Saturday, June 30, 2012

Today Is...Today Is....Today Is...The Greatest...Day

"Today is the greatest
Day I've ever known
Can't live for tomorrow,
Tomorrow's much too long
I'll burn my eyes out
Before I get out


Pink ribbon scars
That never forget
I tried so hard
To cleanse these regrets
My angel wings
Were bruised and restrained
My belly stings

Today is
Today is
Today is
The greatest day

Today is the greatest
Today is the greatest day
Today is the greatest day
That I have ever really known"

(Abridged lyrics to "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins)

Today is...

Nothing much more to say, really.

The plans are done.  The dress is done.  The flowers are done.  The seating is done.  My bags are packed.  Tova is fulfilling her promise - she's out of the hospital for the next 24 hours to dance with me at my wedding.

Today is...

All done.  Nothing left to do.  But to sit here.  And to wait.  And to stay calm.  And to take the last minute calls from friends and "friends", the pop ins to my room from family, the texts from everyone. 

And to look forward.  To tomorrow.  To tomorrow night.  To all the days that follow.

Today is the greatest...

Am I scared?  You bet.  Am I anxious?  Hell yeah.  But am I excited?  Happy?  Fuck yea!  It's time to roll.  It's time to cast off the past once and for all and to start living the future.  The future I dared never even dream about.  Yet the one I somehow managed to get for myself through hard work and a lil' bit o' luck.

Day...

It's here.  It's finally here.  My wedding day.  The words are strange in my ears.  Like I was never meant to say them but somehow, some way I managed to find the voice. 

I am a SUCCESS STORY!  I am a RECLAMATION PROJECT!  I am the RESULT OF A GOOD THERAPIST!  I am all these things.  But today I have become much more. 

I am me.  I am the product all my past, my experiences, my hard work and my determination.  I am a product of my strengths and my weaknesses.  I am proof that you can rise above.  That you can be better than anyone gives you credit for.

If you want it enough.  If you are wiling to fight for it.

I have ever known...

And I have known  much.  Too much.  More than any young child should ever know.  I was living a nightmare.

But now I'm living a dream.  My dream.  My dreams.

All come true.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Maybe, Maybe Not

Ed's Note - Dumb Ass spell checker isn't working so apologies in advance:

As the title suggests, this may or may not be the last time I ever post as a single person. 

I don't have any new thoughts, emotions or stories to share.  I have no special advice to dole out nor any blessings to make.  All that time has passed.  There is only the next few days and then the rest of my life.  Ah finality.

But I do have one thing to offer.  That is a very well-deserved, and heartfelt, thank you to you, my small but loyal readership.

Many years ago, when I started this blog (ok like a year and half but honestly, doesn't it really feel like we've been doing this forever?) I can honestly say I am not the same person I am today. 

Now duh, most people change over time, but some people evolve quicker and some slower.  When I first started this blog, I was, let's call me, a recovering rebel.  I was truly doing ok, but still, I had many deficiencies that still needed to be worked on. 

One of them was confidence in myself. In fact, one of the most important of my missions when starting this journal was to be able to look back at where I was a certain points in time (a week, a month, a year) and see where I was at that point. What was I thinking?  What was I feeling?  Have I grown since then?  Am I still thinking about things the same way or have my opinions and thought processes changed.

And bless my good luck.  But it was during this time period that you guys found this journal.  And you read it. And heck, you started commenting (you weirdos).  Some of you reached out to me (and I to you).  And it was also during this time period that I started seriously pining for a certain boy that I was not quite certain pined for me as well.  And to be honest, without the support, friendly advice and yes, even some hard shoves, I'm not sure I would have went for it. 

And then where would I be today?

No no, dear reader, you cannot have all the credit. Stop furiously patting yuorself on the back, you might strain something.  I wasn't completely without confidence in my abilities (after all, I was and continue to be world class at tennis - smirk smirk).  But still, I do hope that you feel a small amount of pride in this big win.  We are, after all, a team no?

So yes - no one else got engaged, anxiety has morphed back into excitement and a little bit o' nervousness.  Tova is...(well she is, but she says nothing in the world will stop her from being there. And that's good enough for me.) 

So I will go on the record as saying all is right in the universe (at least for now).

So no - none of you are invited (even the ones who asked ever so nicely).  But you can rest assured that I will tell you all about it (at some point in the future).  I will think of you all when I am experiencing it and I will silently reflect and mouth a thank you to you all for your support, guidance, advice and non-creepy internet love.  Except you, Malka - your internet love is creepy :).  (Wait, did I say that in my out-loud voice?  Oops.)

So there it is.  Maybe the last one (or not).  Either way the message is the same.  Thank you all - for everything.  For reading, for advising - heck thank you for letting me know that it means something to you.  I may not get that really, but I appreciate it nontheless.

And most of all, wish me luck.  I'd sure like my fairy tale character to be ok in the end.

C.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Taking One For The Team By Stealing My Thunder

High anxiety.

It's what I've been feeling the last several days.  I've mentioned it before, but it's important for background.  I'm actually shocked that I feel anything other than excitement, but, apparantly it's normal to be anxious before your wedding.

My brother.  My older brother.  Let's call him FredGeorge.  He's been my mate.  My savior.  The one in the family who has always been there for me.  We watch shows together, we cook together (i.e. he cooks and i eat it and take half the credit) and he uses are incredibly fancy and expensive coffee machine to make me the most rewarding latte's on god's green earth.  And he has been asking me what he can do, what can he do to help me.  But there really is nothing.  I dread being the center of attention, of everything revolving around me.  It's never been good for me in the past.

And he's already been the strong one for me in many ways.  Strong enough to stand up to my mother yet diplomatic enough to always have her like him.  Smart, cute.  He's really the complete package.

So it should come as no surprise that FredGeorge found himslef a great girl. She's pretty, fun, funloving and she has feet planted in both the frum world and the modern one (which is great because my brother can't fake it that much).  They have been seeing each other for several months and finally decided that they were going to get engaged.  After all, in this world you don't go out too long or people get funny ideas about you.

And so it was decided that the would get engaged in August (after the three weeks) with a November-ish time wedding to follow.  And I'm so happy for him because he's so great and I love him so much and I want him to be happy too.  And I cannot wait for his engagement and his wedding.  It was already a BIG DEAL that I was getting married before him.

So yesterday late afternoon, when my mother started screaming, I assumed it was a wedding related hissy fit.  Wanting to try and avoid it becoing a full bratty baby-style tantrum, I bit the bullet and went down to see if there was anything I could do to help. 

So ther she is in the kitchen, screaming-  but happily screaming.  mazal tov mazal tov.  "FredGeorge is engaged!!  We are having a lechaim at her house (our house being overrun with WEDDING RELATING CRAP) and in no shape for hosting people).  Quick go tell your younger brother and Luna to get dressed and ready.  I need to call your father and your sister."  And then she's muttering to herself about the strange timing, why didn't he wait.

As an aside - My head is spinning.  Did my mother just give me a job to do?  Did she just talk to me like I'm a person?  I credited it to her surprise at the news.

So we get to the Kallah's house.  The happy couple is there, with her family, when we arrive.  There are already a few neighbors and friends gathered.  I wait until the initial press of family goes over.  Then I do.  I go to the kallah and give her a hug and a mazal tov and a welcome to the family.  Then I hug him and kiss him and wish him mazal tov.  "You're welcome," he says, smiling.  I stare at him, puzzled.  Doesn't he mean thank you?  He's beaming ear to ear. 

And looking at me - expectantly.  Like there's something I haven't figured out yet.

And it dawns on me.  The timing.  Why now? So close before my big day.  When his timing was all planned out.  It certainly wasn't jealously.  Or spite. 

Which only leaves one thing.  He did it to take the spotlight off me.  Obviously this realization must have been on his face because he's nodding vigorously.  I got it.  He asked me what he could do and I told him there was nothing he could do.  So he figured out somethnig on his own.

*********************************************************
I am lucky.  And sometimes I lose sight of that.  I don't have that many people in my life.  But the ones I do...the ones I have I'd never trade for anything.  When the le'chaim was over and all the people gone, we sat in the backyard of our house, drinking beer and huddled close for warmth.  We talked about our futures and how we would stay close.  About how he'd even let our kids play together  :).  And I couldn't help but remembering how lucky I am.  Despite everything I've been through, I have this little core group of people who I can rely on.  And some people who might be surrounded by 100 friends still lack what I have.  True people you can rely on.

So my thunder is stolen.  My brother is in the spotlight.  And he's eating it up. 

And I'm happy and excited once more.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Every Single Day For The Last Time

As I close in on the BIG DAY(!!) I have to admit I'm feeling extremely nervous.

No, not second thoughts nervous.  Not at all.  I can't wait to be connected to David totally and finally.  Rather, I'm feeling some anxiety.  I worry about the wedding itself. I don't love being the center of attention and while I'm certainly far from wallflower - my life experiences with me as the center of attention have usually been BAD THINGS (meeting in the principal's office with my parents, me being gawked at and talked about by other kids, me making a drunken or high jackass out of myself at a party) so the idea of an entire 5 or 6 hour event centering around lil' ol' me is slightly nerve wracking.  [Not to mention all the ceremoniousness, pomp and circumstance I can live without.  All I want is to dance with my husband to music, alone on the dance floor, and this of course will probably not be happening due to the endless embarrassment it will cause my side of the family.]

And then there is the absolute...finality of what is happening.  My entire current life, for good or bad, is ending and a totally new one is starting.  I am no longer a single person living my single life but I am now the cornerstone of a family unit - first as a couple and eventually (hopefully) as a parent of children.

And that's why I've struggled so hard to pack up the small things which make up my life, to put the finishing touches on the final chapter of Book I of The Life and Times of Cymbaline.  because of the scary finality of it.  I know how strange that seems considering that it's all I've ever wanted - to finally be free of the bonds of repression and free to completely live as I choose (within the bounds and constraints of life/religion of course - no Hedonism for me).  Yet there it is - live and in color - for all of you to now see.  Poor Cymbaline, so excited, is scared shitless.

Every day is now the last day before.  The last Sunday as a single, the last Monday.  The last BBQ I'll ever attend as a non married person.  The last this and that.  Big things, small things.  Important and mundane.  My whole life is about to shift in a way that I have thought about (many, many times), but have never truly experienced. 

And on some level, to be honest, worried may never happen for me.

Don't pooh pooh me, hear me out.  I am damaged good in the Jewish community.  I am an Off the Derech, semi-back on the D.  But your past is your past. In the Jewish dating world, your resume is either a flashing beacon of light for all sailors to be attracted to or an albatross around your neck, dragging you into the depths.  My past, in case you haven't figured it out, is an albatross.  And despite that heavy bird, I never wanted to have to settle for someone because my pickings are slim.  Now that, I'm sure, is a feeling many of you have experienced.  Now multiply your albatross by five tons and you have mine.

Yet it happened for me.  A man I love, no settling required.  So I managed to jump that hurdle.  And now the BIG DAY(!!) is literally right around the corner - it's so close that I couldn't gain enough weight to screw up my dress fittings even if I wanted to.  It's so close that if I don't finish packing my shit up soon, I'll be wearing his clothes. 

And with that comes all of these events I don't want.  A Shabbos Kallah, a fancy wedding, a week of meals after.  All I want is him, without the pomp an circumstance.  (Of course, to get him I'll gladly suffer through the pomp and circumstance.)

So there you have it - all my innermost pre-wedding jitters revealed.  Nervous, excited, terrified and happy all wrapped up into Cymbaline.

Now excuse me while I try to pack and live each day for the last time before Book II.

Friday, June 22, 2012

An Open Letter To My Former Self

You will excuse my little melodramatic indulgence.  You are, as always, free to not read:


Dear Old Me:

This is, perhaps, the final time I will ever speak to you.

No, I'm not disavowing you.  I'm not pretending you never happened.  I'm not whistling in the graveyard, ignoring the ghosts and skeletons in the closet.

Rather, I'm going to put you away.

You are as much a part of me as my hands, my heart, my eyes.  You are as much a part of me as David and Tova and my parents.  I can never pretend you aren't there.

But you are no longer the two-ton elephant in the room.

I grew up badly.  I am not going to rehash all that.  You and I both remember all the things we felt, the anger, the isolation the lack of love.  We remember how we acted out, lashed out, how we behaved badly, how we spent all our time trying to destroy ourselves.  Telling you the specifics is simply repetitive and counter productive.

So why am I here?  Why am I writing you this final farewell?

Because I wanted to thank you.

Um, what?  I know that you are thinking that.  Why would I want to thank you?  Because it ruined my childhood and screwed up my adolescence?  Doesn't seem like anything to be overly thankful for. 

But that's where you got it wrong.  Because I could no more blame you for what happened than I can blame the rain for falling.  You didn't cause the problem.  You didn't set the circumstances.  You merely reacted to them as best as you could. 

And while many might argue you did a piss-poor job, I respectfully disagree.

Because I've seen the results of what happens to those who really did a piss-poor job of dealing with the hands they were dealt.  I've seen them die of drug overdoses, I've seen them raped.  I've seen them so addicted to drugs that they were forced to give themselves completely away for just one more spike of the needle.  I've seen them drift so far away from humanity that they would never have (and have never) been able to return.  I've seen them lose everything.  Their dignity, their religion, their possessions and their lives.

But not you, oh survivor you. Maybe you didn't shine, but you lived.  You did what you had to do.  You lashed out, you did badly, but you never crossed any lines from which there is no return.

So yes, for that I say thank you.  Because from your strength, from your survival instincts and your will, I was able to emerge.

What am I?  College graduate, good friend (hopefully), fully functioning member of the community at large and even a semi-functioning member of the Jewish community.  I am about to become a wife as well.  All this because you kept me alive and well.  So yes, thank you for that too, for everything I have today - it could only have happened due to your strength.

Yet still, I have to let you go.  Not because I hate you or because I'm embarrassed by you.  But simply because I no longer need you.  And, in fact, your presence at this point can actually be a hindrance to my future growth.  You strength, your rock hardness, can also be a stone dragging me down into the depths of the sea.

Everything I have, everything I have made myself into, was because of the strength I learned from you, because of the goodness inside yourself that you refused to let die, no matter how harsh the circumstances became (and they were harsh, make no mistake).

The people who read my blog, they think they understand what you went through.  But with the exception of two or three of them, and the possible exception of a handful more, they have no effing clue.  A few have mentioned that they were somewhat....jealous of where I am now in life.  But you and I both know that they wouldn't trade places with us if they had to live through those seven years.  More really.  And without you, they ever would have made it through those years anyway. 

What I have, everything I have, is because of you.  And I will never forget you.  But I can't take you with me going forward, or I'll never actually move forward.  Now only will I never forget you, but I will also use all of the lessons, and good qualities, that I have learned from you.

So thank you old me.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mixed Emotions as the Day Draws Near

Ring, oh ring, the wedding bells, my wedding day fast approaches.

I am excited.  I am thrilled.  I am looking forward to the day after the wedding with gobs of anticipation (in case you have not figured it out yet, I am actually dreading the actual wedding itself for a variety of reasons - but I am super-pumped for being married).  I very much want to be married to David and to spend my life with him - to figure it all out with him - to grow old with him.

But, there's always a but.

And this but's name is Tova. 

Tova, home from the hospital, not because they released her, but because she refuses to stay.

Tova, who has placed a strict gagging order on her family to not disclose whatever it is she is suffering from now.

Tova, who smiles at me and tells me I need to stop worrying about her, that nothing she can tell me about her condition is going to make me feel happy or better about it.

Tova, who tells me with an extremely annoyed look on her face that if she can put up with me for all these years, she certainly can beat cancer.

I am supposed to be happiest now. 

I finished school, I found the man of my dreams.  I joined his social circle, thereby expanding my list of close friends tenfold.  Things are so good.

But how can I be happy while she suffers through this?

The answer is, I can't truly be. And this just makes her frustrated and angry.  Which makes me feel even worse.  She's the sick one, the one fighting for her life.  And she's worried about me???

So here I am, riding a wave of mixed emotions - happiness, excitement, anticipation, fear, dread and anxiety.  I guess they do a nice job of balancing themselves out.

Otherwise - this is also a time of pretty intense loneliness, believe it or not.  David is frantically working to close two giant deals before the wedding and Tova is otherwise occupied (see above).  I'm in school some and home the rest of the time, pretending to do "wedding stuff" or packing, but pretty much sitting around staring at the walls.

I know it's a lot of stuff to process. I know it's temporary.  And I should have known that the feelings of intense happiness I've been having recently, at least for me, wouldn't be long term. There's always a wolf at the door

Out pops the cracker
Smacks you in the head
Knifes you in the neck
Kicks you in the teeth
Steel toe caps
Takes all your credit cards


Yea, so that's me.  How are y'all doing?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Please Pray For Tova

Please - have Tova in your prayers over the next few days.  Please.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pre-Change Housekeeping

So dozens and dozens of you like two of you have inquired as to whether or not I will continue to blog after the Big Day. 

The answer is a resounding yes.  I will continue to blog after the Big Day (and yes sweet Malka, I will even g-chat with you!!  Maybe even more than we do now), so no worries about me falling off the face of the universe.

Now for those of you thinking you can come here to see the intimate details of my sex life, you will have to either (i) wait for the sex-video to get accidentally leaked on the internet (ew, gross, I'm totally kidding you pervs), (ii) be invited to my private - Private Intimacies blog which very few of you will be invited to, or (iii) use your hopefully overactive imaginations. (I was totally kidding about the intimacies blog but come on, admit it, you believed me there for a second).  I also don't plan on airing my marriage publicly either, so the blog will remain very me-centric.

As for David?  Yes, he knows the blog exists.  Yes, he has the URL.  No, he has never mentioned it and I have no idea if he's ever read it.  (Now possibly he's confused cause his name isn't really David and he doesn't know I've been talking about him all this time, but that's just conjecture.)

How often will I blog?  Dunno.  Will it be regular?  More than now?  Less?  Dunno.  Do I still find blogging to be helpful?  Yes.  Is that why I am going to keep doing it?  Partly yes

The other reason I plan to continue is you guys.  I've "met" some wonderful people here and while we may not be talk on the phone friends, or go out to eat friends, you have still been invaluable to me in many ways, including your sage advice.  And the fact that you care.  Means much (formerly alot) to me.

On a side note, David has promised me a "big surprise" at the wedding.  I am officially terrified.

Been thinking more about the events surrounding my being fired from my therapist.  Without trying to sound egotistical, I have found in my life that I've touched a small number of people (like my therapist, Lil Sis' mom, Lil Sis - like i said, a small number) and I have to say that it feels really, really good to know you have made a positive impact on someone's life. 

(As another aside, Lil Sis finished high school and will be attending seminary in Israel next year - I am EXTREMELY proud of you girl!  WOOT! - there's your shout out, now stop buggin me).

It is literally the calm before the storm.  Plans are all completed (looking good), dress is pretty much done (lookin eh), there's nothing really left to do except start packing up my shit - which I am having tons of difficulty doing.  I've managed to start stowing the things I won't be taking, but for some reason the job of packing my things is not appealing to me.

Finally, another thing I realized I'm excited about - after the big day I will have officially married not just David, but David's inner circle of friends.  Honestly, I'm excited about this.  First off, a better group of friends may not exist.  There's the really smart one who everyone respects, the really, really funny one who makes us all laugh.  The really dependable one everyone relies on.  Etc.  And their significant others as well.  They have been really accepting and treat me as one of the pack - since day 1.  And I love them all and can't wait to spend more time with them.

So, the house is clean. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The MOST Well-Deserved Thank You Gift

His neighborhood was close to mine, but as vastly different as night and day.  Houses lined both sides of his block, regular,run of the mill houses showing signs of actual life and use.  His lawn even had a tipped over bicycle.

I rang the doorbell and then stood in cool nightfall.  The sun was fading and the temperature was dropping. I suddenly longed for a sweatshirt.

The door opened and a little boy stood there.  He was cute and wore glasses. "Hello," he said. I asked if his dad was home.  "Yea".  Then he left me standing there by the open door.

He came to the door a few minutes later.  If I was hoping to catch him in shorts and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, i was mistaken.  He looked just like he always did.  When he saw me, I caught the briefest of hesitation.  "Cymbaline," he said, "come in".

He sat me in his well worn, comfortable living room and asked how I had found his unlisted address.  I told him the internet is a wonderful tool.  All around us were signs of a very used, but well kept, home.  I asked him how many kids he had.  Six.  Wow.  I told him it was weird I didn't know that.  He smiled.  "We usually talk about you, no?"  Touche.

"I'm almost afraid to ask, but what can I do for you?" he asks.  A ghost of a smile plays on his lips.

"Nothing," I reply.  "I have something for you."  A gift.  I reach out the bag i am holding. It's a fancy looking bag from a fancy sounding store.

"He's already shaking his head.  "I can't take anything from you.  You know that."

"Yes you can.  Well you can now at any rate," I amend.

***************************************************************************

Twenty four hours earlier I am sitting in his office.  I have the last appointment of the day. My favorite appointment because no one is rushing me in or out.  The last appointment of the day always feels more leisurely.  And since I am one of his older patients, I usually get it.

He's been treating me weirdly all night though. I can sense something off.  I assumed he was tired and ready to call it quits.

I finish talking.  He stares at me.

"Well?" I say.  "Nothing wise to add?  Or are you saving the big reveal for next time?"

He looks at me as if for the very first time.  He's quiet for what seems like a few minutes though it was probably just a few seconds.  "Cymbaline you're fired."

I look at him, head tilted, trying to understand the deep lesson i am supposed to take from him.  I shrug.  "I give up," I say.

"No," he smiles.  "You don't get it.  You're done.  We are done.  There's no next time.  Simply put, there's no reason for you to come anymore."

You ever feel panic welling up inside you?  well that's what I felt in this moment.  "You can't just abandon me," I say, my voice several octaves higher than I wanted it to be.

"Abandon you?  Do you realize you have spoken the whole session?  You told me how you were feeling, you told me what was bothering you, you explained to me WHY these things are bothering you and how you were going to deal with them.  I didn't say anything."

"That's because you have me well trained."

He shook his head.  Gently but firmly.  "That's because you don't need me anymore."

We argue back and forth for a while.  But my heart isn't in it.  He's right and I know it.  I just wanted the safety net.  I like knowing he's there if I need him. 

And there's no shame in realizing that you have become better than you once were.

Finally, I smile sweetly. "I'm going to start stalking you like one of those crazy people."

He smiles back.  "I'll just have you committed."

Yes, we have that kind of relationship.

**************************************************************************

He's still shaking his head.  He doesn't want my gift.  But I'm firm.  "Doc," I say. "You saved my life.  There's no gift I can give you that can ever repay what I owe you.  You saved my life.  I'd be dead now or as good as dead, without you to guide me back.  I got this for you to say thank you. I paid for it with my own money.  Please."

In the end, he took the gift.  He introduced me to his wife and he gave me his home phone number ("you probably already have it anyway," he says with mock grugingly).  "I won't give you my cell or my wife will get jealous," he jokes.  His wife is there when he says it and she doesn't look particularly worried.

In the end, he took the gift.  Whatever it was it can never, and will never, signify what this man has done for me.  He saved my life.  I owe him pretty much everything.  Whatever I have become, no matter how great or small, is due to him.

So, all in all, a well deserved gift.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Former Star Looks To Return To Glory

Former Number 1 Ranked tennis star, out for a year, looks to return to greatness.

By Blogspot Sports Staff

Cymbaline, the former number 1 ranked tennis star in New York, is less than one month away from her return to the hard courts (and softer surfaces) of professional, competitive tennis.  "I'm extremely excited," she told our staff, "I've missed playing this sport.  It's a real part of who I am."

Her time away from the game has given her a new appreciation of how important it is to her life.  "Practicing alone just isn't the same," she says with a sad look in her eyes.

Her return comes on the heels of the rise of a new challenger, a mysterious player named David, who has shot up the rankings.  The hope is that he will become a worthy adversary for Cymbaline for several decades to come.  ""Ive never had an opponent for more than a few months.  I look forward to this new challenge."

Cymbaline started paying tennis at an extremely young age, against the wishes of her parents, her school and even her doctors.  Her play was undisciplined and even dangerous.  She did a poor job of protecting her court and on a few occasions played without the proper protective gear. Sometimes her meaner opponents took advantage of her weaknesses.  But over time she developed not just her natural physical abilities, but also an understanding for the mental side of the game and how to manipulate opponents.  At that point her career took off.  By age 18 she was a number one ranked player. 

But then, suddenly, at age 20, circumstances forced her into a year-long hiatus.  "This past year was very difficult for me.  Tennis is part of who I am.  For me to be without the aspects of the game for a year, at least partner free, was very difficult."

But now she's back.  The time away, she says, has made her hungrier than ever.  "I feel bad for my opponent, I plan to totally wear him out.

And now, in less than a month, she will have that opportunity.