Meeting Manson

I was only 4, but I vividly remember being awestruck by this long-haired, bohemian beauty that stopped by our home/office in Pacoima, California. She wore a long flowing skirt made out of mis-mismatched materials and a short top that exposed her flat belly.  Even at that young age, I knew I wanted to grow up and be her; a free spirited  natural beauty that could cause men to move mountains just with a smile. 2b9e15891c30dcd892be3fed022f0514

The beautiful gypsy asked for a brief meeting with my adoptive mother, Doc.  Doc was a strong willed, independent women who graduated from medical school in 1941. Doc struggled in a man’s world, and she had a hard time being taken seriously, but she plowed through and paved the way for other women doctors.  I’d have to make the assumption though, based on what she told me later in life, that she delivered babies cheaply at her office or in the home, and did illegal abortions as a way to make ends meet.   When she was sober she was full of bravado and spoke of the abortion as just “removing a blob, it’s not anything but tissue.” But get some drinks in her and she would cry over lost lives.  I feel that part of the reason she drank excessively and took drugs was to not feel the guilt the of murdering a child, but I’m sure being a lesbian in that time didn’t help matters.

I remember watching the beautiful fairy saunter out of the house and I wanted to follow her; I  wanted to be as free and alluring as she was

Doc looked down at me with a puzzled look.  “Well, that was strange.”


“What Doci”  (I never called my mom, mom, I called her Doci)

“Well, I guess I’m pretty famous for doing home births with this commune of hippies near Simi Valley and they want me to come out and deliver their babies.”

She seemed to proud in the fact of being well known.

“Stefi, you wanna go for a ride?”

I was always eager to go any place and shook my head quickly up and down.

Doc smiled, “Well ok lets go.”

Doc got me dressed and we hopped into the blue Ford wagon and headed down Van Nuys Blvd to Denonshire then up Topanga Canyon and finally a left turn onto the old road to Simi Valley.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“There is supposed to be a ranch out here on the old road on the left. Keep your eyes out for someplace that is supposed to look like an old movie set.”

Now I was really excited, a real movie set!  My vivid imagination immediately dreamed up Indians riding around on beautiful appaloosa  and pinto horses, and when I got there they’d want me to be in the movie too.

I looked out at the rolling hills and day dreamed, but then suddenly started feeling afraid.  I didn’t know why, but I wanted Doc to stop and turn around.  I didn’t want to go there any more.

“That must be it” Doc said.

I looked and the buildings looked like they where right out of a cowboy movie , but instead of excited I feel cold inside.

Doc turned left onto the dirt road and my anxiety and fear grew. This didn’t look like a cowboy movie at all. There where hippies all over the place and they seemed like mindless zombies as they walked around the set.  Their blank faces scared me. At 4 I didn’t know how to interpret what was going on, but I know I was very frightened.

Doc seemed to be uneasy now as she told me sternly,  “You stay right here in the car. Make sure you lock the doors and don’t let anyone in but me, understand? No one!”

I nodded.

“No one, do you understand me?” she raised her voice for emphasis.

I wanted to scream “LETS GO” but instead I meekly said “yes.”

She shut the door and I locked it behind her.

A tall, scraggly looking man came over to Doc and motioned for her to wait there in front of the car.  Everything seemed so weird and I just wanted go to.  A few minutes later a short man with wild hair and crazy eyes walked over to her. I was petrified with fear just looking at this man. I could “see” his evil.  I remember thinking, “how cant people tell he’s pure evil?”  Somehow, at 4 years old, I knew this man had destructive and heinous soul.  The whole time my mom stood there talking to him, as strong and brave as she was, I was afraid for her life.

Doc was pissed off when she got back into the car.

“Just who in the hell does that jerk think he is? Asking me, a doctor, to deliver his babies for free to be part of some stupid cause?  That stupid son of a bitch, I should have punched him in the face”

Doc complained about most of the way home.

That moment burned a memory deeply into my mind.  I forever wonder ed how all those people could not tell Charlie was pure evil. How didn’t they see it? Feel it? Maybe they did.  Maybe they just hated society and its rules so much that they choose to be with someone who preached hatred for all things “normal.”  Whatever the reasons, they all chose to follow Charlie and act out in the worse possible way – murdering innocent people.  I look back now and I cant believe that the beautiful gypsy believed in Charlie’s bullshit too.   I guess there are certain people that will blindly follow anyone no matter how evil or how grotesque their beliefs are.  Charlie’s group never questioned, they just followed blindly.  One thing I learned in all this,  if someone gives you the creeps, it’s a real feeling and believe in it. Get away while you can.  I also learned to never be a follower; don’t blindly let other people tell you what to do and how to live your life.  Instead, be a free and critical thinker.

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Committing to Change

Every year people make resolutions about wanting something different to happen, but rarely do those dreams become reality. Why is that?

In the dead of winter in 1998 in the high mountains of Tahoe, California, my fiancé had just dumped me in the worst possible way.  As we sat across from the dining room table he looked me right in the eyes, and without a hint or resentment or guilt, he told me “I never loved you. I think I just felt sorry for you.”  We had been engaged and living together for the past year and we had our ups and downs, but I never expected this.  I was shocked, stunned, hurt, and horribly embarrassed.  How could I not see this coming?  As I cried he looked at me with dead eyes and said, “I need you to move out.”  I was working two jobs and barely had money to survive let alone move out on my own.   He added “now.”  I just sat there crying as he walked off.

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What had just happened? I thought he loved me? We were engaged after all and our relationship seemed fine. Where did this come from so suddenly?  I blamed myself and I fell into a deep depression – I hated me.  I told my ex I had no money to move and he’d have to help me with a first and last for rent, he declined.  He told me I could live in his cold basement until I could figure it out, and that I needed to borrow money from someone and get out soon.  I went out and hustled until I was working 7 days a week to earn extra cash.  In the mean-time he made my life hell by either completely ignoring me at the house or being hostile toward me.  He would come home late and be gone all weekend without a word. I lived for 2 months of this abuse before I could scrape enough money to move out.

Over that two months I had time to grieve the relationship and piece together that he had been cheating on me and this was his way of ending it. Looking back I see how I did not deserve that kind of ending, but at the time I felt I deserved it for being such a bad person.  I was surprised to find that I was much happier living alone in my studio apartment.  I spent more time at the gym, hiking, and reading.  I also had free time to contemplate my life; where I am, where I had been, where I was going.  One day I made a list of all the relationships I had ever been in and I was horrified at what I saw.  I had been in one abusive relationship after another since I was 15.  Could this really be?  It had been 19 years since my first boyfriend, and I could not come up with a single one that had not abused me in one way or another. With that realization, I sank into a deep depression.  I lost all interest in everything I enjoyed. I was miserable at work.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  I felt like the scum of the earth that must somehow deserve this kind of horrible life.

I was laying in my bed one Sunday morning and I thought “I wish I would just die” and I meant it.  I was tired of the abusive relationships, tired of not getting anywhere in life, and tired of being 34 with no degree, no good job, and nothing to show for my years on this planet.  I laid in bed the entire day feeling sorry for myself.  In this fog of depression I had a thought. “Why do I keep dating abusive men?”  It got me to thinking that I must have some sort of glitch that attracts me to these abusers. But why?  On that day I committed to figuring out why I had spent 19 years being abused.

I went to the library and got self-help books.  I read the old classics like Psycho-unknownCybernetics and Your Erroneous Zone . This was the start of changing my life.  I couldn’t seem to shake the depression so I decided to find a therapist.  I quickly learned on my income I could not afford therapy I had remembered seeing a free group for survivors of domestic violence.  I found the number and made the call.  I was in group therapy that next week.  Even though I had admitted to myself that I was in abusive relationships, I could not get myself to admit I was a victim of domestic violence.  I mean, a few guys hit me, but mostly guys verbally abused me anunknownd thats not the same right?  As I listened to the women tell their stories, I realized that they were also verbally abused like me.  After 6 weeks in the class I finally figured out that verbal abuse is the same as physical; it destroys your self-esteem, your self-worth, and makes you feel worthless.  I connected with the therapist who led the class and I started seeing her for free at the County Mental Health office.  I made a commitment to go to therapy to help with my depression and figure out why I was attracted to abusive men.

For the first time in my life I talked about my childhood abuse to another human being.  I talked about my rape at 3 years old by a neighbor, my abusive, drunken lesbian parents, my molestation at 10 by my 42 year old neighbor, and being drugged and raped by two men in Vegas for hours.  I completely fell apart.  I felt worse.  I felt sorry for myself. Why me?  Why is God punishing me? What did I do to deserve this screwed up life? I felt suicidal.

As horrible as I felt, I committed to stick with individual therapy and group therapy.  I also committed to take suicide off the table and deal with my feelings. It sucked, but I did it.  I realized I fantasized about suicide just because I didn’t want to feel.  I spent my entire life avoiding, denying, and minimizing my feelings. I spent years drinking, drugging, partying, and doing anything I could to not feel.  I stopped all the drugs and drink at 22, but I kept avoiding with abusive dramatic relationships , overeating, under eating, and over exercising  I’d do any activity that keep me out of the feelings.  Therapy was very uncomfortable. It was about feeling your feelings, no matter what they are.  I felt so vulnerable and raw during that first year, but I stuck with it.  I decided and then committed to getting well.

Fast forward to today, another 19 years later and have come so far in my life.  I am so grateful about the decision I made to get better and then committing to that decision.  I have a fairly happy life, a healthy relationship, and a very stable and fulfilled life now.  I still go to therapy on occasion, I still read self-help books, I still work on making my life better all the time. Growth never stops. There is no “happily ever after” once I get skinny, get implants, get rich, or have a perfect relationship.  A happy life is about progression and moving forward, not one perfect moment in time.  My happiness comes from having an idea about what would make my life even more fulfilled, making a decision to move toward that, then making a plan and committing to change.

As I look at the calendar for 2017 I see lots of room for more commitments – things I am willing to make time for. I can’t just wish to get fit this year, I have to commit the time to go to the gym, hike, and do yoga and then make a schedule and put it on the calendar. From there it becomes habit by doing, as well as being my own coach and reminding myself I made a commitment to change.  I’m grateful that I found the key to my success – I make a decision and then commit to change, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult.  Like Nike says, “Just do it,” no matter how painful.  Here’s to another 19 years of commitment to growth!