All By Myself

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Thank you to everyone who has been so kind as to reach out and offer well wishes for my surgery and recovery. I think full recovery is going to take awhile but I am moving around the house on a scooter and am sitting here with my feet up on the scooter as I type. Awkward but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Anyway, it was very thoughtful and thank you everyone.

This week, I received an email from David Clohessy regarding anyone who has been abused as an adult in New Jersey. There is an open civil window there for anyone who was abused at any age by anyone at anytime. So think about that and spread the word to those in New Jersey who you may know.

So, as you may be thinking, this past week has kind of been a mish mash of things. I’ve been watching TV for one. A lot of TV. Too much TV. And sleeping.

One interesting show I did watch was a documentary on prison life….what to do if you get arrested, what are your odds of getting out if you are unjustly accused, how to survive if you are behind bars…..things like that. This is not to hate on the justice system, but to make people more aware of the system. Because as we well know, systems can fail.

Yes, you can be accused of a crime for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, they estimate that up to 100,000 people in prisons today are innocent. In the documentary, one young man found his mother at home after she had been attacked, was unable to go to the hospital to be with her, instead was taken into custody as a suspect and spent many years behind bars before the actual person who killed his mom was found and he was released.

I am not an expert with legal stuff, but they said if arrested, ask if you are being held, if not, get out of there. If you are being held, get a lawyer and speak to nobody else.

You have a better chance making it out of jail if you get out on bail and can show up to court wearing regular clothes. Innocent or not, you will most likely have to plead guilty and take a deal.

If you end up behind bars, be prepared to fight on your first day. Even if you can’t beat your opponent, it shows you aren’t an easy target.

It’s not me saying this. The documentary was done by former prison inmates. They said, not surprisingly, that the reason why there are so many mistakes and why you don’t want to plead innocent, is because there is just the easier way of doing things that people are used to and sometimes you get new investigators that feel they need to solve a crime. You know, you depend on the honesty and the kindness of the system, but people are people and mistakes happen and people want to get home to dinner and such. And nobody wants more paperwork.

Also, people….that’s you and me and the average person on the street, tend to see an authority figure….and they figure they know what they are doing and they don’t question them.

This propensity for obeying authority figures, well there is an actual name for it and studies done on it and in 1963, a study was done by a man who wanted to know how people could have gone along with the Nazi’s. Because one man or woman can have an evil thought, but in order to convince others to carry out their plans of destruction, the person with the plan would have to get other people to go along with things they might find distasteful and inhumane and immoral.

First of all, what they found was that if someone can distance themselves from a “task” and convince themselves that they are only doing what they are being told, then they themselves are not actually doing what it is they are doing….such as torturing or killing people. Such as if a boss told you there would be a raise in it for you if you threw away a co-worker’s lunch. And you were doing it for your boss because he/she asked you to do it. So no sin on your part, right?

Then they did an experiment where they paid people to shock other people who they could not see. They could hear the person, and they could hear them say “ouch” for instance, but they could not see them. And each time a shock was administered, the person in the white coat leading the experiment would tell the person being paid to do the shocking to increase the voltage but a bit to where it was apparent they were administering shocks that could do some serious harm to another person.

If you have heard of this experiment, you may have heard that the subjects coldly went ahead and did what they were told despite the poor receiver crying out in pain and pleading for them to stop. But I read that this is not really so. Most people did feel uncomfortable going ahead and hurting someone. But….because a perceived authority figure was telling them it was okay to proceed, less than half of those people actually stopped and refused to continue.

The people who continued on to “knowingly” hurt or possibly kill another human being, did so because they felt “who am I to argue with this person?” “It’s uncomfortable to say no.” “They must know better than me.”

And because this experiment was done back in 1963, people thought that in today’s society, we would now be much more enlightened and much more willing to speak up.

Guess what? Results were pretty much the same today as they were in 1963. Something to think about.

By the way, nobody was actually being shocked or hurt in any way. That was not part of the experiment.

So, how can we prevent ourselves from becoming like the….approximately 65% of the people who did what they were told because an authority person told them to do it? That’s part of what our healing is about, isn’t it? We have been there.

We have to do the same things we would do when we are around a person or any situation that makes us uncomfortable. Become aware of our feelings. Respect our feelings. Respect authority in as far as they treat their position with respect and treat others with respect.

In back of my mom’s house growing up there was a seminary. Lots and lots of land. We played baseball, rode our bikes, played tennis, had forts, picked flowers, walked our dogs, and just hung out back there. And then the diocese sold the building and the land to the state.

And for many years, people were still able to do what they wanted to do out there as long as they respected that the land belonged to a police training academy and they did not interfere with that. And they built a pool and allowed anyone who wanted to use the pool. And things were okay.

Until a couple of years ago when all of a sudden, things changed. The land belongs to the state, not the neighbors, but there was kind of a handshake agreement for a long time. Then the state said “We are going to change things”. But they told no one until the plans were well underway. There was protest. I was there. I wrote to the newspaper to protest the location of the new buildings and how it was done undercover so nobody would have much time between finding out and the actual contruction.

It changed nothing but we had our say.

Now all of a sudden, they held a picnic for the neighborhood so that everyone could come and submit their ideas for the naming of the new park. Nobody was asked about the park. The idea was set in stone. But they made the people feel included. My mom thought that was nice. They were looking for donations as well.

I don’t feel as warm and fuzzy about it as my mom does. She has already had to clean up around the area in the back of her house from where people have dropped food wrappers, bottles, and even used the area as a private toilet spot.

That was just from people using the pool. I’m not liking the feeling about this. I’m feeling that they are allotting an area for people to recreate in while also opening it up to the public and making it an official park. I’m hoping they will be patrolling this area because putting a park in the back of people’s houses…..could be creating a problem area as well as a fun spot.

The uneasy feeling I’m getting is more about the idea that yet another change is being made. Paving paradise to literally put up a parking lot (on one side of the field). Will this “progress” continue to encourage more people to hang out in the back of a once quiet neighborhood….leaving McDonald’s wrappers, beer bottles, used condoms and whatever else at the back of people’s fences?

Should I quiet my anxieties? Tell myself I can’t fight city hall? My mom told me that I am being “bitter” and that it’s not my problem. And she may be right.

Maybe it’s not the park so much as…..yesterday it was new buildings and a parking lot, today it is a new park…..what is going to happen tomorrow right in back of my mom’s house? Perhaps a mini-mart?

Again, so little we have control over. Maybe the park is just a metaphor in my life for so many things that change and take away the beauty of what once was.

Maybe it’s just me trying to stop the world from moving so fast and from being so crazy and scary. Maybe we are so used to not being able to control so much that we forget about what we can. As my friend reminded me…..a case of “learned helplessness”. We forget that our chains have been removed and that we can walk….but have been chained so long we forget how to walk on our own.

More about that another time. Be good. Enjoy your week.

I actually had a set-back today. Had some meds that did not agree with me. Whoa…. but I’m back. Carry on folks.

Let it Be

I am doing next week’s blog early because I am having surgery tomorrow.

I read something recently about the law of attraction. You may have heard of this before. It’s basically about getting back what you put out to the universe. Attracting what you believe you deserve to have in your life.

I don’t know. On one hand, I know that we as humans do have a sense….if we listen to it…of the “vibe” that people and places give off. When house hunting, for instance, you may find that place that just feels like home. Or you may meet someone that gives you the creeps. I guess it comes down to listening to your gut.

But what about what kind of vibes we send out? What do other people feel about us? I know that many people that I’ve spoken with who have been abused believe that they seem to attract Narcissistic people into their lives.

But is that because they are unintentionally sending out signals to attract people who would harm them? And, if so, why would somebody do that? Don’t we all want to be happy, after all?

My guess is that it’s a possibility. Narcissists and empaths tend to tango more often probably because they attract each other in some way. Possibly because empaths tend to be emotional sponges and the Narc sees them as a person who will take their abuse and still be selfless. Empaths also tend to be very compassionate people and they also have a hard time seeing the bad in others. Empaths also tend to be more forgiving and so they are there to lend a hand time and time again when needed, even after someone has stepped on that hand.

But isn’t it good to be empathic? Isn’t it good to care about your fellow man? Wouldn’t an empathic person be functioning at a higher vibration and therefore, attract good people into their inner circle? Are they empathic because they care about others or because they don’t care a lot about themselves?

Well, as it turns out, empaths tend to have low self-esteem. Aha. Again, they soak up other’s feelings and all of the negative energy around them and they tend to help and to heal others….which leaves the empath sorely depleted when it comes to knowing who they are….really…and taking care of themselves.

Well, hey, no wonder then. Is anybody else nodding their head in recognition? Talk about being a sponge. I grew up with three high energy people with issues. Of course I had issues. But I didn’t know it. And when I did know about the issues….when they began to come out….I still tried to keep them quiet. I had to function and I had to take care of people and I was scared as I had no knowledge and no coping skills.

But it would make sense, wouldn’t it….that someone with low self-esteem is going to pull in something negative? Why? Well, low self-esteem usually goes hand in hand with negative thoughts about the self.

It’s awfully hard to learn new self talk. It’s hard to tell yourself positive things if you don’t believe it. Or to pull in positive things from the universe if you don’t believe you deserve good things.

Funny….I always say that I’m not high maintenance….I don’t ask for a lot. And then I’m surprised when that’s what I get. Not much.

I have learned a couple of things though….like nobody is going to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. You set the boundaries and your comfort zone. That’s not an easy thing to do. You might upset some people.

I’ve also learned that if you try to talk to someone about something that is important to you…..and perhaps you ask for a compromise…..and they either make no attempt to change anything or loudly complain or totally ignore your request….you better prepare to either put up with the action or behavior for the rest of your life….or you better get out now. Because nothing is going to change.

As far as negative self talk….I hear myself do this. I’m getting better with this and I can “self-soothe” better as I get older. I know that nobody else is going to take care of me, and I can’t sit around and wait for life to happen, and I can’t judge myself on praise or lack thereof from other people….so I can accept life as it is and make my own lemonade or sit around and turn into a rotten lemon. My choice. And there is always laundry to be done so that gets me up off of the couch if not my dogs.

I’ve also learned that if someone values you, that you won’t have to guess because it will be obvious. It will be a whole cake….not just the crumbs. And perhaps it happens that as we expect more, we get more of what we need. If we value close friendship, for instance, anyone who is not a true friend will fall off of your radar.

I’ve also become a bit philosophical about life in that I find myself sitting back and waiting and accepting instead of chasing what I think I need. What is to be will be. What is meant to be in your life, will show up in your life.

So, no….I have not yet gotten to the point where I’m expecting unicorns to arrive at my door because I have spun around three times and clicked my heels while saying “send me the unicorns!” But I have reached the point where I am being a bit less accommodating, a bit less frantic in my expectations for happiness, a bit kinder and gentler to myself, and still saddened, but not distraught when the vibrations of others don’t match my own and they move on from my life.

This last one about people leaving my life is a huge one for me. My ex’s family who I knew for many years….like 35 years of holidays and the like….once the divorce became finalized….they all just dropped out of my life like I never existed. Not all….last year when my ex brother in law passed away and I emailed everyone (they did not have a wake or a service), I did get a couple of replies. Mostly I was ignored. And that is sad, but again, I am not the same person I was when I knew them and perhaps it is a vibrational repulsion between us.

I’m sure this is common. But common or not, as we move on in life and grow, we leave many of the people in our past behind. And we gather new people.

The world and the people in it begin to change as soon as we are born. We cannot control the world around us. But perhaps we do have more control over our own lives than we once thought.

I saw a good quote this week: “If you want your life to change, then you have to see your life as you want it to be and not how it is right now”. I’m sure I misquoted something, but that’s the basic idea. In order to see your life as you want it to be, you kind of have to live life optimistically.

I’ll let you know if any unicorns show up.

In what I guess you would call the laugh of the week….I went grocery shopping earlier today and I caught myself singing along with the piped in music. What’s that they say about how you know you’re old when….the music in the supermarket begins to sound good?

In a bright spot in my week, I have been asked to donate some artwork to a silent auction for breast cancer survivors.

Have a lovely week or so everyone….I will be back as soon as I can.

The Way We Were

Not sure where to start this week. I had a COVID test today because I am having surgery on Friday. Kind of surreal. Pulled into the hospital parking lot and followed signs that seemed to lead to nowhere until I realized I had to pull into a makeshift garage area where I had to then lower my window and yell to a woman behind a window. I stayed in my car and a nurse approached with the Q-tip thing and told me she was just going to swab the inside of my nose. It was not bad at all. Just saying. I thought they stuck those things all the way in to the back of your throat. Nope. Just a little swab inside the nose.

The news this week in the world continues to be bad and I am once again reminded of how little we control in this world. I am reminded of that not because of the horrific things heard on the news that we can’t do much about, but because of my own life and the lives of people I speak with.

I was once told that worry is nothing more than trying to control a situation that you have no control over. I worry so much about the people that I love and my surgery is going to lay me up for weeks if not months and it’s going to make me feel even more helpless than I do already.

After our group meeting last night, I called my mom and she sometimes forgets what I do or how I am doing things. I told her I was in a meeting and she again asked what for and I told her it was for people abused by priests and again she asked me why I am doing something so depressing and the church is working on this and there aren’t going to be any priests left, etc.

The thing is, we are survivors, not victims. And in our group, we do discuss what happened to us, but we also discuss why it happened and how far we have come. I think it is important to discuss these things. I know that talking with others has helped me immensely. And I hear other people say that as well.

There are so many sides to the abuse. There is the side of….I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t see it coming. And there is the side of….I went into “take care of” mode and I felt this or I did that….so it is not just blaming the church or looking at the bad bad priest….but also trying to prevent this from happening again in our lives and in the lives of others. There is also the knowledge we gain from comparing notes….because the stories tend to have similarities.

Oftentimes we as survivors end up learning so much more about ourselves and our lives in general and the people we have known and how we have reacted to them along the way.

In my life, when I look back, I see so much effort put into pleasing other people and taking care of others and trying to save people.

Last night I told the story of how when someone I know who I love very much tried to commit suicide and when they got home, I went over to stay with them to be sure they were okay, and to make them dinner and to be sure nobody hurt them. I was ready literally to do battle with anyone who tried to bring this person drugs or tried to physically harm them. I literally blocked people in the stairway and would not let them in. Drama in the hallway. Tears. Other people’s drama. To protect the person I love.

I stayed all night. I left when the sun was coming up. When all their friends had left and it seemed safe to leave. And as I was leaving, this person said two very inappropriate things to me. After telling me what a good person I was, this person said something very sexual to me and then said they felt like killing themselves.

What we tend to forget about victims of abuse is that we are generally people who care about and who take care of other people. And that gets abused as well. And because so often, we tend to also have co-dependent tendencies because we were not raised with healthy boundaries for one reason or another to see ourselves as strong and separate from others who we care about…..we tend to cease to exist….or forget how to exist….in a healthy way….without bouncing off of an unhealthy person or situation.

The thing is, it’s not always possible to walk away from unhealthy people and situations. We need other people. We want family. Especially when we have children to raise. There is such a feeling of being trapped like no other when raising children and needing the help of others who are either emotionally abusive or at the very least, not emotionally supportive. Or being forced to work at a job that is soul crushing because you have to just get through life to take care of your family. It can be a life in which you don’t feel you exist except to keep things calm and keep things going and to keep everyone else okay.

It can be a very foreign concept to put yourself first. It can be scary as well. But learning about yourself apart from others is an important lesson to learn. I don’t know why exactly I feel the way I feel sometimes. It may be important to look back and see how we learned our behaviors. But it is also important to take responsibility for doing the work and accepting the pain of emotional growth.

I have a sibling who likes to joke and say he drinks because of our parents. He is not a horrible person, but he is unhealthy and will continue to be unhealthy until and unless he begins to take responsibility for himself. Funny thing is, his daughter started to follow in his footsteps. And before she got help, she blamed him for the way she was. But she has sought help and I can see her begin to grow into a more mature adult woman.

For myself, I have become somewhat more aware of my feelings. My need to be a chameleon to become the person someone else wants me to be. And then the feeling that I have failed to find that right combination to please someone else. And then the feeling that I can never be enough. The desperate need to please emotionally unavailable people. Trying so hard to make things work with people it’s never going to work with. Trying so hard to save people who don’t want to work to save themselves.

The feeling that if I put my own needs first, I will alienate everyone. The feeling that I need people to understand who I am and what I mean. That I need to explain to people who don’t want to listen. The feeling that it’s okay to not be a priority to someone as long as I can get a part of them. That I will fight through the haystack to find that one crumb on the tip of the needle.

Because if I don’t keep fighting and pleasing and saving and taking care of…..I’m not sure what else there is of me to give anyone. Because I’m not sure who I am or how I feel. And I’m afraid to find out because that feels so damn vulnerable.

These are the things that are important to talk about, to think about and to work on. This is why it is good to be still and to be quiet and to listen. To breathe. To toss aside the things outside of ourselves and to look within. To create. To get to know ourselves. To act instead of reacting. To be aware of our faults and to be able to speak their names and acknowledge their existence. To allow them to be without allowing them to rule us and to run our lives. It’s an on-going, sometimes lifelong process.

My love, support and respect to all survivors of life.

Last week the votes were tied as to who believes in aliens. Most of those who believe live in the U.S.

Also last week, this blog was read in American Samoa, South Korea and Japan among others. Welcome readers.

Heart of Gold

I know. There is a lot going on in this world and it can be overwhelming. Last week we talked about how to pick up on red flags and not get taken in by a Narcissist. I do believe that knowing the signs can help somewhat if you begin to notice your own feelings. That is what I think is important.

If you have been abused by a priest or someone in power, you may have gotten somewhat familiar with what is called the “imbalance of power” and the term “Narcissist”. Power positions tend to draw narcissists. Does not mean everyone in power is a Narcissist, same as not every priest is a sexual predator, but certain people tend to gravitate towards leadership positions in jobs or in group settings.

But once again, I want to stress that it is not the Narcissist we have to look out for, but for our own gut feeling that someone is not right. We need to respect our own feelings.

Someone who I spoke to who was clearly in distress over their situation, said to me that the person with whom they were dealing was not a Narcissist. Still, whatever was happening between them was causing this person tremendous feelings of guilt and grief and confusion.

To me, that is like going hiking in the woods and running into an animal who wants to eat me and saying….well, it’s okay….at least it’s not rabid.

It does not matter what devoured you once you have been eaten up and your bones have been thrown to the side and discarded.

The person who hurts you or who infringes on your boundary can be a loved one or someone who seems to be in need of help. They can be good, decent human beings. But they are human beings. And sometimes human beings are willing to accept whatever someone gives to them if it benefits them. And sometimes you can keep giving until it begins to hurt you or pull you down.

And this good person perhaps has no intentions to hurt anyone. But we all have Narcissistic tendencies to a certain extent, and we all have survival instincts.

In other words, as my Dad always used to say, “People aren’t against you, they are for themselves”.

I always kind of had it drilled into me that being liked was a passive thing. All I had to do was smile and be polite. I was taught how to cook, set a table, and respond politely to small talk. Also to always be pleasant and to never show a hint of impatience or to scratch myself impolitely in front of company. Napkin on my lap. You sit there until you are told to leave. Then you clean up.

And feelings were not valued growing up. I think my mom felt that feelings were the enemy of cleanliness and order. When I went to my first wake at the age of 8 for my grandfather, my mother told me to kiss him in his coffin. And when my mom gets an idea in her head, it’s either do it or she won’t let up. So I heard about how it was like he was sleeping and I did love Grandpa, didn’t I? Didn’t I want to kiss him goodbye because I would never see him again.

This is not something I would even recommend to an adult if they were not comfortable with it. I did kiss my father on the head when he was in his coffin and I will never do that again. That is not how I want to remember someone. I kissed him after he passed away while he was still at the hospital and that was fine….but not when someone has been in cold storage for a couple of days.

Anyway, I refused to kiss my grandfather. But I ended up having a mini childhood breakdown after that. I had trouble sleeping and jumped at noises at night. See my dad had told me that the dead could be in the room with you and you wouldn’t know. I know he was being philosophical, but I just kept thinking that actual bodies were going to show up if I let down my guard at night.

Another thing I remember about feelings is being encouraged to feel fear. Not fear of things that didn’t exist….I could not talk about that….but rather, fear of leaving home.

I was very overprotected as a child. I could very rarely stay at anyone’s house overnight because my mother was afraid of fires. I could not go out if I washed my hair that day because my mother was afraid of illness. And if I said I liked a boy or that I thought someone was cute, my mom told me how afraid she was of a man getting angry and beating me up.

But expressing fear or saying I was afraid to do something pretty much guaranteed that I’d be forced to do it.

And of course, my father felt that females had no control over their emotions and that was a terrible thing to have to work with, he said.

So I think many of us grew up learning to suppress our emotions, not to listen to them. Is it any wonder why it is difficult now to pay attention to and to respect how we feel?

Another thing that hinders protecting ourselves, I think, is that we as humans tend to judge other people and categorize them quickly. That can be a good thing if we are really paying attention to our radar. But not so good if we at first push away doubts when someone is nice to us. Then it’s hard to see them as anything but nice.

Also, when you are a good soul, an empathic person….someone with a heart of gold, you tend to project your feelings onto others. If someone is acting not so nice, we then make excuses for them. They must be tired or not feel well. They had a bad day. Something or someone upset them. And sometimes we then blame ourselves as if we did or said something wrong to cause the other person to act in such a way.

This is a very big issue with me, I know. Whenever I complained that someone did something to me, I was criticized for being jealous or bitter. Things were almost always turned into my fault growing up. So to this day, I find it difficult to separate someone else’s feelings or actions as their own and I don’t feel comfortable standing up for myself if unpleasant behavior is directed at me.

These feelings that I was raised with, were taught to me so that I would be a good person and so that I would be safe. They were taught with love. They were misguided, but having been a parent, I was lucky enough just to get everyone through the day okay. It’s a tough job.

But again, I was raised to think that men ran the world and women supported men and raised the children. I had no idea I would ever have to go on job interviews to get promotions to be able to feed my kids and pay the bills. I didn’t know that smiling and being polite was very nice (and I was for the most part liked by people at work because of that) but I became a target for everyone looking for a scapegoat.

And speaking of unpleasant people, I don’t know if the not so nice folks were Narcissists or not. Some were nice people having a bad day.

There were varying degrees of unpleasantness at work and in the family as I got older. And varying degrees of feeling uncomfortable because of being on the receiving end. And sometimes….many times….recognizing the troublemaker and feeling that “knowing” inside your gut, is not enough to keep you safe. It’s just not that simple in life.

I think where our gut feeling protects us is not when it has to tell us that someone is being a jerk to us, but when something just seems off or does not seem right to us. We may need to listen to our survival skills in order to avoid outwardly hostile people, but we need to listen to our feelings when it comes to the not so obvious.

When my boss/priest first said that he would love to stay with me when he was in town after he retired, but that he was afraid he would be “too tempted”…I thought that was about the strangest thing I had ever heard anyone say. But I chalked it up to the fact that priests are odd ducks who don’t get around women much. And that excuse pushed away my gut feelings time and time again.

I know that people tend to struggle with religious beliefs after they have gone through abuse. But I tend to think that our Kumbaya beliefs are what get us in trouble. Again, choose to turn the other cheek so as not to escalate something, but don’t get slapped because you weren’t paying attention and you trusted your fellow man over your own feelings about that person.

Another thing, listening to your inner wisdom may end up cutting people out of your life. It is a very brave thing to let someone go when they do not have your best interest at heart. They may stick around and respect you a bit more, or they may think you are “too difficult” (boundaries) and leave. Usually I find that when you let someone go, they have already gone except for the death grip you had on their hoodie. So….don’t consider it a loss. You may only be losing the person you thought they were.

And…..it’s better to sit all alone on a toadstool than to be crowded on a velvet cushion. You create your own beautiful life by who you allow into your inner circle.

Last week we learned that most people feel that the world is growing apart. Also, this blog went out to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Ireland. Have a great week….please answer the poll.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

This past week, I read something that discussed how to never be taken in by a narcissist again.

You may be thinking, as do I, that you need to turn your heart to stone and not let any person into your trust zone in order to get by in life. But according to this article I read, it has more to do with what we went back to last week….the old “what is it that I can control?” point of view.

There are so many bad things going on in this world. Right now, we are waiting to see if Governor Cuomo will be held accountable for what many are calling a toxic work place and things that went on that many people were aware of but said and did nothing about.

While I know that some of the things I write about in this blog may be upsetting, I think I write about what I know and what I feel that I can control. I could write more about man’s inhumanity to man and comment on what is in the news, but in truth, that makes me feel anxious and small and helpless. To come forward with accusations of misconduct and sexual harassment…..that is extremely brave. Because we all know how hard it is to do alone. Without backup, it is so easy to be told you have misinterpreted someone’s intention and that you are weak and looking for attention or for love and that you are the real danger in the situation, not the predator. It’s scary as hell….

I have read that nobody can make you feel bad about yourself. If someone says you are such and such, and it hurts you, that is because you already feel that way about yourself.

If anything in this lifetime, I would like to see truth rise to the top. I would like for emotional and psychological abuse to be seen as the real thing that it is. More than it is at this time. Because it is a huge issue in this world.

So back to what we can do right now. What do we have control of in order to protect our hearts and our souls and our minds?

Well…..and this is me saying this….stop looking for narcissists. And by that I mean, we are all capable of hurting each other.

Being mislead and hurt by a priest may have been one of the best things that ever happened to me along with one of the worst things that ever happened to me.

I learned that even the “best of the best” could hurt me. That there could be evil lurking in the shadows of the light. So that meant that anyone could be suspect. It was horrible to go through the experience and yet the experience taught me a great many things.

But I find that I still look for that “good” person. That person who is honest and trustworthy and kind. But I still make mistakes in doing so. Because as long as what we are looking for and what we need remains outside of ourselves, we will never live on solid ground.

We need to begin to look inside and to keep the focus there. And that is a scary thought. Because it means we are all alone and nobody loves us. And that is what we are so afraid of.

But if the focus remains inside, we can ask ourselves if someone is providing what we need. We can stop putting ourselves second. We can ask ourselves if something seems off without making an excuse for someone else. We can stop focusing on what someone else needs or how someone else feels and we can see someone for who they really are and how their actions reveal their intentions.

The article I read mentions how we can never be taken advantage of again by focusing on our feelings and intuition and by enforcing boundaries.

Boundaries are different for everyone but we need to be aware of certain kinds of boundaries and ways people may try to breach them.

Be aware of your feelings not being respected. Of someone coming into your physical space or into contact with your things without permission. Be aware of your feelings if you feel obligated or pressured into doing something you are not comfortable in doing. Or if someone wants you to discuss intimate details of your life. Does someone belittle your thoughts or ideas or tell you that you don’t know what you are talking about? That is a boundary pushing issue as well.

You control your time and who you want to spend it with. Pressure to ditch people you like or a guilt trip about spending time with someone is not something that makes anyone happy. Neither is being last on anyone’s list for that matter. Time is a gift to give and to receive.

Your material things should be respected. There is an obvious red flag when someone destroys your stuff, but what about also when they use your stuff without asking, touch your things without asking, “clean up” in the guise of being helpful but in reality it is to go through your stuff?

I once lived with my son and his girlfriend. She didn’t work so she was in my house alone all day. I remember the first day back to work after Christmas, I looked forward to coming home and relaxing and turning on the tree lights and getting back into the holiday spirit for that time between Christmas and New Year’s. When I got home, it was like the Grinch had been there. Everything was boxed up and put away. I got a bit upset because nobody had asked me before anything was done and my son turned it around on me and said that I was hurting his girlfriend’s feelings because she thought she was being helpful.

That was not the first or the only time it happened. She liked to clean by picking up everything and anything that was lying around and stick it in a box….just randomly grouping things together….and putting the box somewhere. I ended up finding one of her boxes in my basement after it had gotten wet down there and I lost some photographs.

But my main point here is that when you look for a villain, it’s not always obvious.

People get upset sometimes when you say a priest did something wrong because a priest represents goodness. So, therefore, there must be something wrong with you. Because priests wear collars….they don’t usually wear villain costumes. They wear sheep’s clothing. And people generally do as well. They show their good side to people. Not always. But usually people want to have a job and friends or at least companions or those who support them.

So if you’re looking to avoid the bad guys, you can go around carrying your Narcissist detector everywhere you go or stay home where you feel safe. Neither will bring you much happiness.

But think for a moment…we are all a bit Narcissistic. We all have egos. We all want to be loved. Many of us enjoy getting “likes” on our Facebook posts. We all started out egocentric in life and had to learn to share and to be nice to others. And we all have a survival instinct.

So it is not easy to judge from looking at someone “how much” of a Narcissist they are. Do they want to destroy you? Well, how will you know until you have trusted them enough to get close to them before they begin to crush you? That may be what a textbook Narc is, but do you really want to live waiting for the other shoe to drop with everyone you know?

So for now, let’s lose that term, “Narcissist” because that is outside of you. And I think there are many other things and people who can hurt you who don’t hold the title.

Yes, of course notice someone else’s actions, but staying safe involves more than that. Until you can fully trust yourself, you will always be vulnerable.

For me, I know that I need to stop feeling the need to take care of people. I need to stop helping when I know that people need to save themselves. (Because there is a boundary between helping and HELPING). I need to stop making excuses for people’s behavior. If their behavior harms me in any way, then it doesn’t matter if they are acting that way because they are trying to deliberately destroy me or because they are struggling with emotional issues. Point is, it’s not good for me.

When something feels disrespectful, or when an alarm goes off in my head, I need to listen and hold up the stop sign. No debate. Boundary. Done. There is no….well, it’s my fault because…..no.

I need to stop trying to protect people or care about their well-being before my own. (again helping VS HELPING)

As I was saying tonight at the meeting, it’s really hard to carry through with these behaviors. To change. We hold onto them for a reason. If I don’t take care of someone or if I make them angry or unhappy, I will be alone and unloved. More about that at another time. For now, realizing how we sabotage ourselves is the first step.

Thing is, it’s scary because if we let everything go that is unhealthy and unhealthy is all we’ve ever known, all that is left is healthy…..and that is the unknown. And a place where we don’t know how to fit in.

It’s not easy to see things as they are or to attempt to “get healthy”. It begins to open up the floodgates. Tonight I was cradling my rescue dog in my arms. She had been shaking as something had scared her. I wrapped a blanket around her…she is about 8 pounds….and I held her until she stopped shaking.

I said to her, “Nobody ever held you before when you got scared, did they?” All of a sudden out of nowhere, I was crying like a fool. I realized that I was talking to myself as much as I was talking to my dog. I had never said those words to myself before.

We have another survey this week. Last week we found out that most people like to sit down and relax with a cup of hot or iced coffee. Countries who visited this blog last week: United States, Canada, United Kingdom Denmark, Ecuador, Japan and Sweden.

Suggested book of the week: Dangerous Personalities by Joe Navarro.

If You Could Read My Mind

Last week, I spoke about people who raise the bar on you. I think of that as a kind of manipulative move. A means of control. I’ve had it done to me and you know that something just feels off.

It was a time when I was done with drama that tore me apart and I was ready for someone nice and boring. And by that I mean, dinner at home, no fireworks, no tears….nice. And I thought I had found myself a nice guy. He was a doctor from work. A bit older than me. Divorced. Soft-spoken. Needed help because he was losing his eyesight.

As I said, red flags aren’t always obvious. I took this guy home to dinner to meet my parents and they thought I’d hit the jackpot. My dad especially thought he’d never have to leave the house to go to an appointment ever again. And I liked to see my parents happy.

I’m not sure when the first flag rose. As many people know, with doctors and professional people and anyone we look up to, we see the success and that tends to outshine other sketchier stuff. We push that stuff aside and ignore it because the person is a pillar of the community. A star in the E.R. A brilliant eccentric.

I don’t tend to be high maintenance so when he said he only did pizza at home or home-made dinners and that eating in restaurants was for birthdays and special occasions, I figured he was old fashioned like my parents. He came from a lower middle class background. I never thought about money as an issue. He would tell me that he was a millionaire. But he had bought property, which I thought was a good investment. He had renters. He would talk about travelling with me, asking me if I had ever been to Europe or even Philadelphia and I’d say no and he’d say that I would love it.

But that would be the end of the discussion. I’d drop him at the bus station when he’d go to visit his aunt in Pennsylvania for the weekend. I’d bring him to the airport when he was going on a business trip. And I think the first sign that something was off was when he called me from California. He knows I love dogs and he told me about a dog parade that they had going on. He said that I would have loved it.

It was then I began to wonder. His trip was paid for. His hotel was paid for. All he would have had to do was get my ticket if he had wanted me to go along with him. Or he could have asked me to go and told me to pay my own way. But he didn’t. And he could have. By that time, I had travelled for work and I had brought a friend with me and nobody had a problem with it. My friend paid her own way and shared the room with me. He had to have known this. So what was going on here?

It’s funny how we really already know when something isn’t quite right. I would spend nights at his house now and then. But that meant that I had to be away from my own home and my dogs. I did try to bring my dogs to his house, but it was not a dog friendly place. Lots and lots of stairs. I had to take my dogs for a walk around a city block if they had to go outside. And he had a deck that was about three stories up outside his kitchen. My dogs did not understand that they could die by falling off of the deck. I just wasn’t comfortable at his place. And he would never stay at my house because my son was living with me at the time.

So the time came one night when I said, “Do you mind if I don’t stay tonight?” I had just wanted to spend a weekend night with my dogs at my own house. It didn’t go over well. He said nothing that night but soon afterwards, at one point in time when we were being affectionate….he got up and walked away and told me that there would be no more of “that” until I was ready to get serious.

And I guess that is what you might call raising the bar. Or some may call that an ultimatum.

I remember thinking to myself at the time….is he serious? It was at that point that I realized that he wasn’t happy with things the way they were or with who I was either and I knew that if he did that once he would do it again in order to have control. It would either be withholding sex with him or money or vacations or something else. Something would be taken away if he didn’t have things his way.

The same dynamic was in place when the priest told me that I had to give him oral sex at his desk. It was that today. And just when you would think my job would have been safe and he would have been happy, it would have been something else. Well, now you know I can tell your friends in Human Resources about what you did here so you had better do it for my friend here as well so I can watch. I am not saying this to be sarcastic or flippant. I am serious. I knew the bar would raise. And I knew that adding a second person was not out of the question with him. He had already told his fellow priest that I was “fun”.

Another form of manipulation that everyone has used at one time or another….is the ultimatum. Our parents have used it. We have used it with our kids. It usually works in those situations. But in adult to adult situations, it can be tricky. If you choose to use this maneuver, you better be ready to back it up.

I felt it was the right thing to do at one point to say to my ex-husband, we either need to go to counselling or we need to get a divorce. Looking back, it was probably the better thing to do instead of waffling in between. However, he refused counselling and didn’t want a divorce. That left me with having to carry out my “threat”. I didn’t want a divorce either. But I knew we couldn’t go on with the problems we had without some kind of change or compromise.

We don’t control much in this world. We certainly don’t normally have much control over what other people do. No matter how much I search for answers, I always tend to go back to the old “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. That seems to cover just about anything.

But what goes on within that prayer? How do we change the things that we can when it comes to other people if we can’t force our will upon them and ultimatums can go awry?

The real answer is we don’t. The real answer is, we don’t change other people…..we change ourselves. Sorry.

We’ve always been taught that one day we will be loved. Someone will choose us. We send out our beacon of need and it is answered by the right person who spots it. Well, we know that many wrong people will spot that beacon as well. And we also know that when we give another person the power to determine our worth and our ability to be loved, we hover near treacherous waters. That life giving emotion can be given and taken away by someone else.

I have been guilty of playing dodge ball with my emotions in my life. Guilty of moving my life around to keep someone I love out of danger or helping someone or anticipating what someone else needs or wants or is trying to say in order to make things be “okay”. And I have ended up feeling powerless and ultimately useless and like a failure when that doesn’t work.

So I have tried to become powerful by bellowing out decrees and “I have had enough and you’d better listen” and people may look at you like you are crazy for a minute and a temporary change might ensue but you are still trying to change what you can’t….namely someone else or how someone else feels or what they think or what they choose to do.

Change and power only comes from within. You make the decision that is right for you and you go forward. You do things without trying to get a reaction from someone. You give a gift without expectation. You love fully someone who is deserving of your love without doing so in order to gain something.

But in the same vein, you become more responsible for what you expect from others. You may give a gift without expectation, but you only do so to those who will call to thank you for your gift. You love fully someone who is also your friend. Someone with whom you feel safe and who won’t leave you feeling used or discarded when you part.

It’s kind of being proactive in your own life. By expecting something, you are leaving the action up to someone else. If that person chooses not to give you the basic respect for your giving, then you are left feeling empty. By giving to someone who is willing to reciprocate in kind without hesitation….someone deserving of your giving…..you don’t have to give with the expectation that the act of your giving is going to produce the wanted response from anyone.

In other words, give a gift to someone who likes you with no expectation. Don’t give a gift to someone who does not like you with the expectation that they will like you because you gave them a gift.

It’s not always easy to tell if someone is safe to give to. Some people have no problem with this. Some of us, however…..especially those of us who did not learn what healthy love looked like or that we deserved to be loved….tend to accept questionable actions from others and not see the red flags until things get worse.

I like to say that the universe gives us a tap and if we don’t listen, we get the slap.

It’s okay to expect something. It’s not selfish to do so. In fact, you have to have expectations…..not for things but for actions from others.

I made the mistake with the doctor I was dating to think that I should wait for him to ask me to go to California. But why? Why didn’t I say that I would like to go along with him if that is what I wanted? Why did I end up politely waiting to be asked so he could then use that as a control device? And that is what he did. Because he always talked about taking trips like his married friends did.

He lived in fear. Fear of being used and deserted. And he was afraid he would not have anyone who would stick around to take care of him. So he ended up pushing away the person who was taking care of him….me….in order to try to control the situation and make me stay.

We both did our own dysfunctional dance. And in the end, we each left the dance floor and went home alone.

No funny stories this week. Please pray for my friend Lorena who lost her 34 year old daughter suddenly while she was travelling in a foreign country.

Be good…have a wonderful week….and don’t forget to take the poll.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Sometimes I think the answer to this question changes over time. What was great when you were 18 years old and single may not be so great when you are 23 and married with two kids and a house.

I’ve heard from people who have said they are still in a bad situation after 25 years or more. And the reason for staying in something that is not working can be as simple as it is easier to do so than to go through the unpleasantness of acknowledging that it isn’t working and have to feel vulnerable and alone.

When I worked at the Diocese, it was my job to help people get married. And I loved what I did. And time after time, I would see people with four and five marriages having to be cleared behind them and they were in a terrific rush to get the paperwork through so they could get married yet again that coming weekend. And of course, the ceremony itself had to be perfect. The church had to bless the union and doves had to be released in an outdoor setting…which required further approval from the bishop….not for the doves but for a non-church setting which would include a priest.

And being the one who had to do searches for hidden ceremonies and contact parishes where they used to live and whatnot, I one day asked the question that tripped off something in my priest/boss. I asked, “Why is it that people put so much effort into the wedding instead of the marriage?” He wanted to know why I was asking. Um. It’s what we do here.

And I would guess it’s because the marriage is the epitome of your love. The bigger the deal and the more detail going into the day, the greater is the love for the world to see. I remember going to a wedding ten years ago where it was totally over the top. Limos. Champagne at the door for all the guests. Open bar. Two main courses after table upon table of hors devours. That and then more and more courses being served at the table before the prime rib and lobster or whatever it was. And then the honeymoon in Mexico or wherever. I believe the total came to over $50,000. A wedding to remember.

Ten years later, they are going through a bitter divorce. Bitter. I’m talking about videos being sent of possessions being burned and worse. (Use your imagination on that one). Bad. Ugly.

I think the ideal situation would be to know when to call it quits, which sounds a whole lot easier than it is in reality.

We don’t always see the red flags. So I am here to share some of them for you. Some of these are personal. Some are from friends. Some are the ones we have always heard about. Here goes. Again, not telling anyone what to do. Not saying that the nicest person in the word won’t cross a line or two but some people show their colors in subtle ways while you are still in denial. Here are some red flags to look out for in friends, partners and family….

You are thrilled to see someone and they seem equally as thrilled to see you. But your encounters are sporadic and you find that you are the one giving and sacrificing and paying for the encounter while the other person is not around during those times when you actually need a friend…..they are only there for the fun times.

You are not enough as you are and they try to improve you. This is seen often and done in many ways, including making you feel bad about yourself. They could make you feel bad about your weight….not by saying you need to lose weight, but by going through your things and saying they needed to check your size to buy you something, basically violating personal space if they know this is a sensitive subject. Or I don’t mind at all if you smoke a cigarette outside of course not…I would never tell you what to do. It will be an underhanded dig… Oh, the lovely smell of smoke you leave when you pass by. They won’t tell you to change directly but they will make you feel bad about being yourself or not being what they want you to be.

Trying to get a commitment from you or trying to control you by withholding giving or sharing things with you or by being cold or distant or withholding affection.

Always showing up late for things after you have already paid by the time they get there. Never having money for anything and either manipulating you into paying for them or agreeing to help out and then suddenly not being able to. Especially horrendous when they are the ones suggesting dinners and activities that they know they will stick you with.

Being too rough sexually and hurting you. Being sexually selfish or making you feel inadequate for not pleasing them.

Getting caught in lies.

When you ask them why they love you and all they can come up with is what you have done for them or what you have given them and not about the beautiful soul that you are or asking what they can do to make you happy.

Giving you an STD and then saying that it wasn’t them….must have been you with someone else even though you know there was nobody else.

Coercing you into doing something and then telling everyone what you have done to shame you.

Creating an emergency that is not a real emergency in order to jeopardize your job by making you take time off or by taking up your time on the telephone.

Inciting others to physically attack you, harass you, or threaten your family.

Asking for your advice and then using what you said as a shield when they confront someone so it sounds like you are the person demanding answers instead of them.

Subtly manipulating drama and animosity between people to cause trouble.

Using children to have power in a situation or who believes the child belongs only to them like a possession.

Walking away from their young child or has given their child away because they don’t want to take care of them anymore.

Anytime you feel the need to fix something for someone and you are putting that need to care for that person before your own mental health and well-being.

Anytime you try to set up a boundary and someone tries to make you feel like you are a horrible person for asking for simple respect. And you feel that by asking for respect, you have somehow hurt this person.

Alienating you from your support system. Threatening you in any way. Financially or emotionally destroying you. Physically abusing you or your children or your pets. If they have the need to control everything that goes on. If they deliberately push you beyond your limits of physical or emotional comfort. If someone makes you feel like you are not enough or not as good as someone else. If they only care about working on things or changing in order to pull you back in once you’ve gotten the strength to leave.

Those are some red flags I have collected through the years from myself, from friends, from family and from things I have heard or read about. There’s more, of course. Feel free to share.

Nobody is perfect. But biting your fingernails or snoring or being introverted is not the same as being abusive and controlling or being with someone who may not really care about you as much as you do for them.

In my experience, when someone raises the bar and is basically saying you need to do something or be some way in order to please them….know that the bar is always going to go higher.

If you have tried to work things out with someone and it seems like they have heard what you have said but they just don’t give a damn about your feelings or working with you or trying to appear that they are even attempting to compromise….know that it is not going to change. You will either have to accept the situation or fight about it for the next 50 years. And it will still not change.

It’s normal to be attracted to other people when you are in a relationship for a long time. But if you find yourself getting emotionally attached to someone, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself why. Perhaps you have outgrown the relationship you are in. Or perhaps your relationship is not emotionally healthy for you. Again, just saying perhaps go back to the red flags and see if you have any going on. It’s better to figure that out before pulling someone else into the mix. But not judging. None of us are perfect.

I learned a long time ago that I am not perfect. Or more special than anyone else. But again, there is a difference between “not perfect” and “bad news”. Get to know red flags in both others and yourself. By that I mean, are you seeing an old pattern arise in yourself that brought you pain and suffering in the past? Are you writing a check to someone who you know is using you because they give you companionship in exchange? Are you afraid of the pain you will feel when you let go of someone? Are you telling yourself you are not as good as someone else? Are you trying to help someone or fix an unpleasant situation because that is what comes naturally to you but may end up biting you in the end?

Watch out for those flags. Pay attention. Learn to love yourself and then being alone means being with your best friend.

The poll is back…yippee!

Also, another mom story this week. I took my mom to the doctor. Doctor asked her “Any illicit drug use?” Mom can’t hear so she said “what?” Again the doctor said “Any illicit drug use?” Mom squinted to hear better. “what was that?” So I said….”Mom, do you have a drug dealer?” She heard that. She laughed and said “No.” Later we went to the pharmacy. I waited in the parking lot for her. Very small parking lot. Not a lot of room for maneuvering. When she got back in the car she told me she thought I had moved the car closer to the door. Seems she almost got into someone else’s car. Maybe it was her drug dealer?

Just another day in the life…have a good week.

Set Fire to the Rain

When I was a child, my grandmother used to say that my brother was a good boy but that I was “a rebel”.

I have felt horrible about this for many years. My grandmother passed away when I was six years old. In truth, I got bored and when I got bored, I got into trouble. There’s only so long that you can try to color within the lines before something else grabs your attention and it becomes a game to wait for your grandfather to take his eyes off you long enough to go to the bathroom so you can sneak next door to play with the kid over there.

I felt horrible about being a rebel. I wanted to be the good girl. Although being good seemed to be an awful lot like having no fun. And having no fun meant being bored. Endless loop. And there seemed to be an endless amount of time where I was meant to sit quietly while the grown-ups talked or played quietly with nothing to do and nobody my age to do it with but just behave so the grown-ups could talk and occasionally ask me how was school so I could smile and say “fine”. The rebel lay silent within.

Until the time came when I didn’t want to be good anymore. I didn’t want to be bad either. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be. We lived in a time where kids’ feelings didn’t matter much. You ate what was on your plate. You had to share the one phone in the house. Everybody else’s mother knew who you were and every adult had authority over you. I told my son once that I don’t think I learned how to lie until I was in my teens. There was no point. Everybody knew the truth anyway and it was stressful having to keep count of things for confession.

But that changed quickly once I got into high school. I’ve said before, my guidelines to my teens and boys was a antiquated Catholic guide to sin and my brother and my best friend telling all of us kids what sex was all about. But the thing is….nobody ever really tells you anything. You go in with the notion of “don’t do anything” and “everything is sinful” and that is what you have to work with. On the other hand, on one of my first high school dates, I was given a list from one to ten by my date and asked how far I had gotten. It was at that point I began to realize that there was a lot more to love than just heartache and sad songs. They wanted a score sheet. And your score determined if you were to be considered a prude or a slut. And this was important stuff. Nobody wanted to be either.

The thing is, on the one hand, you are told to do nothing. But nothing doesn’t make you very popular. And then you have an older brother who tells you what is “expected” of you. This is what guys expect. So as a young girl/woman, you learn that sex is something that has nothing to do with how you feel. It has everything to do with what is expected of you, what people know about you, what someone can say about you, what someone else wants, and what you can provide.

But nobody….not the church, not your school, not your parents, not the media who says you must be beautiful, not the guy you’re with who is not really thinking about your well being or happiness….nobody is there to tell you that it is okay for you to think or to feel or to like anything or even to feel good. Sex is something you give away to someone. It is something you do only to make others happy for doing or proud of you for not doing or to make grandkids. Your body is something that functions independently of you. It changes whether you are ready or not. You should not really acknowledge it or anything it does or feels because that is wrong.

And honestly, it was a really long time before I realized that I was supposed to expect something back. I mean, seriously…more than just….that was….nice. Because nobody really talked about women enjoying sex. Not really. Well, my friend did but I figured that was because she was perhaps slightly “nympho”, which I say lovingly but we still stuck people in categories. Another wonderful term for a woman. But true, right? Only “nymphos” actually like sex. Isn’t that what we all thought back in the day? Isn’t that still the joke today? And nobody wanted to have that label either. You could fool around but you were supposed to stay within the pre-set boundaries.

Now I’m not saying that I have just come out of the dark. I realize things have changed. But I am saying that we are still working on that old pat on the back for the son versus the whispers of “slut” behind the daughter’s back.

And why is this so important? Because one of the things that keeps us so ashamed of who we are and what we have done and what has been done to us is because we haven’t been told that we own our own bodies and we are allowed to enjoy sex without the fear of being excommunicated, beat up by insecure partners, killed by people trying to own and control us, maimed and disfigured so we don’t have any pleasure, feeling the need to have another person in your life in order to feel complete and whole, being afraid to say what we need or want, or slut-shamed and doubted when we have been violated.

That rebel inside of me was there when the priest told me to “get over it” and “just do it” and when he told me how shy the bishop was and how he got over it which seemed like a strange thing to say at the time and I swear I was two seconds away from telling him to ask the bishop to take care of him…..but I didn’t. Because that would have been disrespectful.

And what was it that he wanted? After all of the games and threats and angry outbursts? And why is it so damn hard to talk about? To actually say? It was not my fault. I am not the one who should be ashamed. It has taken me almost five years to say the words. He wanted a blow job. There, I said it. Lovely. Why was that so hard to say? Because he is a priest and you don’t say things like….I’m sorry father, but I will not be including literally sucking up to you in my “other duties as assigned”. It’s hard to say because for many people it is a trigger. It’s not just words. But words can be powerful and hold so many emotions.

It’s hard to say because sex is so personal. It is the loss of all boundaries. And it can feel loving, or it can feel like an obligation, or it can feel detrimental and destructive.

And there is the difference of choosing to give up boundaries for whatever reason, having boundaries removed without your consent, or feeling the need to relinquish boundaries, exposing the vulnerable self inside, upon demand or desperation.

But why does the actions of someone else make us feel so ashamed and afraid? Is it because we cannot determine the separation of boundaries because ours were taken from us?

I know that one survivor said that seeing a picture of her rapist priest awakened old feelings of the connection she felt they had shared. I don’t feel that personally when I see a picture of my old boss. I don’t feel any connection. What I do feel is fear and disgust. I know that I don’t want to see him in person because I don’t want that interaction. I feel strong right now and I’m just really beginning to be able to talk about the more difficult parts of what happened in a way that I don’t hate myself in doing so. I don’t want to backslide. It has nothing to do with him. He is insignificant. It is my feelings that are important.

Someone said to me….I doubt he read your book because he would be upset. I said that I believe he has read my book as I know that the bishop has a copy and he said that a copy would be put in his file and I know that the bishop would have discussed my coming forward with him so, yeah. What do I think he thinks? I think he’s thrilled. Someone wrote a book about him. Wow. That plus someone gave me one star with no review so that is a childish means of revenge. Narcissistic temper tantrum.

But enough about him. The abusers aren’t important, okay? I want to get back to being a bit of a rebel. Buried deep within my own need to please and to be a good girl, she still exists, this rebel. And I no longer believe that is a bad thing. I think perhaps my grandmother who came here to America alone at the age of 16 may have seen a spark in me that she acknowledged as a bit of strength.

And right now, that rebel wants to get angry and ask why it is that a victim has to be a virgin or has to be beaten or forcibly raped or in a state of immobility or dementia in order to be considered a legitimate victim of a sexual crime? Who decides these parameters? Why is it that a survivor can be seen as less credible if there are no visible signs of abuse? Why is it that a person is not free to explore their own feelings of sexuality without being labeled? Why do we allow the church to screw with our heads when it comes to living our lives? Why do they slap us down with feelings of righteousness and standards we can never meet? That they can never meet? Why do they send out a ripple of disdain throughout the congregation? Why are we still living in a society where men do not need to be responsible for their sexual actions but women are held responsible for what men do? Why does a woman have the responsibility but not the ownership or the power? Why do women have to defend their decisions and carry a symbol of purity or shame?

I know it is not just women who carry the shame of abuse. And I’m not going to say that it was any easier for me as a mom to talk to my sons about sex when they were teens. But I did give them condoms in their stockings at Christmas. When they were older teens. I know that may sound weird but we were just beginning to be able to treat AIDS at the end of the 80’s (I had worked in a hospital during that time) and my oldest son had a child with someone when he had just turned 16. I didn’t feel like I was saying “Go ahead”. It was more like I was saying “I love you, take care of yourself and others”.

But again, I’m still reminded of how people we worked with approached me to ask why Father Jade (again not his real name) was all of a sudden not going to a retreat and why something seemed a bit off with him. They were suspicious of me, but when asked if they had noticed anything unusual….the other priests said they had not noticed anything.

I think that in order for a change to begin, it really needs to begin within ourselves. As difficult as it may be, remember that if you had feelings for your abuser, it was because they showed you who you wanted to see and who they felt you needed and would respond to. That person never existed. And they never thought you were special in any way….spiritually or romantically…..and they don’t care what happened to you after you were discarded. So don’t be ashamed to admit that you believed they were good or that they cared.

Remember too that most narcissistic abusers pick intelligent, caring, attractive people. To be able to bring down someone who they see as actually better than themselves builds them up. So remember that they may have made you feel like you were worthless but, again, it is not their feelings that are important.

I’d love to see the day when women stop being labeled like they are going into egg cartons for purchase. And when women themselves don’t judge themselves or others as far as how worthy they are or how respected they should be.

But first of all, be proud of yourself. Don’t judge yourself. And don’t let anyone else judge you either. Be a bit of a rebel.

I’m having a bit of trouble with the survey this week….seems they’ve changed the format again so I have to figure that out. Maybe next week…..Take care all.

So instead of the survey, I will delight you with some trivia……this year so far, these are the top ten countries that visit this blog: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, China, and France.

Just My Imagination

My priest boss told me that he liked that I could not see anything but goodness in others. My ex-husband once told me that the reason our marriage had problems was because I was “too nice”.

I think it’s safe to say that trusting someone has gotten us into some rough times. Not just with the abuser. If boundaries are foreign to you, trying to erect them can feel exhausting.

My ex-husband used to go out almost every night. For some reason, I thought that if we were living together, I would see more of him. Things do not change after you get married. I never told him that he could not go out. I felt that if I had to tell him to stay home with me, that it wasn’t going to be very sincere if he was sitting on the couch sulking.

And it’s funny. In “allowing” him his freedom, I never asked myself how I felt. Neighbors asked me. Seriously, they did. They didn’t want to pry but told me that I should not be alone as much as I was.

But here’s the thing about feeling….all I knew was that I did not want to force someone to be with me. I did not acknowledge out loud to myself that asking for attention meant that I would feel that I was walking on eggshells. Although I never demanded that he stay home with me, I did bring up the fact that I felt unhappy. And that was a big step. I have no idea why but I felt at the time like I could not survive without him. I spent weekends with our kids without him. It was like something was taken from me. I could not function without the other half of me.

And because of that, there was emotional abuse. But I didn’t know that it was abuse. Sex with him was not loving. I literally remember him hopping out of bed, throwing on his clothes, calling someone, and heading out the door while I had not yet moved to put my feet back on the floor. Or when he came home after drinking and not caring if I was awake yet or not and he would start without me. I kind of felt like his ski poles that he would take out of the closet when he needed them. A thing.

I did not know at the time that he was a reflection of how I felt about myself and how I felt I deserved to be treated.

In fact, it wasn’t until last week that I had a light bulb moment. He had removed his wedding ring, he said, because he didn’t want to get it caught on anything at work. He said he had put it on his dresser but it was gone. I searched everywhere for that ring but I could never find it. I asked if he wanted to get another one. He refused.

It wasn’t until this past week that I thought about that again and I thought….I bet he never lost it in the apartment. I bet he didn’t take it off in the apartment. I was pregnant at the time and he was out with his friends a lot and drinking a lot. It’s not that I’m looking for proof or that it matters now but it just kind of hit me that maybe the reason we never found the ring is because he had taken it off and left it somewhere else.

It doesn’t matter anymore and he and I get along fine now and the fact that after we split up he got a tick where no man wants to get a tick….that helped. I wish no harm on anyone, but that kind of did it for me. Any dark thoughts about the past were released. I laughed….maybe a bit more than was polite… and just thought….”Karma”.

What I discovered over time with this relationship and others in my family and whatnot is that you can love someone and still protect yourself emotionally. And I think that discovering that was a major emotional growth for me. My ex and I share memories and our grown kids and grandkids and such, and there is a kind of love there, but where I once thought….I love him, he is the father of my children, I can make this work, I have a responsibility blah blah blah…..and even my father telling me that God says blah blah blah about the woman and I should not leave, etc. The fact is, I realize that just because we get along great and care about each other does not mean we should ever live together.

Some people you are forced to spend time with. I cannot be in the same room with my brother without having all kinds of uncomfortable feelings and not wanting to be there. But I love him. But love does not mean trying to save him from himself. Because sometimes when you try to help people, you get pulled down as well. And I think when you realize this, it is growth as well.

It has been my pattern in life to help or take care of people who will often take advantage of the fact that I don’t enforce boundaries to their own end. And then things get out of control and trying to enforce anything becomes ugly and….well, you know….I am so mean and abusive and whatnot. So the boundaries become invisible and my personal space no-existent. And instead of pushing outward, I internalize. Until it gets to the point where I begin to feel I need help to keep balanced inside because the boundaries are now being violated inside of me.

I have been here. I call it the 35% dilemma. You know what I mean. If you took a piece of paper and wrote down all of the negatives about the relationship, you would see some pretty bad stuff. But, there is always that 35 percent that we are afraid to lose. And Heaven forbid you hurt someone by asking for something for yourself.

My ex used to say that if I was unhappy, that I should not let the door hit me on the ass on the way out. And that used to work at one time.

Perhaps we have all been in a situation where we are afraid to lose someone. You know….I have to tell you…..if part of the 35% that is good about not letting go is because being with them means you are not alone…..well….

It’s tough. I know. And there are people who mean well whose advice does not help when you are searching for answers. It’s not easy to find strength when you’ve forgotten who you are and your self worth. When all you know is what you have been surrounded by.

I saw a show this week about the brain and about how we can drive home on auto pilot while thinking about other things. But if we were driving in another country where we had to focus because we needed to drive in an unfamiliar setting and possibly on the other side of the road, we would not be able to let our mind wander freely. Having to totally focus for a long time can be exhausting. So I am thinking that continuously trying to deal with mentally defending ourselves against attack or trying to make major emotional decisions or having on-going grief or PTSD being our focus is probably also exhausting.

I’ve been there. I’ve been where that 35% seems so very important and I’ve been where I can’t see clearly enough through and issue for it to make sense. I’ve been where logic and emotion collide and pull you all which ways.

The only thing that has helped me is to let go of having to decide. To let go of the fear and the guilt and the memories and the score card of who did more for whom. Silence the inner screams that tell you that you are not good enough, strong enough or whatever enough or too this or that. Ignore all of that completely.

Emotions can backfire when what you feel can be used against you by another person. Someone who is trying to control you or manipulate you knows what buttons to push.

And you believe it because you are saying it to yourself.

I was so used to being told that I couldn’t do things or that I didn’t do things right that I believed it when I was told that if I tried to go away on my own, I would get lost. This was before GPS. Or back when you had to print out the directions and things on the directions didn’t exist anymore or never did.

He offered to drive me there, drive home, and then drive to pick me up at the end of the weekend. And it seems thoughtful and most people would think that was thoughtful. But it’s so damn easy to accept help when you’re trying your best not to need it. And it keeps you locked into needing that 35% when the other 65% could be horrendous.

The only thing that I have found is to just jump. Just keep moving forward.

And once you begin to move, you keep going and you don’t listen to well-meaning friends who want to help but don’t understand really.

Another thing is when you are moving forward, do it one step at a time. When things look overwhelming, it’s like trying to walk through a sandstorm. Nothing is clear. If you let fear speak to you, it can stop you in your tracks. If you let guilt speak to you, it can make you get caught up in endless loops of questions. Both will leave you lost in the storm and that can rob you of years of your life.

It took me years of anguish and all of the back and forth and feeling at times that I was trying to climb up a mountain mid-winter barefoot and I lived life with the brakes on so afraid to finally let go…..and when it finally happened and I got my divorce papers in the mail…the day went on as usual. And I felt like….all of that for what? Why did I try so hard?

Someone asked me this week how I can up with a blog every week. I have so much stuff in my head to get out that sometimes once a week doesn’t feel like enough.

I heard someone say….when someone smiled at me, I was good. A thousand people could smile at me and I would be a good person. But it only took a frown from one person for me to feel like I was bad again. That was good insight.

See, I never know where I am going to go with the blog as I write. It is just like I have ping pong balls stuck to me with Velcro and until I peel them off, they aren’t going to go anywhere.

And going back to the not pleasing everyone….I do read comments before they get posted. And I do edit comments for anything offensive, extremely personal, or any comment that seems to be targeting any individual in particular or asking people to take sides. That is playground bullying 101 and we don’t do that here.

Remember that we are all recovering from trauma. None of us are perfect. We are just doing our best to help each other. Leaders volunteer and give up their free time because they care. Doesn’t mean they are right all the time. Does mean if you have an issue with them, you don’t post it publicly. Please keep your differences private unless something is hurtful and needs to be reported. Even then, this is not the place to publicly draw sides.

Thanks and have a great week. Remember to take the poll.

What’s Going On?

Okay, I will say this and then we will move on. Bill Cosby. Yes, that. I want to say that I never met Bill Cosby and yet just seeing what went on last week where he was let out of jail on a technicality, and we saw that power and means can overthrow justice…it affected me. I had nightmares for two nights straight just reading about him. And I mean nightmares. One about my own predator and the other was so clear I don’t know where it came from.

In the dream, I was a young girl about the age of 13. Wanting to become a women and to look pretty but being afraid to do so because I feared it would bring me unwanted attention. That’s all I will say because it involved family and people I needed and violence and wanting to run away. And blood.

I’m not sure where it came from but I’m sure the dream was triggered by the Cosby release. So I can’t even begin to imagine how his actual victims feel.

All I will say, because it is terribly frustrating to see justice backslide, is that he was called out. His nefarious deeds were brought into the light. He will never be the same again. People will never see him the same way. And so, it was a small victory in a world where small victories come after great pain and struggle. But it was a victory at one point, never the less. Enough about that.

On a more positive note, after I brought forward some positive thoughts about myself last week, more began to follow. The reason I believe this happened, is because I lit up that roadway in my brain. My brain saw that I was seeking research on good things and so it gave me more. Our brains don’t ask questions. They give what they are asked to give without filtering.

That’s why it is important to do this….everyone…do this. This next week, I want everyone to write at least one thing each day that is good about you. Just do it. Get your brain running on a program to show you good things about yourself.

Why is it important? Well, for one thing, your body responds to what your brain is processing. Thoughts like “I hate myself and I want to die” send out signals that make your body sick. But telling yourself “You’ve got this” on your first day of a new job will get your brain working to pull up long forgotten files from the past where you did a good job.

I will tell you what is usually in the forefront of my mind. 1. I gained those two pounds back because I ate those French fries. 2. I wonder if eating this will raise my blood sugar. 3. I’m not in control of anything. 4. What did she mean by that? 5. It’s always something. 6. I’m saving those pants for when I lose weight. 7. I feel like I never get enough done. 8. I should be doing something productive. 9. I’m afraid. 10. I’m sad.

Okay, I know. Sounds like life, right? But if you were going to program a computer to do something, and you gave it those instructions, it would end up like the elevator in the book “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe”. In this science fiction book in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy, the elevators had issues. They had issues because they were existential elevators. They didn’t want to be told where to go. They wanted to take part in the decision.

Being elevators who would be considered successful if they went with the flow and didn’t question life, they instead became too inquisitive with their passengers and too dissatisfied with the boredom they had to put up with. Most of the elevators, therefore, sat depressed and unmoving, in the basement, refusing to move.

How far am I going to get from my own basement with thoughts that bring me down? These thoughts I listed above are really thoughts I get distracted with. I mean, how can I go on when I can’t fit into the new pants because I ate French fries that I am still beating myself up about and so there you go…..I am one weak, undisciplined delusional person who may as well just give up because it’s not getting any better from here.

Do you see why some loving self talk is important? It is. And the more you do it, the more good thoughts come your way.

For instance, many years ago, it only took me one glass of wine to get up in front of a packed bar on open mic night and read my poetry. I had met up with a doctor from work who considered himself a poet, and he told me that I really needed to work on my stuff, and that I wasn’t opening up to the real me….but still. I did it. Ironically, my poem was about trusting someone and being led blindfolded into the woods and left there. It was metaphoric for basically being gaslighted.

Of course, the doctor, who wrote that he strutted like a samurai into his kitchen in the morning knew good writing when he saw it. Hey, he wrote that, not me.

How many times in our lives do we get interviewed for jobs and are asked “What is your greatest strength?” Only to sit there with a blank mind trying to think of a line to come up with that will impress someone. “Tell me about yourself”. Huh? Um. I live in a house and I have kids and two dogs….that is not who you are.

Do we really know who we are?

I mean, we can do it the other way and say….I love to bake but I’m terrible at following recipes and one time I almost killed my friend because instead of using liquid coffee in a cookie mix, I used the grounds. Did I mention my friend has heart issues?

If you find a balance, you won’t feel like a failure. You will be able to laugh at yourself.

Watch what you say to yourself.

I also read this week about the importance of security in the first year of life. I had read something before, but there is something people suffer from called “Cold Mother Syndrome” where especially back in the day, it was felt that comforting a baby could spoil them. I remember my mom telling me that children just got fussy now and then and to let them be…..don’t pick them up. Let them self soothe. It didn’t feel right to let my son cry, but you figure that mom knows what she is talking about.

Now they are saying that babies who don’t get the love and comfort they seek when they are small can have psychological issues later on. Love and comfort means survival for babies. When we think we see a baby self soothing, they may be feeling that their world is in peril and their life is in jeopardy.

And long term effects? Will have to read more about this to see.

I also read that they are narrowing down physical traits of pedophiles. They have found some common traits and physical defects that are thought to happen during the second trimester of pregnancy due to alcohol intake or lack of good nutrition, causing those babies to be born with a predisposition for pedophilia. That is interesting as well.

Someone sent me an article about “Cognitive Empathy” and how abusers use that to gain control over you.

Picture yourself on a witness stand at a trial. A lawyer approaches you. They acknowledge your pain and they want to make you feel comfortable. They try to get into your head. They try to see things from your point of view. But unlike a good friend who will use empathy to comfort you, someone who uses cognitive empathy does so not because they care about you, but because they want to learn what buttons they can push to get a reaction. Or to harm you. Or to win their case. Or to lead a cult.

Interesting. Remember that abusers don’t care about your feelings unless it benefits them in some way.

Some things that have helped people this week are support groups such as Survivors of Incest, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Co-Dependent support groups, EMDR which is a non-drug treatment for depression and PTSD and journaling.

That is all for now. Remember to do as I say, not as I do. Take care of yourself. Speak kindly to yourself. Exercise. Get your rest. Eat some healthy stuff. And let go. Clear your mind. Breathe. Meditate. Read. Smile. Laugh. Love.

Also we have hit 100 postings here on this blog site. Again….I always welcome guest bloggers…