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You Keep Me Hanging On

Many years ago, when I was a young mother of two toddlers, a woman I worked with was leaving to move to Florida. I asked her if there was any particular reason she wanted to move that far away. She said….yes….to get away from my children! Me with my adorable babies could not understand why anyone could think such a thing.

By the way, in last week’s poll, more people said that their children pushed their boundaries more than anyone else.

Just sayin’.

Twenty years later, I was at a workshop. One of the things we were discussing was control. Well, the workshop was basically about improving your life….what workshop isn’t, really? But the idea of control was brought up. A couple was challenging the teacher over the issue. I guess for them, they were searching for the meaning of life as it pertained to “fixing” their teen or somewhat grown child.

At the time, I myself was looking for the meaning of life. My two sons had both moved out of the house within the same month as one was on bad terms with his father and the other didn’t want to be the only one left in the house to have to deal with the issues. And for me, I was trying everything to fill the emptiness and trying to find meaning in my marriage and life with just my spouse.

I was heartbroken and trying to piece my life together and find out who I was. How was I now supposed to define myself now that both of my sons were out of the house?

The main thing that I learned is that when you worry about someone or something, you are trying to control that person or situation. The solution to this problem is to let go. That’s it. Simple. Right?

Words make everything sound so easy. If we could just be like characters in a book and just do what it says on the page, wouldn’t life be so much easier?

But this week, I’ve been stressed. Headaches, feeling nauseous, a bit shaky, resting heart rate is climbing. Because I’ve always been the one to internalize things whenever there has been a problem in the family. So what’s up?

My older son rents from me. His room-mate just moved out. He needs a new roof. He tells me that the problem is that I retired too early and that I need to put about 4% of the value of the house back into the house each year in updates and repairs. I just bought him a new refrigerator that is better than the one I have. I needed to quit my part time job at a medical office because they were double booking patients and had no protections in place or safety plans.

I also feel that my house-mate is too intrusive. He was arranging things in my room when I was out. We had an argument. It’s time he left. But he is sick and there is Covid. My younger son has a baby son and has to leave his girlfriend’s house because they are breaking up. He doesn’t want to leave his son. She wants to see other people. Or other person. They brought the baby to camp yesterday for a birthday gathering. No masks. Road in front of camp. Lake in back of camp. Curious one year old. My little buddy. He has my heart and I worry about him all of the time. How will his parent’s break up affect him? Will he be safe? Who is this new boyfriend who he will be spending time with? All of that.

Human relationships and expenses are stressful under the best of circumstances. But with everything else that is going on in the world right now….it can feel downright claustrophobic and problems that much more emotional.

So, according to the teacher at the class I went to, worrying is about trying to control something. We all know that we can worry ourselves literally into the ground and it’s not going to change anything.

I worry about my grown kids because heart disease runs in their father’s family…..their grandfather died suddenly two days before turning 46. Their father had his first heart attack while he was at work (luckily he was awake…his father never woke up) at the age of 43. My oldest son will be 42 next month. Neither of my kids see a doctor. I nag. It does no good. I worry. I do. I get scared. I want everyone to be okay.

But I can do nothing much except say how I feel. Sometimes that does not seem like much. Especially when it feels like nobody is going to listen.

My brother lives next door to my 92 year old mother. He never wears a mask when he goes to see her…which since he is working at home is a couple of times a day. But he goes out every day to the store.

My 92 year old mom who has hearing issues doesn’t lock her back door and has the TV blaring all day. At night she locks the door but leaves her basement windows open to air out the basement. She says nobody will fit through the window and her dog will bark and scare people away.

I feel like I am the one who worries about and takes care of everyone. And by doing so, it has brought everyone closer to me in my life….like my son renting from me….and my house-mate who I have allowed to push boundaries because I can’t stand to constantly have to push back or deal with the anger when he doesn’t get what he wants.

So here I am….in the middle. Where I have put myself. Because I’m so afraid of losing the people I love and there is nothing I can do.

When I think of worry being about control, I think about AA and controlling what we are able and letting go of what we cannot. So much truth goes back to that.

And that makes me think about alcoholism and narcissism and co-dependency and scapegoats and all those nice things. And drama. Let’s not forget drama.

When I think about how I have tried to help my family over the years, and how little I have actually been able to help or change anything, I see that in many ways, everyone has their own little drama playing out.

And when I worry about the people I love, I get pulled into their drama. They aren’t fixing anything. They aren’t going to the doctor or to therapy. I’m the one who’s had cancer and am on about four meds for anxiety and depression and social anxiety. I’m the one who’s gone to therapy to help quell the internal combustions that happen.

And that’s a pretty negative place to draw from when a friend or a survivor needs a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear.

I’ve been burned out truthfully. Tonight I closed my door and laid down on my bed and covered myself up in a cocoon and thought about how peaceful a coma must feel.

I need to stop depleting myself by worrying. That is easier said than done. But, I have found that the best way to find yourself….is to lose yourself. I can’t lose myself too easily in a five room flat with a housemate, but I need to carve out space for me. I’m not saying that I overdo…..I’m saying that I overthink. And I over-worry.

I guess if you step back and look at things impartially, (Oh, God, I caaaaaaannnn’ttt) what I see is a lot of people not realizing that they are creating drama in their lives and (dammit) not listening to the voice of reason (Me, of course) and they are just going on making mistake after mistake (like I never have made a mistake or lapse in judgement)…..because unknowingly, that is all we know.

Seriously, if you have been raised with drama and dysfunction, that is the only way you know how to handle things. And I’m talking to myself here, too. What feels like losing someone….like giving up….like not loving them….is most likely co-dependency and enabling.

But I’m so close, I can’t see it.

Please take a moment to answer the poll. Thanks! And you can answer as many times as you’d like.

Borderline

This past week I was reading more about Narcissists and those they are attracted to. Narcissists, I read, are attracted to empathic people and people who are co-dependent.

I know that I am both of those things and I am willing to bet many people who have been abused as adults are one or both as well.

Ever since I was abused by the priest, I began searching for answers. Other than being weak or stupid, and him just being a plain evil person who trapped people and coerced them and confused them….I couldn’t come up with a “why?” other than the fact that this had happened to me and to a couple of other people, according to himself.

But slowly, I began to both understand that not only was this not about me having a personal relationship with a dickwad, but that in fact, there were dickwads worldwide wearing priest collars who did this. And that they then slink back into their caves and giggle like little hyenas because they got away with it. And then they feel very smug and superior like a narcissist does.

I’m not diagnosing anyone or saying that all priests are narcissistic, but I did read a long time ago that priests are at the top of the list of those with narcissistic and sociopathic behavior. This is known. I’m not saying anything new.

The more I have read about the “attraction” between narcissists and empathetic or co-dependent people, the more it makes sense…..not only why me and what happened with me and the priest….but why I have been attracting people into my life who have taken advantage of the caretaking vibes I send out. Or as a woman who gave me an astrology reading earlier this year said….I have the word “victim” written on my forehead and people looking for someone like that would be attracted to me.

So….I also read that one of the first ways to protect yourself against those who would abuse your good nature….such as sociopaths and narcissists….is to have firm borders.

But before we get to borders and boundaries, let me remind you that the reason Narcs are attracted to you/me/us, is because they are looking for a supply of something…validation, money, sex, or something else. All of that love bombing that feels like a gentle rain from Heaven to someone who has been abused or somehow starved for attention or love? It has nothing to do with you. Nothing. Other than you are being seen for what you are willing to provide. You could be anyone. So if you are feeling loved and special and willing to give your heart to someone who needs you….please, question things. And run away. I know that it’s not easy. I know that it feels like you are walking away from your own life source. I know you need to feel love and that connection with someone who understands you and who makes you feel special. But please, run.

I once knew a guy….he knew how to use the words. He was exciting. A little bit naughty. But he also seemed like a good guy. I thought he was just a flirt.

So I was at his place one afternoon, sitting there talking to him, and he said to me….”I have broken up more couples than I can count”. And he was proud of that fact. He was interested in the chase and the challenge and once he was successful in breaking up a couple….and we are talking his friends here….ah…that’s just good old Bob. He’d back away and distance himself from the woman and hang out with his friend whose woman he seduced away and take no responsibility for the pain or heartbreak he had caused anyone. Just a game to him. I’m thinking it was an ego thing with him…..just to know that he was capable of doing it.

Boundaries, boarders, whatever you want to call them, are difficult to people who help others.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have a hard time saying no? Do you give in when someone becomes difficult? Do you volunteer to help out a lot? Are you the one who does the caretaking in your family? Do you give in to avoid an argument? Do you get anxious with conflict? Do you value being nice? Do you put other’s needs before your own? Do you feel a need to take care of other people?

If so, you are not alone. When I read that the co-dependent /narcissistic partnership happens often in marriages, and that the children raised within the family of this partnership often learn what they live and go on to recreate the same dynamic in their own adult relationships, it opened my eyes. I have wondered for years what it was that was creating so much dysfunction within my family. And within myself. I began to see why it was so very difficult to separate from my ex-husband and why my brother and my children follow along the same path, either picking someone abusive and controlling or having difficulties with alcoholism and insecurities and having difficulty being on their own.

Again, not being a therapist, I don’t have any answers. But I do know that knowing you have a problem is the first step in any problem.

Be aware. When someone seems to be love-bombing you, be aware. When you give in to avoid an argument because you are afraid of being alone. Be aware. If you feel guilty about not taking care of someone in your family, even if you know that means being put onto the front line of losing your own mental health and happiness, be aware.

Just become more aware of when you back off and allow someone to push you back, or whenever you do something that is not in your own best interest…..and I am not talking taking advantage of someone….you know the difference….I am talking about compromising your own physical health, money, happiness, mental health….or whatever it may be your are sacrificing….to allow someone else or a situation to push you over your borderline.

Just for this week….be aware of who pushes your boundaries and how you feel and react. Write it down. And if you have a minute, please take the poll.

Close to You

Ah, yes…..dating, romance, commitment, sex. Why does it look so easy for other people?

I was reading something this week….hypothetically…a woman (or man) walks into a room where there are 100 eligible people. Ninety-nine of these people are nice, emotionally healthy, self-supporting, sober, human beings. But this person picks the one that stands out to them. The one that resonates with them. The emotionally unhealthy, financially dependent, substance abuser. Does that sound familiar?

It does to me. I look back to high school and I see that I passed up a respectful, talented, kind person who took me out to dinners and movies for people with drinking problems or who were emotionally unavailable.

I see that now. Back then, I saw boring or exciting. I saw people whose shell I thought I could crack and people who I saw as needing saving. Needing me. I saw people who hurt me….people I pined over; I saw people whose affection I needed to pursue. If it didn’t hurt, I wasn’t love. I got that message from somewhere. I felt less-than so I gravitated towards people I felt would not expect a lot from a relationship. And drinking made what passed as getting close to someone much easier.

Fast forward many years later and I’m separated from my husband. For the first time in years, I’m out in the dating world. I’m thinking….I see where I made my mistakes. This time will be different.

I am going to find a nice man, I thought. I’m not going to go for excitement or for physical attraction. He just has to be a nice guy. It’s going to work this time. I can feel it. Now I know what I’m doing.

So I met a doctor at work. Older than me. Skinny. Not attractive. But he was respected where I worked. Had his own home. Had money. A good pick for my later years, I thought. I knew my parents would love him because he was a doctor, so that didn’t hurt either.

Well, things were fine until they weren’t. Slowly I began to see that while he was thrilled at being in a relationship, I needed to change to fit what he expected in a woman. He constantly talked about my weight and getting exercise and being healthy. At the time, I smoked. Not around him, but that didn’t matter. That needed to stop. Because he said so. Then his relatives showed up for Christmas. Did I mention he was Jewish? No reason for it to matter other than….I swear to God…his cousin brought up how she didn’t like to hang out with anyone who wasn’t Jewish. She really did. Also brought up with regularity was his ex-wife’s masters degree and how she had converted to Judaism during the course of their marriage.

But things really began to fall apart when I drove him to the airport for a work trip and then he called me from California and said that I should really be there because I would love it. Okay, this guy was a self-proclaimed millionaire. He only had to pay for my airfare if he wanted me to go with him. But that was not what was going on. One weekend, I just didn’t feel like spending the night. I paid for that the next time we began to get intimate. Yes, he actually told me….there will be no more of that…..until you show some enthusiasm for this relationship.

Okay, that was it for me. I know that people who hold up the bar for you to jump over, are trying to train you and each time you jump when they say jump, the bar goes a little bit higher.

What had gone wrong? I thought he was a nice guy. Instead, he was insecure and controlling.

The next guy I met I thought for sure was okay. He was a therapist. A veteran. He loved his daughter, who is such a sweetheart. He loved his dog. He said grace before meals. He like board games and watching movies. I’d bring my two dogs up and spend every weekend with him. He would get up early and walk the dogs when it was cold. Wow, I had met the man of my dreams.

Along the way, there were red flags. I pushed them aside because nobody is perfect, I’d say to myself.

Our first date, he asked me to meet me at a restaurant. I sat at a table and waited but he did not show up. Finally I ordered my meal and ate alone. Right after I had paid my bill and was finishing my soda, I get a phone call. He said….are you here? I’m so sorry…..work, traffic…blah blah blah. Oh, there you are….I’ll be right over. And he sat down, ordered himself a soda, and we talked like what had happened had not happened.

Until it happened again. He would ask to go to a family style restaurant and be detained so I would be sitting there alone waiting for an hour, expecting that the food would be paid for by the time he arrived to enjoy it. His lights were turned off and could I please help him out. He needed to get his daughter presents for Christmas, could I cover him until he got to an ATM? Once at the ATM, he found out he only had enough money to cover gas and dog food for the week.

Again, I kept telling myself…well, nobody is perfect….although I didn’t appreciate what was going on. So I tried to work on things with him. Whatever we do, whenever we spend money, he would cover a third and I would take care of two thirds. He worked two jobs and had child support payments. I kept telling myself that was the reason he was struggling.

But when he insisted that we go to a restaurant right after we had this discussion about payment….and he had picked the restaurant and a decently expensive dish….all of a sudden, I became the bad guy for asking for 1/3 of the cost.

That was it for me with him. I knew that if he wasn’t going to put effort into working with me, that money was not the issue and that nothing would ever change.

But what was wrong? Why was I picking dead end relationships? Was my judgement off? How was a person supposed to know what percentage of bad or incompatibility in a relationship was acceptable?

But nothing prepared me for what happened with the priest I worked for. I’m thinking that whatever was going wrong in previous relationships….whatever anyone picked up from on me as maybe being “moldable” or “able to be compliant” or “will pay all of my bills” was what drew the priest to me as well. Add to my niceness, naivety, stupidity….whatever you want to call it….there was always “but he’s a priest” and of course, there was the gaslighting as well that further added to the confusion.

And so that leaves me wondering if other people who have been abused as adults have experienced confusion as to what is acceptable in a relationship, or a hesitancy to confront unacceptable behavior until it piles up and becomes too much. I don’t remember going into the relationships I mentioned thinking about what I was going to get out of it as much as what I needed to do in order to make things work. How much I had to adjust to please the other person. And how little I asked. How much bad behavior I accepted or believed.

I have heard people abused as children talk about how that abuse has prevented a sense of normal to many of their romantic relationships.

But what do we, who have been abused as adults know about normal and actually good relationships? Is that one of the things that made us vulnerable?

I know that it made me vulnerable….that acceptance of behavior, that making of excuses, that meekness of being that is supposed to be valued as a Catholic, that putting someone else first, that not expecting for myself, that belief that no matter what, priests were safe.

I grew up in a time where Women’s Lib was an odd new thing. Marriage was still expected of you. You weren’t expected to have a “career”, except perhaps part time. The husband was still looked upon as the breadwinner and head of the house.

Things have changed but I think formative years live inside of you forever and it’s a constant emotional/logical battle as a grown-up. A priest’s word was never questioned. The pope was infallible. A good Catholic woman stayed married and did not seek a divorce or ever seek to date another man after that ring had been placed on her finger.

Women tempt men into sin. Men are not responsible for their actions. What did you expect you would deserve if you left your husband?

The emotional child who grew up listening to this is always there, and always wanting to come forward in emotional situations or when we feel vulnerable. Men will be men. You want to be in a relationship, you gotta accept that. (Apologies, guys)

Growing up and quieting that emotional child with logic and strength, and sometimes tears, they say is what growth is about.

But a priest can trigger that inner child. They have always been our leaders, the people we trust, and our safe haven. They are, in a sense, like our dads or a kindly uncle. Those priests who abuse seem to use the knowledge of our souls and vulnerabilities to break us down and whatever faults we see in them, we know we must trust and forgive. So the use of logic, which has helped us in other relationships when things didn’t feel right, is almost non-existent because this man is not a man. This man is of God.

I remember thinking at one point that perhaps God had sent me to help him through something. All the more believable because I wasn’t supposed to get the job but another woman had turned it down. It was fate. Had to be. God and gaslighting made me feel wrong for the logical thoughts I would think at times.

Now, I don’t blame God for what happened. But I blamed myself.

 

Taking Care of Business

This week I’ve been feeling an old familiar feeling. You know when you’re on a roller coaster but you hate roller coasters because they make you feel like there is absolutely no control and because of that you are going to die?

I’m talking about anxiety. And this week it has been knocking on my door big time. Sometimes it brings along it’s friend, panic. I know these two well and when they come to the door, I try to pretend I’m not home. But somehow they always find a key and come inside anyway.

It’s funny, you know? I’m thinking….why are these guys coming back to see me at this time? Am I falling apart? Losing it? Not in control?

When I was a child, people in my family used to remark on how calm I was, how fearless, how polite. I was a good girl.

I can see why they would think that. Dinnertime especially in my family was always chaotic. High emotion. Drama. Alcohol. We didn’t discuss things at our table. It was always frantically high energy and sometimes negative energy.

My dad, constantly talking loudly, arguing his points of view. My mother and my brother have similar energy. My brother is extremely loud and vocal about his feelings on everything. He is very intelligent. But he also uses alcohol I believe, as my dad did….to self medicate. My whole family is one big type A group. Over the top. My mom is constant energy in motion. She is unable to let go of something when she fixates on it. And if you think taking care of that thing is going to stop the fixating…..nope….she will immediately fixate on something else. Immediately.

So because I did not seem to fit in with these type A people, I was considered to be cool, calm and collected. I always tried to be good so as not to add to the mix. And I was the helper….and the scapegoat. I guess every dysfunctional family has one of them. But I guess in reality what seemed to appear cool and calm was actually being silently type A.

And so as I grew older and I went through stressful events in my life….and events that did not draw good responses from my family…who, by the way….control everything…I mean, love me very much….I wondered why I would hear that fearful knock at my door. Anxiety. Panic. Total loss of control. Fear of losing it. Fear of what that meant.

I realized this week that I never understood why I could fall apart so easily. What was wrong with me? I had a decent childhood. I had everything I needed. Clothes. Lunch money. Swimming lessons. Structure. A dog who would not play with me.

I thought….I was never abused or beaten or neglected or was homeless. I must just be defective.

But along with anxiety, some depression sprang up as well. Oh how I love it when they come in three’s. I thought about how I had everything, but emotionally….well emotionally I was a sponge for negative energy. I was expected to hold it together. It seemed that affection was seen as babying….and even then, you didn’t want to spoil the child.

I’m not saying there wasn’t love. But I was expected to control my feelings, or overcome them. At the age of 8, I was expected, at my first wake, to kiss my grandfather in his coffin. I was terrified. But when expressing feelings, I was told that I was stubborn, or weird or….well, whatever. Things were not discussed. When I told my mother recently how a relative for whatever reason began to undress in front of me when I was a child because they wanted to show me something, my mom’s reaction was….well they were like that…they lived freely.

And knowing about another person who used affection to do some strange stuff that made me uncomfortable….the message always was “don’t tell”, “get over it” and don’t be the one to pull the family apart.

So I guess what I’m saying is that as a child, I absorbed the chaos, learned that it was best not to handle things myself emotionally, pleased other people, and had a bunch of emotions stuck inside. Little did I know that those stuffed emotions had played havoc within my memory cells. Just waiting for some kind of conflict to bring them to the surface.

And as I grew older, I began to be able to give those emotions names….Anxiety, panic, and depression. So I felt loved and felt that life had been normal, and never realized that I was not some mistake, but that during changes and scary times of growth, I didn’t know how to deal with feelings and all I had in me to reference where the chaotic negative emotions that had been trapped inside just waiting to come out when they thought they heard their names called. But this time, instead of someone outside of me reacting chaotically to a situation, it was coming from inside of me in reaction to something emotionally charged. It was like my cells were holding the memory of whatever emotional trauma I was experiencing that was never acknowledged as trauma as it was never seen as such because life was in perfect order so nothing bad had every happened to me consciously.

So when I began to panic at the thought of not being able to hold all of my emotions together…..when everything inside was saying….this is how we learned to handle this shit….and that was at conflict with “handling” things as I was supposed to…..the feelings just broke loose. Panic attacks, shaking, feeling like my life was one day of dismal unreality after another…..feeling like a horrible mom because moms are strong for their children…..and being told that I was too old to be feeling like this, and that I didn’t need to take medicine and that I was not half the mother that my friend was…..

But you know, none of this was ever done without the feeling that it came from love and trying to help me. And if I should suggest otherwise, I was angry and ungrateful.

I believe for the most part family has the best intentions. I certainly was not a perfect mom and I cared deeply about my kids. But…it is what is it and sometimes we suffer the fallout of loving but imperfect people and the trauma lives on inside of us.

But I’m back to this week….and why I am feeling that the big three are back hovering around my house and ringing my doorbell playing ding dong ditch…..that anxiety, panic and depression. Why is it back now?

And then I got an email from my friend. “How are you doing?” she asked. And I found that I kind of poured out quite a bit onto her. So much so, that I joked at the end….well you did ask. And seeing my life splayed out on that email, I thought….what is triggering me here and what am I allowing?

Who am I trying to take care of? Who do I feel responsible for? How am I overwhelming myself? What feelings am I stuffing down? Who am I trying to fix or save that is perhaps a grown up who needs to take steps on their own journey of learning instead of me enabling and being all co-dependent on their butt?

This stuff helped to make me vulnerable, you know. Feeling responsible for. Fixing. Helping. And that ever searching need to find that person who appreciated me helping them and doling out kindness and compliments in return. A.K.A Feeling the love. A.K.A. Grooming.

It’s all a work in progress. See the hole. Still fall into the hole. But….saw the hole. Progress.

And as I was told….also giving to others what I needed myself as a child. But I’m still doing that. And that’s okay…I like to be busy and to help people, but not when it gets to the point where I begin to neglect what I need in my soul.

Our journey consists of learning and growing and helping others do the same. Learning what made us vulnerable….and by the way….we were not stupid, okay….but learning perhaps what made us stand out more as a target to our predators….is good.

It comes in stages..Recovery..1. I hate myself, I was so stupid, 2. Why did he do this to me? 3. I can’t live with this pain 4. It was me…my fault….he was my friend…I ruined it 5. He was never my friend and I was never special 6. How do I get over this? 7. They say this was not my fault, but I don’t know. 8. Other people have gone through this. 9. I still don’t know. I did terrible things…or I’m second guessing myself about what happened. 10. Okay it was his fault. He did this to me. I hate him. 11. It happened. It changed my life drastically. I don’t care about him but I care about others. 12. I want to learn from this in my personal life.

And since recovery is not neat and orderly….we can backtrack or get stuck.

Again, I don’t know everything. But I do feel that if I have gone through it, I am not unique. If someone can relate, and I can help in some way, that is good.

So, yes….I am feeling a little overwhelmed emotionally right now. Worried about family. I feel like I should be going along taking care of business, but the unholy threesome…anxiety, panic and depression are breaking the door down a bit.

Perhaps that means that I need to finally blow up the pool in the backyard and just lay there and look at the clouds in the sky and allow myself to unwind a bit. Perhaps I have to acknowledge the feelings that are rising within and just listen to them. Perhaps.

Wishing everyone a good and healthy and blessed week. Be good to yourselves.

I Am Titanium

I have grown. I have grown into a comfortable spot. I’ve heard many people tell their stories. I’ve encouraged them, cared about them, believed them. I put my story into a book. Someone told me that I was brave last week. Sometimes that is true. As I said, I have grown.

But what does being brave mean? Does it mean that you have reached the point where your throat no longer goes dry or your heart doesn’t keep time with “Another One Bites the Dust”? Or that your mind is no longer filled with dread and with doubt? Or are you brave because you are comfortable doing what other people see as being brave?

Do we ever reach the point where we are no longer afraid to push forward? To push past our comfort zone? I have a magnet on my fridge that says, “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone”. But these days, it’s pretty scary to go out past your front door.

This past week we saw the news article about the Catholic Church lobbying for taxpayer Corona Virus Aid from the Federal Government, and was rewarded at least 1.4 billion dollars by using a special and unprecedented exemption from Federal rules. The Catholic Church is tax exempt. Many dioceses have claimed bankruptcy due to having to settle claims of sex abuse. Sex abuse that has been allowed to continue and be covered up. What is wrong with this picture?

It made me angry. And it made me angrier that there are many congregants who probably think there is nothing wrong with this. It makes me angry to think that anyone feels that the church is hurting. I have belonged to a church where I grew up since forever and they keep sending me envelopes for weekly donations. I don’t really believe that the church was hurting for donations due to the Corona virus as people could watch mass on-line and send donations through the mail.

And yet, they pushed their way to the front of the line. They pushed past small businesses who were struggling. With the help of the government, the lines were blurred a bit to overlook the fact that the Catholic Church is tax exempt and that they have well over 500 employees.

So I got angry. Sometimes anger can be a good thing. Sometimes anger passes fear at the turn before the home stretch. And before you know it…..you’ve passed your comfort zone.

And sometimes you have little choice. I know someone who is transitioning. And while they are transitioning, they are doing video segments of the scientific aspects and the emotional aspects and the physical changes they are going through. And I try to understand what this is like for them. But what stands out the most for me is how brave this person is. How many people are willing to go public and tell the world who they really are? The world is a dangerous place. There are haters out there. I would be terrified to share something so personal. But this person is motivated to change because to not change is more uncomfortable.

I wrote my book, “The Priest’s Pawn”, but I wrote it under a different name. Part of that reason was because I was afraid. Afraid of being sued, afraid of having the people of the church burn me at the stake, afraid of victim shaming. Terrified. Afraid of family and friends knowing things about me that I’ve managed to keep private. I’ve never wanted to stand out and be noticed. I’ve always just wanted to blend in and be like everyone else.

You have to be brave to speak your truth. It can re-open wounds and bring up all kinds of unpleasant memories. Memories of being told it was your fault. Memories of having everyone who once thought you were a wonderful person walk away like something about you was catching and they didn’t want to associate with you.

But I was angry. It was just all too much. Doesn’t anyone see what is going on here? C’mon people…open your eyes!

And I thought about my friend….because he is my friend….who is brave enough to speak his truth during his transition…..and I felt like a fraud.

And so I stuck my toe out of my comfort zone. Just my toe. I sent a copy of the article about the Catholic Church being given an obscene amount of money to my group of family and close friends on Facebook. Along with the article, I “came out” to people I care about and said that I am a survivor of adult abuse by clergy. That was the gist of it. I also said that people should be angry about this and that the church has been getting away with abusing children and adults for too long. And that their predators are in positions where they will take care of the vulnerable.

I did not get much of a reaction. It was kind of a “you could hear a pin drop” kind of thing. Nobody really knows what to say. Or if they do, it may be along the line of, 1. It was just your priest, 2. Are you sure you just didn’t imagine it? 3. How could someone abuse an adult…isn’t that consensual? 4. Really, this is too uncomfortable to speak about in public, can’t you just keep it to yourself?

And so, since the world did not end entirely that day (we probably have another six months to go) I did something else. Stuck another toe out there. I contacted the Bishop’s employee who I saw a couple of months ago before the pandemic when I was supposed to meet with the Bishop in person, and I asked him how we were doing with the meeting.

I heard back from this gentleman today and he said that they were not doing meetings face to face at this time but perhaps a Zoom meeting was possible. I think that is doable. Yes. So I wait to hear.

And while I wait to hear, I sit here with my heart pounding and my cotton mouth thinking that this is the last thing I really want to do. But I need to.

I have heard what people say. It’s about the money. These people are probably lying. The priest didn’t love you back so you got upset and wanted revenge.

I get that false claims are horrendous….I know because it happened to me. It was devastating when the priest turned his threats and harassment around on me and claimed he was shocked and shaken to the core.

But why was he so easily believed when he played the victim and why is it so easy to believe that it was the victim who led the priest into sin? It’s frustrating. It’s painful. And to tell you the truth, I’m scared.

I’m afraid for all of the reasons that held me back from saying anything in the first place. It becomes a case of sin and religion instead of boss and employee or a person in power and one who has no power.

And I’m afraid once again it may break me. For anyone who says we do this for the money….do they even realize how very much we don’t want to have to do this?

I don’t expect money. I believe I deserve compensation, yes. I lost my job for no reason other than the fact that I didn’t do what my boss wanted me to do. He had the power to give and to take away. But I don’t expect anything. I don’t go in expecting justice.

Because when I step outside of my comfort zone….I can only ask to be brave enough to speak my truth. Because in doing so, it is out there. And once the truth is out there, it may make it easier for someone else to come forward.

And that sounds great, but it still goes against everything I have learned to be in my life in order to speak. It is so much easier to minimalize it to myself and to tell myself that people don’t talk about this kind of thing. That’s why I have to do it knowing I am going to help someone else.

And who do we turn to in order to ask for strength? Dear God, help me annihilate this rotten, worm-infested bad apple? He’s one of yours, God. Can you at least give him a bad case of shingles or something? Diarrhea when he’s stuck in traffic? A bad case of gas in the confessional? How about erectile dysfunction? Halitosis? A tick bite where the sun don’t shine? An audit by the IRS?

I can only dream. But in my dreams…..

I have grown. I am strong. I am Titanium.

I Said I Loved You But I Lied

Is there anything worse than betrayal? To trust someone with your heart, your soul, your children, your money or your well-being and your life? Only to find out that they took or destroyed something that you valued. When this happened, how did you feel? Did you feel anger at the person who betrayed you? Or did you feel anger at yourself for allowing the betrayal to happen? For trusting the wrong person and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

You probably felt a lot of anger, but when you’ve been duped, you may feel angrier at yourself.

Why do you feel angry at yourself? And why has the general public always felt the need to exonerate the duper and make the dupee prove they have been duped, which makes things even worse?

That doesn’t happen all of the time, but it happens more often than not if the person who had the wool pulled over their eyes by the wolf in sheep’s clothing is an able-bodied adult person.

I flat out hated myself for being so stupid in the fall-out of being let go from my job at the diocese. But here’s the thing…I got pulled in emotionally with my boss. I wanted the love bombing he had given to me back. I wanted my boss’ approval. I wanted to feel special. I didn’t want to be tossed aside and left in a pile of the broken pathetic women who had gone before me who had not pleased him. I wanted him to believe that I was “the one” who stood out from the rest. I wanted to believe that. I did believe that…for awhile. I wanted our secret “love” to be passionate and I wanted to be continuously filled with the emotional high that I once felt when he smiled at me like we were the only two people in the world.

But I also felt conflicted. That pesky voice inside of me kept trying to pry open my eyes and face reality….or what looked like reality at the time.

I think in the beginning, the feelings I had for my boss, Father Jade, were probably similar to those felt by the girls in my 7th grade class when, at the age of 13, after years of being taught by nuns and holy spinsters, were blessed with the arrival of….a male teacher.

His arrival created a quiet, simmering pot of steaming hormones being stirred up in our classroom. There was always that feeling of a safe crush between us girls and Mr. R. There were plenty of stifled giggles and notes passed and embarrassment that had not been experienced before with the other teachers. We could go home and think about Mr. R.’s crooked smile and feel a new warmth inside that would carry us safely into the next phase of adolescence.

There was a quasi-sexual kind of thing going on. Unconsciously we sought his approval, but nothing more. Had the line for his approval been moved further so that it became uncomfortable, it would no longer be a pleasant fantasy, but rather a confusing sort of threatening feeling.

That pre-adolescent phase where girls generally seek safe and distant idols to pin their hearts to….where feelings begin to separate from child to teen….is in a weird way where you end up emotionally with a priest. In that situation, you are the emotional equivalent of the trusting middle school kid feeling perhaps a crush that will never be realized with a person who is your superior. There is that line that cannot be crossed.

I say that because if ever there was an age where you felt intense emotional feelings while at the same time also felt extremely awkward and unsure of how to name those feelings….it would be as a pre-teen or as someone just entering their teens. And an adult with a priest who has crossed the boundaries of appropriateness, for lack of a better word, the confused feelings kind of feel the same as back then…unfamiliar, weird, and like you’ve been picked to clap the erasers after class with someone out to take advantage of the situation.

If you were ever approached by anyone as a child by someone who stepped out of their role with you into something inappropriate….you know that weird split emotion that happens….the love and need for approval versus the extremely uncomfortable, ever tightening screaming vortex inside of you. Kind of that feeling…yeah.

Here is a person who has showered you with approval and all kinds of benefits…whether those benefits are financial, sexual, emotional….whatever you need or lack…they are there to give it to you….and as sexual beings who crave love and security and a connection to someone….as pretty much everyone in this world is wired to do…..we feel like a parched plant when the drops of rain finally come. We soak it up.

And you know what, folks…..there is nothing wrong with those feelings. And from the moment we are hit with our first movies and television and music as children, we are taught to risk it all for love and to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to not let love slip away. And we believe we have hit the mother lode when a person sweeps us off of our feet and love bombs us.

And if we don’t do what they ask….they ask what is wrong with us….and we believe it is us that something is wrong with.

The problem is…..when something seems too good to be true, or the actions and the words don’t match….it’s probably not love.

I was reading something recently about a “player’s rulebook”. It said that a player….that is, someone who is playing with your heart for their own benefit….will see to it that they have you believing that you are the most special person in the whole world. They want you to believe that. Once they have you believing that, they can pretty much treat you anyway they want and you aren’t going to believe that they aren’t a good person because you have already cemented in your head that you are very special to them.

Think about that. Someone can be abusive, neglectful, take advantage of everything and everyone around you….and you will most likely make excuses for them. Because you have it in your head that you are special to them. It will take quite awhile for you to see what is actually happening. That basically, they have groomed you. And once they have groomed you….it’s scary stuff.

But it gets worse. There is the inevitable discard. That is when you realize that there was never a friendship. There was never anything between you. That you were never special. And to a person whose existence has relied on the chemical high that came from being singled out in such a way….along with the perks that came with it…to have the rug ripped out from underneath you and everything gone….it can be devastating.

I look at my situation and it has always been so very difficult for me to do so. To look at the situation that basically turned a spotlight onto all of my own faults and weaknesses and the shame of believing someone and making excuses for their behavior and finally falling into the trap…..I still get a very visceral reaction when I get too close to the emotional memories of what happened.

For me, I think my head was so messed up by the time I realized that I either needed to initiate sex with my boss or that I would lose the job, the money, the friends….and his approval…that actually doing what he wanted me to do seemed like an option at that point.

Although logically I knew that doing so meant totally demeaning myself because his cruel game meant that I would always question what he wanted or what was going on. So just walking up to a priest sitting at his desk and fully initiating sexual contact….which is a cleaned up version of saying that I’d walk in, put today’s work on the desk, close the door behind me, walk over to him, get down on my knees and….I still can’t say it….when you know he is going to act shocked and it’s all going to be you who misinterpreted what he wanted.….but he won’t stop, you either.

I was in a horrible situation. One that I tried to manage on my own. And that backfired. And I hated myself for screwing things up although I don’t think there was an option C that was going to work for me in the end.

I hear stories from other survivors. And while the actual abuse is sad, sometimes it’s the discard that is the hardest thing to accept. Because if you think degrading yourself and doing what the abuser wants will keep you safe, guess again….

For me…I was fired. I was escorted out of the building. Never to see Father Jade or my office ever again. I got to know from the outside, that I was being replaced. I saw the advertisement for my job. I heard that they hired someone to fill my position like I never existed. Never happened. I wasn’t even a memory.

Other survivors have reported being discarded and having to get through the deep dive into depression and at times, hospitalizations, and years of therapy. Because one day all the drama and the connection and the false assumption that you are special to this person is just gone. And you are left wondering what just happened. Wondering how they could love you one minute and replace you the next. Feeling invisible and worthless. And degraded.

And on top of that….seeing the priest who did that to you be honored and revered and be untouchable. All the while you are left empty and broken and when you search for comfort, are either told that you initiated things or what did you expect would happen? You are shunned.

Because the abuse of adults is so very underrated and misunderstood. Unless you have been beaten and bruised and have DNA evidence, it is a he said/she said or he said/he said, etc. situation. And the balance is not in our favor.

They may have said they loved you….but then they said you misunderstood what they said and are crazy. Then they are gone.

Cheek to Cheek

This past week I heard someone mention, “Turning the Other Cheek”. And I thought….what does that mean actually? Does it mean that if someone hurts you, it should be okay with you and that you should walk right back up to the person and allow them to hurt you again? Seriously?

And yet, isn’t that what we have been taught? To be a martyr? To suffer? To obey? To ask for nothing for ourselves? That the right thing to do is to love and forgive our neighbor all the time, every time?

Bullpoopy. That’s right, you heard me. Sorry for the strong language, but it couldn’t be helped.

Do we really think that we were brought into this world to learn to devalue ourselves and to let other people determine our value as far as how obedient we are to them or how self sacrificing or how much money we give our church?

In learning to turn the other cheek, we tend to think about it literally. Basically, if someone is pummeling you, let them pummel you some more and do nothing. That is what is generally seared into our brains. That reacting is wrong. Taking care of ourselves is the wrong thing to do. Instead, do nothing. Nothing at all. Allow it to happen. In fact, go back, give them another cheek and let them keep hitting you.

But what if all of this talk of offering an offending party another part of our face to beat to a pulp, this was just a metaphor for, say, empowerment. I mean, the saying is to turn the other cheek, not have someone else do it for you. The message is that in the case of turning the cheek, you are doing so willingly. You are not under duress and nobody is turning your head for you, so this is obviously not a case of abuse or having little or no control.

My feeling on this then is that you turn your cheek to someone when you choose not to let a situation escalate.

You are choosing not to swear at someone for taking a parking spot you wanted. Or your friendship with someone is more important than the fact that they forgot to include you in something.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t say anything to someone about your feelings. In fact, in a healthy relationship, stating your feelings about something shouldn’t be seen as a start to a fight. With someone you don’t know, you may choose not to say anything just to keep the peace.

I feel that when the whole thing with the cheek changes is when you don’t feel emotionally in control or if you feel you don’t have power over the situation. Then you are making a choice to comply out of duress.

I rarely feel the need to escalate the circumstances in which I find myself. My natural reaction is to shut down and go inside myself and try to fix things instead of confronting someone. I wonder how many of you do that….turn the other cheek in order not to be the source of things getting out of control. That’s where the table starts to turn from empowerment and mutual respect to fear and abuse and manipulation.

What is at the heart of that fear where you begin to find a disconnect between your emotions and your actions?

We disconnect because we want people to like us. We disconnect because we want to avoid feeling pain or discomfort. We disconnect and begin to lose ourselves because we go into fix mode, which is when we try to turn someone’s frown up-side down. We do it because we have learned to be the ones to hold everyone else together.

We begin to turn our cheek and in doing so, allow someone else to take our control and deliver a punch instead of a slap.

I find that I am more assertive when I am working for someone else’s well-being. For instance, I will take a behavior from someone that I won’t allow them to do to my children. (See ex-husband) I’m also more assertive if I am with someone who is not in authority or who I don’t know well.

Come with me here for a moment to this scenario….you are planning a party for someone. You make all of the plans….the time, the place, the setting, the food, the invites…you have done everything. Now, many people are going to be happy. about the party. These people will praise you. You will feel happy too.

Then you will hear from other people who have issues with something you’ve done. There are always going to be people with issues about something. I don’t eat meat. I can’t eat that late at night. I don’t dance. I’m not allowed out on Saturday nights. I can’t afford a gift.

So what do you do? You make sure there is a vegetarian selection, you get hors devours so people can take home their dinner and not go hungry, you don’t get a band or a DJ, you change the party to Friday night, you make gifts optional.

And then you have made more people happy. In a sense, you have made a sacrifice, allowed them to slap your cheek, offered them the other side, and you are happy because now these people think you are as wonderful as the first people thought you were. And because they are happy and heaping praise onto you, you are happy and enjoying a dose of endorphins flooding into your brain.

But then comes Grumpy Grant. Nobody pleases Grumpy Grant. But you are sure you will because…because it’s what you do. But Grumpy Grant ain’t buying none of it.

He will say things like…cheap party, why did I get my invitation after everyone else got theirs, I thought you were supposed to care about people, I see how you really are.

So what happens now? The difference here is that Grumpy Grant is not giving you problems you can take care of. He is basically attacking you and everything you are trying to do and tearing it down. How do you make him happy? Should you make him happy?

Did you see where the line got crossed? Will you still try to make Grumpy Grant happy to get a crumb of an endorphin from him if he is going to make you go home and cry when you try? Will you be giving him your other cheek and still have self-respect?

Well, the way I believe you turn the cheek and stay in control in this situation with Grumpy Grant, is that you make an attempt to see perhaps if he was having a bad day or if you are indeed trying to make it a happy party for all…and once you give that a try and have given him a chance….if you see that his agenda is that he is having more jollies being sadistic towards you than he will ever have at any party…..stop trying. Yes, you have allowed him to behave badly towards you. But you don’t need to get even. Sometimes peace is found by walking away.

Don’t beg someone or attempt to make them happy so that they will dole you out a crumb and snatch it back.

That is not what turning the other cheek is about. That is where your control ends and you have handed it over to them.

So I guess the point I am making here is perhaps there is a difference between allowing a slap and allowing being pummeled into a corner, which is never acceptable…..and that if a slap is truly a slap…that being something that is perhaps ignorant and not intentional…maybe it is better to let it go. To let it just slide off. Because you choose to do so. Not out of fear and not out of needing approval. But because you choose not to let the world get to you and let it shake up your inner serenity and strength.

I am saying that it is not only okay to like yourself and to value yourself…..I’m saying that your very life depends upon liking yourself. And I’m saying that you cannot make anyone else like you. That is on them.

Turning the other cheek should be a choice. As in I choose not to react or retaliate.

Turning the other cheek does not mean putting yourself in the line of fire and destruction from someone else and allowing them to destroy you.

It means to change what you are able to change. It means allowing from a place of strength and of choice. Not from a place of vulnerability where you have no power in the situation.

If you feel you have no power and no choice, then you are not turning the other cheek, you are being abused. In my opinion, there is a big difference and the two should not be confused.

If you are being abused, it is okay not to be abused. It is right for you not to be abused. It is wrong for you to be abused.

And if anyone tells you otherwise, or tries to use the bible as a means for their own end, get your cheeks the heck out of there.

Someone Else’s Problem

This past week, I learned that a priest I knew as a child….one that may have come to my house for dinner….was on the credibly accused list. My mother worked for the diocese for about twelve years and so in addition to having a seminary in back of my house, and growing up with the caretaker’s children, these priests and nuns and seminarians would often be in our living room and in our pool.

So when I told my mom about this particular priest being accused of abusing children, she asked me if he was still alive. I looked him up and found that he had passed away about 5 years ago.

Now, my mom is 92 and is living with the world we are all living in at this time. She cannot stand being told to stay at home or have someone else do her shopping. She doesn’t know if this virus will go away in her lifetime. And due to sometimes violent protests in the city, I told her that her favorite deli shop is off limits. And now she is learning things about people she once knew and admired. Her world is changing and out of control in many ways.

So I take this into account when she learned that the priest she knew, who is now being charged with child sexual abuse, is deceased.

Her response was, “How can he defend himself if he is dead?”

I would like to add here that I used to work for the diocese as well and one of the priests who I worked with stormed out one day and refused to come back (he was already retired) due to the fact that deceased priests were being charged with crimes.

My response to my mother….who I feel most likely unfortunately represents many peoplewas…so, he can’t defend himself…you mean like the children he abused were not able to defend themselves?

That upset her even more. I don’t tell my mother much about what I do with SNAP. She and I were both raised in families where you did not poke the bear. Where even silence and compliance meant that you were in danger of having your drunk husband punch you if he felt provoked.

She comes from a time when sexual harassment was pretty much expected. And violence was dealt with within the family and not spoken of. Your problems were your problems and your neighbor’s problems were their problems.

I saw those times too….I was on the cusp of change. I remember my father complaining because he had to hire women to do men’s jobs. I remember the conversation at the dinner table about women taking the jobs away from men who had to support their families. I remember too, my father’s nickname for his secretary that was perfectly okay to say at the time and everyone laughed….but would certainly get him fired today.

I also remember going to work when I was 20 years old and dreading calling for a plumber because it meant that Louie would be coming up to the ward with his team and that meant getting kissed and hugged and having to listen to him talk and feeling very uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, I told my boss and asked if there was anything that could be said or done to put a stop to Louie’s actions. My boss…a woman…told me basically to suck it up. That’s just the way he is, she said. Deal with it.

So even though the “Me Too” movement is here, it is going to take time for the world to catch up. Many of us were raised that things were okay and that we should say nothing.

So, my mother being upset that this priest she once knew was being accused, seen in that light, is understandable. Not saying right…saying she is stuck in a place where her opinion most likely will not change. So with that in mind, and with everything else going on in the world, when she told me it was not her problem….I hate to say it, but it still set me off.

Her point of view, and again, it was once my point of view as well….is that these are isolated cases and that they are being taken care of so all is right with the world and it doesn’t affect me so why should I change anything?

And I agree that we can’t carry the weight of the entire world….it is just too much. But, is it true that just because nobody in the church has abused you, that sexual abuse is not your problem and does not affect you?

It’s probably true that we tend to lump people in groups and if you do not feel you are a part of that group, then it is “their problem”. And if we do not identify with “them”, then “they” become less human to us. Less relatable.

My mother went on to say that a lot of these people coming forward are probably lying anyway. Well, we know this is not true. We know that it is very difficult to speak out. It is very brave to speak out. We know that for any survivor of sexual violence, abuse, harassment…whatever…that there is a fear sometimes of not being believed, of facing our abuser, of being told we are lying, and of having our past dragged out for all to see. Victim shaming.

So how can we convince someone like my mom, who has been abused herself in her own life, that this abuse does exist and that it does affect her and is her problem?

We know that children who have been abused by clergy often cannot speak to their own parents or family about what has happened. We know that if they speak out, often they are not believed or are told they are wrong and disrespectful, or lying.

These children struggle throughout their lives. This is not just something that happens in a vacuum. These children end up with psychiatric problems and addiction problems. They go on to interact with society. They marry. They have children. They bring their problems with them. Sometimes, they can’t hold a job. Sometimes they break the law out of anger or desperation. Do we still think this does not affect any of us?

Perhaps instead we should look at the enablers. Should enablers be held accountable for the actions of those they enable? Would that make things more of their problem instead of someone else’s?

Everything we do has a ripple effect. We may not feel that we are being directly affected by what we hear or see happening to other people in the world. We may feel that it is not our problem because we are not in their situation. We may feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. Perhaps we may feel that there is nothing we can do. Maybe we think that there is no problem and that people are just out for the money. Or that people are just out to destroy the church and are working for the devil.

Well, we know what we know from our own experiences. Perhaps we feel that we are not affected….that it is not our problem. Until it does and it is.

We may not be able to convince everyone that the priest I was talking about who has been accused of abuse is not being unfairly accused by those out to take advantage…and therefore the victim in this case, as some people will never understand or want to understand. It’s unpleasant. People want to avoid unpleasant things. And they may never see the connection between leaving money to the church in their will and a drunk driver killing someone some day because it may never occur to them that they may be misinformed and that ignorance may feel good today but will ultimately feed the monster who is destroying those they claim to defend.

We can’t change some people’s minds. That is one of those walls in life we hit our heads against. That means either get a concussion or change directions.

I’m not going to upset my mom by arguing with her. It’s pointless. She knows my story and feels that the priest I knew was crazy and I should avoid poking that bear. I should not try to change the world. I should take care of myself. And I don’t want my mom to have to worry about anything other than her garden, really. She is not going to change.

But change is coming. Little changes like one leaf blowing in the wind. I look at how far we have come in the last 40 years and what was once acceptable behavior at work is no longer tolerated. I see that and I am encouraged. There are books to read….give them out as Christmas gifts to people in your life who are doubtful. There are meetings to attend. Attend these meetings when you feel that nobody understands. Keep moving forward. Get educated about things yourself. Agree to disagree with people.

And when the world and people seem overwhelming, back away, meditate, get centered….and focus on your truth. You matter. Your story matters. It was not your fault. It does not matter if there are people who will not agree with you. The world is changing. Be a part of that change.

Standupspeakup.org.

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Last week, I read something another survivor posted on Facebook. It was truly sad. This person was searching for answers. Why me? What have I done? I have always been good and people have been horrible and have hurt me. Why does God allow this? What is wrong with Him anyway?

Basically things to that effect.

And reading what she wrote hit me in so many different directions. Part of me wanted to say….”It’s not so bad, don’t be so glum….the sun is shining and you’ve got your health….and you know, your face is going to freeze that way and nobody is going to want to play with you.”

Or something to that effect.

And by the way, kidding aside, those are like the worst things you can say to someone who is upset, depressed, distraught, or grieving. You may want to help and lift up their spirits, but what ends up happening is they end up feeling like you aren’t taking them seriously and you just don’t understand. Instead of feeling comforted, they will feel more isolated.

I worked for two years as a suicide hotline volunteer. They always taught us to steer towards the pain. Ask questions that show you are really hearing what they are saying. For instance, instead of saying “Aw, it’s not that bad”, or “You must have misunderstood”, try instead saying, “You must have felt so hurt when they said that. I’m sure you were trying your best. I’m so sorry that happened and I can understand why that would upset you.”

It sounds counter productive, but encouraging them to talk about what is bothering them is more helpful than trying to cheer them out of their funk.

In the same way, if you think someone may be suicidal, or if someone talks about wanting to harm themselves, we learned that it is more effective to keep them talking about their feelings and if they have a plan or a time set in their minds as to when they want to hurt themselves or take their life.

It is called “getting through the moment”. Sometimes a person just feels better talking about what is bothering them to someone who will listen. They have gotten past that point where they want to harm themselves and have decided instead to listen to some music to lift their spirits. Other times it was all about talking to them and getting their name and address so you could help save a life that was in the balance.

Let’s face it. Life can be hard. And hearing that the sun will come out tomorrow doesn’t help much when you are feeling so much rage and helplessness and despair that you just want it to stop. Now.

I have been to that point. The feelings don’t get any better as I’ve grown older, but the experience of having lived through….well…shit….and come out of it eventually does help somewhat.

But how do you get yourself through the moment? We have them. Moments of anguish and moments of self hatred. Moments of hatred towards someone else that you just legally cannot express. Loss. Grief.

I’m not suggesting that we can get past or get over everything. But there are times when thoughts and feelings can…through our own thoughts or through something outside of ourselves that we cannot control…..make us reach a tipping point and the day to day activities of life and things that usually make us happy seem to hold no meaning. When you are engulfed.

I bet you think I’m going to suggest you do something healthy like (shudder) exercise or something equally good for you.

No….I want you to do whatever it takes to get you over the hump. I want you to eat a roll of cookie dough…..or roll it up into little balls that you can throw….hard…against the wall. I want you to go for a walk with the intention of never coming back home. Just walk for a good ten miles. I want you to scream into your pillow. Beat your pillow. Cry. Feel. Turn on some music really loud. Call whoever will listen to you. Write.

I don’t want to suggest anything really reckless or dangerous….and I won’t. I picked up a pack of cigarettes when distraught and it took almost two years to quit again. I’ve gotten drunk. I’ve had risky sex. Luckily I don’t do drugs. But there are quick fixes we reach for that may not be good for us, but may help to bring on some endorphines to get rid of the pain, if only for a moment.

I’m not going to suggest anything risky. But whatever you do to feel better….whether searching for the bottom of a tub of chocolate ice cream or climbing under a blanket and re-binging the entire series of Game of Thrones…..whatever it is you have to do to hang on until tomorrow, or the next day….don’t hate yourself for it.

Then you are going to keep circling the drain.

When I read the survivor’s post on Facebook. I felt many things. I felt like saying….I get it. It makes me so angry when life isn’t fair and people have to be jerks for no other reason than just to be mean to people.

I’ve gone through times in my life when I have seriously wondered why I was here. Was I a mistake? Why did other people who were good people die and I was still here? Still here and still making mistakes. Still thinking I found love and finding another person who wanted to control me, or wanted me to help them financially, or they were just playing a game because they enjoyed hurting me.

I’m sick of learning these stupid lessons. I’m sick of life being so hard.

My Dad used to say that people aren’t against you…..they are just for themselves.

It’s stuff like that you have to read and ponder. Pondering the good stuff helps a bit. Music has always been healing for me as well. And writing. I can’t keep thoughts in my head. Getting them out helps me a lot so they don’t get all crowded up inside there forming a compost pile of crap that wants to eat all of my functioning brain bits.

And once you are past the moment…..a moment you are going to forgive yourself for…..because you are……because you are a loving spiritual being under all those layers of lies you believe…..get help. From a group, from medicine, from therapy….from art and nature and animals and…yes, I will say it….sunshine.

Because there will be many moments. Because life can really suck sometimes. And there is so little we have control over. And the news is really depressing.

But when you crawl out of your Cheetos coma and into a nice hot shower, don’t have regrets. You survived. You are a warrior. You did it. You got past your moment.

Now scrape that cookie dough off the wall, and start again.

The Times Are They A Changing?

I got an email tonight from someone who sent me a link to what appears to be a new policy going into effect from the Roman Catholic Church released to the public via the Diocese of Buffalo. This new policy has to do with handling accusations of abuse of adults by clergy. I have included the entire link at the bottom, but to give you an idea of what it says, here is one of the leading sentences:

Receiving less attention, but also reprehensible and far more pervasive, is sexual misconduct directed toward adults.  An adult is anyone 18 years of age or older.  This abuse of power and authority, in various forms, often victimizes adults when they are most vulnerable and seeking spiritual comfort and counsel.

My initial reaction reading this policy was one of excitement. I had gone to see the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator back in February in order to get a meeting with the bishop in the diocese where my abuse took place. We actually had a meeting in place….set in April…and then….Corona Virus struck, the meeting was canceled, and I have not heard back about setting up another meeting as of yet.

As I said….my initial reaction was that I was thrilled. OMG, I thought….they are going to educate their staff about the abuse of adults. They are saying that it is never the fault of the adult as there is an imbalance of power when it comes to a priest and an employee or congregate. It further went on to say that if a report is made of and accusation of misconduct by a priest, they will get right on it and have an investigation. Once the investigation is complete…..along with looking into past allegations of abuse and interviews with people who are potential witnesses to any wrong-doings, the sun will come out and all will rejoice in the fact that the Catholic Church has turned over a new leaf. After almost 2,000 years of being unable to put a stop to rampant abuse…finally…..we have a policy! A policy! We are saved!

A policy which says it is never the fault of the person who is not a priest. Not even if the “relationship” is “consensual”. The priest must have boundaries and so is the responsible party. And if it can be proved that there was coercion or threats or “unwanted” touching or anything where everyone knows what was going down because the priest grabbed you in the hallway in front of 50 witnesses and planted a big wet one on your kisser while you screamed, “No, stop!” well, he will be in a lot of trouble. They may have to send him to counseling. It sounds good. It sounds wonderful. It sounds as if someone studied Canon Law and perhaps read a book or two and they are seeing the next wave of things to come and want to have something in place before it shows up at their doorstep.

I know that I sound like an Eeyore in the face of this wondrous event. But I’ve heard what I’ve heard from people and I’ve seen what I’ve seen myself and I don’t think leopards change their spots that fast.

I’m thinking….hmmn….so what does this mean in my case? Will they call me in under the guise of a meeting and throw me a surprise party and hug me and apologize and give me my job back? Most importantly….will there be cake?

Will the predator priest who used his position as my boss and the power of being able to get rid of me if he got angry be prevented from ever using his collar to wield spiritual and emotional control over another human being?

I hate to be so negative. I do. I want to believe. But I would rather be negative and be pleasantly surprised than be hopeful and be taken in again.

Witnesses. Let me see. Will they go back to Father Matone who when questioned before said he had seen nothing? Or how about my co-worker, Annette, who once asked why they had not interviewed her as I had told her I knew that I was going to be fired three months before it happened? Would she speak up? Or have they silenced her? Last thing I knew, she said she wanted to keep her job and also said something about my side of things that I needed to take responsibility for. I haven’t heard a word from her in over three years. Would she speak up against her (now retired) boss?

Would the woman in H.R. who screamed at me and told me that nothing I told her was confidential and that he would get a full report on what I said….and that I was a danger to priests…..would she change her tune and say….oh, yes…sorry about that….there was no policy in place at that time. I seriously doubt it.

Did I report him? No. Did I tell him that I wasn’t comfortable with his suggestion? Yes. Were there witnesses to that? No. Of course not. Did I try to put a stop to it? No. What did I do? I emailed him. Emails that he used to fired me saying that I was the one making suggestions. He was innocent. Well, in the policy, that is against the rules. What was this poor priest to do, after all? The woman sent me emails.

I want to say here that the emotional turmoil and struggle I went through with the stupid emails I sent to that man was extreme. He used emotions to control me. Outbursts, then silence and refusals to even look at me. Tension and hostility. Threats. Then he would sympathize and tell me he had put me through too much. Then more screaming. Then the other priests seeming to think I was responsible for the changes in him. And H.R. asking me strange questions.

And I would have rather died than did what he told me I had to do. To me, it felt like rape.But who would see things that way? Nobody believed me when I said that I felt I was doing what I had to do by telling him that I would not be the only one taking a risk. By taking the only power play I had left and telling him that if he wanted this, he would have to meet me outside of the office…not behind his desk and not in the back seat of my car.

But by me saying that…..and by him running to H.R. in panic mode and saying that they had to do what must be done….tell me they would not say that the priest and H.R. did the right thing. That the priest is on record stopping things just as he should have.

And then…..the best part of the policy? If it has been determined by whoever is judging this that the accusation was unfounded, the priest’s good name would be cleared….in the media….in all forms of media. Now tell me that I should be feeling optimistic about this policy and that this is a brand new day and that finally the church cares about its victims.

Tell me that isn’t an intimidating thought.

https://www.buffalodiocese.org/adult-sexual-misconduct-policy-and-procedures?platform=hootsuite