Today, (June 10th) I humbly and gratefully observe the three year anniversary of our horrific motorcycle accident where my husband Sean broke his neck in five places. I firmly believe God sent immediate help and spared us from long-term injury, paralysis and even death! Here are two previous posts explaining what happened and why I say Thank You, God! God sent helpMan’s Craving for a Beer Saved My Husband’s Life
Click here to hear Sean’s theme song by Chumbawamba
Just for fun this weekend, I searched my name in meme using Google Image and my oddly spelled T-A-N-J-A. I thought “Tanja with a “J” would never come up. Lo, I found this among other “Tanja” memes, a good number in German. At first glance I thought this rather duded-out rendition of Jesus could be a bit irreverent, but I have come to know that divine messages are delivered in all shapes and forms.
My husband who is far hipper on-line than me is well-versed in memes and explained that this is the “Buddy Jesus” meme. I realize that someone generated this meme for another “Tanja” somewhere out there, but since we share the same spelling, I hope she won’t mind if I claim this meme as a personalized message for me today. It rather reflects on my current faith journey status: I am seeing Jesus not only my Savior, but as “my bud” who gets my back as a Heavenly bro. God uses the world wide web as well as burning bushes to get our attention. Can a I get a witness?
What happened to the fecking Who? The iconic rock band, launching their 50th Anniversary tour blew off Ireland! They were supposed to play in Belfast and last night here (26 Nov.) in Dublin, but we learned a few days ago they cancelled both shows for "logistical difficulties"! What? Apparently they had an unexpected? offer to play in Abu Dhabi on the 23rd and are claiming they couldn’t get to
Ireland? The UAE is not THAT faraway from Ireland, guys! I am thinking they got a better deal to party with the royalty and to heck with Ireland! Was there no way for them in this day and age to get back in time for “our” Nov. 26th show here in Dublin? Yes, I know this is such a first world rant but bear with me a bit.
Back in July Sean noticed The Who would be playing in Dublin at the beginning of their 50th anniversary tour in November. He asked if I wanted to go. I eagerly said yes knowing that he LOVES Ireland and The Who! Both in one place would be mind-blowing! But more that that, I was all for him going to one of his happiest of happy places—Ireland—to “get off grid” from his many stresses in the States.
We weren’t fully thinking in July that we’d be away for Thanksgiving so he bought The Who tickets that day. That kinda made us pregnant to take the trip!
I had a few misgivings about missing Thanksgiving, but also relished the idea of taking a break from 15 years in a row of hosting at our house. I’d miss our kids the most–and watching the parade in the morning, but our grown-up kids encouraged us to fly!
Even though we didn’t get to see The Who on this trip, we’ve had a great experiences already and have been privileged to meet some great people along the way–rock stars in their own right! Take a bow Brian and Helen, funky, classy hardworking hosts of the luxurious but comfortable Castlewood House B&B out in Dingle.
Thank you, thank you! to the very encouraging and hip Father David Gunn for welcoming us to your parish home at Port Magee for the tea and allowing us to pour over pages of hundred year old handwritten marriage and baptismal records as we trace more of Sean’s Irish heritage in the Ring of Kerry! We were welcomed right into the house and life “don’t mind the toys!” of a very cool cousin Sheila who introduced us to her wee ones, Shoon,3, Seamus,2. She made a phone call for Sean to see his cousins Mary and Tessie Cremens who lived up the road and across the street.
We were reunited with Tomas who spoils us at Kate Kearney’s Cottage in Killarney and now has his own photography business. It was so good to see John and Nora in at their lovely Ferris Wheel B&B at the Gap of Dunloe. We spoke at length to a very decent and bright woman at a woolen shop in Cashel— (Knitted) Hats off to Inga!
We anticipate meeting a few more “celebrities” as we spend the next few days here. Tonight, about the time you all back home will be enjoying your beautiful turkey dinners, (we’re 5 hours ahead), Sean and I will be taking a Literary Pub Crawl learning where Irish writers—Yeats, Joyce, Wilde, etc. hung out to discuss life, politics, their stories, and where they put down a few pints. Who knows who else we’ll encounter? Sean met Conan O’Brien on Grafton Street in 2012!
Happy Thanksgiving to our American family and friends. And Thank You, friends and relatives we’ve met on this trip! God Bless, Salente, Cheers!
Hallmark (and other companies) create greeting cards for nearly every occasion. Births, sympathy, encouragement, graduations…but searching racks and racks of prose, I just couldn’t find one that aptly says Good-Bye and Thank You to my retiring psychologist!
The card I finally ended up giving my therapist, I had narrowed it down to four possible but mediocre choices, was a bit wordy. On the front it said, “Finally, a thank-you note that says how I really feel.” Relational enough to give to a therapist, but even after a ton of descriptive words such as “grateful, happy, supported, content, forever in your debt, acknowledged, peaceful…” it still didn’t quite nail it. The writer in me added “thankful” and a deeply personal message. Yet, mere words didn’t fully express the depths of gratitude I wanted to convey to my professional advocate and guiding light for helping to save my sanity, salvage relationships as well as extricate myself from toxic ones, and who knows, possibly extended my very life! Reflecting now, I think that the incredibly accurate, succinct and perfectly-timed lyrics I heard on my car radio as I drove away from my last session fully expresses what is in my heart and pays tribute. Enjoy the song at the end of this post.
I had my very last appointment on August 28th with one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever been blessed to know, clinical psychologist Dr. Ella G. Marks, PSYD. I began seeing Dr. Marks on a weekly basis over four years ago because at 45, all the stuff I tried to keep stuffed down, held back, or tried to hide just wouldn’t stay buried anymore. Four and half decades as an adult child of an alcoholic family, a product of divorce, years of appearing to “fly right” but still over-indulging in risky behaviors, being lost, pressing my luck, and meandering off-track had blurred and scalded into a hot mess. It began oozing out in physical symptoms of panic attacks and heart palpitations. I couldn’t ignore it. It was time to really take care of me and do some very heavy, but very necessary lifting. Or else.
I prayed and researched and left voice messages. There was something about Dr. Mark’s soft-spoken, lovely, Virginian- accented-voice message that gave me courage and lead me to her kind but firm care. When I still rather hesitantly made my way to her creamed-colored office with a bright white couch in the office park in Madison, CT, I was comforted by her soft creased face, her sparkling blue eyes and billowy white hair. I found out by peeking at the dates on her framed diplomas in her office that she had to be in her early 80s. I learned early on that she had studied at first to be a dancer, but then married an Episcopalian preacher, had four children, and then decided to go back to college.
She completed her bachelors in her late forties, her masters in her 50s and fought to enroll in her doctorate program at the tender age 59. She served as a social worker, then earned and hung her shingle as a psychologist and bariatric medicine doctor at the age of 71. How blessed was I to connect with her a decade later!
Quite a head case, I remember saying to her, ” I have lots of anger and confusion. Am I too much for you?” She smiled graciously and said, “No, you are not. You have a lot of mourning to do.”
I would discover over the next four years just how well-equipped this woman was for the likes of me. She guided me to some really tough and ugly places to repair years of damage, grief, and anger stemming from a tumultuous alcoholic environment as a first-born. I worked honestly through confusion, hurt, betrayal, marital challenges, a serious motorcycle accident, extended family woes, and a recent exodus from a church I’d given my soul to for 46 years. She praised me often that I was “what they call a worker,” and reminded me that therapy is a “partnership” whenever I thanked her for helping me. She gave me permission to give myself some credit for my healing, for good things I have done and am doing in my life.
I had written in my card to Dr. Marks that she will forever be a part of “my new psychological DNA.” I will from here on out have greater success with stopping a negative thought and replacing it with a better one. I will think of what she would advise and say in any given situation. A life-long dividend of the work we’ve done.
I know it was hard for Dr. Marks to retire from her beloved work. She who practices Pilates and walks every day is in excellent physical as well as mental shape and “presents herself” as someone at least a decade younger than her actual age. She reluctantly wound down the over 20 years of her practice, extending her calendar for months since she’d first announced earlier this year she’d be retiring. “My family wants me to leave before they ask me to leave,” she’d smile, “but I am going on one more month.” That lead to another and another, until finally the end of August was really it.
I cherished her guidance and wisdom to the very last session. My throat tightened as I pulled into her parking lot. As I climbed the stairs for the last time, I took photos of the waiting room, her office, but out of privacy, I did not take any of her.
So surreal. She lead me in from the waiting room, the one last time. Into her office, one last time. “How are you?” She asked in her customary greeting. “Full of emotion,” I squeaked out. I noticed she was welling up a little, too. “This must be hard for you saying goodbye to everyone,” I said. “It is,” she confided.
Then we settled in across from each other. I gave her my card and photo of me hula-hooping that was taken at the recent Buzzi Reunion at my house. I joked that I wasn’t meaning to be a narcissist, but wanted to show her my happy spirit, celebrating our years of working together. She smiled, “You are a worker!”
As we sat, I said that I hoped we could see each other again, for coffee. Always the good doctor even up to the very last minute, she wanted to impart one last tool to help me hereafter to cope with stress and any mild depression. Meditation. She told me of a study where participants who meditated each morning and evening fared better than the group which took only medication and the other only talking therapy. I balked a bit saying I’ve tried meditating, but my mind wanders like a herd of cats even when I try focusing on a monosyllabic word or sound. Because she knows my faith walk, she said to me, “Just try to say, “Be Still and Know that I am God.”
I smiled because I was wearing that bracelet that very day for extra help knowing I’d be saying goodbye.
Half way through our last session, I had arranged for my husband Sean to come in and meet my Dr. Marks. I had shared so much between the two of them that it only seemed right they’d finally meet in person. It was one of those spiritually-charged, crystallized moments in time as I made the introductions. Sean thanked her as he sat on her white couch next to me. They chatted casually, each feeling as though they’d known each other well—I guess after all this time, they sorta had!
Sean asked her what she had planned now that she was retiring. Without hesitating my heroine said she was going to travel to India where’d she’d gone many times on sabbatical, “but after the monsoon season in September,” and then she was going to join a hiking club!
God bless her!
When it was time to say goodbye, Dr. Marks and I hugged for a very long time. “We can get coffee now, can’t we?” I asked hopefully. “Oh, yes. We will no longer be bound by hippa.”
“We have each others phone numbers.”
As I began driving out of Dr. Mark’s office complex for the very last time, tears of every emotion streaked down my face. Sadness,closing a chapter, a sense of accomplishment, good health, new beginnings, joy!
All of a sudden Kenny Loggins’, “I’m Alright” began playing on my car radio. I kid you not. Sean, who was tuned in to the same station, called me from his car ahead of me. “Can you believe what is playing?” I blurted first. “You are alright,” he said.
I’m alright, Dr. Marks. Thank you, and thank you, God, for Dr. Marks! OK, and thank Heaven for the serendipitous Kenny Loggins’ lyrics as I was driving on!
Another message today! I was scanning the FM dial and stopped on 104.9 FM. I feel this was customized* for me as I am trying to stay open to signs from above, but know you will benefit from reading or hearing it today, too!
Please visit this link below and either click on “download this episode” to hear it, or scroll down to read the entire transcript. Thank you Berni and “A Different Perspective,” and 104.9 FM.
* I wear a second bracelet along with The Serenity Prayer to help me stay focused that says, “Be Still And Know That I am God.” (Psalms 46:10).
Have I totally lost it? Or have I officially been messaged —repeatedly now—by an angel, a departed loved one, or even God?!
Ordinarily, I get through the toils and snares of my life by praying, reaching out to wiser ones, and meditating on The Serenity Prayer. But time and intensity can take its toll. Truth be told, lately I’ve felt almost ground down to the nub. I know am very blessed with a wonderful nuclear family, a host of quality friends, and an incredible, insightful therapist. I know I can’t make it without turning to my Higher Power on a daily basis. Yet, even with these supports, I confess I’ve been struggling to keep the faith.
Maybe I got to critical mass last week and somebody, somewhere thought I needed serious signage!
Last Tuesday when I was at my grant-writer job reading my mail, I noticed something a bit odd. A particular and faithful corporation who gives us a good-size check every year at this time had a “bungle” on the salutation part of their formal business letter explaining their grant award.
They had addressed the letter to Tanja Esperanza Moriarty. Esperanza? Well, my professional ‘signature’ for the past 9 years has always been “Tanja B. Moriarty.” I don’t even spell out or usually hyphenate my maiden name at work. I just use the B and a period.
In my very limited Spanish, I know that Esperanza means “hope.” Ha! I’m sure short in that department, I thought.
I showed the letter and “Esperanza” to my co-worker Val. A woman of strong faith without missing a beat claimed, “That’s God giving you a little encouraging punch on the shoulder.”
I was still in “self-wallowing mode” and said, “Hope-schmope!”
“Come on, Girl,” she scolded.
I smirked, but since I’ve had more than a few funky/spiritual things happen in my life (see Mind,Body, Soul posts), I decided to make a copy of the letter to keep in my pocketbook. Had the door to my hardened heart opened just a crack?
The very next day, I went to outpatient radiology for my annual mammogram. I checked in at the window and was told to take a seat. I grabbed a chair in the waiting area and wouldn’t ya know it? Right in front of me was a small table with this tri-fold brochure staring me right in the face:
My heart jumped a bit. The crack of the door of my boarded-up heart pushed open just a teeny bit further. “O.K.” I said aloud. “I’m paying attention.”
Later that afternoon, I had met my wonderful pastor for cup of coffee at Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery on Main Street. Pastor Joon Lee and I periodically do this to check in with each other. After a good-sized gingerbread-chocolate latte I contemplated the extremely cold weather and bouncy-back road ride home, and decided it would be wise to hit the little girl’s room before I left.
You won’t believe this, but as I sat on the porcelain, I turned to my right and saw THIS was hanging on the wall:
The small print reads, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, HOPE for tomorrow.”
It was like lightning! Esperanza! Hope is Power! Hope for Tomorrow!
I left the coffee shop tingling, and it wasn’t all from the caffeine! Someone, somewhere was conking me over the head to “Have Hope, Tanja “Esperanza” B. Moriarty!”
Here I was, feeling at the end of my rope…and out of God-knows-where comes a barrage of “hope”, “hope”, “hope.”
What do you think, my friend? Who has been messaging me with these signs? Or would you say it is just one of those coincidences? Please share your opinion, your personal experiences.
I was drawn to a sample drum circle at the Haddam River Days event last September. Sitting before a l waist-high djembe drum amongst mostly children I soon mimicked the simple beats laid down by the women. “I like peanut butter- I like peanut butter.” The beat shifted to more complicated but still easy rhythms. I zoned and stayed at the circle for over a half hour.
The women handed me a flyer and encouraged me to join one of the local drum group. Yes! I would get myself to a circle—and soon!
Almost a year had passed and though I thought about it, I never got to a group. It had been in the back of my mind and was brought to the fore when my friend “D” and I were talking bucket lists. D said she and her partner wanted to try drumming and she asked if i could help them find a circle. D is in late stages of cancer and time literally is of the essence.
I called the number on the flyer but there was no answer. I surfed the web but couldn’t find anything local or soon. I began asking around. A lead from a woman from my church who is a massage therapist pointed me to a shop The New Pagenew page. I called and spoke to a very friendly proprietor, Yvette.I explained my friend’s situation and if she knew anyone anyone who facilitated women’s drum circles, who might make a house call. She told me to call her associate Tala. What a great and open soul! Sight unseen, Tala, a certified Sound Healer, not only would come to my house for a drum circle, but she would taylor it to a healing and energy circle in honor of D. She would also bring a friend, Lindsay, a fantastic drummer and photographer.
I would make the fire in my yard–tinder, kindling and fuel, no paper or accelerants, and w one match ala Girl Scouts! Tala would bring a singing bowl, some rattles, and drums. I would loan out my Tom toms, maracas, etc. I decided
to buy a small djembe of my own.
I thought and prayed about the drum circle and who to invite- mostly people who knew D, but a few others I thought would be a good fit. Each woman was to bring a special item from her own yard to put into the fire as an offering—flowers, sage, a stick, etc.
D and I were in steady contact growing more and more excited for this fire circle event. She did a ton of researching on line for djembes and Tom toms. She purchased a set of each for her partner and they were miraculously delivered the day before the circle.
The day of the circle arrived. Sadly, D was having a very bad day and she told me she and S could not make it after all. My heart was sad. I thought about postponing, but know how hard it is to get nine committed friends plus Tala and Lindsay to find a new date. We decided to have the circle in D’s honor and for individual benefits anyway.
I met Tala and Lindsay in my cul de sac that night and experienced their warmth and kindred spirits immediately. Tala gave me a full, soulful hug as though we had known each other for years!
The women were milling around the fire pit as Tala and Lindsay set up their bowls, bells, rattles, and drums. While I was bringing out last minute refreshment items for after the drumming, a white, fluffy feather (not from the typical northeastern birds) floated down by the circle between Cathy, Brenda, and Erin! The three women stopped mid conversation to marvel and retrieve it. It was immediately identified as an “angel feather.” We all got the chills and felt its surprising appearance as something spiritual. A hello from someone departed? A presence? Someone gave the feather to Tala who stowed it in red velvet bag with her gems.
I will write more about the actual 2.5 hour drumming experience,but will for now stick w the feather…
At the end of the night as we were standing around the goodie table, the consensus was to give the feather to D. Tala put a piece of flint that had been carved into a heart-shape she acquired from her friend’s sacred land in Arizona (?) to present to D. Some of us talked about going to her house for a “flash mob” drum circle when she rallies. We will see. I took the satchel and promised to bring it to her ASAP.
D called me the next morning. Thankfully she was feeling a lot better. I gave her a play-by-play of the night, and how we were thinking of her and sending her love and energy. I told her about the “angel feather.” “That was me!” She said, almost matter of fact. She said she had planned to bring one of her precious feathers to the fire as an offering. woh! I told her how the women wanted her to have it. She said she would keep it with her sacred treasures and plans to have it on the altar at her memorial service.
I just picked up The Complete ACOA Sourcebook, Adult Children of Alcoholics at Home, at Work and in Love, by the late Janet Geringer Woititiz, Ed.D. I finished Part 1: What Happened to You as a Child? What is Happening to You Now? and Breaking the Cycle. In what feels almost after the fact—after nearly three years of weekly therapy—this book spells it out in black and white the consequences of growing up in an alcoholic home and in my case, explains the underlying anger and conflicts I’ve had to deal with for most of my adult life. Thanks to books like this, a great psychologist named Dr. Ella Marks, and my faith, I’ve been able to extricate myself from some of the wreckage of my early life.
I saw my broken self all too clearly in the common traits of the many adults Woititiz collected from other ACOAs. A number of us became “hyper-responsible” victims in a very abbreviated childhood having to “be a grown up” way before we reached double-digits. In a house of tension and chaos never knowing what to expect, some of us became anxious. Later we could be labeled as “controlling”, pushing to have some order and security in our lives. We fear abandonment, tend to over-react when something is changed beyond our control, and can be dangerously impulsive. We also can go overboard seeking the approval of others.
Thankfully, I’ve done a lot of hard work. I have learned how to identify difficult, conflicting emotions and have found ways to avoid and unhappy, negative places—figuratively and literally. I am no longer a victim. I have choices. I’ve made a number of healthy ones for my marriage, for my children, and last, but recognizably not least, myself.
One in four families in the U.S. experience from some sort of mental illness and addiction. If your household growing up was or now is one of the four, you don’t have to suffer alone. Get help. Start by picking up this book and read at least the first three sections to find a path.
I want to share a poem from an Adult Child of an Alcoholic that appears on page 156. I couldn’t believe how the poet Kathleen Algoe in 1989 felt almost exactly the way I felt when I began therapy in 2010. I remember on my drive home from my very first session the “child within” almost audibly said, “It’s my turn!”
It is important to be clear what recovery means for adult children. Alcoholism is a disease. People recovering from alcoholism are recovering from a disease. The medical model is accepted by all responsible folks working in alcoholism treatment.
Being the child of an alcoholic is not a disease. It is a fact of your history. Because of the nature of this illness and the family response to it, certain things occur that influence your self-feelings, attitudes and behaviors in ways that cause you pain and concern. The object of ACOA recovery is to overcome those aspects of your history that cause you difficulty today and to learn a better way.
To the degree that none of us have ideal childhoods and to the degree that even an ideal childhood may be a cause for some concern, we are all recovering to some extent or other, in some way or other. Because there are so many alcoholic families and because we have been fortunate in being able to study them, it is possible to describe in general terms what happens to children who grow up in that environment.
To the degree that other families have similar dynamics, individuals who have grown up in other “dysfunctional” systems identify with and recover in very much the same way.
Sometimes family gatherings can be strained…We have enough heartache and history, coupled with the fact that my sibs and I still have to deal with how to do holidays with “exes”, namely our long-divorced parents. Mom and her husband were hosting Easter this year at the family homestead, and though it was suggested my father “could also join us”, we three thought “NOT.” We made other plans to see Dad before the big dinner.
My sister had the great idea of visiting my Dad at his community center “living room” on Easter after church. Andy brought his guitar and Dad took his spot at the piano. I had my trusty bag of percussion instruments I keep in the trunk of my car! (Just waiting for an opportunity to break it out—always at the Soup and Song Open Mic Coffee House!)
I don’t know how or why Andy lead us in Donovan’s “Atlantis” but suddenly this song “took over” and we all were enveloped in a healthy and jolly communion of music. Our visit like this became a highlight and happy experience instead of perfunctory duty. Thanks be to God!
Editor’s Note: We were blessed to have survived this accident that occurred on June 10, 2012.
Sean has been cleared of all restrictions on his shoulder and is doing well with his neck, after the four breaks to his C-1 and a fracture to his C-2. He has some stiffness and aches and can’t turn his head all the way to the left, yet, but he is otherwise a miracle man! My knee is still a little tender and I can’t kneel on it. The doctor says that is it is good as it is going to get, but I am not complaining because I know it could have been so much worse.
I wanted to share with you that after all this time, we are still receiving confirmation of God’s mercy and love for us at the time of that horrific accident.
Last week, Sean met up with the man Patrick who “happened” to be just two cars behind us. It was almost as if he materialized on the scene back on June 10. As you might recall (or read), after we crashed, Sean jumped up, TOOK OFF HIS HELMET, and was heading over to the motorcycle to try to pick it up! Patrick, who saw the whole thing, came over to Sean and identified himself as former EMT, and basically ordered Sean to lay down so he could hold Sean’s head in a straight line. “I will move any way you need to move,” he said. By then the searing pain was ripping through Sean’s body. He was writhing and screaming. Patrick knelt with Sean’s head cradled in his hands, and kept Sean’s neck and back straight.
Patrick works in the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean, as a police captain, serves at a liaison between the hospital and the PD, and spoke with Patrick before their meeting. Sean thanked Patrick again, crediting him again, for saving his life.
Patrick explained the ‘odd circumstance’ that lead him to the accident scene. Patrick was just finishing mowing his lawn, when suddenly he had a craving to go to the local bar to get a beer. He said he never gets a craving to go to local bar. Further, his car keys were outside on the front step—and he said he ALWAYS hangs his keys on a hook inside his house. He snapped up his keys, got in his car and headed to the local watering hole…until he came upon our accident!
Have you ever had a strong impulse do something out of the ordinary to find you were being used for another purpose?