not answer her emails, and maybe he did that to protect his own heart. Campbell was forthcoming about his feelings for her. Man, he really laid it on, too. Really built her up. Compared her to another muse in town. But then, when Carl's permission-rescinding tendency reared its head regarding potentially opening their marriage, Campbell easily found another woman to take her place. Within weeks. She had been warned about Campbell by Lydia, how he burned through women and could be quick to anger. Lydia said over and over how worried she was about the situation, but Alice felt like it was a good opportunity for her to learn, and Lydia agreed that working with Campbell was an amazing opportunity. He had not shown this side to Alice - in fact he had been incredibly encouraging and patient - but she did tell a little lie when she said she wasn't attracted to him, because she didn't want to screw things up the way she did with Jeff. She wants the opportunity to keep things totally professional with Campbell, and thinks the level of attraction, at least on her end, can be easily ignored.

When she met Campbell, she was so surprised at who he was in person. He does not fit the mental model she had of him at all. She had believed he was the gruff cowboy sort, but he isn't at all. He is tender, passionate, extremely intuitive, and open. And there are some things about him that remind her of Carl, so she needs to have some time to process that before deciding how to move forward. If I can get this all sorted out, I might have a shot at a decent career as a sculptor. Man, I would love to be able to do something creative for a living to help the world, even if it means living hand to mouth a lot of the time.

The attraction, despite Campbell's openness, isn't like what it is with Jeff. It certainly confuses Alice a little bit, but her Mr. Touchy-Feely episode reminded her what that yearning she felt for Jeff was like without cannabis, and that what she feels for Campbell is nothing like it. That is kind of a relief, actually, because she can't handle any more heart chop suey episodes. She might act like she is attracted to everyone through her flirtatious demeanor, but she is definitely not attracted to everyone. Although she and Carl had discussed opening their marriage, Alice doesn't really have interest in anyone besides Jeff, so she doesn't pursue anyone else. She actually told Campbell, who is quite a catch, that she was still hung up on Jeff, and it wouldn't be fair for her to get involved with him. Heart chop suey really sucks. Better to deal with the devil you do know than the one you don't, she decides.

And of course, poor Carl - there is little yearning for him. And every time he does some sort of asinine controlling move on her, or "Big Brother" behavior, her yearning gets closer and closer to zero. She feels badly about this. She's sure he wouldn't be like this to someone else. She feels like he deserves someone who feels passion for him and doesn't have to travel elsewhere in her head during intercourse. He's a much more evolved man than he was, but her heart can't get that message when all their baggage keeps creeping up through being together 24/7. And Carl rarely leaves the house, so his opinions, bravado and need to win are constantly up in her grill, not helping matters.

How nice it must be to be a man and be overtaken by desire so easily, or relegate someone to whom you are clearly attracted to the bottom of the waste can for the next shiny thing, Alice thinks.

***

Earlier this week she was on her period, and while she is usually willing during this time, this month, because Carl was being a total jerk, treating her like her intention was to go sleep with every male artist this side of Anchorage, she said no. She actually wasn't sure she'd ever be able to sleep with him again after the crap he pulled.

But they went to the grocery warehouse store and Carl noticed another man stop and watch her walking down half an aisle, and two days later with Charlotte, she had a guy at the dispensary do a very clear double-take and then try again later to get her eye contact, a guy at Chipotle look at her (it's a special look from the eyes down to the breasts, or even down to the feet and back), and two guys at Charlotte's church try several times to get eye contact. Carl asked her what the hell kind of juju she was exuding.

She wonders if maybe there is a special communication she has not learned since she jumped into marriage so early. Can I just go into, say, the grocery store, and make eye contact with someone and then just, um, get down to business? she wonders. This is probably how animals do it, she thinks, and the Bloodhound Gang is now playing in her head.

You and me, baby, ain't nothing but mammals...

On Instagram she follows several body positivity activists, and one of them tagged a porn star in a post. Only, Alice didn't know the woman was a porn star, liked her posts, and followed her. Her body bore a certain resemblance to Alice's, she thought. Later, the woman made another post and Alice went to her website where she discovered that the woman is part of the sex-positive culture and blogs about her sexual experiences. With pictures. And videos. And she's winning several awards for her work in the adult entertainment industry. And yes, their bodies are similar.

Alice's bras are expensive, and she needs new ones every six months or so. She used to limit herself to two, but now she knows that is not practical, so this time she gets four. As she has lost weight, to her dismay, she has not lost any circumference around her breasts, even though her ribcage has shrunk six inches. Women pay a lot of money for what Alice has achieved by accident. That's gotta be the juju, she thinks.

She watches the porn star get railed by an unusually erect and sculpted fellow, and notes how her natural breasts dangle beneath her body when she is on her hands and knees, and this is exactly what Alice's breasts do, which she used to think was weird. Damn, I am pretty hot, she thinks, and she also thinks how strange it is that she ever thought herself unattractive. And how dangerous it was that she didn't understand.

***

-64 Square Mars-Pluto 2 degrees 25': Your approach to love and sex can be quite intense at times. Your sexual desire naturally is a very strong one, and you may even use sex as a bargaining chip in your relationships in order to achieve your goals. More likely, however, is a very focused and intense sexual nature. This also adds a very magnetic quality to your appeal. When a man finds you attractive, it can transform into a near obsession! Your aura is strong and somewhat mysterious. You want a deep, soulful attachment on a sexual level. You have a highly developed sex drive, but you must learn to rein in your aggressiveness in this area.

It is, at this point, that she realizes she has the upper hand.

She needs to let Carl know this. Of course, she will do it in her way. Alice's way. The weird way. Alice is weird. (Does good writing use emojis nowadays? Insert devil here).

Carl comes up to check on her and she is laying on the bed with a funny smirk on her face.

"What are you doing?" he says.

She tilts her phone toward him so he can see.

"What? Did I catch you being naughty? You never do that," he says, excitedly.

She explains the events that led up to her laying in bed watching porn, and then gets up and closes the door, locking it.

"Take off your clothes and get on your hands and knees," she tells him, authoritatively. "You have most definitely been a very bad boy, and now I am going to punish you."

"Oh..." he says, and does what he is told. Like a good boy. She knows he will do anything for sex. It is a definite weakness. She wonders if there is something she will do anything for, and she decides, without a doubt, she will do anything for love. (Whatever you do, please, please don't get Meatloaf stuck in your head right now). (I said, stop it). (You know, I share a birthday with Rick Astley, too).

And she spanks him once for each shitty thing he did in the previous week. So three times. Once for talking to her disrespectfully, another for gaslighting her, and once more for lying. She hits him hard and leaves a mark, but he is laughing.

Then, she pulls out a surprise she had been holding onto for quite a while - some red heart-shaped sequined and tasseled pasties. He stands up behind her, curious. She keeps her back to him as she applies them over her nipples, feeling a little ridiculous. As she turns around, she can't stop giggling. She tries to swing them around, but realizes her breasts are so large she can only swing them side to side. He grabs them and kisses them.

She pulls out a couple more toys she got from a boot box sitting in plain sight on the floor of the bedroom.

"How long has that stuff been there?" Carl wonders aloud.

"Oh, just since I was cleaning this morning. I bought it a long time ago and was saving it to spice things up here and there," she explains.

Since Alice isn't quite in the right place or time for writing sex scenes, you'll have to use your imagination, but let's just say she was going for four times and got three, so that's not bad for 43 years old. She wonders if all this sex is giving her the body of a porn star. Not a bad thing at all, she decides, thinking that on average, people definitely don't have enough sex, if people her age only have it once a week.

And afterward, Carl reiterates that he has no problems with her modeling - he is just worried about nude pictures making their way to the internet.

"Oh, Adam told me that the photos would be on my memory card," she says.

"Geez, you didn't tell me that! That's great!" he says.

"You know I have to write about this, right?" she reminds him.

"Yeah," he nods.

What he doesn't get is that she is sick and tired of having to justify herself! She can think for herself.  

Be a fucking adult, Carl, she thinks.

Oooh, maybe she could be a literal fucking writer.


<Click here to go back to Part 6: Whatever>

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Divination Project: Part 6: Whatever

<Click here for Part 1: Mind Fuck>


Alice would really love to give an update on how things are with Carl, but she's feeling like it is a moot point.

She poured love on his wounds, exhausting herself.

She thought everything was all better.

They had a magical evening watching a Doors cover band with their good friends.

Then, when she was writing Part 5, he came into her studio and told her he "came down to tell her she's done writing."

Whatever.

Someone once said that is what a woman says when she says "Fuck you."

Then he denied saying what he said.

And when he finally admitted to saying it, he said it was a joke. Why does she have to be so sensitive? She is so unreasonable.

And there was more, but... Whatever.

Let's just say that lies and head games are not fair play.

Her heart is chop suey.

She couldn't write the whole thing out if she tried, because her brain feels like pudding.

And it's not the first time she has felt this way.

***

When the kids were little, she was on many online forums for support and to feel less alone. Eventually she moved over to Facebook, and then the 2016 elections came up and she saw a wave of hate and sanctimony run through the online community, so she left. Remember, that energy is a trigger for her.

One of the groups she was on was called unschoolingpartnerships. On it, the importance of family was stated over and over. Divorce was a four letter word. In an anti-authoritarian group, the energy was insanely authoritarian. Parents acting in their own best interest was never seen as a good example for children, rather narcissistic behavior leading to trauma in the children.

Unschooling is an educational strategy which trusts in the inherent goodness of children, and espouses unconditional regard for those children, and has the best interests of the children at heart.

Is it good for a woman to give up all of her hopes and dreams? What if, in giving up those hopes and dreams, her daughter is not capable of pursuing her own hopes and dreams? Children learn by watching a parents' actions. Furthermore, if a spouse is against a mother's freedom to choose what she wants to do with her life, isn't that an inequitable arrangement?

When Googling "marriage autonomy," Alice discovers that the jury is out on whether or not codependency is a necessary component of marriage. She shares this information with Carl.

Taped on the wall next to her computer monitor is a piece of copy paper with the quote: "The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes." - Harold B. Lee

***

Alice spent years feeling badly for Carl that he was married to her. She felt like a burden to him in many ways. She had many more healthcare needs, need for stability, need for lots of sleep, need for food, need for personal space, need for independence, need for organization, need for reliable transportation, need for shelter, need for functional appliances, need for utilities, need for clothing, need for mowed lawn, need for birth control, need for trust, need for communication, need for emotional intimacy. It was a lot to ask.

Because Nolan had sensory integration issues as a child, Alice threw herself into the world of alternative medicine. It was an expensive pursuit, but her degree in neurobiology had her convinced that environmental factors were at work in Nolan's hypersensitivities. She made all of her own cleaning chemicals, she bought only organic food, she drove to several farms a week to get milk, eggs, vegetables and meat. They ate out only one night a week. The rest she cooked meals from Nourishing Traditions and Julia Child.

She sneaked liver and other oddball organs into their meals.

The children became gastronomes.

She made her own yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee and kefir.

She attempted to keep a garden (this is apparently not in the cards).

She used cloth diapers.

She got fired by two doctors - her primary care physician and her husband's neurologist.

She figured out their special nutritional needs from genetic testing.

This troublemaking took a lot of money, time and energy. It hurt to feel like all of her efforts were regarded as selfish somehow. Alice understands now that it must have been difficult to live with someone who is unpredictable, expects unconditional trust, and who also will go down any rabbit hole, no matter how expensive, and against any authority. She's a little bit reckless (or is it creative?) when she is desperate for solutions. As long as it doesn't hurt others, she always thought, but she didn't think about how it hurt Carl, because everything she did was out of love for her children.

***

The biggest issue with having PTSD are the triggers everywhere. It's possible to be mindful of and avoid triggers, or use therapy, meditation, square breathing or cannabis to mitigate the effects.

When the person you love has become a trigger, it's hard to know what to do.

For Alice, cannabis helps a lot, but then she also thinks that is no way to live.

She knows she does not need cannabis when she is away from people who trigger her.

And now she thinks maybe she might know a thing or two about addiction.

But really, cannabis also helps her to think of her situation from other perspectives and also see things in a more positive light. Not take them so personally. Things she can do without cannabis outside of her home, with ease.

***

Hans Selye described a medical state called "Generalized Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)." In it, animals reared in conditions of chronic stress suffered from shrunken vital organs. The stress hormones released in a challenging environment, over time, cause the organs to atrophy. Stressful environments directly impact a living being's health.

Alice finds it much harder to sink into meditation when there is stress in her environment. She noticed, over time, a pattern. Monthly, because she cycles so closely to the moon, she needs time in solitude before she bleeds. Every February and August she goes through an adjustment from ovulating with the full moon to ovulating with the new moon, and vice versa. So those months were usually a little rougher, energetically. Those times also happen to coincide with Alice and Carl's birthdays. The winter holidays were also highly stressful, trying to navigate the energies between Carl's large family, and her small one. She always thought she would have been happier to see everyone more during the year than spend money on a bunch of stuff none of them needed out of obligation. Their clients also typically had a little kiniption fit right around this time, requiring emergency plane tickets around the world during the height of flu season.

So, if we're being honest, spring and fall are pretty awesome time of year, and then because of the stress of birthdays and holidays and small business ownership, the winter and summer are kind of rough.

***

Alice tried a lot of different things to help her anxiety and depression over the years. She tried the "everything free" diet - which was gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, egg-free and soy-free. She was vegan for a week. They had energy healing treatments. Acupuncture. Gym memberships. Running. Personal trainers. Tanning and red light therapy. Infrared sauna. Avoiding environmental chemicals. Yoga. Emotional Freedom Technique. Meditation. Art.

Love.

For herself.

That's what finally worked.

She's sure she's forgetting a bunch of stuff.

It was all annoying and expensive.

***

"Oh my god, you have to see this, " Carl says. He is watching a Netflix special about a father of two girls whose wife passed away from breast cancer. The man was detailing the dangers of environmental toxins, and Carl was having a Come to Jesus moment about Alice having been in her right mind all those years that she wouldn't buy polyester pajamas for the kids because of the flame retardant chemicals, or how she was trying to eliminate carpet from her life.

Or all those hours she spent reading the Superfund website and the Toxic Release Inventory for all the places they lived.

Or how she warned all of the painters in her group of friends that odorless mineral spirits are a neurotoxin, and got them to go solvent-free or use natural turpentine.

"What I said, what I said," Alice says. When Nolan was one year old, he used to say this when they didn't understand what he said and asked him to repeat himself.

Alice reaches over and grabs a random book about environmental toxins off the bookshelf in her sitting room. It is nestled between books about dietary cholesterol, unsaturated fatty acids, menstrual cycles, education, and of course David Sedaris and Sherman Alexie, who she can now file with Matt Lauer and Tom Cruise. She tries to hand the book to Carl, but he doesn't want it.

"I just got it - I just realized that the environmental toxin panel you had run on yourself wasn't just a reflection of your own exposure, it was a reflection of your environment," Carl says, obviously wondering about his own exposure, now. Now that a man lost his wife, the word has made it into mainstream media. Netflix. Only a man can legitimately question corporate interests. Women are just troublemakers. Don't you know, we all benefit from better living through chemistry?

"Yeah," she says, thinking about her elevated barium levels back in 2006, and her elevated lead levels back in 2014. The levels weren't high, but the toxicologists at CU were rightfully concerned about any ongoing lead exposure, and blood tests typically indicate recent exposure. She didn't use any lead in her artwork. She asked them if it could be from bone turnover, and they thought that sounded plausible. Later, she realized it could have been from all the stock she was making, since lead gets stored in bone. Or maybe it is solder joints in the water line in her house, which would really irritate Carl. So, nevermind.

Once upon a time, she had a bunch of books about low-carb dieting, but she donated them to the thrift store after trying that experiment for a couple of years.

Much to Carl's dismay - because he was doing quite well on that regimen. He thrived under harsh conditions - weight lifting six days a week, running 10ks several times a week, fasting - what didn't kill him made him stronger.

Alice, however, was a bit more delicate.

***

The cardboard boxes arrived from Mexico with a green postcard taped to the ends, the contents handwritten in blue ink. Liothyronine, they said. Thyroid hormone.

Alice had tested her reverse T3 in 2010 to see how badly the low carb diet had harmed her metabolism. She had elevated prolactin, maybe from the years of breastfeeding. Taking T3, which she could purchase online from Mexico, would help reduce both these problems. It was cheaper to doctor herself than to go to the doctor.

She took a sixth of a tablet every 4-6 hours. It immediately helped feelings of depression and anxiety. So, she stayed on the regimen, retesting her own lab values periodically so as to not make herself hyperthyroid.

However, she made herself hyperthyroid.

This is why her doctor fired her.

Getting yelled at by your doctor is not a lot of fun.

And it has to be difficult to be a doctor for a scientist with way too much time on her hands.

She has a new doctor now - a woman - and she talks about the difficult things with her doctor. She has told the doctor about her cannabis use, about how she surreptitiously took thyroid medication, and also her supplementation regimen. She talks to her about her depression, and also about the stress in her home.

Her new doctor recommended biofeedback for her anxiety, and that is what got Alice to pay attention to her breath. She got a little device called a Spire, which looks like a little rock that she was able to fasten to her bra. If she began to breathe too fast, it would buzz, letting her know she needed to take a deep breath.

She would learn some interesting things from the Spire, the most important being that she had stress reactions watching other people receive criticism. This happened when she was taking sculpture class. Siggy remarked at what a tremendous sense of empathy Alice had.

This is was led Alice to learning more about Mirror Touch Synesthesia, and low vibrations.

***

She is wondering if on some level, people who need healing automatically know how to trigger someone with Mirror Touch Synesthesia in order that they get a supply of empathy.

As a person with PTSD and Mirror Touch, she's wondering if those things go hand in hand. Does abuse cause Mirror Touch?

She's wondering if, when you live with someone who violates your trust, if over time as it finally dawns on you that you can't trust this person to change, do you eventually lose the ability to trust anyone? Alice is worried about this, as she has been hurt by a few other people of late.

What if you still enjoy sex with this person?

What if they still feel like home to you?

What if you can't stop forgiving them, because you understand their brokenness too well?

What if, maybe, on some level you are conditioned to find validation in masochism?

***

Have you heard of the four horsemen of the marriage apocalypse?" Siggy asks Alice. "The last one is contempt."

Alice's heart sinks. Contempt has been on the docket for years.

Maybe they are too far gone.


***

Am I too far gone
For you to save me, save me
How couldn't you see that I was crazy?
Can we start from the beginning now?
It feels like I'm really living now
Maybe, maybe, everyone's a little bit jaded
Can we start from the beginning now?
It feels like I'm really living now
- Sir Sly, Too Far Gone


***

This brave and idiotic musing is brought to you by a lovely Tropical Fruit-flavored hybrid CO2-estracted distillate, a Blue Dream distillate, Bethesda Entertainment's new release of Fallout 76, and Camille Dungy's excellent advice to "write into the pain."

Carl knows Alice is going to write about her actual life. They argue and she says to him, "You know I have to write about this, right?"

He nods. They have talked about how she needs to write to help people.

Still, she's scared that he will have forgotten.

But she's always a little scared on some level, so...

Things are okay between them. She thinks. Except, just like the tarot reading said, she is still clinging to the past. This is the problem. Things are as she chooses to see them. She knows how to choose her own reality. So as long as she is using cannabis, everything is okay. It's a positive mental filter. She can try to do the work of re-healing the wound he re-opened, but she is, honestly, too tired this time.

Obviously, she opened one for him, too, in trying to get some freedom. At one point, this was a wound for her, too, but years and years of his business travel, in places with lots of alcohol, and apparently sometimes even call girls (who he never touched, he says), helped Alice trust him.

What he doesn't understand about trauma is that the wounds are amplified by estrogen. Estrogen is highest right before menstruation, when she needs to be alone.

That's what her dissertation actually showed. She thought her dissertation was about estrogen protecting spatial memory, but what it actually did was potentiate the formation of trauma lesions. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can be converted to estrogen. So when cortisol is high, say, from a recent argument, and one is re-traumatized not once, but twice in just a few days - the effect is -

Whatever.


<Click here to go to Part 5: Mordor>

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Divination Project: Part 5: Mordor

<Click here for Part 1:  Mind Fuck>


Alice was so excited about the possibility of finally loving herself completely.

She was waiting to hear back from Adam about John's availability on Thursday, watching taroscopes on YouTube when she heard Carl's loud footsteps hurrying into her studio.

"You can't do this. I don't like this," he told her. "You're probably not going to listen to me, anyway, but I'd like you to talk to Siggy. I think there is something wrong with you."

A few moments before she heard him coming, a cloud of negativity descended upon her. She suddenly felt strongly that she was delusional, controlled, and having problems with substance abuse. Since her trip to New York, she had been using a lot of cannabis to control her anxiety, but her use was limited to after dinner. It's just that she went from maybe 4 nights a week to 7 nights a week. Alice's mother occasionally had a contemptuous demeanor, and it had been in full force for most of the trip. Alice didn't even know it, but this kind of air from anyone at all - an air of judgment - felt like she was getting stabbed in the heart over and over and over.

Looking back at the trip, that was the most significant thing she learned. She learned her biggest PTSD trigger. Contempt.

Here's the thing about being human. You think you're doing okay - you're enlightened or whatever - and then some random behavior by someone else finds a button in you that you didn't even know you had, and hits that button as hard as it possibly can.

Being treated with contempt makes Alice's stomach knot and her heart tighten and race.

She doesn't even know what it's like to not live in fear of someone holding back a judgment of her, pretending everything is okay, and then, just when she thinks she's moving forward, having the rug ripped out from underneath her.

She read somewhere that people who lived in poverty are constantly worried about the other shoe dropping or the rug getting ripped out from underneath them, and she wonders if she has been living with the fallout of that fear in her and Carl's ancestors' lives for her whole life.

"Okay," she raises her voice, irritated, "But you can't just barge down here whenever you want and come at me like that! I can't deal with it anymore. I don't have the energy for it. I'm working my ass off to feel better, to heal, and it's exhausting, even without not being able to control who and what is in my head at any given moment."

It's true. Alice is exhausted. For years, she has lived with difficulty wanting to even get out of bed in the morning. She finally was able to push past the idea that she should kill herself, not just because it would be a terrible legacy to leave her children, but because she finally believes she actually has something beautiful to share with the world. Not just her body, but everything she has learned on her painful journey, through the Divine thread that kept her alive all these years. She just couldn't figure out how to do it with Carl's insecurities constantly rearing up. How could he stand to live in such fear all the time?

They argue about what her intentions are with modeling, and he worries that she will not be able to teach art classes to children if she is a nude model. She said she didn't even think about that, but that teaching kids is not her first choice for a career, anyway. After not very long, he decides to leave her alone.

Argh. She thinks. Here we go again. Whenever I have a plan to do something, he freaks out. I am seriously never going to be anything besides a trophy wife if I stay here.

She sends Adam a message that Carl is not okay with the model training anymore. Adam texts back and says he understands. She apologizes, feeling like a total asshole. She is so tired of feeling this way, being told she is free to do whatever she wants, and then quickly running up against Carl's fear or shame.

She sits at her computer desk, just staring at the giant pile of papers she was beginning to sort when he comes down. She did have a job doing the accounting for their business, which took her approximately ten hours each month. This month had been particularly frustrating because they were in contract negotiations with their client for the month, and she had invoiced them late, meaning they got paid late. She got paid for her 10 hours of effort, but never received any remuneration for all the time she spent listening to him talk about work issues, which was a lot. Every day. Well, okay, she got some remuneration - a handshake from his boss at a bar in Vienna, and the words, "Thank you so much for supporting Carl." She had acknowledged the handshake, thinking, Yeah, you have no idea, but thanks for recognizing it a little bit.

I could sit here and take care of the accounting before I go see Shayla, or I could do the right thing and call Siggy. Is it the right thing? Does he now get to decide randomly when he doesn't like my behavior and order me to therapy? Carl had gone to several couple's counseling sessions with Alice in late 2016. Carl's mother had told Alice that she didn't get Carl and his siblings therapy when they were kids because she didn't want to "stir things up." What the hell did that even mean? God dammit, Alice had thought, how different and how much better Carl and Alice's life could have been had Carl had some fucking therapy. Alice detested that part of Carl's family - the part that doggedly pursued an illusion of perfection. She was pretty sure that was the original evil int he world. They probably just didn't have the money. That is an acceptable excuse. Pride is not.

She wants to reach out to Campbell, but Campbell met a new woman over the weekend, and they are hitting it off. Yeah, that shouldn't matter, one would think, but Alice had a sneaking suspicion that Campbell's new girlfriend might not like their arrangement. She didn't want to interfere with Campbell's happiness. She was jealous, too, but it wasn't for wanting Campbell all to herself. It was because she had lost so many other exciting opportunities over the past two years that she was terrified about losing this one, too - she was afraid of what it would do to her already sinking morale. Also, She was beginning to think there was nothing out there for her and that she would never be more than a validation dispensary for Carl and her mother. She wished they could find it in themselves to become strong for themselves, even just a little bit, because, as mentioned before, Alice is exhausted. Campbell is old enough and mature enough to give her the balanced masculine view she needs to know she isn't as shitty as she thinks when things are hard with Carl.

In fact, when she thinks about it, she realizes she has not heard anything else from the publisher of the book one of her blog posts was going to be included in, so maybe that isn't going to happen, either. And her project submission for a huge exhibit in Denver - which represents a large labor of love for her, and a manifestation of all her highest hopes for humanity - well, if she doesn't have Campbell, she would have to do it all herself. Which, she figures, is fitting, because apparently she is a total shit who can't work well with anyone, not even a guy who can facilitate the IP transfer of a very complicated project successfully to a client with native Chinese-speaking employees.

Or, she's just not any fun. She's spent so many years being a therapist to her mother and Carl that she didn't even really know how to have fun. So why would anyone want her around? She's just too heavy.

The moon was new. Her horoscope said her mood would be low. Her period is going to come any second.

She picks up her phone and texts Siggy. Hi, Siggy. I hope you are doing well. I have something urgent Carl would like me to talk to you about. Do you have any time soon? Alice has a regular appointment scheduled with Siggy for the next day already, and she feels ridiculous for bothering her. But she needs to get help with how to talk to Carl as soon as possible, because when he is in this mood, she doesn't know what to do. The only way to knock him out of it is to get him to smoke some pot with her, but if he gets too far into the mood, he feels too judgmental of the idea, and can't do it.

She wonders if he had any alcohol or MSG recently, because those things could bring on negative thinking, too. In her, as well.

Her phone rings. "Hi, Alice, what's going on?"

"Well, you know how Campbell was going to do molds of my body? I kind of thought I might need to baby step toward that, and so I was going to have a friend who trains models help me out. But now he thinks maybe there is something wrong with me and wants me to see you," Alice explained.

"Can you come in this afternoon?" Alice said.

Hmm. She wants me to come in and sit down. Maybe I am crazy.

***

Since her appointment is only 40 minutes out, Alice goes straight upstairs and puts on warmer clothes. She will have a little time between her appointment and her meetup with Shayla, but she wants to be ready in case she and Shayla walk anywhere in the cold.

As she leaves, she gives Sally and Nolan hugs, tells them she loves them, and then tells Carl she loves him. He does not answer.

"I said, I love you," she says again. Silence.

When he acts like this, she can struggle with some pretty serious suicidal ideation. She realized, though, earlier in the year, that there are a lot of people who actually do care about her, and that she is not stuck. Now, she tries to mindfully visualize herself in an apartment of her own when he emotionally blackmails her, rather than so many of the other ways she used to envisioned getting relief.

She knows too much about psychology. She knows it's all how you look at it. She knows how easy it would be for him to argue that she used cannabis and maybe even neglected her children, if he decided not to let her have custody or even visitation. He had said once when she was packing a suitcase a few years ago that if she left she would never see the children again, and so she stayed. She learned later that many men say this. He also said that if she left he would quit his job. He really believes that he can't do his job without her, because he hates paperwork so much. But of course when he said that, she thought it was a threat. Because it was.

She and Siggy have talked about this before, but Alice doesn't want to put Sally and Nolan in the middle, even though they are the only witnesses. Sally and Nolan have seen how other people use Alice, and it's her biggest worry that they won't be able to advocate for themselves because she hasn't done a good job sticking up for herself.

She is worried that she will never be able to work in a job because she has become so sensitive, just a shell of herself, from all of the years of being torn down by Carl, and her parents before that.

She takes one of the old cars, in case he doesn't let her back in the house or something. He has never not let her in the house - usually he won't let her leave - but over the years she has gotten the distinct feeling that if their marriage ever were to end, it wouldn't be in friendship, because Carl would ensure otherwise. He is a self-professed fan of vengeance. His father cut down every single tree in their yard when his mother took out a restraining order.

Apparently that was a thing Vietnam vets did.

These are things that haunt Alice. That scare her to death.

***

Alice sits down on Siggy's slipcovered sofa and pulls the Kleenex box closer, just in case. She goes over the situation again, explaining that she thinks it might be good to get some photos of herself before she takes the plunge and has her body casted, and that Carl thinks she is trying to "torpedo their marriage." Those are the words he used to describe her decision to be a full-figured art model.

Alice tells Siggy that the two reasons she wants to do it are for the experience with Campbell - learning from him - and then to provide an example of a less-than-perfect woman as an art model for students. And maybe she would be okay modeling clothes, bathing suits, and underwear, because those models helped give her confidence. Siggy thinks those are great reasons.

"Also, I want Sally to feel that I would not judge her for anything she would do with her own body," added Alice. Siggy nods her head enthusiastically.

"So, I'm not just a voyeuristic slut trying to torpedo my marriage?" Alice asks Siggy.

"No. Definitely not," says Siggy.

Siggy asks if Alice thinks Carl would be willing to see a therapist now. Alice remembers that several months earlier, Carl had noticed how well she was doing, and thought maybe he could see a therapist. She didn't push the issue, because she didn't want to ruin it, but inside, she really wishes he would, because she is so, so tired of being his therapist. It's too much for her now. It has killed any romantic or sexual desire she has for him, and she sees why she should have just left. She told him a month ago how many times he almost lost her because they didn't just separate. And when she says it, she means how many times she wanted to kill herself.

Alice sought extra counseling from the women's shelter in the town where Nolan's school was earlier in the year. She felt guilty for seeking help as an upper middle class woman with well to do parents, but when she asked for help from her father, he said it would be too much of a burden.

The repeated message she received from the world was that she was a burden because she had children. This is why she could never get on board with the pro-lifers. Once you have children, you're a burden to society. The term 'welfare mother' conjures up certain pictures which don't do the struggle of raising children on your own in a society where two incomes are necessary because women are expected to work now any sort of justice. Society stigmatizes efforts to care for your own children, she realized when she first heard the term 'lawnmower parent.' Heaven forbid a woman should have enough time on her hands to advocate for her own children. Have the baby, go to work, put it (because the system sees your child as a thing) in childcare, then school, then college. You'll need a man for that, because otherwise, you're a drain on the system. We'll make sure you need a man for that, because the heterosexual married folks are raising the cost of everything for everyone. Alice wanted to be a giver, not a taker.

Carl was right to treat her with suspicion. She was trying to leave because the urge to kill herself was growing so strong. She was worried that if she didn't leave, she would take her 9mm pistol, stick it into her mouth, and pull the trigger. She had to kill lots of animals for her job as a scientist, so even when she confessed that to him and he hid the guns from her, she thought of lots of other ways to do it.

The only time she felt safe psychologically was when she was alone or just with the kids. Meditating was helpful, and so was reading tarot. Carl was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, and through being with Alice for 25 years became more liberal and forgiving, but eventually lost his faith altogether for watching how the dogma and judgment of Christianity as it is often practiced created so much pain in the world. He spoke vehemently about religion. It was the only thing he absolutely hated.

Alice, however, is agnostic, and always has been. She knows there is something. She knows, because whenever things get hard in her life, there seems to be a loving, protecting force which guides her through, leaving her with valuable lessons in compassion at the end. When she first met Carl, she identified as Christian, but explained to him that she felt the story of Christ was an important lesson of how to walk through the world with compassion, but not that it necessarily happened for real.

She misses that feeling of going to church for the community and connection to the Divine, but like Carl, can't do the dogma. But there is more than that to her dislike of church. Alice walks through life not worried about talking to anyone. She knows there is something magic in every person she meets, and she loves how The Universe randomly puts people in her path - unlikely people - from whom she can learn. She has a lot of friends who go to the Unitarian church, but they always seemed so distant. It is like they are all there to support each other, but have an unspoken feeling that if a person isn't with them, they are against them. It could just be a time and energy economics thing - and if they have repeated negative experiences outside of the church, maybe they are less likely to open up to people outside that circle. She is not part of that clique, has never been part of a clique, and doesn't want to be part of a clique. This is more a reflection of her isolation over the years than anything about her Unitarian friends. She hopes they understand that.

She had told Jeremy and Ruth one day that she wanted to start a cult. It was kind of a joke, but anyone who knew Alice would know that she really meant it. "The only rules are that anyone is allowed to join, and there is no judgment allowed, and you have to treat everyone in the world like they are part of the cult," she said. Alice has felt alone for so long that she wants to gather together all the lonely people who understand how horrible it is to feel lonely, and what makes people feel lonely (judgment!), to end loneliness.

That is actually the biggest reason she didn't leave Carl. She didn't want to be another person to reject him. He feels rejected by his parents and siblings, and feels that Alice is the only one in the world who helps him feel loved. He is the father of her children, and she can't live with herself if she casts him out like his father was cast out by his mother. Or like his father disappeared and left him. He is so traumatized by their divorce and the things that led up to the divorce that living with him sometimes feels like living in a minefield. He has such a huge fear of abandonment that he cannot not deal with much separation from Alice at all. He can't handle being alone for much length of time, and he hates traveling overseas without her. And when his parents moved back from Florida, it was like all the memories of the divorce and remarriage came right back with them. He never stood up to them or advocated for Alice, Nolan or Sally, because he was worried his family would reject him again, and so the dynamic between their families and in his own marriage became toxic. And he swore up and down when he and Alice started couples counseling because she was suicidal that it was all her. Maybe it was. She could have chosen to see it differently, and did try for many years, but the truth was that her opinions and the kids' opinions were rarely considered when the family was making plans, and there were a lot of plans over the years - especially over summers and holidays. Her attempts to establish boundaries were typically bulldozed. Alice never really figured out who was doing the bulldozing. She just decided it was okay for her to say 'no' and told the kids the same.

Yeah, she has her own baggage she brought along for the ride, but she has been continually putting effort toward dealing with hers for her entire life. She hasn't been pretending it doesn't exist. Everyone has baggage, she figured out early on. It's just that the responsible people do their best to deal with it instead of pretending it's not there.

She is so tired of analyzing herself. At the women's shelter, she was given a new lesson on cognitive behavioral therapy each week, for several weeks. It was all stuff she already knew, it turned out - all things she had either learned through her training in psychology, or stuff she had figured out through trial and error or reading on the internet. Ultimately, she asked the shelter what book their lessons were coming from, and they told her it was Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa M Najavits, so she could look at the rest of the lessons herself. One of her friends was struggling with alcoholism at the time, so Alice figured if Carl noticed the book, she could just say she got it to help her friend. She did actually share it with her friend, too. Alice always looks for multiple reasons to do things as a sign to do them.

"Are you sure I'm not delusional?" Alice asks Siggy, "I do obsess over the tarot quite a bit, because it helps me connect with my intuition - to something bigger - it helps me feel whole, just like meditation."

"No, you are not delusional," Siggy reassures her.

***

Minutes before he came down into her studio, Alice was watching a tarot reading from a woman who now makes $6000 a month reading tarot on the internet. She has only been doing it for a year. She has a little altar where she has some lit candles, and she tells a story as she pulls each card.

"Someone is delusional!" the reader said. "Someone is not happy, and will never be happy until she gets away from this abusive, controlling man! And, it looks like there may be substance abuse in the picture. Oh yes, this woman is really fooling herself. She needs to cut this man out of her life, or she will continue to live in misery!"

Alice's heart sank.

It's me, she thought. This reading is definitely for me.

She stared at the dancing candles until she heard Carl's steps coming, and she quickly paused the video and clicked to a different tab on her screen.

***

After her appointment, Alice sits in her car and stares at the instrument gauge in the parking lot, wondering what to do.

It's not a hurry, she thinks, and besides, I am supposed to start my period soon and I'm bloated and exhausted. If I postpone, Carl will hopefully see it for the act of goodwill it is. That will give me more time to examine my motivations, too.

She calls Carl and tells him that she has postponed the training session.

"I was just worried about naked pictures of you getting out all over the internet!" he says.

"Oh, yeah. Right! I don't want that either!!!" she agrees. "I was just thinking of maybe being an art model, or possibly a swimsuit and clothing model," and she's not even sure she'll be considered to be pretty enough to do the latter, which is fine with her. She's no spring chicken, after all.

They chat a little longer, and she feels like things are going to be okay. But there's still a niggling feeling about how he spoke to her, and how exhausted she is that she knows she needs to handle.

Not right now, she thinks. Go have fun with Shayla.

***

She sits in the parking lot outside Harbor Freight in Fort Collins and thinks about the time she and Carl went to get air tools for her to carve stone. She thinks about how Jeff gave her coupons and how he lent her his tools, and how different he was. She knew he didn't have much to share, but he did, and he trusted her to bring his stuff back. She saw him lend things to students and then not get the stuff back, and she knew then that they were of the same cloth. She was constantly lending things and giving things, knowing she might never get them back, and figuring if she didn't, the other person needed it more than she did.

Shayla is often late, which is okay. Alice enjoys the time alone in the car, thinking happy thoughts. She takes a toke off her vape pen. It's been a long time since she has seen Shayla, who knows everything about Alice and Carl's marital struggles, and about their cannabis use, which worries her. Alice finds this funny, since Shayla's husband partakes regularly. Shayla is probably the hardest working person Alice has ever met. She is probably one of the most secure people Alice has ever met. Alice is worried about telling her what is going on, but she needs to.

When Alice and Shayla get together, they like to go to bookstores. They stroll through the aisles and talk about the books they have read, while catching up on each other's lives. Shayla's kids have both gone to school now, and Alice is surprised to find out that Shayla has a new job. They are both a little surprised that Alice didn't know, and they both know this is a sign that they are not as close as they once were. Their kids used to need to see each other all the time, and then Shayla's daughter went to high school and everything changed. Alice and Shayla still try to see each other once a month, but sometimes it goes on longer. Shayla tells Alice how well her son is doing at his new charter school, how he loves the project-based learning he's getting to do helping build a room for sensory-deprivation water tanks at his school.

"Wow," Alice says. Some of the dreams she had for schoolchildren are materializing.

Shayla is babysitting a little boy down the block, and they talk about how ridiculous it was that Shayla's son's decision to go to school triggered Shayla's husband to announce that it was time for her to find a job. "I didn't want to go work some grind," Shayla confessed.

Shayla is caring for her mother-in-law who is in her mid-eighties and is quite demanding, too. Alice can't imagine adding anything to what Shayla is already doing. Alice feels like a real slob, but Campbell has told her not to be so hard on herself - that doing the work of self-improvement is exhausting. It really is exhausting, Alice thinks.

She's wishing, just a little bit, that she and Carl had bought their house in Fort Collins instead of Loveland. When she had tried to participate in groundbreaking educational change in Loveland, there was a very defensive mindset within the school district, very concerned about liability, which made almost anything slightly risky or exciting off limits. The district was even giving serious thought to not allowing parent volunteers in the schools anymore, and Alice thought that meant the writing was on the wall. The educational system was making its final conversion into a machine without any soul, totally focused on test results.

"So, what's going on with you?" Shayla inquires.

Alice starts off tentatively telling her about her trip to New York to meet her "new" uncle who is not only a painter, but a writer and a book collector. She wants to give more time to this discussion because it was definitely a significant chapter in her life, but she also just wants to pull the nude model idea off like a band-aid. Alice worries when she's telling her friends what is going on in her life that she is some sort of drama queen, or that she is delusional. But she finds the braver she is with the friends she has, the more acceptance that she gets, and whatever horrible thing inside her she thought she needed to hide is not really there, whatever it is.

Shayla asks what the hell is wrong with Carl, why he feels the need to control her so much. Shayla says she would never put up with what Alice puts up with, and Alice thinks that is funny, because she thinks Shayla's husband is pretty controlling. But Shayla isn't nearly as exhausted as I am, Alice thinks.

"Here - look at these," Shayla says, handing Alice her TracFone. On the screen are tiny pictures of a nude woman in a waterfall. Alice has to pinch-zoom to see them better. She can't tell who it is on the first picture. "We took these pictures on a hike." Alice scrolls to the next one and figures out that the pictures are Shayla. She has been swimming with Shayla before, but has never seen her body. Shayla runs most days of the week, maybe 2 or 3 miles. She does not look like a model. She looks like a regular person. Beautiful.

"Yeah, my kids look at these and say, 'Aww, look at the nice pictures Daddy took of Mommy!'" Shayla adds."I would totally model. How much does it pay?"

"About fifty dollars for three hours," Alice says.

"Sweet!" Shayla says.

Alice thinks about how Carl said that was nothing.

Alice has forgotten that Shayla's family goes to a clothing optional hot springs near where Shayla grew up. She thinks of Shayla's boundless energy and good temper, and refusal to take bullshit from people, and she realizes that Shayla actually does love herself, and that's what Alice loves about Shayla.

***

The next day, Alice decides to try to write about what has happened with Carl barging into her studio, and she gets pretty far along, but the fear of his judgment if she chooses to share it with the world gives her pause. More than pause. She is terrified.

She hears him upstairs in the kitchen, she doesn't know for how long.

He calls her up for dinner and she sits down to keep him company.

They talk a little bit and she decides it's time to tell him how she's feeling about how he spoke to her. She starts off mentioning that now Campbell has a girlfriend and she's not sure if their art project will move forward at all. Or even if she will get to learn to weld.

"I was really hurt yesterday by how you spoke to me," she offers.

He gets really angry.

This part is all a blur to Alice. That's the thing about having PTSD. It's really hard to stay present during stress. Alice just dissociates. She goes somewhere else in her mind to minimize stress. As she's typing this, she's imagining Merlin the Magician in her favorite Disney movie, The Sword in the Stone, yelling "Blow me to Bermuda!" and disappearing for most of the rest of the movie, which was always a disappointment to Alice. It's kind of like that. It's been a subject of conversation multiple times in her therapy with Siggy - Alice broaching difficult topics with people and then dissociating so she doesn't even remember the exact answer, just that everything is okay. Or not okay, in this case.

All Alice remembers is that she decided to go meditate and have her dinner alone in her studio, leaving the family upstairs. She remembers Nolan rubbing his head, making the noise that Tina makes on Bob's Burgers. "Uuuuuhhhhhh..." a long vocal fry oozing from his throat. Sally being quiet. Probably biting her nails.

She hears them finish dinner upstairs - she can hear everything in the kitchen from her studio, and it's often unsettling - the feeling of guilt as her family does what she should be doing while she is writing, making art, or just doing whatever she needs to do to feel okay with herself, alone. When the footsteps stop, she works her way up the stairs with her dirty plate.

She looks around for Carl and he is gone. He has taken the car somewhere. Neither of the kids know where he is.

"Hey. I went down and tried to meditate. But Maggie called and woke me up. They want to come to the concert with us and invited us to dinner with them before. Do you want to go? I didn't realize you had taken off. I should have tried to meditate earlier," she texted him. Maggie had invited Alice and Carl to a mural dedication and dinner downtown, and Alice mentions they are going to a Strange Parade concert. The Strange Parade is a Doors cover band. Maggie thought Guido might enjoy that.

"That wasn't cool at all," Carl responded.

"I was trying to tell you that I was hurting. I feel I am a huge burden on everyone, now. I always feel like that what I want is a shame to you somehow," she replies. She goes further down the hole of self-deprecation to let him know how lousy she is feeling. She mentions that it would be better if she was dead, because then she wouldn't be such a pain in his behind. She won't be such an embarrassment anymore.

"I'm not going to engage you on that stuff now," he says.

She re-reads what she wrote, and wonders again if she has borderline personality disorder. Siggy, Alice's sister, and several other people have told her repeatedly that she does not have borderline personality disorder, but Alice is not sure. But she really does just want it to be over. She hates this feeling of angering him when all she wants is to be treated with a little respect. If respect is that elusive, she thinks, I don't really want to have to live anymore. It hurts too much. Surely hell is better than this.

"Well, that is how I feel when you treat me like a child," she says.

"I didn't treat you like a child, I made dinner," he says.

"I am talking about yesterday," she replies. "I tried to tell you how I felt and you blew up at me."

"Per usual you were going to do something without me," he says.

She was trying to build a support system for herself. She was trying to have fun. She needed to have a little fun for her sanity. They used to all go play trivia together, and that fell apart for other reasons outside them. Maybe the tension between us was the catalyst, she wonders.

"Why do I have to get your permission for everything I do with my career?" she asks. "BTW, I think you would be perfectly welcome to come to the training session, but when you treat me with contempt, it is not very confidence boosting for me."

"You're getting very reckless. Now you're going to do things that affect both of our lives and I don't get a say," he says.

"You are deciding what I do with my body! I realized this morning that you were actually *embarrassed* about it. There is no safety issue," she retorts.

Ultimately he tells her he is worried that neither of them will be able to go into politics, and she realizes that this all has to do with a conversation he had with his retired friends earlier in the week where they urged him to run for an office.

For fuck's sake, it's always going to be about him, she thought. When she was a little girl, and even a young mother, it was always about her mother. It was why she didn't allow her mother at the birth of her daughter.

"You are being ridiculous. There are tons of things you can do. Politics is one of them. City council. State legislature. You know tons of people. Everybody likes you," he offers.

Then, she loses it.

For three and a half hours, she hammers him with texts about how fucked up she is and that she is not strong enough to go into politics and never will be. She talks about how she had a low bar for her friendships because she didn't even know that human relationships could be good. She tells him that is why she had crushes all those years, because she was so hungry for human kindness.

She remembers Siggy telling her that her loneliness stemmed from a lesion in her primary relationship. When Alice asked what that meant, Siggy simply answered, "Your marriage."

He calls her and she answers, but hangs up almost immediately after he starts talking. Verbal arguments don't work with him, because they twist each other around. She wants this all in writing.

She tells him he should be the politician. She sends him one of Instagram user tonycorbittjr's nude sketches, which probably looks like her. She texts him about the fucked up dynamics around their sex life. She messages him about how emotionally alone she has felt, especially around the start of her period (which happens to be right then). She calls him out on giving her "permission" to do things and then rescinding it, which he does a lot. And then she says, one more time, how fucked up it is that he won't answer her texts, because he only wants to have the kind of conversation where he can call her names and toy with her head.

Maybe that's what his parents did to each other, she thought, as she has, many times.

He comes home and answers her texts. He doesn't understand why she is so mad. He agrees that she can model. He thinks she is projecting her frustration with Jeff and Campbell on him. This is bullshit, she thinks. I have no beef with Jeff at all, and Campbell is just trying to find his happiness.

"I don't understand why you were acting so desperate!" he says.

She starts sending him screenshots of her texts with Adam so he can see that she was trying to delay the training, but she immediately sees that he is not reading them. He is still focused on her being in such a hurry. She had talked about this with Siggy - that she wasn't in a hurry, she was just following the flow of The Universe.

Then he says something that really irks her.

"I heard about your 'lifelong dream' twice and it had been only the past week. You have never mentioned it before."

"I never said lifelong dream. You are putting words in my mouth!" she said, after carefully scrolling through the texts. She was sure she didn't say anything of the sort, because being any sort of model has been the furthest thing from her mind since, maybe, uh, middle school? Maybe since her mother called her a whale? Maybe since that guy in 7th grade called her fat?

This is exactly the kind of thing that happens in verbal arguments that she is trying to avoid. She is glad it is captured by text.

It goes on until 12:34 in the morning, with him upset about all the time she spent working on her novel, refusing to see how he is holding her to a different standard than he holds himself, and refusing to apologize for invading her headspace, or talking to her in a disrespectful tone, when she finally throws her phone across the room, puts the blankets over her head, and goes to sleep.

***

In the morning, she wakes up, reads the whole thing again with a clear mind, and responds to one of the last things he had written:

"I am sorry that what I said hurts you. I didn't intend that. But I needed to share my opinion on it," he had said. She copies it back into the thread and comments:

"This is not a real apology for HOW you did it. I would like to feel respected and trusted, and like you think I have something useful to contribute to teh world and that I can do what I see can help the world without you feeling threatened. To me, it feels like wherever I start having any sort of success, you are personally threatened by it. So, I feel imprisoned. Is that what you want? Did I not navigate the thing with Adam just fine? Have I not navigated everything just fine? I feel infantilized by you - like you are onlhy going to be happy as long as I perform the role your mother plays in her marriage. That is not okay with me. You are not my father, you are my PARTNER. I understand I am taking a lot of time to myself right now. I am trying to figure out how I can fit into the world at large and make a mark of some sort, even a tiny one. It's not fair to the kids or me to limit my potential. They also need me to model how to navigate risk safely, or they will be afraid of life. Do you want that? They need to see us being brave and supporting each other, modeling forgiveness, respect and love. I don't think that is too much to ask - although I know it will be challenging because we don't have that model to see. Our mothers felt they were nothing in society. Is that what you want for Sally? That is how I feel. And I don't want to go into politics for the reasons I said. I am not strong enough. I am, however, strong enough to write and make thought provoking art, and I need a support system to do that. For real success, you ahve to put yourself out there. With politics, you lose control over that ability. With art, you can do it as your strength ebbs and flows. If you view my attempts at building my career as torpedoing our marriage, I am not sure what to tell you, except that your insecurity is the only thing threatening to torpedo it, and I would encourage you to seek some clicking on that matter, because I think me trying to help you with that has only worn me down and obviously hasn't helped you feel any more secure."

Fucking autocorrect, she thinks.

"Clicking = counseling," she adds.

She goes downstairs, cleans the kitchen, and offers him coffee when she sees him stir on the sofa.

"No," he says, walking through the kitchen to the laundry room to get his clean laundry. He takes it upstairs to their bedroom.

This is the first time ever in their 25 year marriage that she sensed he might leave. She had tried to leave many times, never knowing where to go. Many friends over the years tell her she can come stay with them, but she never wants to be a burden. She is tired of feeling like a burden. She has felt like a burden her whole life.

Besides, she is sure if she leaves, everything really will fall apart.

***

Astolis App, Stardate Thursday, November 8

Aquarius Chattylove (Alice's Sun Sign)

An unexpected love life development could work in your favor if it helps to encourage an important and potentially pivotal conversation with a loved one or someone close. What transpires unexpectedly could shine a necessary light on how volatile a relationship situation or arrangement is that both of you believe to be solid. Creating a more stable future relies on consolidating what's positive but addressing what can be improved. The future starts here!

***

Daily Horoscope App, November 5 - November 11

Sagittarius (Alice's Rising and Moon Signs)

When a suit or a dress no longer fits, its wearer can have it taken in, let out, or whatever adjustment is necessary. We don't often think of relationships this way, but if you could try to see a special bond in this light this week, Sagittarius, you can do wonders to improve it. You may have given up on having the same level of closeness you once enjoyed with this person because things have changed in some way. But there are ways you can both adapt and make it as good a fit as it ever was. Don't hasten to write this off. This week could also bring a challenge you had not anticipated with a project or at work. This may come in the form of a task you have to tackle that seems beyond your abilities. But you may underestimate yourself, and you need to stir up your enthusiasm and confidence to take on this project. If you do, you will find that you are far more capable than you ever realized. A lesson you learned long ago may apply to a problem you face this week. If something is confusing, look back to a similar situation in the past, and you will find a solution.

***

Before Carl returns from his long drive (to Wyoming, Alice learns later - he must have been trying to return to the womb, she thinks, since he was born there), Alice pulls some tarot cards for strength. She learned from her astrological natal chart that she has several placements indicating interest in Occult subjects, and has decided that her obsessions with Ouija and the Magic 8 Ball when she was a girl are probably part of the very fabric of her being. Everything else in it is pretty spot on, and she really is curious about such things.

She has been reading her horoscope for about a year or so, fairly diligently, and it almost always "comes true." She has a much different idea about why, now, after a year. She reads it diligently every night and in the morning, and realizes that it plants seeds in her subconscious so she can deal with whatever life throws her way.

Tarot does the same thing. She often reads her tarot cards before a meditation for this reason.

She has used tarot in a few dicey situations to help herself, her mother, and Carl. She likes how it helps her feel like she is tapping into her own inner wisdom. She likes the readings that Nicholas Ashbaugh does on YouTube for personal development, and would love to recommend him to her open-minded friends. But make sure you also watch and read for your rising sign, too, she thinks. Yes, she is a whackadoodle Aquarius, but her Sagittarius rising sign, moon, Venus in Pisces and Mars in Capricorn is what she shows to the world. It's all there. Air, fire, water, and just a bit of earth. Carl is all fire, air and water. So much water. Poor guy, told as a child that he was too sensitive, with all that water, Alice thinks. On the last eclipse, she had a tarot reading done while visiting their friends in Colorado Springs, and the reader remarked on the water everywhere in the reading. Yes, my life is full of water. She wishes for a little more earth.

She wants to know if he is coming back, or what, even though she is finally open to whatever happens. She doesn't know if the tarot will tell her that, but she shuffles the cards, and does a nine card grid spread about their relationship. I'll use the Osho Zen Tarot cards, she thinks. They came with a little book to explain the meaning of the cards, which has different suits like clouds for the usual swords/air/mind, water for cups/water/emotion, rainbow for pentacles/earth/material world and fire for wands/fire/passion.

She has quite a few decks now - having weaned herself off clothes shopping, she gets two decks or so a month as a treat to herself for her new practice. Her very first deck was an illuminated deck in the style of Mucha. Then, for her tarot class, she bought a standard Rider-Waite deck, and Barbara Moore's Everyday Tarot deck. After meeting someone with the Thoth deck, which was supposed to be great for divination (seeing meaning in the cards without using a book), she ordered one of those, but got the small deck, which is not very good for divination, at least without reading glasses. For Halloween, she got the Santa Muerte deck, and then of course she got the Osho Zen Tarot deck after learning about the Osho, with whom she shares many philosophies. Her mother bought her a little travel deck as a surprise when they went to New York, and one of Jeremy and Ruth's friends who was dressed up as a Fortune Teller gave her a deck from Spirit Halloween store. Those pictures are the happiest, she thinks, which is neat because she had so much fun that evening.

The top row, representing herself, reads XVIII Past Lives (corresponding to The Moon in the regular Tarot, which is all about illusion) in the leftmost (past) space.

"The real point is to see an dunderstand the karmic patterns of our lives, and their roots in an endless repetitive cycle that traps us in unconscious behavior..." the description for the card says. Alice, as an amateur genealogist and friend to many has seen the patterns throughout society. That women often marry men to get out of their parents' households. They almost must, especially now, because it is so difficult to be financially independent. Most of the younger single people she knows have lives which keep them prisoner to the whims of flaky roommates and a volatile rental market. Alice knows, however, that since she is secure with herself, home is wherever she is.

The middle card for the present situation is III Creativity (corresponding to The Empress in regular Tarot), but is reversed. She is maybe misusing her femininity, she thinks. Maybe she is expressing the shadow side of the Empress - being too controlling. No. She is trying to fight for her independence.

"Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an atittude, an inner approach - how you look at things..." the book muses. Alice wonders if other women draw tarot for help in these sorts of situations. She often knows what to do, but even before the tarot, she helped a cousin through transition in childbirth by finding the right passage in a devotional bible. She just opened the book randomly and found the perfect passage, which she can't remember now, but it was just the right thing to help the cousin know she had it in her to birth the baby, who was nearly 11 pounds.

The rightmost card in the future is 5 of Water - Clinging to the Past for the outcome.

Crap, she thinks. Even if I get through this with him, I'm going to feel some amount of psychological torment! I am way too tired for this shit.

"Everything is going to go out of your hands. Clinging will simply create misery. You will have to let go," the book tells her. This, she knows.


Carl's cards are the 3 of Water in the past, which is titled "Celebration." "True celebration arises from a joy that is first experienced deep within, and spills over into an overflow of song and dance and laughter, and yes, even tears of gratitude," the book explains. Carl had told her that the last two years were the best years of their marriage, which Alice finds odd, because she had spent so much time somewhere else in her head. But in a lot of ways, she was happier and more lively than she had ever been, which Carl definitely notices. In regular tarot, the three of cups often arises during situations involving a third party.

Alice shakes her head at the way the cards always come out so perfectly. The scientist in her shrugs her shoulders, looks up at the ceiling in the room and shakes her head. Yep, I'm totally crazy, she thinks.

In the middle for the present, he has the 2 of Water, which is Friendliness, which has two trees grown together.

"The branches of these two flowering trees are intertwined and their fallen petals blend together on the ground in their beautiful colors. It is as if heaven and earth are bridged by lvoe. But they stand individually, each rooted in the soil in their own connection with the earth. In this way they represent the essence of true friends, mature, each with each other, natural. There is no urgency about their connection, no neediness, no desire to change the other into something else. This card indicates a readiness to enter this quality of friendliness. In the passage, you may notice that you are no longer interested in all kinds of dramas and romances that other people are engaged in. It is not a loss. It si the birth of a higher, more loving quality born of the fullness of experience. It is the birth of a love that is truly unconditional, without expectations or demands... Marriage is out of fear, relatedness is out of love. You relate; as long as things are moving beautifully, you share. And if you see that the moment has come to depart because your paths separate at this crossroad, you say goodbye with great gratitude for all that the other has been to you, for all the joys and all the pleasures and all the beautiful moments that you have shared with the other. With no misery, with no pain, you simply separate."

Alice swallows hard. She knows these things. She wonders if Carl is capable of an equal partnership.

In the future position is the 9 of Rainbows, "Ripeness," which has a picture of an apple falling off a tree. "When the fruit is ripe, it drops from the tree by itself. One moment it hangs by a thread from the branches of the tree, bursting with juice. The next moment it falls - not because it has been forced to fall, or has made the effort to jump, but because the tree has recognized its ripeness and simply let it go," the book says. Hmm, Alice thought. Well how about that? It talks about love growing to maturity.

For their relationship as a whole, the past is the Queen of Rainbows - "Flowering" which has a damsel seated in the lotus position in a flowering lotus, with a halo around her head. "Your blissfulness, your benediction, your ecstasy should not be contained within you like a seed. It should open like a flower and spread its fragrance to all and sundry - not only to the friends but to the strangers too. This is real compassion, this is real love: sharing your enlightenment, sharing your dance of the beyond." Alice and Carl often talked about the wonderful parts of their relationship and family dynamic, and wished everyone could live like they did, with trust in themselves for just being, realizing that they are good enough, just as they are.

The middle position, the Present, is The Master. The Master has no numerological equivalent to the regular Tarot. It is a special card, with a picture of the Zen Master Osho. Alice often, when asking significant questions, would receive the High Priestess, signifying connection with the Divine, show up in her readings. When this happens, she looks at the card and subtly shake her head.

This is really happening, she thinks. Or she is fooling herself.

"Once your awareness becomes a flame, it burns up the whole slavery that the mind has created. There is no blissfulness more precious than freedom, than being a master of your own destiny," the book reassures her. She knows this to be true. It is why she stayed home for all those years and fiercely defended Carl and the kids' freedom, at the cost of her own.

And in the future is the 6 of Fire - "Success." The card is illustrated with a person riding a tiger through confetti.

Everything is going to be okay, Alice thinks. At least temporarily.

"The greatest wisdom to keep in mind with all the phenomena in the parade of your life, whether they be valleys or peaks, is that 'this too will pass.' Celebrate, yes, and keep on riding the tiger," the book advises her.

The overarching energy of the reading (bottom card) is the 9 of Fire - "Exhaustion."

"This is the portrait of one whose whole life energy has been depleted in his efforts to keep fueling the enormous and ridiculous machine of self-importance and productivity. He has been so busy 'keeping it all together' and 'making sure everything runs smoothly,' that he has forgotten to really rest. No doubt he can't allow himself to be playful. To abandon his duty for a trip to the beach could mean the whole structure might come tumbling down..." Tell me about it, Alice thinks. Isn't this the card of modern motherhood? Or maybe motherhood through all time? God, I am so exhausted.

She thinks of all the weekends when she had been running the kids around all week and how she would be summoned to Carl's family's house, and how if she tried to stay home to stare at the wall or pick her nose or masturbate or watch YouTube videos or whatever, he became angry with her. Yes, she found meditation, which was great, but how in the hell is catching 20 minutes of rest a few times a week enough? It just isn't. She thinks about how she has often thought that if she just had a room somewhere with a mattress, blankets and a pillow, she would just sleep indefinitely. She thinks of how Carl vehemently defends his time to play video games many hours a day, and how much extra work that meant for her over the years, and how he is this way because anything resembling sloth prompted intervention from his parents in the form of home improvement projects or house cleaning, and how he has projected that onto her for 25 years, and how she wants out. How she desperately needs some rest. 

And then a card jumps out while she is shuffling, X - Change from the Major Arcana. The Wheel of Fate.

"Life repeats itself mindlessly - unless you become mindful, it will go on repeating like a wheel. That's why Buddhists call it the wheel of life and death - the wheel of time. Once you see the pattern, you can get out of it." Oh yes, she saw a pattern. Carl would cling to her, and she would try to get a bit of independence, and he would lay down the law, and she would abide. The cycle of abuse.

All she can do from this point is act out of love and hope for the best. The Universe will decide decide the outcome, and either way, all will be well. It is time. She can't go on like this anymore.

That's what she would have thought without the reading, anyway.


<Click here to go to Part 4: Onions>