The Hard Question

goodbye.jpg

~*~

“Which, of all the goodbyes in your life has been the hardest so far?” Manda, my inquisitive 12-year-old niece, has asked the impossible.

Good grief. How do you tell a child, albeit an old soul, about the painful goodbye to lost youth?

How do you get the young to understand that all that lies between youth and old age is time? Time well spent, or time squandered or lost, it’s the same. One way or another getting from point A to point B involves the loss of youth along the ever-flowing river of time ~ until it opens into the vast ocean of death that awaits us all.

For saying goodbye to my youth has been the hardest goodbye … so far. The transit to middle age a shock like none other as I realize that what time lies ahead is undoubtedly less than the length of life I’ve already lived.

Jeepers!

Sure, I’ve said my farewells to the living and the dead; to a bad marriage (good riddance), to a self-absorbed parent and to those who’ve used and abused my trust and good faith. Many more glad goodbyes, than sad ones, to be honest. Nevertheless, all painful in the moment.

Still, the transition that has proved most troublesome; the goodbye that’s taken the longest and still haunts, is that bade to lost youth.

Where did it go?

I look in the mirror. When did the crevices deepen; the hair lighten; the skin get loose and lumpy?

As my outer aspect fades and the bones and sinews and flesh succumb to the ravages of gravity and wear and tear it is, at times, poor compensation to witness the joyous expansion of my inner landscape as it learns to embrace the new reality. As it endeavours to pull together the threads of my life into a woven tapestry that celebrates the path and not just the now ebbed youthful vitality of the mortal coil that walked it.

Why can’t I have both? And not through cosmetic surgery which proves a desperation to which I cannot cleave. No! Why can’t we have youthful beauty and mature wisdom at the same time, and by-pass the carping, and griping, and complaining about creaky joints,  hair loss and exhaustion that plagues those of us who make it to the golden years? The years when society least appreciates our contributions and the wisdom we have gained through hard work and experience.

Youth forgets they will, one day, be one of us. Rejecting our wisdom, they must stumble into middle age and beyond like the rest of us who thought that day would never come. Eyes wide shut and feet wandering in an overwhelming wilderness of aging unknowns.

Youth forgets you cannot run from the past. That it is recorded in the deepest space of our inner knowing. And not just our past … that of those who have gone before. The corrupted lives that were not healed and passed their pain on down the generations. Youth forgets. Until they, too, are old.

The advantage of saying goodbye to lost youth is, of course, that we are not so easily manipulated. We do not bend, as before, to the will of those who abuse, so they no longer look to bend us. At best, they ignore us. At worst, they will try to break us.

As well, since as we grow older we tend to recognize more readily, and reject, the narcissists amongst us, we can gather to our bosom the will to heal the wounds they so selfishly inflicted.

“Goodbye, lost youth, goodbye,” she said with a sigh.

And though it has been the hardest goodbye, I would not go back there. I would not want to face the fears and trepidations of early life again; feel I am never good enough and must yield to a commercial standard of perfection which none can meet without the selling of their soul. The pain of being corrupted by lies is, perhaps, one of the greatest of all.

Saying goodbye to my youth has been the hardest, yet I cannot linger in that space now dead. I embrace the new path. Not all make it this far … and who knows how much farther this path will take me.

Manda would not understand these things. She, who still has her whole life ahead of her does not need to hear about this hard goodbye.

“Manda, sweetie,” I ply her with a homemade chocolate chip cookie and wrap my arm lovingly around her shoulder. “Ask me another question. That one’s too hard for me today.”

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

Tea Time

Daily Prompt: Leap

~*~

“Leap’s a funny word, isn’t it, Aunt Sal?”

“Why do you say that?” I ask while brushing the mud off my boots before entering the house. We’ve been out at the barn feeding the horses. Such a mucky day as the seasons transition.

“Well,” Manda pulls off her boots and shoves them in the corner by the door. “It’s such a small word that can mean so many things. And it sounds funny. Leap!” She says it over and over as if to make her point.

I give her shoulder a playful shove as we move from the mud room into the kitchen. Manda flops down in a chair at the wobbly kitchen table while I put the kettle on.

“You really need to get Uncle Bill to fix this,” she says, annoyed that it’s still a topic of conversation after several months.

“Your uncle has other things on his mind … I’ll get around to it in due course,” I respond, my own annoyance bubbling. She’s right, of course, but it’s not a priority. I settle down at the wobbly table and plant a plate of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the centre of it. We both reach for one. “Tea or chocolate milk?” I ask.

Manda doesn’t answer right away.

“What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?” I ask, curious.

“Well, I usually have chocolate milk, but I’m wondering if I should try tea instead.”

“Oh,” I exclaim, “you want to take a leap and try something new, then?” Manda rolls her eyes. “What’ll it be?” I ask, “Earl Grey? Lavender? Peppermint?”

“What are you having?” she asks.

I get up from the table and head for the cupboard where the tea caddy is kept. Take it out and return to the table. I place the antique wooden box in front of me and carefully open its fragile lid. It’s really too delicate for everyday use, but if it’s not used it’ll simply gather dust and get forgotten in the interest of preservation. I prefer things to be used up in gainful employment. Then they always have a purpose.

Manda looks on and asks, “Why haven’t I seen this before?”

I smile. “Oh, you’ve seen it. You just haven’t seen it.”

“It’s beautiful!” my 12-year-old old soul exclaims as she examines its intricately carved details. “Where did you get it?”

“It’s been in the family a long time. My grandmother left it to me. She used to love her tea in the afternoon. We’d sit together, much like this, and shoot the breeze.” I sigh. It wasn’t quite like this. There was a lot more tension, but she doesn’t need to know this. “Would you like to see what’s inside while I deal with the boiled kettle?”

Manda nods and I slide the fragile box carefully across the table cloth to where she’s sitting. “Oh look,” she notes, “the packets are all pretty colours! Like jewels!”

I return to the table with my Royal Albert china tea pot and two matching cups and saucers.

“Oooh, those are pretty!” Manda squeals. “I haven’t seen you use them before.”

“Yes, you have, you just haven’t seen them.”

“Why do you keep saying that? What do you mean I haven’t seen them?”

“Your eyes are opening, darling, that’s all.”

Manda looks at me funny.

“A lesson for another day. Now, pick a tea,” I suggest. “Anything you like.”

“But how do I know what they are?” she moans, confused.

“Well, you don’t, and that’s part of the fun. This is a leap of faith moment, albeit a small one.”

“What’s a leap of faith?” she asks.

“I’m so glad you asked,” I respond. “Pick your tea.”

Manda surveys the 12 flavours all stored separately in little compartments, their fragrances commingling to a heady sense of well-being.

“How do I do that … pick a tea?”

“Well,” I lean over and pull my favourite, though I don’t tell her that, from the box. I bring the mauve and sage packet to my nose and take a big sniff. Hmmm … delightful. “Smell this.” I give Manda the packet and she takes a whiff. “No, not a whiff … inhale it’s fragrance.” Manda takes a deeper whiff. I guess that’s as much as she can commit right now.

“Oh, that smells sweet. What is it?” Manda turns over the packet. “Lavender.” She reads aloud. “What does it taste like?”

“Do you want to find out?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, smell them all, if you like. Maybe there’s something else you’d like to try.”

Manda scans the box ~ rose hip; Earl Grey; camomile, peppermint, roiboos, et al. She picks up each packet and sniffs it. Her face registers delight or dismay accordingly and she separates them on the table into two piles. This takes several moments.

“Come on,” I chide, “I’m thirsty.”

“These smell nice,” she points to four possibilities in a pile to my right. The lavender we started with, green tea, liquorice and a citrus blend.

“Okay, so which one?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” she moans.

“Okay, so this is where we employ a leap of faith. This is when you take a chance on something not knowing what the end result will be and hope with all your heart it turns out in your favour.”

“It’s make my mind up time,” she states.

“It’s make your mind up time,” I affirm.

Manda eeny-meeny-miney-mos it. The tiger in my tummy is rumbling in time. Finally she lands on liquorice.

“Is that the one?”

“Yes,” she responds with certainty.

“Let’s see then. Open it up and put the tea bag in the pot.”

Manda tears open the packet, takes another whiff of its sweet, exotic aroma and then drops the tea bag into the pot filled with hot water. “I like liquorice,” she declares.

“I know.”

“How long does it take?”

“To steep?”

“Is that what they call it?”

“Yes.” I smile. I love these impromptu life lessons, especially when Manda’s of a mind to engage. ” A couple of minutes, that’s all.”

We wait. Manda takes another cookie and puts it on her saucer in anticipation. “Do we need sugar or milk?” she asks, hesitating.

“Not with liquorice,” I smile.

The Victorian Regulator ticks and tocks in the hallway. Abbey, the collie, lies beside her food dish and groans. A nor’easter wails against the windows. More rain to come.

“There. That should do it …” I pick up the tea pot and pour some liquorice nectar into Manda’s cup. “Wait for it to cool just a little,” I warn, “and no dunking.”

Manda nods and waits for me to pour my tea. The tension is surprisingly high for this little leap of faith moment. She sniffs at the steam as it rises from her cup. “Smells good,” she admits.

“Okay, you ready?” I ask after a couple of minutes of thumb twiddling and worried looks.

With utmost care, Manda picks up her cup and draws it to her lips. Takes a sip. “Oooh, hot!” she squeals, but then takes another, this time more prepared. Her eyes get wide as she savours the exotic flavour of anise while it tickles her taste buds.

“How’s that for a leap of faith?” I wink over the rim of my cup while taking a sip.

“Hmmmmmm …”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Perish the Thought

Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

~*~

I shudder to think about that alternate road while Manda, my 12-year-old inquisitor, continues to draw in her journal awaiting an answer.

Indeed, where would my life have taken me had I stayed with her uncle Ted?

We were ships that passed in the night, by the end, caught in each others’ wake of misery in a sea of lies. He’d never really loved me, and told me as much when he returned home after completing his Masters degree. For five long years I worked to glue the relationship back together again. I was committed ~ or perhaps I should have been committed ~ because I was beating my head against the proverbial brick wall of his narcissism. He no longer had eyes for me. I served no useful purpose to him anymore. But how do I tell a 12-year-old about failed love without making her jaded?

“Well, sweetie, that’s a really good question,” I delay while sipping on soothing chamomile tea and looking across the table to peek at her drawing of a horse under a willow. Such a good little artist, my Manda. “And I’m not sure how to answer it, to be honest.”

Manda stops drawing and puts down her green pencil. Evidently the grass will have to wait. She reaches for a small bunch of grapes from the ceramic fruit bowl in the middle of the kitchen table and plucks one from its stem. Pops it in her mouth. She’s thinking. Oh, dear.

“Why?” she asks with the nonchalance of youth.

“Why?” I repeat with the desperation of age.

I never understood his side of the story, because he wouldn’t talk about it. Why does anybody fall out of love with someone they promised to spend eternity with, and why would anyone want to stay with a person who’d fallen out of love with them? We’d had nothing to keep us together either. No children because blessedly, as I was to find out later, I was unable to get pregnant. The longer I stayed with him the more I became lost in his narcissistic need for everything to be about him. It was always about what I could do to keep him happy; never about what I even needed to be happy. So much so, in fact, that by the time we parted I had no idea what made me happy anymore.

“Sweetie, as you get older you’ll realize that relationships are only as functional as the people who are in them. If I’d stayed with your uncle Ted you and I would not be sitting here having this conversation, for one thing. We’d still be a one-car family which I’d never have access to, and the only time we would see each other is if your mom or dad came to get me. Before your uncle Ted and I parted ways we lived in a tiny town isolated from friends and family. I was stuck at home and,” she may as well know this, “cried a lot.”

“You cried?” Manda’s eyes light up in surprise. I don’t know that she’s ever considered my feelings beyond what she knows of me now  ~ the happy, smiling auntie who loves life. I did not love life so much back then.

“Well, Manda, when you’re unhappy that’s what you do, right?” I confirm. “Remember when those so-called friends of yours excluded you from their group and you ran away crying your eyes out?” She nods and absently pops another grape into her mouth. “Well, my experience with your uncle Ted is just a more complicated version of that. I was desperately unhappy. He’d cut me off; excluded me from his life. Everything I’d ever considered to be true about our relationship turned out to be completely false. I’d been living a lie with a man who’d lied about ever loving me.” I stop to register the effect of my words on this young mind. She seems okay, so I continue, “If I’d stayed with him … well, to be honest, it doesn’t even bear thinking about.”

I take another sip of tea and for a moment we become lost in our own thoughts. Oh, the journey I’ve taken since leaving that sad man. I recall the tipping point. We’d been out shopping in early January, spending Christmas gift certificates, I think. Went to lunch. I’d asked him what his plans were for the year, digging, I guess, and nothing in his answer included me. It was telling, but I didn’t say anything at the time. And then on the long drive home his seeming indifference began to eat away at me. I started asking those suppressed questions. His answers got defensive.

“So what do you want from this relationship?” I finally asked as we pulled into the driveway.

“A furnished house.”

His answer floored me. I was so flabbergasted by this strange response I had to ask him again. Certainly our new home had a few empty rooms in it, and my work as a writer, artist and riding teacher was not so lucrative, yet. But, could it be that all he wanted was for me to be a conduit of financial resources for his precious lifestyle at the expense of my own dreams?

“I want a furnished house,” he repeated without apology.

Nothing about love, or family, or shared dreams … just a house with furniture and his travel plans mentioned previously over lunch. I did not fit into his scheme at all.

“Auntie Sal,” Manda’s loving voice brings me back. I shudder away the memory and take another sip of tea.

“Yes, my lovely Manda?” I respond, glad of the present moment.

“Really, it doesn’t matter to me what your life would have been like if you’d stayed with uncle Ted. I love that you are happy now, and don’t want you to be unhappy thinking about all that other stuff.”

I reach for a grape from the bowl and throw it at her playfully. Her reflexes are good. She catches it as it hits her chest and puts it in her mouth.

“Well, all I can say is thank goodness for that. Now, let’s have a cookie.”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Another Writer

Daily Prompt: Life After Blogs

“Honey, I remember life before computers, so imagining my life without one isn’t much of a stretch,” I wink at my 12-year-old niece, Manda, who simply stares at me in disbelief. Of course, her generation has practically been raised by computer, so imagining a world without one would be a challenge.

“So,  what was it like?” she asks, tentatively while gnawing on a homemade oatmeal cookie, part of a batch we made this morning.

“Well, life was simpler in a more complicated kind of way.”

Manda gives me the wooly eyeball. “What does that mean?”

I set my tea cup back in its saucer on the table and look past her through the window to the snow-covered garden. Cardinals are flitting back and forth from tree branch to tree branch, enjoying the sunny respite from what has turned into a frigidly cold winter. I feel old even thinking about the way things were before computers, so I stick to thinking about what it would be like to live without a computer now.

“Well, as a writer it means that I’d be doing my work on a typewriter, which is far more arduous, but in some ways,” I muse, “it’s more connected to the page. You make typos and learn to let them fly or risk interrupting your train of thought. With a computer you can back track and correct ad nauseum, which is great, of course, but it’s just not the same. There’s something rather grounding about using a typewriter. And perhaps this just makes me a nostalgic, old fool, but so be it.”

I gather by the look in Manda’s eye that something hasn’t registered.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?”

She hesitates. Takes another bite of her cookie and a sip of tea ~ such a sophisticated young lady for her age, full of curiosity and honest to a fault.

“C’mon, dear. Don’t be shy. I know you want to ask me something.”

Manda sets down her cookie and leans back in her chair. The kitchen table wobbles as she bumps the leg. The tension breaks with a giggle.

“I really must get that fixed,” I smile and nudge her calf with my foot. She smiles. There’s my girl.

“Go on then,” I prod, “what do you want to ask?”

“Well,” she looks at me with resolve, “what’s a typewriter?”

Of course, I didn’t see that one coming. Why would she know what a typewriter is? Still, I laugh.

“Hey, don’t make fun!” she squeals, “I can’t help it if I don’t know what it is.”

“You’re right, sweetie, and I don’t mean to make fun. It’s just when you say things like that I realize just how old I really am, and how much has happened in my life time. I laugh more at myself than I do at your naiveté.”

Manda turns her smile upside down and waits for some action on my part that will turn it right side up again.

“Here,” I stand up from the table and walk around to where she is sitting.

“What?” she snarls. I deserve it.

“I want to show you something.” I take her hand, which she allows with some reluctance, and together we journey up the stairs to my writing hide-out.

“Where are we?” she asks.

“This is where I write.” I tell her. “I haven’t brought you here before because I didn’t think you were ready. But since you’ve asked such an important question I wanted to show, rather than tell you, what a typewriter is and looks like.

As we enter the sun beams in gently from the southwest window which overlooks a mature forest of maples and firs. Book shelves line the walls, filled with the works of my favourite and inspiring authors, interrupted only by the occasional large, framed photograph of a favoured spot on our property. I lead Manda past the Apple to a corner of the room where sits an old oak writing desk. Upon it a lumpy form covered in a dust cloth, which I gradually pull back to reveal a vintage black Remington Rand manual typewriter, complete with ribbon. Beside it, a stack of paper.

Manda looks at it, the little laugh at her expense forgotten as her eyes wander its curves and crevices. She takes a step closer to the Remington and then turns to me. “May I touch it, Aunt Sally?”

“Of course, but be gentle with her. She is old.”

Manda lightly touches the keys and runs her hand across the top toward the cylinder.

“Mind the ribbon, though sweetie. It’s full of ink.”

“It still works?”

“Yes, except when the keys get stuck, or I run out of ribbon. But yes, it works wonderfully.”

“Do you ever write with it?”

“Occasionally, when I need to slow down my process. Sometimes my fingers get whipping on that computer over there and the magic doesn’t feel the same.”

“May I try?”

Without answering I reach for a piece of paper from the stack and feed it into the cylinder, rolling it to the perfect start location about two inches down from the top of the page. I show her the space bar and the carriage return. With a look of intense concentration she pushes down the letter I. There’s a chirp of glee as she experiences the mechanisms click into gear and the letter lands on the page. She types another letter, and then another, searching as she goes; frustrated a couple of times, until she’s typed I love my aunty Sal. I beam with pride.

“Oh, aunty, this is amazing! May I keep going?”

“Yes, Manda, of course. I’ll leave you to it.” I smile and give her shoulder a gentle pinch as I turn to leave.

Another writer in the family. She, like me, would be fine without a computer.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

Where The Path Leads

Daily Prompt: Que Sera Sera

Do you believe in fate or do you believe you can control your own destiny?

~*~

Can we possibly know the end from the beginning?

Sally gazed thoughtfully at her 12-year-old niece, Manda, who was thumbing through old family photo albums at the kitchen table. She sighed. Who knows what will happen to this lovely girl as she gets older, Sally mused. It all depends on the choices she makes. And even then, nothing is certain.

“Aunt Sally …”

Sally drifted back to the moment at the sound of her name.

“Yes Manda, sweetie …”

“Did you and Uncle Ted plan not to have any children?”

Trust a child to get straight to the point.

“Why do you ask that, love?”

“Well,” began Manda, “you would have made a great mother. I just don’t understand why I don’t have any cousins … why I have you all to myself.”

Sally walked toward the small pine harvest table and sat on one of its companion chairs. She reached for a photo album and gazed at the page that had prompted Manda’s question. There it was … a family reunion photo of several years before, with all the cousins and their children, including Manda as a toddler, and no one under her and Ted’s wing. She pushed the album away and turned her attention to her niece who was patiently waiting for an answer. She’d have to have an answer or Sally would get no peace.

“You know sometimes, Manda, you can make all the plans you want about achieving a certain thing, but …” she hesitated, truth was a hard thing, ” … but unless you have a true understanding of yourself and the support you need you will rarely achieve it.”

Manda tilted her head toward her right shoulder in wonderment. “Hmmm … I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

Sally took a deep breath.

“Well,” she began, “I always wanted children. When I wasn’t much older than you I had dreams of having a large family. Wanted six children, you know.”

“Six!!!” Manda’s eyes burst open wide.

“Yes, six,” Sally repeated with a sigh. “Within a couple of years of getting married we started trying to have a baby mostly, I think, because all of our friends were having babies and we wanted to keep up. For some reason I couldn’t get pregnant. Your uncle went back to school for his Masters and upon his return we tried in earnest to create that first child. Even went for fertility treatment a couple of times.” Sally stopped, checking to see if she’d lost Manda, but her niece seemed fully committed. She took a deep breath. The memories were almost too painful to share, but perhaps in the sharing some of the pain would release.

“What happened?” Manda whispered, intent to know but somehow understanding the sensitivity of the story being shared.

“Nothing. Nothing happened. There was no baby. When I found out we’d failed the second time I was devastated; heartbroken, and my emotions got the better of me. I cried so much and your uncle was not at all supportive or empathetic. In fact, it was as if the whole episode had not touched him at all. Instead of offering me any comfort he told me I belonged in a nut house,” Sally paused seeing the shocked expression on her niece’s face. “I’m sorry, but you need to know this because it explains what I did next.”

“And what was that?”

“I was so shocked by his lack of empathy and the emotional gulf which seemed to divide us that I told him that I would never go for fertility treatment again. That a pregnancy had to occur naturally or not at all.” Sally sighed. “And, of course, it happened not at all.”

Manda shrugged her shoulders in sadness. “Is that why you left Uncle Ted in the end?”

Sally looked down at her hands and played with her wedding ring from the new man in her life who was everything Tim was not. “It was the beginning of the slippery slope as I realized I could not trust him to be there for me. It took a few years, but yes, it was the first step toward divorce.” She looked up at Manda and smiled, “By the time I met your uncle Bob the biological clock had wound down and my chances for bearing a child were gone.”

“Are you sad about that?” Manda wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

“Come now, Manda, you must not be sad. I’m not. I learned years later after meeting with a hormone specialist and having tests done that my body chemistry could never have supported a baby. My hormones were so out of whack for so many reasons. This, at least, gave me some peace. I could stop thinking of myself as unworthy of being a mother and focus on taking care of my body which my experiences with early life trauma had somehow compromised. You won’t understand all of this now. I simply share it to illustrate that we must really know ourselves to find our real dreams. And we must have support around us to help them come to life. I had neither.”

Manda sighed and smiled. “Do you believe it was your fate not to have children then?”

Sally thought before answering.

“I believe life unfolds the way it should, sweetie. Set a path and see where it takes you. Don’t be fixed to ideas or goals. Use them as guidelines. Perhaps they will lead to even greater things than you can imagine.”

“Is that what happened to you?” Manda asked, hopefully.

Sally pushed the family album aside and reached for her niece’s hand. “Well, I have you, don’t I?”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

Beware The Wolf

Daily Prompt: Brilliant Disguise

Tell us about a time when someone had you completely fooled, where the wool was pulled right over your eyes and you got hoodwinked, but good. Was it a humorous experience or one you’d rather forget? What was the outcome?

~*~

“Lots of people puff themselves up to be more than they are, Manda,” cautioned aunt Sally to her young niece, “it’s born of a deep insecurity; a need to be noticed. You want to watch out for those.”

Twelve-year-old Manda nestled deeper into her hammock and stared blankly into the spectral light that filtered through the rustling leaves of two adjoining maples. It was her favourite thinking place, and she loved it even more when her beloved aunt Sally sat in the rocking Muskoka chair close by and shared her stories.

“Do you have a story you can share to show me, aunt Sally?” Manda asked as she sat up and rested on her elbow, hope beaming from her eyes.

Her aunt thought for a moment. There were too many stories; too many wounded souls who’d pulled the wool over her all-too-trusting eyes. So much hurt. So much pain. Which of these stories could she share without overwhelming the innocence of her beautiful niece?

“Well?” Manda was getting impatient.

Sally smiled weakly. “Well, indeed,” she chided. “You need to understand, Manda, that the world is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing. People who are not what they seem and hide their pain under a clever, often unconscious, disguise. You must learn,” she warned, “never to allow another person’s pain to become your truth. Promise me?”

“I promise,” confirmed Manda, “but do tell me a story, if you have one.”

Sally took a sip of lemony iced tea, so cooling on a hot and sticky summer day, and settled more deeply into her rocker. The rhythm of its gentle sway bringing comfort as she wondered what to share.

“Well, I had one friend … and I use the term loosely … who, well,” Sally felt tongue-tied. She had no wish to lay bare old emotions caught up in past pain. “Look,” she changed tack, “the people you want to watch out for are narcissists.”

“What’s a narciss … whatever that is?” Manda asked, confused

“Narcissist, sweetie …” corrected Sally.

“Narciss … ist …” repeated Manda, still uncertain.

“Narcissists are people who make the world revolve around them at the expense of others. Every conversation; every activity; every experience you have with them will be about them, and if it doesn’t start out that way it will most certainly end up there. They make big gestures based on fantasy; they make promises they never keep; they take what they need without asking at the expense of others and give no thought to its impact on those they offend. They don the mask of perfection so that no one will see the unpleasant truth and they always appear better than everyone else in some way. They take up so much room, and take up so much light you dwell constantly in their shadow and are barely able to see yourself … .” Sally gasped for breath, memories of unveiled wolves suffocating the moment.

Manda jumped from her happy place and knelt beside her aunt’s chair.  “Aunt Sally, please don’t be upset,” she pleaded.

Sally gathered herself. “Ah, you’re a good girl, Manda, but even in your concern for me don’t make my pain yours. You will have enough to contend with in your life.” She paused, “Just remember, Manda, that the surest way to protect yourself from these people is to have a strong sense of self grounded in reality. By all means, have your self-esteem, but never at the expense of others because then you rob them of theirs.” She ushered Manda back to her happy place in the hammock and continued. “This is what narcissists do to you, Manda,” she counselled, “they grab all the attention in the room and take you for all you’re worth and then, when you no longer serve their purpose or they see that you are wise to their ways, they dump you in a heap of pain … their pain. They can never own it, or deal with it, so they spread it around to make themselves feel better … and others feel worse.”

Sally remembered a supposed mentor, an equestrian coach who, when it came down to it, had no one’s interest in mind but her own. Not even the horses’. She cringed at the memory of too-tight side reins the coach had put on her young horse during a training session. At the time Sally had trusted this person to know what they were doing. However, it soon became all too clear that her coach was nothing more than a blow hard when the distressed horse sat down, with Sally on him, and fell over within a few steps of the equipment having been adjusted. Her coach took no ownership of her mistake, solidly pointing the finger at Sally and the “stupid horse.”

The humiliation of not recognizing then what an energy-sucking vampire her coach had been, and the fact she’d allowed herself to be victimized by her for a further four years still hurt in far off places in Sally’s psyche.

“Aunt Sally … where are you?” Manda called her aunt back to the present.

With a shudder Sally returned and smiled awkwardly. She took another sip of her almost-finished iced tea. “Oh, I am sorry,” she offered. “I don’t know if I’m being helpful at all, but let me offer one more thought on the matter.”

“What’s that, aunt Sally?”

“As long you are true to yourself and pay attention to how people make you feel when you are with them you can never go wrong. Some people are only happy when those around them are miserable. If you feel miserable in someone’s company; if they bring out the worst in you; if they abuse your friendship or must be the centre of attention all the time, don’t walk … run! For sure as I’m sitting in front of you today they won’t care if you’re unhappy as long as you make them feel better … in whatever meaning that has for them.” Sally paused for effect. “Always pay attention to how you feel in the presence of another. Understand what your body is saying to you when you feel a pit in your stomach, or your bowels start to churn or …” she stopped. “Goodness me, dear, too much information. … Let’s put it this way. How do you feel when you’re with me?”

“I feel excellent! Happy! Loved!” Manda responded with the exuberance of youth.

“Good,” Sally responded, “let this be your guide wherever you are and whoever you’re with. If you feel anything less than this, leave them to their misery. Will you do that for me?”

“Oh, yes, aunt Sally … for you anything.”

“Lovely … now let’s get some more iced tea.”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Hair Everywhere

Menagerie

Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?

~*~

Animals have always been an important part of my life. I grew up with a variety of dogs and cats in the house, and was around horses for many of my formative years.

In fact, I cannot imagine my life without them.

Well, I can, because for a few years during my first marriage to a man who didn’t particularly care for animals (that should have been my first clue) I lived without animals. No cats to purr in my ear. No dogs to wipe their wet noses on my business clothes. No horses to whinny at me when I walked into the barn.

Our home was spotless, pet hair-free and dull. I was miserable.

When my mother gave me a kitten, Oskar, for my 32nd birthday, my husband was mortified. When we moved into our new home and I rescued a kitten, (Princess ~ so named because she came home the weekend Princess Diana died) to be a companion for Oskar, that caused even more grief.

Needless to say the marriage ended (for a variety of reasons) and I got custody of my precious feline friends who kept my emotional head above water during a really turbulent time.

And that can be said of all the animals I’ve inn my life. Through thick and thin they are there … all they ask in return is that I give them love, feed their tummies and keep a roof over their heads. They are amazing companions.

I love them dearly for all they are to me and my new husband.

Interesting story about this one … when we were dating the animals were smitten. It wasn’t uncommon to see him park himself on the couch and immediately be surrounded in little animals. I couldn’t get anywhere near him.  This was a sign to me that he was a keeper.

So now, we have a house sprinkled with dog and cat hair, and I smell of horses every single day.

I couldn’t be happier …

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015