“Come out and take it, you dirty yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to ya through the door!” – James Cagney partial quote from the famous film “Taxi”1932

Scene 1, Take 1000 ROCK Leans Against Lm’s walls of pain and reminds us all that she may crumble but she is one tough cookie.

As many of #RealStuffbyRealMe readers know Lm has been a bit unhinged lately; ROCK has been trying to take a breather and sighs as he remembers with unbridled compassion her earlier feisty days. Okay, you are right, stones don’t need air. Rock is more like a highly trained navy seal and would fight from the bottom of the big, blue sea for Lm. She has sunken on dry land however and he can only protect her from selfish indulgences she turns to when masking her pain. He shares in his best Cagney impression a memory he hasn’t thought of in years. There is so much about Lm that others don’t know. At nineteen, or was it eighteen?… she sailed with two licensed sailors in their early twenties from the well known Annapolis, Maryland, USA yearly boat show to Fort Lauderdale, Florida! There was TJ, with light brown, sea-salty hair, soft blue eyes and a reputation for knowing everything one is to know about sailing; he was a ladie’s man of sorts, one who knew the ropes of the sea but had a deficient vocabulary and well, Lm found him simple. The captain was sly, short, and had quite the interesting nose; he was boastful with a big mouth, pushy and an extremely mysoginistic character that Moby Dick would have spat upon. He learned quickly that Lm would not comply to some unspoken norms that went with the gig. Lm being completely daft and desperate to escape her home life jumped for the opportunity to go along. Apparently, many galley gals were expected to entertain the captain at sea with more than just their singing. She ducked his sexual advances, refused to laugh at his flirtatious nature he called “joking” and was on guard fully after the forty foot Nordic left the Chesapeake Bay and entered the Atlantic. The boat had been bought by a wealthy Floridian and the crew was to be paid very well (except Lm, another story, another day). In many ways she was running away from BaD Dad and Elle’s impending divorce and the non stop crying and yelling, yet she was also running away from a broken heart. Her first major boyfriend who damaged her trust as much as her father in all future relationships had called and advised against her going. This only gave her more incentive as he doubted her ability to handle life at sea. He was a jerk and in all facets of the definition of a decent human, he failed. Lm will most likely go on and on about him to you later. Now caught at sea with the creepy captain and his side-kick, she was in a storm that they were warned about by the radio weather monitor; it was approaching fast with wild winds and waves from four directions. On a sail boat with no way out she had to brace herself and go through it and believe in someone she despised. Storms are nothing to scoff about at sea. Harnessed in at the stern and both hands tightly on the helm she did exactly what captain said, “stay on this precise course and don’t let go.” The winds were steadily building while the guys worked the sails. She ducked as the boom swung from side to side and despite the captain being a very conceited man she was literally praying to God she would never sail again if he just guided these two sailors safely inland. After the storm they took an unplanned pause at the port in Beaufort, North Carolina. She and the guys got off the boat speechless and ran straight to a bar full of fellow wild water sailors. Drunk and scared she met a curly dark haired girl named Tilly with ankle bracelets and a big heart. Tilly was not afraid of anything and was as free as the winds which Lm believed could have killed them all. TJ and Tilly were seasoned and tanned by their multiple yachty-ness experiences and hooked up that first night; they were in full crush mode and she was welcomed to finish the journey with him and the captain. The captain was even more cocky toward Lm now that TJ had a pretty girl in one night and grew more and more agitated over the slightest things. In a snarky voice he barked at Lm to bring him a sandwich. Lm had been hiding out below in an aft bunk for as long as she could. Frightened yet angry at his savage ways she took two pieces of bread and peeled plastic away from the fake processed cheese food, then slapped some ham on it. She was not happy about his behavior toward her although she was grateful he chose to listen to TJ and take the intracoastal waterway and navigate toward St. Augustne, Florida. She looked at the sandwich and took a bite off the corner and spit it out as she was a strict vegetarian. Nextly, she took a squirt bottle of French’s mustard and wrote RAT on his sandwich in bright yellow and orange. She stepped up from the cabin, handed him the sandwich on a paper plate and quickly went to sit with Tilly who was dangling her legs over the side starboard. The captain had one hand on the helm when Lm gave him the plate and he didn’t notice it’s appearance or say thanks as usual. Both girls giggled. Then they heard “Bitch!” and watched a ham and cheese sandwich fly over there heads and into the salty waters and float away. Lm was not asked to make any food for him again. Believe ROCK when he tells you that when Lm says she smells a “RAT“, she is spot on. She does adore all other rodents however.

Inner Galaxies; Undiscovered Black Holes Within Lm.

Constellations of memories light up Lm’s brain, she can’t sleep as they flicker on and off stopping only when the sun rises and even then there is a only a tiny dimmer switch to rest with her pain. Physical pain was once easier than the psychedelic light show her mind set loose just as she tried to sleep. Now the two sources of pain have made a unique blend that she must try and swallow and go on with each day in conscious repression. Steven Hawkings would be proud of her discoveries, even if she hasn’t shared them with others. She is like a small wild flower in a glass vase much too big for her beauty to be noticed. She lies at the bottom, her petals dancing with color and no one sees her. The pain is like over watering an African Violet, she is drenched and can not do anything about it. Entering her thoughts is risky, for one could be sucked in and not find their way back to safety. She will hold on to you, beckon you not to go and the swirls of ruby fire lit asteroids will attach to you. Escape plans must be made and to survive her pull and force of neediness you must be strong.

In Over My Head; A Journey Back to Me

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EyesOPEN, Gray, Blinding visions, first feeling the pain of waking, assessing my spirit’s cage carefully. Roll over to wake and see nothing to greet my loss of self. SickWith me. LittleMe, MiddleMe, OlderMe, AngryMe, SadMe. I see sundrips upon my skin, they are playful, like the child I once was. I do not feel free but bound and stranded within my soul’s carriage. I am half way nowhere and there is noone to save me but ME. Do I have the strength to fight for Lm, my self worth, my existence or don’t I? That is the real debate. I feel like I am on satin sheets, sliding downwards to an end, an end of what? This life? My consciousness is aware of other’s expectations; my mixed emotions are more like a forced collaborative art project in mixed media. I remain a conglomerate of my past and I can’t get over grief just because it’s part of the healing process assigned to me. I can not recreate a new me from a piece of yarn, a stroke of a paintbrush or one poem. There is no recipe or delight in growing a new version of self if I can’t even remember who I am anymore. I wish upon stars and hold amythyst next to my chest, I breathe in chance and exhale death. I am not so sure ROCK can carry me further. If I lose him as my frontline force against the world, I will lose me.

ROCK’s Weary

For as long as Lm struggled ROCK had her back; the question is how long will Rock continue. Smooth yet petrified, ROCK has covered for Lm for soon sixty years. How does ROCK move on and integrate Lm’s trauma into one neat little package? Gazing into the future, releasing Lm’s agony has to begin. He has to hand over her pain and get her ready for the new and beyond. Lm’s so broken that he is ashamed to admit he too, is weary. The late nights at free falling into frail memories is getting very difficult to control. Is Lm going to become stronger, ready to fly on her own or will she continue to fear each day and ask more questions,? How will she learn to forget? The work to merge the two personas into one is constant, like tiny Santa’s helpers preparing toys for Christmas. They are diligent, undermined and need to be celebrated for their behind the scenes duties. ROCK needs as much as she needs him. A dubious path, fraught with periods of silence together they must meld into a better version of each other. Dry tears form stones into artifacts; artifacts are rediscovered and pulled into the light to be examined. It’s a hot bed of pain and Lm is not moving forward, rather than accepting the two, three or four and more sides, Lm is clinging to ROCK’s bravery and what she knows as Love unconditionally and vows not to hang up her coat or hat just yet.

Masked; LittleMe Defies ROCK

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Where has ROCK been? Why no writing? Lm rose above his domineering persona and said, “Fuck Off!” She pushed him into a hidden closet on the fourth step. She is OUT! She is running, diving, jumping, rolling, shouting, sobbing, vindictive, angry, broken, lost, alone and we must help her before……before she doesn’t turn around and trust us anymore. Her team is on the sidelines and she is sufferring. If you see her be gentle and slow to approach her skinless, impaired and descending self execution. She is so tired, she is so burnt, so ready to yank off her mask and spare no one a break. She is running numbers,scanning through all of her files; 001001001001001001001001001001001001 and Lm will reveal every single detail of her deeply buried pain. She will name the names, she will spit at you and she doesn’t care anymore. She hurts everyday, all day and all night and with ‘kin, not one cares to know, hear and show they respect the TRUTH. If the Onekin, (her description of her siblings are numbered as she runs a virus check through her brain NOW), stood up. If Onekin really wanted to be part of Lm’s safety net, well let’s just say Onekin has had a whole lot of information and still adores BadDad. Hurt? Hell yes it hurts. And there is more for Onekin to know. Lm is debating opening the door with so much sickening pain that it would hurt dear Onekin. Lm does not want to hurt Onekin. Or Twokin, or Threekin, or Fourkin, or Fivekin, or Sixkin, or Sevenkin. Lm only wants TRUTH. To be seen as the survivor she is. She is so insecure and was doing so well. What happened? Triggers do not go away. A gun was drawn that set off memories and Lm is wildly spinning into a tornado of such sorrow that she may not ever make it back to ROCK. She can’t live a lie, she does not trust anyone. SHE DOES NOT TRUST ANYONE! 001001001001001001001001001001001001001001001001……..

All Aboard; It’s the Pain Train

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All aboard! It’s the Pain Train. My seat is permanent, my choices are few and I can’t go to the bar car, the toilet or be around others without making a huge fuss, therefore I choose to stay in my assigned seat. No one can help me; I own this pain. Looking out the window the world flies past and life is taking off at a speed I can’t cope with. The conductor is my nervous system colliding with my brain’s reactions to every tiny bit of stimulus. I see you and I care but I am off track and my brain signals are traveling at such a rate that I do not understand the smallest of conversations or even my own thoughts. This is not the train anyone with any healthy lifestyle wants to board; but it is packed. People are laying in the aisles and hoping for assistance, recognition and acceptance. Chronic Pain Syndrome or CPS is an official diagnosis now by WHO, (no not the band) , rather the World Health Organization. I was recently diagnosed with a severe form that has caused me to lose my vocabulary, shortened my fuses so to speak causing me to be easily startled, reacting with a scream or even sobbing as if the whole world is ending. In some ways, on some days, it actually does feel like a hopeless battle to live this life and ride this train. I have a collision of diagnosis. Degenerative Disc Disease, an inherited condition that I’ve known of since I was in my twenties turned from a back ache after gardening into the most severe form fast in my late forties. At that time I was given 20mg patches of morphine that I changed every few days. I believed this was as bad as it could get then. Yet, I was swimming, walking and riding my bicycle still. I also was cooking which I love to do. From there I slowly began to develop boney growths jutting inward toward my throat and spinal cord and I was told I had unfortunatly signs of early onset osteoporosis. I was put on a bone mineral supplement and more vitamin D and calcium was prescribed. Can’t get worse than this I thought, until it did. A spinal specialist said there was nothing that could be done. I not only have scoliosis, but also severe arthritis and various deformations head to toe. Earlier I had been sent to a university hospital rheumatologist who diagnosed me with fibromyagia, something I would not accept or grasp until I had the most severe flare I have ever had recenty. ( I am recooping now yet have a lot of work to be steadily on my feet again). The Dr.’s who upped the morphine years ago are unable to treat me now. I will say it barely takes the edge off on 30mgs daily slow release which includes fast acting oxynorm up to three times a day, muscle relaxants, anti-depressants, blah blah blah. The more boney growths, the worse my spine becomes. Earlier I was walking with a rolater and or crutches or a cane. Sitting was and remains one of my worst enemies but as I said, my seat is assigned for life. I then contracted covid in March of this year after three vaccinations; the very first time I went out into the city I caught it. I have not regained my strength, have developed chronic asthma and sleep as if in a coma or swing to the other extreme, experiencing severe insomnia and nothing will knock me out. My head hurts daily, I now have tinnitus and vision issues. The train chugs along and now I am in cue for a pain specialist rehabilitation hospital north of Stockholm. I never write about physical pain because I don’t know how to project the feeling with words so that others understand. I know that a really nice man, the husband of an American friend said the right thing one time years ago and it stuck with me. “Hello, it’s nice to see you are having what looks like a relatively good day”. It meant the world that someone knew my good days were fewer than my bad and that he also understood people like me don’t get better, we are chronically living in a state of pain that can ease up a bit but never leaves us completely blissful. For all the readers and writers out there who are living with CPS, I understand you now. I am sorry that I did not understand what my fellow passengers were experiencing until now. Mental health is important to address for everyone and somehow I let mine fall apart. Hopefully after my stay in the Pain Rehabilitation hospital (Uppsala University Hospital) I will be able to read with focus, write with more clarity, listen to others and converse, start walking for my overall health and socializing a bit more with those who have hung in there with me. I will still ride the train with you and I will try to reach out to all of you much more. Remember, you are not alone. We are on board together.

If Patty Smith Came to Dinner…

She would love the old farmhouse and joke about marijuana not being legal in Sweden. She would look at all of my art and feel something. I would have a hard time keeping up the conversation because of my fibromyalgia flare, non stop headaches and chronic pain syndrome. My spine wouldn’t let me cook her one of my famous soups so I would put out a nice bottle of red wine, lay fresh wild flowers by her glass and talk about how fucked up the world is and how we can’t do enough in our short lives to save it. I think I could manage to make a Västerbotten pie which is a Swedish favorite and saute kale, shredded cauliflower and sesame seeds with chili flakes and grill corn. I wonder if she likes caviar. My pain would overwhelm me and I would need extra morphine. I’d tell her how her Easter album changed me, made me feel less guilt and oppression internally from my Bible belt upbringing. I think she’d like me. Maybe I would touch her wild gray hair and talk to her about Bob Dylan and how he can’t be repeated, reincarnated and how many people idolize his ability to hit his listeners over the head with an iron skillet, while repeatedly trying to wake society up. I would serve sweet strawberries and cream and she wouldn’t care that I was in my pajamas because I hurt so much. She would probably not stay over and have ” a guy” that drives her around smoking camels in my driveway. She would hug me and I’d ask if we could take a selfie. She’d oblige and get into a black SUV with dark windows and slowly the driver would make it around the barn, past the silos and I would feel satisfied how well it all went and write a long journal entry. I would call my friends and they’d doubt me. I would have met a rockin’ icon and remember how she empowered all women to continue to stand and raise our community UP to higher ground.

Fallen Angel; Accepting I can not Fly Alone

In this show, on this stage, a giant yet fragile marionette is lowered slowly; as the black velvet curtains part one can see what appears to be an angel flying, sustaining herself with her own elegant wings; no one would surmise that she was not magical at all, nor that she was so delicate that any moment she could break into bits destroying the opening act. She was held together like all puppets with strings attached to, well every part of her. Above her was a monster both good and bad, one who could help her move and also yank her off stage without notice, ending her performance so swiftly that she lost her breath. The monster was made of a slew of chemicals, medicinal ones that gave her just enough energy to be amongst others and move. Some days the monster although well meaning didn’t move her at all. The monster called in her true protector, her friend since childhood with hopes he could guide her with the grief she swam in. Rock said, “other’s are also struggling to perform, to get out and do their best, to live with no strings attached. Some strings are superficial and some are real. You must learn to accept the monster made from the God’s as your friend to live a better life; Morpheus is the monster’s name.” Although Morpheus was powerful, some days even he was not enough. Some days Morpheus lifted her with ease and she glided across the stage, in flight with next to no pain and yet other times she lay in a wooden, splintered heap in her lonely marionette box. Her wings were her freedom. When she was flying she smiled and saw the world as a beautiful place despite it’s absurdities, when her wings ached and she couldn’t even flutter she sank deeper into her box and Morpheus would close her eyes awhile and there she would stay, dreaming of the old days when she flew and saw green tree tops with baby bird’s nests, lover’s hand in hand sitting on picnic blankets and all the colours on the spectrum called Life.

Letting the Light In, one ray at a time

The best of me, you, them, us, and all is Hope. One steps in and out of light, some of us even crawl as we are so broken and dark within that we need others to pull, push and not give up on leading us into streaming rays of what many see as simple “Better-ness”. The closer we come to our own Truth, our ability to grow stronger begins. The realisation that most of the modular examples of humans do not want to go into the depths of who they are is a reality that the evolution of western societies have placed us in. We are “what we do”. We are subjected to a deceptive construct of expectations and judgements. What is really inside your heart, your soul, your mind? Can you say how you truly think, feel and free your voice for other’s to hear or is it too risky? In my five decades plus I have learned a little bit, but Oh! there is so much more to take in. I discover so much more in each moment that I am hypnotised into being a servant of “More”. More than I knew this morning, more than I knew yesterday and I laugh at the rays of sunlight dancing across my heart’s steady beat. I am a painting, a structure framed in bone and my emotions blend into my visual perception of what colour truly is. I am orange, like a clementine imported from Spain. I am as yellow as the lemons which fall along the streets of Amalfi, green as the the stem of a daffodil. I can be black as the coffee grounds I push through the petite glass press each morning, or as rich of a brown as the newly turned soil where the potatoes and garlic are growing now. I, too can be a shade of blue that only can be seen near dusk over the forest’s treeline where night and day blend into a pale magical phase. My palette is as varied as my experiences, some days I feel wonderfully whimsical as a lilac and others I am like the brooding, burnt, melancholy ochre dug from the dry sun baked earth in Morocco; this is my portrait and it changes as my life flows from one hour to the next. When in physical pain I find the most healing hues are tossed like a salad, spread across me like an old quilt and as they dance my suffering returns to gratitude. How did living with severe pain lead me to being thankful? What began as a diagnosis, a prognosis and then a turbulent period of misery led me to my inner oasis.

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My ego was a rhinoceros ready to kill all that made me feel good. I sank in deep mud and stayed there as if cooling down on the banks of the Nile yet my spirit’s nakedness unleashed a depression that no drug could take away. I had to rip my own canvas apart, rebuild who I could or would be and it took years. My fifth decade will always be one of my life’s most valuable periods of renewal. I have discovered that my pain led to the closing of many doors that should have been locked years ago. During this new abstract version of myself I would dwell on my losses, the life I led being stolen from underneath me and envy able bodied friends who slowly were shed from my company. No more deep forest dives, no more hiking for miles and climbing up mountains or cross country skiing; the smallest of movements need to be considered before engaging in every single step of every single day. “Guess-timating” what sort of pain level I will endure from any decision made each day has led me to sculpt a very fine mental map that is virtually traveling within me every second. I did not know in those early days there would be a shift in my endurance and mental health. In the NOW, most days I can not sit at all to eat with my family much less indulge in my love of cooking and painting. I can rarely sit for a dinner party, nor manage restoring a sense of order in my home, lift a potted plant, follow a conversation, make my bed, sleep soundly, wake fresh and be ready for a productive day, meaning how I once described the essence of productivity. I had found my new sketch repugnant, my emotions were entangled balls of wool and I quit. I just quit. Whilst laying in the quiet of each day, I began to face my deepest Truth, a kind of pain so blinding that it was as if I were staring directly into the sun with my eyelids pinned back as intentional torcher. All I had run from, all I had never wanted to face lay with me in my muddy rhinoceros hole. I remembered. And I remembered more and more each day. There was no where to hide and I had to lie next to my past glaring at me night after night, dream after dream. I will never be able to give this process enough credit for saving my NOW. I had to be heard, seen, held and pulled up and it would take re-breaking my heart one memory at a time and a team of guides to rescue my future. The cork popped and like an unexpected flash of rain I would be soaked in seconds with what I assigned a name, terminal despair, or TD. I knew I had to break through my mind’s window, walk on shattered glass, and return to my truest self. In doing so I would fall into the arms of my grandmother’s spirit, call on wise women and old souls to push me into the tiniest bit of light and learn to trust enough to honestly love another human being without resurrecting fear. Fear of betrayal, of being left, of not being good enough. The one who managed to pull me into the light a little more each day was ROCK, my alter ego, and the whispering spirit of Nature’s call to revisit her beauty each day; her majestic sunrises, her wild North Sea storms that are never to be reckoned with and her profound ability to try and recover from humankind’s blatant abuse. I meshed my being with the fight Mother Nature is up against each day as her water’s become spoiled by selfish beings, as her protective layer in our atmosphere dissipates and she keeps reminding me to engage in “Bettering” myself in any way I can. I am part of a rainbow, I am a healer and she is mine. I also have learned that no matter what I have been through, I am in charge of the rest of my life. I still doubt if I am loved as much as I want to be, I still have weak streaks but the colours of me and my new portrait are fierce. And on the horizon I can see that my final sunset will be peaceful. Blessed Be.

Ghosts of You

Stalking my dreams, again I find you there, my fighting to wake and escape from unwanted memories. Why don’t you grieve, hurt or suffer? Why must I lug your trunk of tricks and misery everywhere I go? I feel sick when I come across your photograph smiling and surrounded by good people who don’t know your dirty and deeper secrets. I wonder if you know your own plays, remember the truth of who you are. No one is guaranteed a good life and that alone makes me doubt often any holiness, or sacred recipes exist for us plain ole daily folk. We get sick, die too young or are burdened with poverty, mental illnesses and responsibilities. We don’t run. Step by step we inch toward death with unfulfilled wishes that seem frivolous and only for the one’s that break the rules, sprint from their trunk overflowing with the messes they create, leaving behind their trash for the good doer’s to deal with. In my dream I beg to anyone, an entity of love and life to bar you from my sleep. I know that your dreams are not full of the pain you left others with. You dream of walks along the water, delicious cuisine, fancy clothes and being adored. You do not dream of the children you abandoned or your family that is simple and have stopped wanting more. I will never be “paid back”, you will get the golden egg and my heart will still stray sometimes to unwanted thoughts of you. Tiny bits of pain slip into my illusions, completely disagreeing with my longing for peace each night. Dear Holier, hopefully stronger Spirits fill my night with those who love me and lock the trunk so not even a thief’s expertise can reveal more tonight. Dreams please be kind.