days, weeks, months, years

clockcalendarAt the top of the stats page for my blog, it says “Days, Weeks, Months, Years”.  What an arbitrary way in which to measure time! To me right now attempting to determine what can be done in a day, a week, a month, a year, is both confusing and confounding.  When I look at how my last day, week, month, year have happened, I am amazed at how much and how little things have changed.

In the last 24 hours (day), I FINALLY had a job interview. This is very good for the ego, as I have been without gainful employment for 2 months now. That said, today I worked with my cousin to clarify my thoughts and feelings about my career and made some empowering decisions.  A day can be a lifetime sometimes.

In the last sennight (ah, how I love archaic terms), I have been brought to tears by the sadness and the joy on the screen during a television show I have become addicted to, I have read complete trash for the first time in months and I have hibernated due to our bitter, bitter cold. I have watched the new puppy become more mature and able to control his potty habits and I have found that yes, I can spend very little money and still feed my family quite well. I have been disgusted by politics and while on a walk down memory lane, I have cried again for a friend who died years ago. I have started to crawl out of the darkest part of my current depression and am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the past month, I have discovered that the job I thought was a sure thing was in fact non-existent.  I have, once again, realized how easily I can make a bad decision and also realized that yes, this too will pass.  I have had to pull out the deepest reserves of optimism I possess and I have fought hard to battle the darkness that is never as far away as I would like it.  I have started a list of things I want to accomplish in the next few months and I have discovered just how little material things mean to me these days.  This, candidly, has been very freeing.

And in the last year, my life has turned around 180 degrees.  From suburban homeowner to urban renter, from being overworked to not working at all, from hating every day to wondering what each day will bring, I am so different now than I was a year ago. And yet . . .

And yet I am still myself inside, and am getting closer to the truth of who my authentic self really is. Stripped of the extraneous “stuff”, I find I am good with being simpler, being slower, being less and being *about* less.  I have learned the hard way what really matters, and it is nothing you can find on a piece of paper anywhere, it is nothing that you can see, touch, hear or taste. You can only feel it in your heart and in your soul, and it is impossible for it to be taken from you.

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”   Stephen King, Different Seasons

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to reach out or be reached out to?

This year for the first time I really made no effort to get together with my mother for the holiday.  We met early in December and she gave me several packages for Christmas for the kids living here in Wisconsin and for me.  There was nothing for my husband, unsurprising as after finding out my mother’s true feelings for him, he told her not to waste her time or money on meaningless gifts.  Although I am not working this holiday season, I did not offer to come spend time with her nor did she ask me to come.

I have several small items for my mother and a token gift for her husband. Although I have had them for a while (in fact, two items I intended to send as birthday gifts late in the summer), in my lack of planning and poor holiday preparation, I have not yet mailed them.  One item is rather fragile; I determined on Christmas Day that I really need to get it to her in person somehow.

My mother often complained about her mother’s imperious attitude.  Grandmother insisted that her friends all come to her, rather than the other way around.  Mom said it was because her mother was the spoiled only child of a well-to-do family.  For all her protestations otherwise, my mother was also a spoiled child of a well-to-do family, although she has an older sister.  Her father was the vice president of a major local company and her mother was very active in local society.  My mother is a “big fish” in her little world. They are quite well off but are known all over town as cheapskates.  They once received an anonymous letter calling them out for their penny-pinching ways–with all their money, they never buy a cocktail while dining out and never buy a drink for a friend.  Yet Mom is president of this society, secretary of that one, and was, until recently, active in local government as well, while her husband is president of their club and their homeowners association.

I tell you all of this as background for some of my recent decisions.  With all of my children here for Christmas and a full slate of activities with them and with my father, I was really very busy the past two weeks.  My mother has my phone number and two of my email addresses.  She emailed me a few times after we met to ask about the gifts she had sent for St Nicholas Day and I briefly responded, but winding up my old job (in retail) and getting ready for the holidays, I really wasn’t on email much.  All that said, given the busy-ness of my life, I didn’t call or write to her over the holiday week.  That said, I am also kind of tired of being the only one who calls (unless she calls when drunk) so frankly, I decided not to reach out.  I waited to see if she would call me.  The answer was no.

But yesterday she had the audacity to send me an email telling me she is tired of trying to make up for everything she did wrong and wishing that I “Have a nice life”.  I decided to play it cool and expressed puzzlement over her message and she followed up with another message of the same ilk.  She also stated she was tired of trying to make up for “whatever” she had done wrong last Christmas.  WTF???

My response? I reminded her that she could contact me, I reminded her of her complaining about HER mother and I reminded her that what she did wrong had nothing to do with last Christmas–it was her walking out of my daughter’s wedding like a petulant child when not given the microphone to offer a toast.  I haven’t heard anything back yet, but I imagine this has gone over like a fart in church.  And that’s fine with me.

You see, the thing is that no matter how hard I wish her to be different, some things about my mother will never change.  She will never acknowledge all of the OTHER horrible things that happened since 1975, she will always insist that I was the problem, that I was the bad one, that her husband was innocent.  She will always be in the right and in any situation like this, she will be the one that is wronged and I the one that is wrong. The good news is that I am fine with that. I know what is true, I know what is right, and I know I am no longer prepared to kiss anyone’s ass, least of all hers.

This year I will continue my journey of self-awareness and self-love.  I have adopted a strategy a good friend and social media guru suggested and am using three words to guide me in 2015–create, commit, complete.  This means I will create a world of love and comfort for myself and my family, I will commit to being a friend to myself and my family and I will complete the things I have been putting off for a while, including regular updates on this blog.  But most of all, I will not succumb to the games that my mother plays.  This time the game board is mine, as are all the pieces, and I have made the rules. Now I will win!

mindgames

strong me isn’t pretty

strong me isn’t pretty.

she is not apologetic or sorry.

she stands tall on her own two feet and will not put up with your bullshit.

she will demand the best from you and give her best to you.

she will insist on honesty from you and always tell you the truth.

she will not suffer the fool but has infinite patience for the nescient.

she will not mince words, put things delicately or allow you to give her anything less than 100%.

she refuses to be treated as a liar, as a scapegoat or as your door mat.

she is proud of the scars she bears and draws courage from them.

she is honest and steadfast and pure in her anger and in her love.

she is the new me, and damn it, if you can’t handle her, fuck you.

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Badge of Honor, Badge of Pride Part II

Badge of Honor, Badge of Pride Part II

Here is the amazing KillboX made for me by Leonard Ikeda & Derrick Obatake at Steel Flame, imprinted with the letters P for pain, F for fear, S for shame and A for anger. These are the four stages I went through as a victim of abuse. The letters are imprinted on sterling silver and then the square was shot through with a .45, symbolically killing the abuse; a badge reflecting my growth from victim to survivor.

Thank you, Leonard and Derrick and everyone at Steel Flame for this amazing reminder of my strength and courage.

ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

 

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There is a saying, erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein, that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That was me for years and years and years.  Now I’m finally starting to change.  It has been a few weeks since I posted, and I am seeing myself making some small changes, yet in many ways I continue to do the same things again and again.

I have become stronger, mentally.  I no longer have so many fears, especially as surround my parents.  While I have neither seen nor heard from my abusive stepfather since the wedding that kicked all of this off and forced me out of the shell I had safely occupied for years, I have since resumed cautious, cordial email exchanges with my mother. We even spoke briefly on the phone the other night.  I was actually supposed to see her today, but a change in my schedule made that impossible.  I know she is disappointed, and I am as well.  I just celebrated a birthday, and it is the first time I have celebrated without a visit with her.

I have remembered a deeper, darker side to my abuse, one I never thought was there but one my therapist believed all along would surface.  It is unspeakable, and it shakes me to the core, but it explains a lot about my behavior during high school and college.  I am getting to know myself and my deep, dark corners much better.  I’m trying to embrace it all, my inner beauty and the ugly places, every bit of me.

I have begun to stand up for myself more often.  This does not always mean that those around me are comfortable with that.  When for years someone you’ve known has apologized for every little mishap, her fault or not, has reacted with unending sympathy and patience and never questioned or opposed hurtful speech or attitudes and suddenly this new person does just that, it is unsettling for those around her.  It can be like your old, faithful dog, no matter how many times you spoke harshly to her, she wagged her tail and came for a pat, but today she barked and bared her teeth.

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I used to apologize for EVERYTHING, anytime someone was unhappy, discontent, bored, you name it.  Truly, it was rarely if ever something I had done, or even something I had any control over, but I somehow felt guilty for the displeasure or unhappiness of others.  Husband has a bad day at work?  “I’m sorry.”  Daughter can’t find something?  “I’m sorry.”  Brother in law slept poorly?  “I’m sorry.”  My life was an endless litany of “I’m sorry”.  I was a pleaser, trying to keep the peace for everyone, because in my youth, if someone was displeased, I might get hurt.  When tissue damage is involved, your desire to keep everyone around you happy and content is ingrained in your psyche, entwined into your soul, so deeply.  You feel as though “I’m sorry” is tattooed over your heart or on your forehead.  

No more.  I am now only sorry for the things I actually cause.  If I neglected to do something I had committed to doing, yes, I am and can be legitimately sorry.  My apologies are only for things I have done or things I have failed to do.  My apologies are never for me and who I am.  I refuse to be sorry for who I am any more.  I was a victim, and that was not my fault.  Nothing I did could justify what happened to me.  This is a huge leap for survivors of abuse.  Many times, as it did with me, this realization takes decades to come to fruition.  It can take forever for the survivor to really believe this in his or her heart; for so long we were told it was our fault and we caused it.  Not just no, but HELL NO!

This is not always a comfortable thing, I do not wear this new “it’s-not-my-fault” face easily yet.  In many ways it is like learning a new makeup technique.  I’ve viewed the video on You Tube a gazillion times, and I’ve put the makeup on this way for a little while, but the technique is not yet natural.  And that’s okay.  Change is never easy, even when for the better.

a strange dichotomy of feelings

Do you remember Dr. Dolittle’s famous find, the pushmi-pullu?  It was a creature with two heads.  in order to go in one direction, both sides had to agree to go that way.  If agreement was not reached, both sides could be pushing against each other, or one could pull back while the other tried to move forward, all sorts of difficulties could ensue when the pushmi-pullu wanted to get anywhere.

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How difficult it could be for the pushmi-pullu to get from one place to another!  Sometimes the mind is like that, with one half pushing in one direction and the other pushing a different way.  My mind feels like that a lot.

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Within 24 hours of my mother’s Facebook message about our meeting at the mall, and my response that yes, indeed, I did have the courage to confront her, I got another message that was a complete turnabout from the one no more than 24 hours before.

Why does it have to be a ‘confrontation’? Are you unable or unwilling to have a conversation with me? Are you so afraid that I might ……………. you name it! I am only your heartbroken mother, worried about the stresses in your life and the false allegations you have made against me and others. Our grandchildren are important to us, and I want them to know they are loved. To whom can I send some small Christmas gifts — to your son’s address or to your dad’s? Or bring them with me when you agree to meet and talk (VS: a confrontation). Tell me, did you see me before I approached you? You seemed not at all surprised to see me. Our future conversation can only be successful if you agree to be less defensive and more open to understanding my position. Why did I leave the reception — I was about to vomit…..wouldn’t that have been a great addition to the occasion??!! In spite of what you think, you are loved — why would I have gone to the trouble of making that two-volume scrapbook for you if I didn’t love you with all of my heart? Check your schedule, and I will meet you in town or wherever it works for you. xoxoxoxo 

 

The confusion this message gave me is boundless.  I was astounded by the level of hypocrisy in the message. There were so many things I wanted to respond to in these messages, I did not know where to begin!  In the end, with some help from my therapist, I penned and sent this message back to her:

Dear Mom,

I wanted to wait through Thanksgiving before responding to your latest message so that I could give a great deal of thought to what I say here. Having done so, here is what I would like to tell you.

 

Mom, in your first message to me after we met at the mall, your words to me were: “I doubt that you would have taken that walk TO me, but would have run like a mad woman to avoid confronting the woman about whom you have leveled so many false accusations. You would not have had the courage to confront me.” “if you were so sure, you would have welcomed confronting me with even more lies and delusional memories.” The next day when I called your bluff and said name the time and place, you said, “Why does it have to be a ‘confrontation’? Why did it take you less than 24 hours to contradict yourself, Mom? Did you or did you not use the words confront & confronting in your Facebook message? And then you turned around and hypocritically accused me of it needing to be confrontational. Why does this happen time and time again, Mom? You flip flop more than any politician I know. Seriously done with that now. Now when you contradict yourself following some liquid courage, I will throw your own words and hypocrisy right back at you.

 

Here is another gem of TRUTH out of you, Mom: “I will no longer insinuate myself into your life. You have chosen to sever our relationship, and I will accept that.” Is this before or after you wrote a letter to my father trying to turn him against me? Yes, I know that you told him that at the wedding you thought he looked like a “broken man” due to the stress and worry I have put him through. Seems to me that by reaching out to my dad, by posting an endorsement for my friend and daily looking at my LinkedIn page, you are far from keeping yourself out of my life.

 

“I am here if you need me, but I doubt that you would ever admit any need.” I admitted need last October, and you told me that if I wanted your help I had to divorce my husband. I told you of my need earlier this year and you responded with an offer conditional on our foreclosing, and then only to pay my best friend back and to give usnsome money with which we could only do things or make purchases that you approved of. Not really the kind of help I need, Mom. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I have ever gotten the help I needed from you when I asked for it.

 

Perhaps the single most hypocritical thing out of your mouth, this treasure: “Our future conversation can only be successful if YOU agree to be less defensive and more open to understanding my position.” This coupled in the same text as you state that I have made “false allegations.” Let me get this straight, you are claiming everything I have said is false and you are calling me a liar, but I am the one who needs to be open and less defensive?

 

Mom, exactly what are the false accusations you say I am making? Is it about your dependency on alcohol? Because the way I see it, you have a lot in common with what I am learning about your mother. You drink bourbon and water every night. It is not uncommon for you to go through ¼ of a bottle in an evening. Several times your husband has called me to help calm you down when you got agitated and angry with him after you’d been drinking. I’m told your mother was fond of port wine and would drink to a point where the neighbors would complain. My father would go and get her and check her into a hospital because you didn’t know how to deal with her. I also know she offered you a trip to Hawaii if you divorced him—how did that feel to you? To be asked to give up your husband for a bribe? Why didn’t you take that trip to Hawaii? Perhaps for the same reasons I did not accept your conditional offer of help?

 

Okay, I am no expert, but here is a short questionnaire on alcohol use: 1. Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking? 2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? 3. Have you ever felt guilty about drinking? 4. Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover? I know you pretty well, and if you are honest with yourself, you will answer “yes” to the first two or three questions. If you don’t, then let’s talk further about delusions. For the record, a yes answer to two of the questions indicates a dependency on alcohol.

 

What other lies have I told? Are you talking about my memories of your husband’s abuse? Did you think I would not remember the things he did? Did you somehow think nothing was wrong with what he did? Mom, the first time I remember him hitting me, I was laying on top of YOU, trying to protect you. Lie to yourself all you want, but my friends remember the bruises, they remember how he treated me, and even some of your friends have thought there was something wrong between us. Why would I make up something as disgusting and embarrassing as “button pinchers”? What on earth would be in it for me? Please, explain these delusions to me.

 

There are some other things you could maybe explain as well. First of all, why did your being refused the microphone at my daughter’s wedding have anything to do with me? You stated in your email of August 3 that I “rejected” you, I “embarrassed” you and I made you “physically ill”. Was that the “about to vomit” moment you mentioned in your second Facebook message? I’m still not seeing how I contributed to that; I had nothing to do with who they chose to speak at their wedding.

 

More about the wedding. On August 3, you stated that you did everything you could “to be extremely nice to her new husband and even yours.” Why should this even be an effort? If you liked them even a little, you would not belittle them to their wives and “being nice” to them would be an every day occurrence. Your childish “The prettiest person at the wedding was [my youngest daughter, not the bride]!” and “You sure made it YOUR day with your lengthy gushing tribute!” were ridiculous. Seriously, everyone who has read that email has made a comment about it sounding like the response one would get from a high school freshman.

 

I don’t understand how you think can insult people or their loved ones and then expect those people to not be upset with you. How many times have you insulted my son-in-law? Yes, I know you were upset with him in Boston, but did that merit your cruel review of his a cappella group’s CD on iTunes? Did it merit your cutting emails to him when he invited you to help celebrate their engagement? You just get MEAN Mom, and often when I look at the times on emails and other messages in which you are mean, it is after 6:00 PM, which means they are bourbon-infused.

 

Anyway, here’s the bottom line. If you’d like to help me overcome my “delusions” and “false accusations” and better understand the reasons behind your actions, please come to meet with me. We can meet whenever is convenient for you, with a few days notice to set up the meeting, which will be at the office of my therapist.   She is located just across from the mall. Perhaps you can help her (and me) better understand these delusions, which I am certain would be very helpful in my treatment and recovery. She welcomes you to bring a support person along if you’d like. She assures me that our meeting will remain cordial and courteous; she is trained to make sure that happens.

 

Please let me know the earliest you would be able to make such a meeting.

Love,

Me

 

And then things just kind of went from bad to awful.  A package showed up here for Jamie, one from “St Nick”–a tradition that goes back to my earliest holiday memories.  St Nicholas Day was to me as big of a deal as Christmas in many case, hanging my stocking at night then waking on December 6 to find it filled with little treats and prizes!  This year for the first year ever, there are no St Nick gifts from my mom.  Even the gifts she sent my daughter were odd–some candy that she loves, wrapped in a paper bag, and a Christmas t-shirt stuffed into a Ziplok bag.  Given how meticulous my mother is about wrapping gifts, I know this is supposed to be some sort of message, but I just don’t get it.

I am so torn right now.  My husband is so proud of me for standing up to my mother and calling her out on her BS, and I know it is the right thing to do, but I cannot help but think how much smoother everything would be now if I had never opened that closet door and tossed my hand grenade.  I am tired of seeing her flaws; I want to make Mom better than she is, better than she ever was, but I don’t know how.