Tag Archive | forgiveness

Giving Thanks for Forgiveness and Healing

This is going to be one of those busy weeks around here with Thanksgiving and children coming home and my youngest son turning 8 years old, so I am taking this single opportunity that I have to write about what I am thankful for this year.  Because I am now twice divorced with six children from the first marriage, and one from the second, all of the holiday arrangements can get cumbersome.  Who is going to be where and when takes a lot of time to pin down.  Being flexible becomes more important than ever.

Until two days ago, it looked as if my adult kids–the ones who will be home–might have to try to stuff themselves with two Thanksgiving dinners only a few hours apart.   I was grateful that my meal would be first so that they would have some room in their stomachs for all of the delights I had in store for them.  However, on Saturday, my first husband and his wife invited us over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner.  My youngest son was thrilled with the idea, and even if I had to give up complete control of the meal, it made perfect sense to accept the invitation on the one condition that I get to bring a lot of food.

When I left my first husband I told anyone who would listen that, “He will never change.”  Guess what?  I was wrong.  He has changed quite a lot.  So have I, for that matter.  I got sober and grew up.  He made changes that I know were hard for him so that he could have a better relationship with our children.  I admire him greatly for all of the work that he has done that has so hugely benefited our family.  I think he admires the changes that I have made, as well.  Because we both cared enough about our kids to make some huge changes, we have been able to forgive each other, and we have both healed to the point where we can get together as a family with our kids, and his wife’s kids, and my little boy, and other new people thrown into the mix.  I still think this confuses some of our adult kids a bit, but they are adapting, like it or not.

I realized today that these big family gatherings would not have been possible ten years ago.  We were both still extremely stuck in our own garbage.  I got rid of the drinking and a whole lot of other things.  He gave up a lot, too, including a wife who did not support our family as a whole.  His wife now has a heart big enough, and an ego healthy enough, to open her arms to everyone.  As confused as our adult kids may be at our fairly recent hospitality towards each other, I know they are learning a lot even if they are not aware of it right now.

They are learning that even grown ups have to do some growing up before there can be health in the family.  They are learning about forgiveness that was a hard-fought battle with huge benefits.  They are learning that people can change if they have courage enough, and they are learning that healing is possible even after a bad ending.   They are also seeing that, even though they are all grown up now, that their father and I will support them forever as a unit.  There is no tug of war anymore, unless, of course, his wife will not let me make the gravy like she did last year, then there might be a battle for the whisk. 😉

My little boy adores his “Uncle Garth” and Holly and since he spent six months of his life living in their home while I was in prison, they are a very important part of his family.  It took an awful lot of people coming together, and a huge amount of love coming from all directions, for my little boy to have come through that experience as healthy as he did, and for that, I am very grateful.  I am grateful to all of my children, especially my youngest daughter who was his primary caregiver, and to my first husband and his wife and her kids, because they all played a big role is caring for my little boy.

I am so grateful for healing and forgiveness and for reconciliation as it works the magic that brings all of our families together on one day to celebrate growth and love and caring and support.  My introvert kids will survive the event, and we will get together the next day, just us as a smaller unit, to celebrate my little guy’s birthday.  It is having the best of both worlds all in one love packed weekend.  We are all having to give up a little something to open ourselves up to something much bigger and far more grand.

This kind of love and compromise and healing and forgiveness is a rare thing, and I know that.  I also know that they are right (whoever they are) when they say, “Never say never.”  I am so grateful for the kindness, love, flexibility, and generosity of this big, messy, cobbled together family.  The blessings that come from healing and forgiveness are almost too big for words, so I will use just three.  Thank you, Lord.

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Love, attachment, detachment, and letting go

I have been enjoying a day of silence and solitude today, which has not been as silent as I had hoped, but without the distractions of music, or movies, or too much talk, I have succeeded in being able to listen and hear what I have been needing to hear.  I have needed clarity on the topics of love, attachment, detachment, and letting go.  These thoughts began as a tangled ball of hurt feelings and slowly I have been untangling the ball.  As the knots loosened, I saw that the feelings had to be sorted into different piles, and each pile needed to be named and understood before I could make any true progress towards my goal, which was letting go and forgiving and loving fully.

When we think of love, most of us would be quick to agree that in order to love someone there has to be an attachment to that person.  I am very attached to my children, and I love them deeply.  Siblings, friends, spouses–those people closest to us–we generally feel that in order to love them fully we need to have an attachment to them.  I certainly thought that, and yet I have been forced to realize that the notion of attachment and love may be leaving something very important and valuable out of the mix.  This became especially clear to me as I struggled to come to terms with the Biblical command to love everyone.  Most religions and spiritual disciplines teach something similar.  We are all in this together, and love is the goal we strive to reach.

Love and attachment do coexist in many good and healthy relationships, such as the parent-child relationship, ideally anyway.  The same is true with friends, spouses, siblings, and parents.  There has to be balance in the attachment.  If we become overly attached in unhealthy ways we might become clingy, or domineering, or unable to see and appreciate the person separate from ourselves.  There are those darned boundaries again that tell us where we end and another person begins.  Boundaries are unique within each close relationship, and they shift over time.  If the relationship is a healthy one, this adjusting of boundaries happens fairly easily, as we parents adjust and step back as our children grow older.

We learn to let go and trust and have faith that we have taught our children well enough that they will flourish as adults.  The attachment to the child remains secure, but a certain detachment must come into play if we are going to be able to love them for who they are, and allow them to grow into who they are meant to become.  It is not an uncaring detachment at all, and it is not easy at the start, but it is necessary to maintain healthy boundaries and love in the relationship.  It is respect at the very core of it.  Certainly, this form of healthy attachment-detachment adjusting is far easier with those we are close to, or maybe not…

What happens when someone you love hurts you?  What happens when a marriage fails, and the divorce is nasty, and love is replaced with more undesirable emotions like anger, resentment, and even hatred. The base of all of these emotions is hurt.  How do you love a perfect stranger who has repeatedly attacked you, or someone that you love deeply but who does not show you the same respect that you show them without some overlay of hurt or bitterness to muck up each attempt at forgiveness?  How do I love someone who has wounded me in ways I never dreamed imaginable?  How do I love these people fully, like the Bible tells me to, and do it with purity and compassion.  Here is where the tangled ball unravels, and the three separate piles become more clear.  Detachment is the key to loving someone who has betrayed you, abused you, or hurt you in any form.  Detachment is not an easy place to get to, though.

When I was at the height of my cyber-bullying experience I read a lot of articles on the topic so that I could better understand it, and in order to write an article myself.  One of the best things that I read told me that, while documenting everything, to take a giant step back and to become an observer of the person harassing me.  To be an effective observer, I had to detach from my own hurt.  Once I was able to do that, I saw that the woman harassing me treated everyone the same.  She lashed out easily at anyone who had the slightest disagreement with her point of view.  She often perceived that certain comments were “calling me stupid,” when nothing even close was said.  She had a hair-trigger when it came to feeling slighted, and becoming angry and aggressive.  In short, I learned that her behavior towards me truly was nothing personal.  It was just how she viewed and attacked the world.  This information was liberating is a rather smug, “Well, she is just a miserable person…” sort of way.  I stopped observing and documenting, but I had not reached compassion, love, and forgiveness yet.

To get to that place, I had to detach even further.  I had to step so far back that I was in her shoes.  I had to look at what her life must be like, and feel like.  I had to look at who she was in a relationship with, and what she was going through with her children, and grandchild.  When I looked at her life from inside her shoes my heart hurt.  I am a mother, and I know what it feels like when there are serious issues with a child.  It is scary and it hurts like hell and you blame yourself in some way or another.  I had to look at the grandchild and his behavior that so troubles my son—such anger and aggressiveness at a very young age.  Grandma has to cope with that, and that sort of behavior doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  I felt sad for her in a profound way and I finally reached a place of compassion for her, and the entire household.  With compassion comes the ability to love–the kind of love that the Bible teaches.  It does not mean I want to play in the same sandbox with her, but I no longer harbor any ill will towards her.  I love her for the hurting person that she is and that feels a lot better than anger and lack of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, I have had to use the same process recently with someone infinitely closer to me–someone who I love dearly and always will.  I had to step back and observe a lifetime of behavior on both of our parts.  I had to step back even further to get into her shoes, and feel the anger she feels, and the fear, and the sadness.  I know why she hurts, whether intentional, or not, and I know that her pain is deeper than the wounds she inflicts on me.  I have great compassion for her, and I have forgiven her.  At the same time, I have compassion for myself in a new way, and suddenly a fourth pile comes out of the mix, and into that pile goes expectations.

I would, and have, moved mountains out of love for this person.  Because I would, and have done that, I expected the same from her.  Not everyone loves like I do.  Not everyone is willing to move mountains, or feels that they even can.  I had to release my expectations–detach from them–in order to let go of the hurt and love her fully.  She can only love as well as she is doing, like my mother could only love as well as she did.  I cannot expect more.  I can expect respect, and if that is absent, I will let go with love.

Throughout this process of detaching, and observing, and stepping into another person’s shoes, I was certain that what I was doing was detaching from each individual.  To be sure, there is some truth to that.  However, today I realized that what I had really had to do in order to get to the place of love, compassion, forgiveness, and letting go was to detach myself from my own ego and pride.  I had to tie each piece from each one of the four piles together, roll the ball up neatly, and name it what it truly was–pride and ego.  If I had not detached myself from my own hurt ego, I never would have been able to step into their shoes, find compassion for them, and finally love and forgive them for who they are.

My pride and my mouth have been two of my biggest defense mechanisms when hurt.  I have been chipping away at both bit by bit, but these experiences have taken me forward with a huge leap.  I can step away from my ego and my pride and I can love and forgive as God wants me to do.  I have not given up myself in the process.  Quite the opposite, like the Grinch, I feel as if my heart has grown three sizes today.  It is a wonderful, peaceful, gentle feeling.  The silence has truly been golden. The sun will be setting soon, and I will be lighting my candles.  I am full of homemade bread and soup.  I have nothing to defend tonight.  I am free to love fully from whatever distance I choose.  I thank God for that freedom.

Thoughts on tolerance and boundaries

In the last two days, the hot topic amidst my gaggle of female friends has been boundaries, and tolerance, as an offshoot of the boundaries discussion.  One friend asked, “Why are boundaries so hard?”  For those of us who have abuse backgrounds the answer is easy—we never learned boundaries as children, or if we did, abuse in adult relationships made us doubt and question our boundaries at time and again.  We got told we were in the wrong at every turn and we began to believe it, sacrificing our own boundaries, wants,  needs, and beliefs, to try to make the abuser happy, or simply to keep the peace.  While our boundaries were being dismantled most of us grew extremely tolerant of what was purely bad, toxic, unhealthy behavior on the part of others.

Because so many women who are abuse survivors go on to have issues with alcohol and drug abuse, boundaries are further blurred and lost.  We begin to do things that do not mesh with our own values and beliefs. We develop a great deal of guilt and shame because we are betraying ourselves, and those people that we love the most, so our tolerance for poor treatment goes up even higher, while our boundaries become even more fuzzy.  We are miserable and needy and unhappy and we attract people who are miserable, needy, unhappy, or outright personality disordered.  Women with abuse backgrounds, or substance abuse issues, are the perfect targets for those predatory people of the narcissist and sociopath varieties.  Who better and easier to manipulate than someone who has no set boundaries?  Of course, we want to be needed, so these toxic people who attach to us help us to feel better about ourselves, even if they are using us, or do not really love or care about us.

But a funny thing happens when a woman from an abuse background starts to heal. It really begins to upset the apple cart in our unhealthy relationships.  The same thing happens when an alcoholic or addict gets clean and sober.  As we get better, our boundaries begin to return, and we grow stronger, and more self-assured.  We begin to ask for what we need and set firm limits for what we will not tolerate.  Guilt and shame starts to drop away, and surviving begins to head towards thriving.  The unhealthy people in our lives hate that.  It threatens them, and so they revolt, usually in the most unpleasant of ways.  They lash out, they accuse us of having “a twisted sense of boundaries,” they blame us for their shortcomings, they get jealous, they undermine, they get mean, they set out to hurt us, demean us—anything in their bag of trick to try to get us to fall back into old behavior—seeking their forgiveness, accepting the blame that isn’t yours to own, and going back, once again, to tolerating bad behavior.  When that does not work, these folks tend to get madder and meaner in their desperation to regain control.

It sounds awful, doesn’t it?  It certainly feels awful when one is in the midst of if, but it is such a good and positive sign that you are moving in the right direction!  It is a sure sign that you are moving towards health and wholeness and the unhealthy relationships that you have been enmeshed in are dropping away.  It is unfortunate that the dropping away process is not more gentle, but the fact is that toxic and disordered people are not known for gentleness, or quietly disappearing into the sunset.  The relationship will end with them kicking and screaming and blaming you all the way.  You simply must not take their behavior personally.  You are getting better and leaving them behind and they are mad as hell—at themselves for not having the courage to follow–or for the disordered, they are mad that you are not falling for their crap anymore.

This is a time when your boundaries and tolerance will be tested in ways beyond belief.  You will feel torn and guilty.  You will question yourself.  “Is what he/she said really true?”  No, it is not.  It is far more apt to be true about them than it is to be true about you.  What you are being afforded is an excellent opportunity to firm up your boundaries even more by disengaging.  So many of us want closure, or the last word, or an apology from the one who lashed out at us.  None of those things are helpful.  What is helpful is moving away from the toxic person as quickly as possible.  Do not take on their “stuff,” and do not look to mend fences that were falling apart to begin with.  Love yourself enough to let go as completely as possible, with the maximum amount of compassion and forgiveness possible, for yourself, and for the person you are leaving behind.  Getting healthy is a process and this is a part of the process.  Do not beat yourself up for not seeing the person for what they were sooner, or for ignoring what you did see.  Know that you will not make the same mistakes again.

Once you enter “thriving mode,” you will attract other people who are happy, healthy, and thriving.  It is true, and I really want you to know and believe that.  You will also gain a sixth sense about people and you will be able to spot someone who is disordered or toxic with lightening speed, because as your boundaries become solid, your intuition will sharpen in the most magnificent ways.  Suddenly you will know, maybe for the first time in your life, that you are fully capable of keeping yourself safe and healthy and nothing, and no one, will stop you from doing just that.  There is a big difference between being needed and being well-loved.  You will choose to be loved rather than needed.  You won’t do it perfectly, but that is okay.  Just keep moving forward.

Boundaries are tricky in so many ways.  We have different boundaries with friends and family than we do with strangers or people on the outer edges of our lives.  We recalculate and relax as we get to know people.  I have found, for myself, that I am still an extremely tolerant person, even with firm boundaries.  I can tolerate political difference, different religious beliefs, child rearing practices, pretty much anything, unless it violates my boundaries, or the behavior violates the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.  That is where my tolerance ends. If you want me to respect your religious beliefs but will not do the same for me, something is wrong with the picture, and I will turn off the TV, and so on.

Yes, I will give you a chance or two to change your behavior as long as the offense is minor, because that is how I roll, but three strikes, and you are outta here!  If you cannot, or will not, respect my boundaries then I will know you do not care about me in a healthy way and I will say good-bye without a backward glance.  If your offense if major, know that there are some things I have zero tolerance for, such as abuse of any living thing, especially those that cannot defend themselves.  Not only will I remove myself from your life instantly, but I will do what I can to make sure you never hurt another soul, knowing full well that my power is quite limited.  And I will pray for you.  I will always pray for you.

Some thoughts on judging others…

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Judging others is something we all do in the course of a day, and if we say we don’t we are big, fat, liars.  Much of it is somewhat unconsciously done.  As we walk through the grocery store thoughts run through our heads.  “Wow, that shirt is awful.”  “Boy, that’s one big person.”  “She sure looks like a grump.” On it goes right up to the check out line, where we begin to judge the contents of the shopping cart of the person in front of us, as well as their payment method.  This goes on all day long, little and big judgements made about people, what they do, what they say, how they act, and what the look like.  Maybe you are not that bad.  Maybe you are more inclined to see the people who smile at you, or notice those who look especially pretty, or maybe you are like me, off in my own little world of “get it done and get out of here.”  Whatever the case, we all judge to varying degrees, and it is rarely beneficial to us, or to the person we are judging.

However, it is hard to even begin to enter into the topic of judging without becoming judgmental.  “That person said a hateful thing.  That is wrong.  That person is nasty.”  I said that just last night, in my head.  A person who doesn’t know me made some insulting comments, judged me based on information she is being spoon fed, some of it true enough, much of it not.  Because the comments hurt, I judged her as a bad person, and I do not know her personally. Is she a bad person?  I don’t know.  How could I?  Do I like, or condone, her behavior?  No, I do not.  The behavior and the actions go completely against my personal beliefs of what is right, and her actions are less than attractive, in my opinion.  But, that is just my opinion.  I do not get to be the judge.  I must answer to a higher authority, God, who tells me that I do not know her past, or her hurts, or her insecurities, and even if I did, I would still have no right to judge her.  God tells me to turn the other cheek, stop looking, forgive, and move on.  Easier said than done, of course, but doable.

Dorothy Parker said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”  That’s not how I roll.  I do not enjoy disliking others, bad mouthing others, or diminishing others so I can feel better about myself.  Does that mean I have never done any of those thing?  Heck no!  I am guilty as charged.  I am very human, too.  The greater portion of my life is filled with wonderful, kind, caring, loving individuals who roll like I do.  Yet, human nature, flawed as it is, will generally cause me focus on the one or two meanies in my life, and forget all about the lovely people and things all around me.  That is a backwards way of living, and changing that is something I work on every day.

That work requires taking a thought, or feeling—a judgement—and turning it around to something positive.  It changes, “That person is just plain nasty,” to “That person must really be hurting/be insecure/feel threatened.”  Those thought changes opens the mind to compassion.  We do not need to like the comments, behaviors, or even the person, but viewing them with compassion rather than judging and attacking right back is the healthier, kinder choice, for ourselves, and for them.  It is saying to yourself, and the world, “I may disagree with you, but I am pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” to borrow a line from Jon Stewart.  If you cannot change your thoughts from ones of judgement and condemnation, then the least you can do is turn and walk away in kindness.

We do reap what we sow.  The law of attraction is real.  The more we judge harshly, respond to judgments with revenge, or insult and degrade people to elevate ourselves, the more of that same sort of thing we will get coming back at us in our own lives.  As people say these days, “Haters are gonna hate.”  I suppose that is true enough, but I have a choice to make for myself, and that is not to be a hater.   The Bible says we can sow blessings or curses with our words.  In this age of the internet, we can do the same with our fingers, faceless behind a computer screen.  This also allows us the convenience of judging people we do not even know.  Do not get sucked into it all.  It is a trap that will effectively take your eyes off of yourself, and your own areas that need attention, while you focus on someone else and their flaws. Go find the goodness inside of you, and in others, instead.

What if someone is judging you right now–hurting you, insulting you, demeaning you right now?  Turn away, walk away, calm yourself and reframe your thoughts, if you can.  Count your blessings. Ask yourself if the person’s judgment is truly hurting you, or just hurting your pride, with no real damage done to how the important people in your life perceive you.  Step outside and look at the splendor all around you.  Release, relax, forgive, and remember that, in the end, you are not the final authority on anyone, or anything, but yourself.  In the end, it is all between you and God.  Do all you can to maintain your integrity.  It is okay to hate evil, but the evil and the person are usually two separate things.

This one, too, this topic of judging, or stopping the judging, take a lot of work, yet again.  I know, I know…;-)  I am working at it right along with you.  I am working at the judging, and forgiving, and moving on.  Today, turn towards the beauty in the world.  Right outside my front door is the most gorgeous day. The sun is shining.  The trees are the most vibrant spring green, and about ten steps from my front door is a breath taking patch of wild violets.  That is where I am going now.  I am stepping towards the things that can truly be judged as beautiful.

Mother’s Day Reflections—A Quickie ;-)

“It seems odd to celebrate one’s mom is just one day. Someone so important should be celebrated every day.”  Anonymous, because he’d prefer it that way.

I have seven gorgeous children who are the light of my life.  Six are adults, and one is just 7 years old.  They are truly amazing, though I admit to a bit of bias.  To say that they are accomplished is an understatement, and that includes the 7 year old.  While their accomplishments are good for bragging rights, they are their accomplishments, not mine, and their accomplishments are not what makes them so special.   As I have always said, I wouldn’t care what they did as long as they are happy doing it.

What makes them so amazing is their personalities, and their character.  They are kind and generous.  They are loving and they are funny as can be.  They can laugh at themselves, and no one can get me laughing faster, or harder, than my children, with my sisters coming in at a close second.  They help me laugh at myself, and we have those family stories that are hilarious to us every time.   We have a secret language of movie quotes that we all understand, and can use to convey a variety of thoughts and emotions.  “Keep the change you filthy animal,” means “I love you,” or “You owe me nothing, it’s a gift.”  We’re all a little nutty, in a good way, of course.  We we are all together, the room vibrates with love, hot conversation, and tons and tons of laughter.  Individually, we are all quiet people, and true introverts, but together we are a gaggle of kindred spirits knowing we are fully home.

However, their greatest gifts lie in their ability to forgive, and to move forward, and to recalculate life, and the people in it, as needed.  This is what means the most to me, because I have required forgiveness more than most mothers.  I have required forgiveness again, and again, and again, and each time it’s been freely given.  They’ve forgiven the years of drinking, and my inability to be there for them properly.  They have forgiven the times I was physically absent due to rehab stays, or jail stays, or prison.  They have forgiven lavishly, with no lingering resentments, and they have moved forward in their view of me as I have recovered.  In many ways, we have been growing up together and they have been as patient with me as I have been with them.  They love me unconditionally, as I have loved them.

Yet, for many years, because of all of the guilt and shame I dragged around because of my perceived poor performance as a mother, I lagged behind them both in my forgiveness of myself, and my ability to recalculate who I am today, as opposed to who I was 10 years ago.   I have been forced to stop and look at myself through their eyes, and actually feel their words, not just hear them.  They did not become who they are today in some miraculous vacuum.  They remind me of this often, and of course, their father has played a role, the older kids having seen the worst, and the youngest having been spared most of that.  Because of my children, and God’s grace, which underpins all of this, I have been able to forgive myself, and I am getting up to speed in the recalculating of my view of me.   I thank God every day for these precious people that He trusted me to care for and love, flawed as I am.

My own mother died over 24 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  Although we had bumps in our relationship, by the time she died, we had reached a place of deep friendship.   She was always the first person I wanted to call when anything happened in my life, good or bad.  Now, I am blessed to have three women in my life who are both friends, and mothers to me.  One woman spoils me silly, and is a grandmother to my 7 year old, though there are no blood ties.  Another is chock full of common sense, and tells it like it is.  She loves to cook, too, like I do, so we share recipes and new food finds.  The third woman is the one to whom I can cry my eyes out, and I discover a bit more of myself every time I talk to her.  There is reciprocity in all of these relationships, which is what makes them so special.

But, the best mother that I have now is myself.  In the recalculating I have had to do—the seeing myself as all of these other very special people see me—I have come to realize that I can, and should, give every wonderful gift to myself that I give to others, and that others so richly give to me.  Knowing that God has fully forgiven me, as have all of the people who matter the most to me, I realized that it is more than a little arrogant not to forgive myself, and treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve.  What a tremendous gift that has been, and it’s one that will remain.  I am blessed beyond words, and I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Day’s.  Mothers come in may forms–our own mothers, our children, our friends, our sisters, ourselves.  Even if you have no children, you can celebrate and honor the mother within you today.

That quote up top came from my 20 year old son…  I am sure I’ll stop crying anytime now 😉  Happy Mother’s Day!

A God given right to lie….

The other afternoon, my 20 year old son and I were discussing my ex, the sociopath.  From now on he will simply be referred to as the sociopath.  Anyway, if you did not already know, sociopaths lie.  They lie about everything, including things that are blatantly lies to everyone around them that has caught onto them.  The fact that I didn’t catch onto the sociopath sooner is something that I am still working through.

The discussion topic was the sociopath’s girlfriend, who he claims is not his girlfriend, but merely a coworker, who he lives with, and takes everywhere he goes, including family functions, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday celebrations.  I have known he had someone for about two years now, and I could not care less.  What bothers me, and my 7 year old son, is that he lies about it when it’s so obvious.  Seriously, we are divorced, and anything or anyone that takes his sights off me me if fully approved by me.  I’d like to warn her, but I know just about how far that would go, so…

As I vented to my son about my frustration at the sociopath’s lying about something so obvious–I mean he keeps his clothes in her room, but sleeps with my son on the couch when my son is there–I don’t for a minute think that he sleeps on the couch when my son is not there–but I digress.  Vent I did until my son said, “It’s his God given right to lie. We all know the truth, don’t we? So, he can lie all he wants.”  This simple comment I one I am still mulling over in my mind—the concept of a God given right to lie.  “But, lying is wrong, and it looks so bad to your brother,” I countered.  Yes, my son agreed fully, but apparently, that does not diminish the God given right to lie.

As Dr. House says, “Everyone lies,” and I know that’s true.  But I am an idealist to the core—a Meyers-Briggs tested and retested, less than 2% of the population, INFJ idealist and so it has been a lifelong challenge for me to wrap my head around concepts that others find so very simply.  Take fairness, for example.  I think that the first words out of my mother’s mouth after my birth were, “I love you.  Life isn’t fair.”  She repeated those words many, many times as I grew up and yet I never believed her.  Life should be fair!  People should tell the truth!  If you are a good person, then that should be enough!  I have mentally and emotionally worn myself out over the years battling, inwardly and outwardly, with these concepts that everyone else seems to inherently just “get.”

And so, in the last two days, as I have thought and rethought the God given right to lie concept, I have had to accept it as true.  God gave us all free will and what we do with that will is our choice.  To me, lying is wrong.  To the sociopath, lying is all part of a day’s work.  I have to accept that the sociopath does have a God given right to lie, and in that there is a certain freedom from needing to try to continue to change him.  This is between him and God.  Period, full stop.  How I react to it, and what I teach my son about it is between me and God.  That he is without integrity is none of my business anymore, unless it begins to affect me or my son.  This also, I guess, makes it his God give right to be miserable, angry, and vengeful, and that is none of my business, either.  That’s between him and God, too.

What a relief!  It’s not my job anymore to fix him.  It never was my job, though I certainly did make it mine.  Whether he believes in God, as I do, or not, God still love him, and watches him, and any of his behavior falls into God’s providence, not mine.  Oh, thank God!  I can truly let go now and hopefully forgive!  Amen to that!

On Forgiveness of Self…It’s Key

I am a writer.  I wrote this the other day and I have to put it somewhere for now.  Take good care of it 😉

I am a recovering alcoholic.  I have been sober over 8 years, and I love every day of my life now, which is some form of major miracle to my mind, both the sobriety and the sheer joy and happiness.  I love who I am today, and I believe that I am finally the woman I was meant to be all of my life.  That this has finally happened at the age of 52 carries with it certain sense of poignancy, though I try not to dwell on what life might have been like had I found myself sooner, or more to the point, never surrendered myself in the first place.  However, I intellectually know that when trauma and sexual abuse happens to a person at the age of 4 or 5, that person is in no solid position to decide what they surrender or do not.  This is especially true if there is no supportive adult to guide the child through, or someone to simply bother to acknowledge that it happened in the first place.

Did you notice that?  Did you notice that as soon as I began to talk of sexual abuse, and a person, not a child, being 4 or 5, that I switched from writing in the first person to the third person?  Amazingly, I caught it instantly, which I think means that what I know intellectually is moving ever closer to my heart.  To that place of actually feeling the pain, rather than just having the knowledge that something happened that should not have. Since tears are rolling down my cheeks, I know I am feeling, not just thinking, which I am so very good at doing.  Think, think, think… Maybe I can think the pain to death, though that has been wholly ineffective to date.

I was sexually abused repeatedly at the age of 4 or 5 by my mother’s best friend’s 16 year old son.  I have a sister that is 13 months younger than me.  It was when he began to go after her as well, that’s when I went to my mother and told her.  The abuse stopped and not another word was ever spoken about it–ever.  Through my growing up years, I had to see this man time and again, each time our families got together.  I don’t know that if my father ever even knew, and since both my parents are long dead, I will never know.  Now, this is something that I have always known–that this happened to me.  But, who is, or was, me?

Until a few months ago, I never realized that the little girl who was molested was me, and that I was only 4 or 5…a baby, a tiny, little, defenseless, child.  Little 5 year old Ann.  I see her in snapshots looking so childishly smug, as if she knows all of the secrets of the world already.  There’s a certain air of superiority there, also.   I believe that, in my mind’s eye, I saw that little girl, me, as a perfectly capable mini-adult person who should have done something to stop all of it sooner.

Because I had failed then, I gave away myself in order to take on the role of the buffer for the world.  A buffer steps in protect others from pain.  A buffer gets beat up a lot.  A buffer learns to feel no pain, because if she did, it would hurt too much.  And that is what I did.  I learned how to feel no pain in a great variety of ways.  I was the buffer for 47 long, excruciatingly painful years.  It makes me so sad to see that now.  So sad for me as a little girl, and a teenager, and a woman.  I lost a lot of life being a buffer, and that hurts in ways words simply cannot capture.

At first, dissociation was my main trick, and I was especially good at it.  There is very little in this life that I undertake that I do not do especially well, expect for life itself, maybe.  When I found alcohol, it was like an answer to a prayer.  Something that took the pain away, and was socially acceptable, up to a point.  Of course, because if I am going to do something, I am going to do it extremely well, I reached that point, and passed it by many, many miles.  And now I am flogging myself with key strokes for not knowing another way to deal with my pain, or for putting a stop to the drinking before such a huge toll was taken…on me.

Certainly, many others were hurt, my children, especially, but for the most part, they seemed to have healed, or are healing, and have moved beyond it.  It’s me that’s stuck and oh, so mad at the person I became.  I don’t even what to think about that person, or believe that she ever existed.  I have hated her for years now, and hidden her, but she is long gone, so, in truth, it has been me hiding from her—long dead, and gone.  Just like I have been hiding from my anger at my mother, who set me up for such a life of pain by her coldness, detachment, and her absolute insistence that I be strong, and never shed a tear, no matter what happened to me in my life, because somehow it was always a reflection on her.

And so, me, who is finally almost free, is still a subtle slave to these two dead women.  Had my mother been able to love me, and accept me, and care for me, in the way that I needed when I was 4 or 5, and every year after that, perhaps the second women, that part of myself that I am looking at today in the hopes of finally forgiving, well, she may have never come into existence.  She wasn’t, my mother, able to do any of those things, and I cannot change that.  She loved me very much.  I know that.  I was also a great disappointment to her, as well.  I know that, too. More than I know that she loved me.   I wasn’t smart enough, in the right way, for her, or strong enough, or whatever enough.  Or, maybe, I was too much of it all, smart, strong, talented, and pretty.  Maybe it was that she hated me for… Whatever the case, because of her, always cloaked in disappointment at her life, and some great internal misery none of us could reach, I have spent my life, both the parts prior to her death and after, trying to prove something to her.

I have been trying to prove that I am worthy, maybe, but I picked a funny way to prove that.  Or, maybe I wanted her to know that her pain had become mine, and had tripled in size and it was eating me alive, would she please come rescue and protect me now?  If it got bad enough, and it certainly did, would she finally reach out a hand to help me up?  Would she finally love me just as I was, so flawed and so in pain?  Would she hold me and comfort me and tell me it was okay.  That I was okay?  Of course, that was my 5 year old magical thinking, and it never happened.

The other day, my seven year old asked me what was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life?  How could I possibly choose, I thought?  Molestation, incest, rape, abuse, alcoholism, prison… I gave him a believable answer, and he told me that the worst thing that ever happened to him was when his Dad wouldn’t let his sister take him to Funtown, but took him himself.  I know full well when the worst part of my life was, it was a year midway through my 5 year relapse.  It was the year where the woman I do not want to look at was alive, and well, and fully running my life.  She was finally out in the open, so to speak, and it made her mad, and uncomfortable beyond words, so her actions spoke the most loudly.  She was trying to kill the pain, and her and I in the process.  That she did not is yet another miracle.

That year, I drank constantly.  I had lost my kids to their father because of my drinking, and the pain of that was unbearable. I was living alone in a strange house, having lost my house, and I was so cold all of the time.  Her, me, us, lost a baby at 9 weeks while I had been sober for 6 months, and after, we fell apart.  In some ways I wonder now if she was trying to save me from the man I was involved with at the time, who would years later become my sociopath husband.  I know now she was seeing what I did not want to see.  I have flashbacks every day from that time.

It was a horrid time when I would blackout for days at a time in the upstairs bedroom, to wake up completely naked, bedding torn off of the bed, covered in bruises and a rash, large knots all over my head.  I shook too badly to light a cigarette, or dial a phone for help.  I could not move my computer mouse smoothly enough to find out what time and day it was.  I’d find realtor’s card on the kitchen table and know that the house, which was on the market, was shown while I was blacked out.  I would find myself getting into the car with the express purpose to get drunk while driving.  I wrapped my car  around a tree in a blackout and ended up in the hospital.  Another time a friend could not reach me, and an ambulance came to my home and dragged me out of bed, again naked, and screaming, while my friend cried and watched.  I was in the hospital for days, not knowing what day it was, save for the note on the chalk board.  I didn’t eat.  I could not walk normally.  My arms would not swing by themselves, I had to force them to do it.  I was weak and spent hour upon day upon month sitting at the kitchen table just staring, even when my kids were over.  My hair was falling out.

I was back in the hospital again, days before I was to enter a rehab, having fallen and broken my nose in a blackout.  For three weeks after that, they, the hospital, the detox, and then the rehab, wondered if my brain would come back enough for me to live a normal life.  Amazingly, it did.  Amazingly, after another rehab, and two jail stays, and a 6 month half way house, I finally got sober, but she, the one who was trying to kill us, lived on, this time, feeding on shame.  She had plenty to eat, even when the rest of us didn’t.  I was getting stronger, and her far, far, weaker.  What finally killed her, the protector, and the queen of dissociation?  I believe in was the arrest that led me to spend six months of the last year in prison.

That was the last straw, and I woke up and looked around at the abuse I was suffering through yet again, and I took control, finally.  I got mad.  I said enough is enough, and I remember every single day since that day.  That’s a real first for me who has entire years in my life completely missing.  It was in prison that I finally knocked down the walls to the bunker that had held me, the 5 year old me, prisoner for 47 years.  That child is a part of me now, and I can feel her pain, and love her properly.  But what of this extremely strong, extremely angry, extremely protective, and extremely self destructive, woman who is dead, but not buried?

I look at her and see that she was the exterior wall of the fortress that protected me from a lifetime of pain.  She was the buffer.  She’s the one who stepped in and took all of the hits, and absorbed all of the shocks and insults.  She’s the one who stepped onto the plane and flew across the country to take care of whichever loved one was dying. She always found a way even when a way seemed impossible.  She not only took care of me, but the entire world she knew.  She’d gotten oh so very tired.  It’s an exhaustion that I still feel.  It was a terribly thankless job.  She carried all of the pain and kept me smiling a fake smile, and moving through life in the best, muddled, way that I could.

What human could endure such an enormous amount of pain and responsibility without help from anyone?  Not me.  I never would have made it without her, and her beauty, and her strength, and her tenacity, for as much as she wanted to die, she wanted me to live.  She gave me the time I needed to grow up, and grow strong on my own, and then she just disappeared when I was ready to take over the reigns.  She is me.  She was the very best of me crying to get out, and she was the very worst, most devastated, part of me, dying inside.   I have been hating myself for weakness that was really strength, ugliness that was really pain, and behaviors that were really just attempts to get love from a woman who just didn’t have it in her to give, alive or dead.

We are one now.  Me, and that tiny, little girl, and that tough as nails woman with a heart so big that she was willing to take on the pain of the world.  That person is me, and I am beautiful, and happy, and passionate, and talented, more than smart enough, and certainly good enough.  Forgiveness I give to you now, because you are me, and I love me, and I thank you.  We made it through to the other side, and on this side is healing and happiness.   It’s going to be okay.  I am okay, just the way that I am.