Writing Eros in BROKEN
art | blogs | book promotion | Broken | love | marriage | mind-body connection | romantic fiction | sex | special | vicarious thrills | vulnerability | writing

Writing Eros in BROKEN

[This short article originally appeared on If These Books Could Talk Blog. ]

I’ve been married with children for my entire adult life, so, technically, I don’t know anything about sex. (Or, perhaps, birth control….) It’s true, I’ve had two different husbands, but I think it’s fair to say that I fall under the vanilla category.

As smooth, satisfying, and delicious as vanilla is, sometimes, as an author, I need something more tangerine, or more pungent. Luckily I have a good imagination, and a husband who’s willing to experiment with me. In the name of art, of course.

Broken, set in occupied Paris from 1939-1942, is the story of a fallen angel who struggles to save her friends and lovers as the Nazis exert ever more lethal control over the city. The angel Alia falls from heaven because of a personal loss which shocks her out of unity thinking. As soon as she falls, she is beset with sensual desire, with temptation, with the lust that is embedded in flesh. She throws herself into the cornucopia of carnal delights offered by Paris on the eve of the second world war. Paris in 1938-1939 was a feast of entertainment, parties, and revelry, with many intellectuals, writers, and artists openly living a licentious lifestyle.

But I imagined that Alia didn’t start out completely human. Broken is also the story of her journey into her own humanity. So the sex scenes in this novel document her incarnation. They aren’t just gratuitous titillation. Alia begins the novel with a free-wheeling, casual attitude about sex and lovers because she hasn’t yet fully identified with her body. It’s a plaything for her, it’s not herself. So I thought of these early sex scenes in the vein of sex-as-frivolous-fun.

Sex changes as she begins to care for the bullfighter Pedro and the musician-mathematician Josef. Her heart is part of her body, too—her heart goes along with what her body embraces.

Alia also has a horrifying experience of sex used against her. She is manipulated into gratifying a Gestapo agent, and it sickens her. But sex as a power play is part of the human condition, so as an author, I chose to include it.

Finally she comes to be a partner with one man, and she experiences deep intimacy with him. The eroticism they share ripens. It’s based on a heart-connection as well as sensual pleasure. It’s not just about ecstasy anymore, it’s also about love; Alia has become fully human, fully identified with her physical being. She has experienced the full range of sexuality as she has evolved into the woman who would make the ultimate sacrifice for her beloveds.

Eros in BROKEN

errors | evil | harassment | healing | horror | I am | kindness | psychosis | redemption | vulnerability

On Dealing with Mental Illness

My husband Sabin met Robin Williams in the lobby of our building. Sabin came away with respect for the comic. “He’s down-to-earth, a nice guy,” Sabin approved. These are rare words of praise from my laconic husband, who seldom dispenses compliments and who is impressed only by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Robin William’s recent suicide has erupted into a public ferment of discussion about suicide and depression. I worry about copycat suicides, but the new open forum can benefit people who suffer from depression.

I’m a deeply creative person and creativity is linked with depression. I’ve stood at the edge with my toes curled over, staring into the abyss, wishing with every angstrom of my being that I was dissolved into that nothingness. I have been in that place of despair. It feels like there is nothing else. It feels bottomless. I understand, beneath what can be articulated, what Williams felt in the last hours of his life.

I don’t know how I survived some of those experiences. When I emerge from them, I have always felt so ashamed of my “weakness.” It didn’t help that my borderline personality disorder mother and entitled narcissist ex-husband were quick to use my despair as a means of “proving” that I was less than, that I was deficient, even worthless. For them, my depression validated their unkind treatment of me.

One beloved friend wrote recently about her own near misses with suicide. For her, the gun in her mouth failed to go off. I am so grateful that it failed. She is beautiful person, full of grace; the world is richer for her presence in it.

For me, survival might have something to do with my most primordial DNA. Family legend says we have Cherokee blood; DNA testing revealed a preponderance of hitherto-unexpected Ashkenazim genetic markers–such a large percentage of them, in fact, that the genetic testing technician looked at my results and stated, “Oh, you’re Jewish.”

So I have thought to myself that my ancestors were marched down the Trail of Tears, and they were burned up in pogroms. I am the dregs of not one but two genocides. I think it has left a residue of something inside me that keeps going and going and going.

In the bleakest moments of depression, I felt like an infinite can of gray paint had spilled out everywhere, onto everything. It coated everything so thickly and airlessly that there was no light or color anywhere. It is an unbearable, unyielding oppression of spirit.

When I am out of that state, I can imagine how my grappling with the gray paint must have been hard on the people around me. I can empathize with the difficulties they experienced through me.

Unfortunately for me, until the last decade, many people closest to me were so filled with malice that they took satisfaction in my depression. I hope Robin Williams didn’t have those kind of people around him. My life is different now, I have been working on my boundaries. I don’t keep malicious people around me anymore.

Life is better when I have kind-hearted people around me.

Malice is itself a mental illness. Unlike depression, people who live in that state of malice see the impact they make on the people around them–and they enjoy hurting other people. From my own reading and research, they tend to be borderlines and narcissists.

I am dealing now in a legal forum with a borderline who is way off the reservation. She’s also a sociopathic liar. I’ve written in other posts how she went crazy when I made a business decision she didn’t like. She sent dozens of caustic, threatening, obscenity-filled emails; after impersonating me online, she impersonated an attorney to me, signing his name and legal credentials to a threatening email; she tried to extort thousands of dollars from me and my husband by threatening malicious litigation; she pretended she had contacted a dear friend of mine and he had given up some dirt on me; she fraudulently stopped payment on checks, one to me and one to a third party; she left vitriolic voicemails that I may upload into youtube so that other people unfortunate enough to deal with her know how truly deranged she is.

My dear friend wrote me, matter-of-factly, that contrary to what she’d written, he’d never spoken to her nor heard her name before I forwarded her email to him. “Good luck,” my friend wrote, “she sounds like a looney tune.”

But this psychotic woman is far more than a goofy looney tune. She’s mentally ill in a way that hurts other people and enjoys doing so. I watched her be vitriolic and abusive toward other women, before she unloaded onto me. She turns on women regularly. I also watched her craven seduction of every man in her purview. Her conversation was filled with statements about how other women were jealous of her and how every man wanted to sleep with her.

Why didn’t I wise up sooner to the extent of this psycho’s cruelty and insanity?

Partly because this psycho can appear normal and she knows how to flatter people.

Partly because I have a blind spot when it comes to borderlines, thanks to my mother.

Partly because it’s hard for me to impute malice to people. I just don’t get it. I want to live with integrity and to act with kindness and generosity toward people. Note: I don’t succeed every minute of every day, but this is my stated intention. I do not take pleasure in the suffering of other people.

So sometimes I don’t see what’s staring me in the face, whether it’s a borderline’s obvious psychotic imbalance as she bullies people, especially women, or the malicious, invasive obsession of an ex stalking my blog, visiting my blog site every day from wherever he is, sometimes several times a day.

I need to grow out of my naivete.

There’s the mental illness turned inward, that hurts the self. There’s the mental illness turned outward, hurting other people. Many books claim that the latter is a defense against the former, that people lash out with malice because of the pain of the rot at their own core.

Perhaps. Recently a healer with whom I am working defined “evil” for me: “It’s the conscious decision to harm another human being.”

It’s necessary to be wary, to be mindful, of this evil, whether it’s evil turned inward or turned outward.

For the evil turned inward, I’ve developed a series of strategies that help me. Regular exercise, for one. I have made a commitment to practicing yoga every day, and it’s not just because I’m vain and want a nice-looking body–though that’s part of it. Another reason is because yoga is the single best negative-pattern interrupt I’ve encountered in my 51 years. I go to the gym several times a week for cardiovascular exercise. I’ve worked on myself in psychotherapy and I receive spiritual healings. I’m filling my life with friends who have loving hearts, friends who laugh with me. I meditate. I chant mantras. I pray. Oh, yes, I pray every day.

I’ve trained myself to look in the mirror and say, “I love you and you are beautiful and worthy. You are a wonderful person.” This exercise in self-appreciation and self-love was the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. It was much harder than going to Yale and Columbia from a modest, turmoil-filled family where no one had ever attended college.

Ultimately, I believe that this is the antidote to evil: Love. Love from within to the within. Love that starts with the self, and radiates into strong boundaries that keep out the malicious folks. Mature love that accepts that sometimes other people are malicious and must be kept out of the inner sanctum. Love that understands that sometimes evil will have its way.

I know that karma exists. Actions always return. Sometimes karma has a long, long arc, but in the end, evil is balanced.

Wherever Robin Williams is, I pray that he feels the outpouring of other people’s love for him. I pray that it leads him to greater and greater self love. I pray that the evil he did himself is balanced by some extraordinary kindness toward his soul. I pray that when people come to that moment of choosing to harm themselves, that some tiny particle of love comes in to pull them back from the abyss.

dystopian | harassment | self-reliance | vulnerability

Respectful Apologies to my Blog Readers

In the wake of recent cyber-harassment and the unlawful impersonation of me by an unauthorized person–who also impersonated an officer of the court to me–I have banned large swathes of IP addresses from my websites.

If you find yourself blocked from access to my websites, and you are an individual with only benign intentions, then please accept my apologies.

The internet, and email, and technology itself is an extraordinary gift. It can also be used to harm people. I am taking steps to protect myself.

If you are someone who enjoys reading my blog from time to time or who has stumbled upon it accidentally, then Welcome! And a lovely day to you.

criminal behavior | horror | psychosis | vulnerability

Email Harassment and Criminal Behavior

A post about the horror of Email Harassment.

I guess sometimes I’m kind of a naive person. Sometimes I trust when I shouldn’t.

So I got involved with someone who is psychotic, and it took me several months to see it.

I took someone on to help them. There were warning signs along the way: occasionally this person was startlingly verbally abusive toward women. I mean, sometimes this person seemed to hate women with a rare, intense, and perplexing viciousness.

But the person didn’t act that way toward me, and always seemed to have an “excuse,” though now that I look back on it, is there ever a justification for brutally aggressive verbal abuse and profound misogyny?

This person can be incredibly charming on the telephone, working a kind of Grima Wormtongue thing. Still, many of this person’s relationships degenerated into ugliness, name-calling, and bitter enmity. But always there was an excuse, and it was never this person’s fault.

Then it was my turn to be on the receiving end.

I first grew aware of a serious issue when I discovered that this person had impersonated me online, signing my name and personal email to a gift without my foreknowledge or consent.

This was a wake up call that I heard. I pulled back. No one has the right to violate my privacy that way. No one has the right to impersonate me or to appropriate my email address. It is identity theft and it is wrong.

Then, just a few days ago, things erupted. I made a decision this person did not like. When I stood my ground, the person first was conciliatory, and then suddenly–the switch flipped. In the course of a few hours, Mr. Hyde emerged.

This person sent dozens and dozens of violent, offensive emails that included threats of bodily harm, like promising to fight me until “blood trips.” There were other vulgar, violent threats that I won’t post online. The emails were increasingly poorly spelled and they were filled with the foulest language imaginable. They included manic threats of various sorts. The diction was completely out-of-bounds, like something from a ghetto. I was called the “c” word fifty times or more, and even in the subject line of the emails.

One of the emails, demanding a large sum of money within 24 hours, was also sent to my husband.

In the course of this mad ranting, the person claimed to have phoned a longtime friend of mine, and he had given up some dirt on me. Of course my friend emailed today saying straight out that he had never spoken to this person and had never heard the name before my emails describing the person’s allegations.

Is it any surprise that this toxic person is a sociopathic liar?

Moreover, this person signed the name and legal credentials of an attorney admitted to the bar to one of the emails sent to me, for the purposes of threatening and intimidating me–without the attorney’s consent. I wonder how the attorney feels about that, given the responsibility of character and ethics that comes with a bar membership. So this person impersonates other people, too.

Obviously, this person has decompensated totally. Obviously this person needs psychiatric care.

In the meantime, I am left cleaning up a mess. There are people I must warn, because those people came up in conversation between me and the psychotic person–and I don’t know what the psychotic person will say or do. I don’t know if this unbalanced person will make contact, as a way to hurt me.

Several friends have urged me to file a restraining order, because the threats of physical harm were blatant and appallingly far over any possible line anyone could draw.  These threats were criminal.

This person also hurt a third party financially, an independent subcontractor who had completed work for this person, because I was the one who recommended the subcontractor. I feel terrible because someone I like and respect, who does first rate work, was hurt. The psychotic person stopped payment for work already completed, which is the same as writing a bad check: it is fraud.

The psychotic person also stopped payment on a check to me for a service that I provided. More fraud.

It’s shocking when harassment erupts this way. There are places to report it, and I have. There are steps to take, and I’m taking them.

In the meantime, it does leave me reeling, stunned at the depths of viciousness and sociopathy in the human soul.

Brené Brown on Love, Respect, Kindness, and Vulnerability
friends | gratitude | healing | kindness | love | maturity | redemption | transference | vulnerability

Brené Brown on Love, Respect, Kindness, and Vulnerability

A post contemplating Brené Brown on Love.

Of late I have been thinking deeply about these issues of the human heart. It’s partly because of a dark and difficult book I’m writing, and partly because someone to whom I’d turned for help, someone I trusted and respected and liked, has let me down.

This person is powerfully and deeply defended, and isn’t the kind of person who can own their own stuff. Rather, it would be a situation of lack of truthfulness and unacknowledged projection—as it has been for a long while.

So there will be no resolution for me with this person. There will never be a moment when that person can look me in the eyes and own having taken advantage of my trust and vulnerability. It’s not going to happen. And that’s life, so often unresolved.

It happens, right? I sometimes think that we’ve all been subtly trained by sappy television shows and trite movies to believe that there’s always a neat ending that fits our preconceived notions of right and wrong. I also see in our culture a growing entitlement and refusal to take personal responsibility. It dismays me.

Then this morning I encountered this quote:

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.

Brené Brown The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I took from this passage that I can continue to nurture and grow love, trust, and respect within myself. I can soften and I can open my heart, even when the other person doesn’t. I can own that in myself: my willingness to be vulnerable, respectful, and kind.

It doesn’t mean I have to be vulnerable to everyone I meet.

There’s a myth that’s prevalent in our society that blames both parties for the behavior of one party, as if two parties equally participate in one person’s treatment of another. All you have to do to understand the falsity of that notion is read history. Categorically, the Jews had nothing to do with the way Nazis treated them. It works in the microcosm, too, in dyad. One person can behave well and the other not so much.

There’s another liberal culture myth that I call the Great Narcissism, which goes like this: If we are tolerant of them, they will be tolerant of us. People want to believe that. They want to think that the world is a mirror that will reflect back their own kindness and tolerance. It’s just not so. It’s a very dangerous myth, in fact.

Plenty of extremist groups will use tolerance to hurt the more tolerant groups.

But Brown has a point: we can each nurture love within ourselves, not demanding and expecting that it will be universally reflected back. But sometimes it is, sometimes the other person can and will nurture their own inner love, kindness, respect, and trust, with mutuality and reciprocity.

Then there is transformation and healing.


Big Brother is Watching
anarchy | dystopian | errors | evil | freedom | harassment | terrorism | theft | vulnerability

Big Brother is Watching

A courageous news team in Houston reported on the Houston Police Department’s testing of an unmanned drone with a high-def, long-range camera that can see inside people’s homes. Check out the video report here.

Mostly I regard the Fourth Estate with skepticism. News media have long since sold out to the government to garner exclusives and to curry favor, to Big Business because Big Business owns the media outlets, and to the lowest common denominator of populist taste because they need to sell copies or gain ratings to stay in business. Objectivity is a myth. Wikileaks is doing what the media should do, but media outlets long ago lost the balls to execute their own mandate: inform the public. Of everything.
However, in this case, local K2 news in Houston did what the media should do: it kept an eye on the police. The Houston Police Department tried to keep media out, and lied to the pilot of the news copter about FAA restrictions. When the Houston Police Department realized that they’d been seen despite their attempts at security, they scrambled to give a press report.
Yes, unmanned drones can have helpful, protective, practical applications, like putting out brush fires and following bank robbers. But make no mistake: this drone will certainly be used by Big Brother, by which I mean the police, FBI, Homeland Security, etc. to deprive civilians of their privacy. To collect information “just in case.”
We all know that information can be massaged to prove any point whatsoever.
It is unfortunate but true that 9/11 has been used to destroy civil liberties. “American freedom” is a myth, a nostalgic idea from a past that has vanished. Totalitarianism approaches. Much of it is financially oriented. We live in a time when Big Business has won, and continues to win, so many legislative victories depriving individuals of choice and forcing individuals to pay outrageous prices that Big Business has become an arm of the government, controlling us. I’ve said it before and will say it again: There is a pattern at work in the world. The pattern is the slow but steady erosion of civil liberties and individual rights. These are handed over to Big Business so that the few can make money at the expense of the many. BEWARE.
Then there are the security forces, who inexorably increase their power so as to enslave the public, eradicate free speech, eliminate the free dissemination of ideas, and deprive us of our privacy.