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.

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…

Oh Daddy

Happy Father’s Day to all. I know that this day means something different to everyone. My dad is deceased. I remember after my dad passed away and I was living alone next to an abandoned house and I had to call the police one night because someone was inside of the house next door.

I felt very vulnerable and I remember thinking that my dad was no longer around to protect me. And then I remember thinking that he couldn’t have protected me anyway as he had been sick and wasting away for the past year and using a walker to get around and couldn’t drive anywhere on his own.

But none of that mattered. Dad still cared very loudly over the phone. And he was still in control of a lot of things. And to me, he would always be the dad you didn’t want to get angry and have to come up the stairs at night if you didn’t quiet down and go to sleep.

And he was the father who came and got me from a party halfway across town when I missed my ride somehow….most likely having a serious dramatic issue with someone that warranted further private discussion in the bathroom….

He was there and he fixed stuff. That’s what he did. He had no idea how to have a relationship with a teenaged daughter but he did try to teach me how to golf at one point, saying I showed great promise.

He was a royal pain in the ass but I wasn’t easy either and neither was my brother….or my mom. So, anyway, I miss him.

You know, I sort of have an idea how my parents affected my future relationships in life. I do get it. Patterns. Moods. Personalities. Kids don’t know their parents are human really. Any kind of drift from perfection is not seen as being human but rather something we as kids caused.

I don’t think those we love are ever truly gone. I think their words live on inside of us forever. Good or bad.

But there was one influence from my father that I was confronted with that made me balk. That was when my therapist, right after my abuse from the priest who tried to threaten and manipulate me into having sex with him, asked me what was it about my obsession with priests. And was I searching for a father figure.

That kind of makes me want to throw up a little.

But was there a grain of truth to that that even the therapist was overlooking?

The whole sex with the priest thing…..even if you take away the coercion part and the narcissistic tantrums and the games and everything…..well, what made it different with him than with any other boss who may have tried to pull this?

I told a friend of mine that the whole thing felt, for lack of a better word, “icky”. In fact, “icky” pretty much is a good description of the whole ordeal.

Because what you associate with God and goodness and purity and safety….and no matter what you want to keep telling yourself that God is involved in this…He must be after all, right…..gets twisted into something more than ugly and more than what ugly would be with any other boss.

And as the feeling of “ick” coats the inside of your soul with sliminess, what you realize later on is that….yes….this was like rape but also, this was like incest.

At our SNAP meeting the other night, we were discussing this difference. Although there is an imbalance of power and I agree that a spiritual leader should not also be a sexual partner, there is also a vast difference between a lonely priest looking for companionship and love and a smug control freak using his position as a shield of innocence and turning the blame on his victim while using them like a coffee maker and tossing them out when done with them.

That is evil. And it is evil disguising themselves as purity. And that is dangerous.

Priests who are truly looking for love and companionship oftentimes will leave their vocation. Many have.

I don’t know if psychologically I saw this priest as a father figure. I don’t think so really. But like I said, I don’t know what is going on inside my subconscious mind. I only know that my dad never believed that priests should be called “father” as only God is the father. And when I think about it, the whole matter did feel somewhat incestuous.

And of course, celibacy was only imposed for the financial benefit of the church. And they really don’t like having to acknowledge children of priests, of which there are many. And mothers who had their children taken away.

There is an evil being allowed to grow under a cloak of goodness. It is hiding behind all of the tapestries and gold and incense. It is hiding around the corner from pamphlets and hymns and bake sales and bibles.

It has nothing to do with good old boys having a weak moment and needing to repent. It has nothing to do with the modesty of a woman’s hemline or about what any church law says about the age of consent.

It has to do with Narcissistic and emotionally unstable people being drawn to an occupation where they have access to children and vulnerable people. And when I say vulnerable people, I am talking about every person who feels the need for forgiveness or who is feeling lost and afraid or who need prayers badly for a sick child….or anyone crawling out of the darkness in search of God’s light and guidance.

And what they are met with feels welcoming and kind. And they feel a warmth and an acceptance. And they open themselves up to this person of God that they trust with all of their heart and soul.

But once they feel bonded and close to this Godlike human, they are betrayed and destroyed by having all of their weaknesses and guilts and self-hatred turned against them. Looking for salvation, they will be led to destruction. By the sick individual who has been allowed to be protected so they can go on to destroy more souls. Not in the name of God. In the name of money and wealth and power.

And instead of looking into the actual problem, people generally find it easier to blame the victim. Easier to get rid of a tenant who is complaining about living conditions than it is to tear down the apartment building itself. The building still stands and nobody is the wiser.

So though I don’t really feel like the priest was anything like a father figure to me, although the whole deal did smack of incest. For one I think the therapist was trying to pull a Freudian connection. Also I think that may be because we are taught that priests are asexual and holy and we don’t swear around them or treat them as we would a friend or neighbor. There is a reverence and respect and a fear of offending a priest. We go into our holy Catholic (or whatever) mode.

Basically we are raised to see these people as if they were a member of the family. We grow up learning that there is a time and a place for things. When we are in a professional setting, we act accordingly.

When we go to see a doctor, even if we have never met them before, we may be expected to disrobe for them. And we feel safe doing so because there are assumed boundaries in place. And if that doctor crossed those boundaries and acted inappropriately, he or she would most likely lose their license.

But not so with priests. If you say a priest has acted inappropriately, you are the one interrogated and made to feel like an opportunist.

My abuser told me that I would not be able to pay for my new car if he was not happy. It was a car and a job. It was traumatic. But what if it was someone who was not trying to pay for a car? What if next time it is someone who is trying to feed their child? For my child, I would put them first and do what I needed to do to keep my job. And this is exactly the kind of vulnerability they look for. Someone who is good and caring. Leverage to use against someone.

This subject matter can get very dark and depressing. And I hate to acknowledge or give any power to these people. I hope that in talking about these things, I can help to teach or to help victims understand they are not alone.

But I’d like to close with something a bit lighter. A funny story about my mom.

One night last week I was talking to my mom, an elderly woman who is still active and for the most part, able to take care of herself.

Mom tells me she has “everyday” toilet paper and “luxury” toilet paper. Remember, she grew up in the depression. She felt like opening her luxury toilet paper one day….maybe to “enjoy the go”. Anyway, the roll of toilet paper popped out of her hand and ended up in the toilet bowl.

I would have thrown it out at that point. Not my mom. She took the wet roll and put it in the microwave to dry it out. After a minute or so, she removed the roll and it was a bit dryer and very soft.

She was excited at her success and cleverness so she decided if a little time in the microwave was good….more time in the microwave would be even better.

So she popped the roll back into the microwave, hit some button, and continued on with probably five other things. When she turned to check on the toilet paper in the microwave, she noticed it had turned a shade of brown and was now emitting smoke.

At this point, I would have tossed it into the sink. Not my mom. She didn’t want the kitchen to smell like smoke. She grabbed the smoking roll and put it in the window on the porch so the smoke would go outside.

Again leaving the scene of the crime, she goes back into the kitchen. After a minute or two, she goes back to check on the toilet paper, which is now sitting on the window ledge of the porch…..in flames.

Luckily the house did not burn down and my mom is okay. I forgot to ask her what she finally ended up doing with the toilet paper that she had tried to save.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Have a great week, everyone.

Time in a Bottle

This past week, Pope Francis discussed harsher penalties for those priests and lay persons who groom and use pornography in order to sexually abuse children. He also expanded upon this to include those who abuse vulnerable adults. However, the term “vulnerable adult” has always tended to mean one who is physically or mentally incapable of resisting or giving consent due to disabilities. This has expanded from a basic definition of one who lacks any sort of reason.

The pope is also putting more pressure on bishops who hear about or discover abuse…..mainly to avoid criminal charges of those found guilty and to keep punishment within church walls. The recent scandal with Archbishop McCarrick has given incentive to this end.

The case with McCarrick brought to light coercive control and sexual abuse of seminarians. Due to this case and to growing unrest around the globe, Cardinal O’Malley insisted that the definition of the vulnerable adult be broadened to include those in a situation of power imbalance, where there has been abuse of those under someone’s authority, even if both of those individuals are adults.

Reactions to these potential changes are mixed. Some hail this as a move in the right direction. Others see it as nothing more than the church continuing to call the shots and an attempt to maintain cover-ups. I see it as both.

One change I did see after I spoke with the bishop is that the priest who abused me was moved from his own apartment to sharing a rectory with the bishop. While this may seem like a good thing, the rectory is adjacent to a grade school. And as we know….a predator is a predator. Prey is prey.

On another note, to anyone who was participating in the meeting yesterday, please know that we were cut off because of a sudden loss of power in the area.

We did discuss the use of the double entendre that predator priests seem to like to use. And the embarrassment it causes when a simple discussion turns awkward and sexual. And then the denial that follows. And in one case, someone was directed to forgive the perpetrator, but again, that just puts you up front and center and vulnerable when someone has no incentive to change their behavior.

Recommended book this week is “The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships” by Carnes and Phillips.

Someone this week said that they always know what is going on in my life because of my blog.

Well, this past weekend, I had one of those moments you want to freeze and hold on to. It was my grandson’s second birthday and we celebrated by bringing together a blended and extended family.

The party was held at my mother’s house and in attendance were my sons and my “adopted son”, and my grandson of course and his mom and her friend and my brother stopped by and the baby’s other grandmother….and my ex-husband and his girlfriend.

I told someone how nice it was to be able to share this birthday with my ex and to get along with him and his girlfriend and to have somewhat of a Kumbaya moment in time. It was like coming full circle. And it did not come without a price. Which made it all the more sweeter. I think some people will be able to relate.

I thought about what had to happen to make this moment possible. Choices and chance.

My mom was not supposed to make it past 1995. She is not supposed to be here. My brother is a walking miracle. I can barely remember a time when he wasn’t abusing his body.

My ex has been through a number of heart procedures but mainly, he is my ex and I have found that the further I am from him, the better we get along. I’m not trying to be funny. My mom actually said the other day what a nice guy he is. And she was “there” and knew how it was when I was with him. I never shared touching moments with him and our kids. He felt they were my responsibility and that they were basically nuisances that cost money. They both left home within a week or so of each other because they could not live with him and our life together began to crumble not long afterward.

He would threaten and push me to the point where he would leave before he would back down, and then go to his family or his friends and tell them how I threw him out and I’d get angry phone calls and people thinking I was horrible.

But the other day, we shared our grandson’s birthday and his girlfriend joked with me that if she ever tried to quit smoking while living with him, she’d have to kill him and it was funny and I could laugh at it because it wasn’t my problem anymore. And we were able to joke about how he got angry with me because my labor was taking too long and he hadn’t had anything to eat. But now he is a mellow guy who gardens and who while not having any interaction with his grandson, did buy him stuff and show up. And I think we are friends. And that was nice because at one time it wasn’t.

And my grandson? He was born to my son who didn’t want children because he was afraid he would not be a good father, and to a woman who had multiple miscarriages in the past with her ex-husband.

I knew her long before my son met her. She had been my supervisor and had trained me at the Suicide Hotline where I had volunteered. And although there are issues at times between us, and between her and my son, the fact that they came together brought my grandson into the world.

This was a rag-tag mishmash of people coming together for a joyous occasion. I can’t think of one person among all of us that I would consider “normal”. Not when the babysitter/friend compared being a baby and having all your needs met to being drunk. Huh? Only my mother cared what happened to me if I was drunk and that only happened when I was a teenager. I’ve been on my own since then.

But my point is, for one moment in time, things were perfect. For one moment. I guess that’s all we can ever count on. I mean, the next day my brother was hitting my mother up for money again, and everyone went back to keeping their issues hidden in their own homes. So the moment had passed. I guess that’s how it goes. Perfect pieces of happiness found within the rubble. Saving time in a bottle.

Have a good week. Find your bit of happiness. Be well.

Hot and Cold

The first thing I want to share this week is that we found out that my two year old grandson is autistic.

This is my youngest son’s only child and the news comes only two months after his best friend lost his 12 year old autistic son when he passed away in his sleep. I was over there the other night for the first time since we heard the news and you know how hard it sometimes is to have a toddler….now they have an autistic toddler….and they have a lot of tension already in their relationship as my son and the baby’s mom have discussed breaking up and it’s not a great situation so if anyone has any experience or knowledge they can share about the care of Autistic children, I’d appreciate it.

Another thing I ran across this week is from the Minnesota Supreme Court. They have ruled that a woman was not raped because she was voluntarily drunk when she met her attacker. This was a ruling released last Wednesday. To meet the definition of rape, according to a unanimous decision, the alcohol has to be administered to the person without that person’s agreement. Therefore, the alleged rapist cannot be charged with a felony because mental incapacitation is only relevant if a person got drunk involuntarily.

Yes, there are many cases of people being drugged without their knowledge, but this ruling is really walking a tight line. Especially since there are so many instances of rape on college campuses. At what point do you cross the line from a voluntary case of liquor reducing inhibitions to taking advantage of someone who is passed out or who is too inebriated to make a rational decision?

Young people especially, in my experience, are more likely to over-drink and not know when to stop. I know they exist, but you don’t hear as much about people in their 50’s getting together for the sole purpose of getting wasted every weekend. Younger people are also less likely to think anything bad is going to happen to them.

I’m using younger people as an example because I was young and stupid once. I remember when drinking meant drinking until you passed out or got sick. Takes awhile for you to learn how much fun that is not and that you can drink “politely”.

Of course, age doesn’t matter. Ruling that someone asked for it because they got drunk willingly is like saying a prostitute cannot be raped because they have sex for a living or that a person cannot be raped by their spouse because they are married. Each case is different and you can’t make a general ruling such as this court did. That is so damaging.

I also had the honor this week of reading a bit of a book that was written by a survivor before it will be published. It is excellent and when it is published, I will say more about it. Recommended book this week is, “Moral Injury and Beyond” by Renos Papadopoulos.

I also talked with someone for a long time about a long term relationship they have had and how it has impacted their life. It made me think more about trauma bonding.

When you think about why someone stays with a person who abuses them and why they don’t press charges against them, or why a person held hostage may bond with their captor, it may make you wonder what is wrong with that person.

I remember again years ago being in a bar with my friend when her abusive boyfriend who would beat her, walked in and gave us flowers and bought us all drinks. I left them there together and went home without taking the flower or drink the drink he’d bought me. My mom told me I had been rude to not drink the drink he had bought for me. I said I didn’t care.

It’s upsetting to see someone you love seduced back into Hell. It’s horrible to feel helpless. To see what is going on and to not be able to break that bond.

And yet, I’ve been there myself. I didn’t see it as clearly because sometimes I think it’s harder to see when there is no physical violence involved.

In trying to understand more about trauma bonding, I was reading a bit about the game of ping pong that gets people hooked. There are so many parts of this puzzle, of course, like past history and such, but I think it is put best by the person who said to me….”If you went on a first date with someone, and they punched you in the face, you would not go on a second date”. Most likely not.

But if you went out with a person and they asked you all about yourself and exuded love and a sense that you were the “bees knees”, and you developed a loving connection with that person, there would be a second date. And as each date progressed pleasantly, you would probably decided that this is a good person. You might imagine yourself having a future with this person. You begin to fill in the blanks with fantasy. This is probably normal stuff that people go through. Until it’s not.

Trauma bonding comes from hitting the highs of love and good feelings and happy endorphins having picnics and toasting marshmallows in your brain and then having those feelings removed suddenly. For whatever reason.

A fist to the head. A phone call that never comes. Being ignored. Having the person you love suddenly turn cold and reject you in some way. Boldly lying. Cheating. Stealing. Whatever it is, the behavior does not match the Heaven that once was your world.

I’m not talking about a normal healthy relationship here. I’m talking about being used by a narcissistic abuser. I’m talking about the deliberate love-bombing and withholding of love as reward and punishment that goes along with this relationship.

You feel hurt. Damaged. Devastated. But in your head, when the cold bucket of water hits the campfire and the endorphins are left with soggy marshmallows, they cry out for more dry firewood and a new bag of marshmallows while you’re at it. And they search for it in the last place where they got it. From the source that you are sure is really a great person.

So when the flowers and the apologies arrive, it is a relief for all. And it feels so good to once again feel the warmth of the fire that like being hooked on a drug, you begin a cycle of reward and withdrawal.

You would think common sense would prevail. It’s easy to judge from the outside. But rewards differ from person to person. Each person is drawn in by what they need. And each abuser knows how to give what is needed. And they also know what their victim fears losing. That is one of the things that gives the abuser their power.

It has been said that people gravitate towards pleasure but try to avoid pain. And of those two, the avoidance of pain is the biggest motivator.

So it would seem that losing the trauma bond is perceived as more painful than to actually continue within its grasp. Is that because the trauma bond destroys the sense of self and the person fears they cannot depend upon themselves alone?

In my first job interview after I was fired from the diocese, I was given the job and they told me that I was chosen out of a room full of other applicants. Yet, my first day on the job, as I drove to the office, I had to keep telling myself that I would be fine and that I knew what I was doing. I know that I was still suffering from PTSD.

You’re fired. You can’t be here. No, wait, you quit, remember? Yes, that’s what happened, we agreed you quit. Hurry up and fill out the paperwork for unemployment and start looking for work. I had no confidence. I was afraid of not doing things right. I’d never been fired before….and then told I left because I wanted to. So I didn’t know what to say to my new employers.

And yet, I felt the need to talk to him. Still. I was an emotional mess because of him but I hadn’t realized that yet. I thought he could provide me with answers. I didn’t understand how I could be discarded and replaced so easily. It hurt. I still had so much to learn. The first thing I learned was that I had already talked to him and had never gotten a straight answer. So many people need for the abuser to understand their pain. They go back to thinking about the love they were shown and think that would make a difference.

But it wouldn’t make any difference. The Narc has a heart of ice. That’s another hard lesson to learn after the discard.

It’s hard to judge someone else’s progress as well. My son will tell me he knows what is happening in his relationship. And then he will step right into the mix knowingly. I’ve realized that I can be here for him but I have to let go of trying to save him.

The survivor I spoke with at length told me that they had been in a long term relationship with someone who was potentially dangerous. But they told me things had changed because they themselves had changed. So the other person was no longer in charge. They felt they had more power. So they don’t feel the need to let go. Perhaps that is so. They said at one time they didn’t care how badly they were treated as long as they had this person in their life. They feel they have grown since then.

Hopefully we all grow from our pain. Before I got divorced, I used to write page after page of emails to my ex-husband, practically begging him to budge slightly. What I began to realize was that you can write an entire book using the same words over and over again. The order the words are in don’t change a thing when the person is not listening. And that’s all I had been doing. Same thing over and over expecting different results. So lost in the forest I could not see the trees.

Insanity. Basically we are all broken to some extent.

I don’t know what makes someone more susceptible to trauma bonding. What makes one person see the red flags and another person just see the good in someone and get sucked in? I do know that it is an unhealthy bond and one that can be incredibly painful to break. You can come out the other end broken.

Are we searching for the love we feel we weren’t given? Are we so used to drama that we don’t know what life is like without it? Are we so desperate to feel something that we will become dependent on someone else doling out the drug? To merely end up in a state of existence suffering the pain of withdrawal when it is not available?

Have we learned anything at all?

Yes, I think we have learned something very important. And that is that it is not the abuser or the abuse that made us strong. We were and are strong already.

We survived.

Mama Mia

Sometimes I hate what I do.

I mean, I like the people but I hate the subject matter.

This past week, I went to a political rally outside the capital building aimed at the passage of a bill to assist those Abused as Adults. It was an emotional gathering. I was the only SNAP person there, and it was kinda funny because I introduced myself to one of the speakers and she said, “I know who you are. I’m on your mailing list.”

So that night, I was talking to my mom on the phone and when she asked me what I did that day, against my better judgement, I told her. She was very concerned that someone there knew who I was. Because as she said, in her day, these things just happened and nobody talked about them.

And once again, she pointed out that because I was not raped, I was not really abused. This is a reminder that we are just beginning to enlighten people and change the view society holds on what abuse is. And trying to change a long-held belief is not always possible.

And although I knew that it was best to let it go, it made me feel so incredibly alone and it made me doubt myself. I mean, there is always the emotional side to everything. That side that says “don’t make waves”, “pretend you don’t see anything”, “just be a good girl, not a rebel”.

But there are two sides to this coin. I don’t want to upset my mom. And the child inside wants to make her happy. But there also comes a time in our lives when we realize that in some sense we are alone and that our thoughts and decisions may come at a price. They may separate us from the pack. It’s a vulnerable feeling but the truth can sometimes be a lonely thing.

There’s that thing about abuse, you see. It can’t always be seen. It’s not about how hard you fought or how many bruises you have. Sometimes it is. But the abuse of power does not always come with a fist at the other end.

Besides opening my eyes to what goes on behind the veil and what the church doesn’t want you to know, my experience with the priest taught me so many things about myself and my own ongoing struggle to search for a sense of balance and my attempt at staying afloat in my life.

And my initial beliefs that I should not make waves, pretend I didn’t see what was happening and to try to be invisible and to please everyone and not speak up….those beliefs weren’t working for me anymore.

But I sit here, ready to burst, because I don’t know how to fix things.

Except to talk about them. Acknowledge them. You, you there reading this….you are vulnerable. I know you don’t believe me. You are too smart. Too worldly. Too street-wise. You’ve got things under control.

It’s there. The invisible cloak that envelopes us with a false sense of security. We don’t see it but we can feel it. Something is off.

At our meeting tonight, I shared that one of the reasons I wasn’t able to see what was happening with the priest was my own distrust in my gut feelings and judgement. I tend to tell myself that I should not feel anything unpleasant. And if I do, it is not because of someone else, but because of my own shortcomings. I “should” always feel calm and pleasant. I “should” always feel in control.

So if someone is being a total ass or crossing over my boundaries….and what are boundaries…..I am the one who tries to fix and make pleasant and not let anything get out of control. It’s my go-to move. Narcissists love it.

And we learn this stuff and we continue to teach this stuff. Don’t speak. Don’t show emotion. You don’t get to have any emotions. You are responsible for others’ behavior. So stuff it down any way you can.

We also talked a little bit tonight about how evil can disguise itself as good. I went back to the cat story my priest told me and everyone. What a good man. So patient. He just sat and watched the feral cat every day for months. Little by little he drew her in and got her to trust him. Until the day came when she stepped foot into his apartment and the door slammed behind her. Trapping her. Well, that was the version I got. Other people just got that he was patient and kind to animals. I got the evil version. Come to my place and my cat will kill you.

But what gets me most about non-physical violence is that people will call these predators brilliant. They know the play book. There are actually books that discuss their secret codes. They have the advantage. They leave their victims feeling the need to forgive them and to turn the other cheek. Survivors struggle with this concept alone for years.

What gets me is that they can actually break people to the point where someone will feel they have no choice but to degrade themselves in the hope that the torture will stop. But instead it just intensifies. The bar gets raised higher while the victim’s self esteem plummets and their depression and desire for self harm increases. Because I only knew one priest. And he had other victims. And probably still does. He is out there deliberately destroying people. And he is only one of many.

Sometimes I do really hate what I do. I hate it. It was bad enough to live through it. And sometimes, truthfully, it gets to be too much sometimes. Sometimes it feels like there is too much evil and too little we can do about it.

But you know what? There’s also a lot of concrete in this world. And dandelions push their way through. They do what seems to be impossible because they are resilient. Be the dandelion.

Have a good week….don’t forget to take the poll.

Brian Toale11:59 AM (5 hours ago)
to Brian

Hello all –

We’ve picked up a bunch of new sponsors on the ASA and really want to continue that momentum into the final couple of weeks of session. Please follow @SafeHorizon and @JessSchafroth on twitter. Many coalition members also frequently post about the ASA. Please also follow @Alisonturkos @agrenell @MHoechstetter @ModelAllianceNY @Michael Polenberg @NYSPACL

We need to amplify the ASA as much as possible and continue to push for additional co-sponsors and a floor vote.

The Daily News editorialized in favor of the ASA today.
https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-what-survivors-deserve-20210524-3zdkxz644jdptip55blbiguedm-story.html

We still need survivor testimonials; one-to-two page stories to share with members. This is the NUMBER ONE thing we’ve been asked for and we don’t have very many to share. Please send asap so we can distribute!!! We can share with name or without names. These stories are so important, and that personalization is what is so difficult about doing this advocacy remotely. Members need something tangible. The CVA was about policy and it was also about Bridie and Tom and Amelia and Brian, etc. Let us help tell your story and the story of your clients.

Thank you so much!!!! We have a lot of momentum with us. Let’s kick it up even more for the final few weeks.  

Jessica Schafroth

Vice President

The Circle Game

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all. I am very fortunate to have my mom still around and one of my sons dropped off flowers and I heard from my other two as well. I kind of adopted an adult relative so I consider him a son too as he has no other family. I even heard from my ex-husband which I thought was nice and what I think all fathers of children should do for those children’s mothers….as it shows respect. In a perfect world, anyway. I wonder what he wants….

You know, we have survived the abuse of a trusted religious leader and the fallout abuse from those who helped with the coverup of the crime. I say “survived” meaning if you are reading this, you are alive. So what now?

Who comes into your inner circle on a daily basis? So many people who have been abused by clergy have known abuse their whole lives. Some go on to become abusers themselves. Others never learn how to survive in this world. We are all broken in some way.

As I said last time, we tend to not see people as they are but as we are. As we try to get along with others and understand who they are and what we have in common, we may make assumptions to streamline the process. First impressions. We see someone through our own colored glasses.

Sometimes we may assume that we have something in common with a person because we have gone through similar experiences or because we like the same things but then find that is where the similarity ends.

Within my own family there are stark differences. If you are an artist who grows up in a family that values money and ambition over everything else, you may end up not valuing yourself for who you are or downplaying the importance of what you enjoy. Or you may find that trying to talk to a family member is like talking to someone from another planet. There is just no common ground for understanding each other and you see things in totally different ways.

You may think that as survivors, we all share the same mindset. In truth, some of us have healed more than others. Our religious views, though perhaps similar, can greatly affect our healing process. Our different upbringing and past experiences may be different as well.

Some people turn to mood altering substances. That too, can affect healing. I once read that if someone uses a mood altering substance to get them through a tough time, that they never really process those emotions and they get stuck. I don’t know. I have lived on the outside of that issue. Or should I say the perimeter.

And living on the perimeter tends to make you feel angry and resentful. And you stop trying to find common ground.

But when you are working with a survivor who has substance abuse issues, you have to let your own past experience go and be non-judgmental. And you need to try to relate. That’s easier to do when you are not personally involved with a person.

The reason I bring that up is because we all have sub-sections in our lives. Areas that don’t match others. And when we can’t relate to someone else’s struggle, we can sometimes become judgmental. We as survivors can relate to being judged and found morally bankrupt by others.

It’s not always easy to accept someone else’s imperfections and not reject the entire person. And it’s not always easy to understand something we have not been through.

But every once in awhile the lines get crossed and we can see. Just like being on the receiving end of abuse from the priest and the system in place for coverup at the diocese allowed me to see the corruption within the priesthood, something that once happened to my younger son allowed me a glimpse into how I live in a world of white privilege.

When my son was a teenager, he was hanging out with a group of his friends from high school and he asked one of them who had a car to take him to his job at Wendy’s so he could pick up his paycheck. Of the probably five guys in the car, my son was the only white kid.

The Wendy’s where my son worked was located outside of the main city limits. So….different police unit. A police unit that obviously found a car full of black teenage guys pulling into a Wendy’s parking lot suspicious for some reason.

As my son’s friend parked the car, they all saw a police car had pulled in behind them. These guys were not just about keeping an eye on things. They had their guns drawn. At my son and his friends.

At my son and his friends.

At MY SON.

They were told to get out of the car and asked what their business was. In a Wendy’s parking lot. Seriously.

How easy it would be to say this was somebody else’s problem had my son not had a gun pointed at him. Teenagers. Mouthy. Stupid. Teenage boys. This could have gone so very wrong. I imagine they must have been terrified. I didn’t hear about this until years later.

That’s scary stuff. And that’s why when we find we can’t relate to someone who doesn’t entirely “fit” into our circle for one reason or another because we don’t have the same issues, it’s important to respect their struggle.

We can’t like everyone. We don’t have to even. But when it comes to SNAP groups and life in general, even if we can’t relate or if we can’t find anything in common or if you feel someone causes their own problems or you wouldn’t want to be someone’s friend, everyone has a backstory and everyone faces their own heartaches and challenges.

I know that acceptance is kind of confusing when we are trying to set up boundaries. And I’m not suggesting a blanket “love everyone” mindset. You don’t have to give a second thought to anyone who treats you with disrespect. But I am suggesting that rarely is something totally somebody else’s problem. We all live in this world and we are all connected in some way.

Put up your boundaries for people and things that would harm you. But keep your mind open to people and things who seem different from yourself as you may have more in common than you think.

Diamonds and Rust

I have heard it said that until you learn a lesson, it will keep repeating.

Let me be clear, I’m not blaming anyone for what was done to them. What I am saying is….do you ever ask yourself why a certain something always seems to happen to you?

I have also heard that if you don’t love yourself, you will keep attracting people around you who don’t love you either. And I am pretty sure that knowing that and doing something about it are two different things.

For instance, I know the thoughts I have that get me into trouble. They come automatically and because they are presented to my conscious mind from somewhere deep within, I’m thinking these thoughts reflect the truth. So then feeling gets involved. Especially if I try to ignore thought. Feeling keeps poking thought into action. Thought might say…it didn’t work last time. But feeling will answer….yes, but this is different.

I also heard the saying that we don’t see people as they are. We see people as we are.

So when that priest or whoever seems to care about us, or when it becomes a game of puzzles that we are supposed to solve and that makes you feel so connected a secret that only the two of you share, endorphins may start to fire off and emotion wants more of that.

And emotion may want to silence thought or convince thought that it’s confused because thought can block fantasy who has now danced into the picture to fill in the gaps and emotion loves fantasy.

Ego wants to take center stage now because it’s heard that someone wants to know all about the self and it’s thrilled. Especially if it hasn’t put on its tap shoes and put on a show for anyone in a long time because of loneliness. Loneliness has put ego on the shelf where it has grown dusty and covered in rust.

Endorphins, connection, emotion, fantasy, ego and loneliness. They get strummed like strings on a guitar by a master player. Thought and its friend, logic can yell all they want, and are sometimes heard over the noise of the party. But if question comes along, it will be met at the door by the bouncers…..blame and gaslighting.

We get played and we feel the fool. And then we are afraid because somehow we didn’t protect ourselves. We believed. We needed that love-bombing. We must be so weak and pathetic.

We are victims and we feel as stupid and vulnerable as we did when we were four years old and wanted to hang out with our big brother and his friends and they made you do something stupid because you didn’t know any better.

And like that child who trusted because they wanted to belong and to be liked, we were deliberately tricked into thinking that we weren’t enough. That in order to be good enough to keep receiving praise and acceptance, we had to be somehow better than we were and if we had someone telling us that we weren’t worth it…someone who once told us down to our soul that we were better than we believed ourselves to be….then we will do anything to prove that we are worthy.

Anyway, that’s how at the age of 3 or 4, I ended up with my underwear around my ankles in the middle of a circle of older boys snickering and basically doing what they called “playing doctor” in order to join their club and get to hang out with them.

Anyway, I had been triggered like that before and since. And I have discovered that my thoughts have a very interesting conversation with my emotions. It goes something like this:

Did that person mean something by that? I think they may have. (Women are especially good at this unspoken game) Well it certainly sounded like they were flirting. You know, word play. Oh, that is clever. I like clever. I think I’m supposed to do something. Am I supposed to do something? What am I supposed to do? What if I don’t do anything and they stop giving me attention? I don’t want that to happen. I like feeling special. I am special, right? I mean, they think so, right? Didn’t they kind of say that? Oh, I’m so stupid. Why would they like me? Wait, look at the way they just looked at me. They do like me. What do I do now? I mean, what if I do something and they think I’m inappropriate? Or worse yet, I get rejected? Oh, I’m stupid, stupid, stupid. I don’t even know what real love is supposed to look like. Other people are better at this. They seem to know what they are doing. Maybe they just need a sign from me that I like them too. Oh, look, it worked. They winked and then they walked out the door. That means they like me, right? Oh, I can’t wait until we can get together and tell each other how we feel.

Alright that was embarrassing. But when thoughts bump into emotion, things can get a little crazy. This isn’t just about romantic relationships…this can be for friendship, family….whatever. When I look at all the self talk above, I can summarize it a bit.

I may not have a great track record and I don’t know what someone else is thinking or feeling. If they throw out crumbs…like a wink here or….well, you know….and we eagerly catch them for fear of losing the crumbs, it’s not a good situation. Also, if we should begin to make excuses for when the crumbs are constant but there’s not a cookie in sight, that is not a good situation. And if you should feel the need to be a caretaker or to save someone or if you are doing 90% of anything to keep it alive…..that is not a good situation.

I know that might sound obvious, but that is where I have gotten hung up in the past. And I am sure many other people can relate as well.

It can also be found under constructing boundaries and putting your own needs before the needs of someone else. Isn’t that selfish, you ask? Oh, how Catholic of you, I answer. No. it’s necessary. That is where you start.

Again, we all don’t have emotional abuse or alcoholism or incest or mental illness in our backgrounds. But we can all get misled and mistake drama for love. And we can get hooked on drama. And crumbs. And it’s damn hard to stop once you start. Once you start saving someone or taking care of them before yourself. Or having fantasy fill in the details that someone needs saving or is having emotional issues. Or reasons why they can’t love you back fully so you need to pick up the yoke and start pulling to show just how strong your love is.

Love is not about handing someone else the controls.

What About a Holiday?

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I’m sure it was not like last year. But what it made me realize is that family is what is important and also that family can be extremely annoying and possibly cause nervous breakdowns. Still, they are family. But honestly, holidays can be stressful even without a pandemic.

So my Thanksgiving was quiet. But the food was nowhere as good as my mom’s. But it was peaceful. Sort of.

I had a couple of “firsts” this past week. It was my first time going to the emergency vet (with my mom’s dog) the night before Thanksgiving. He’s a sick pup. Still in the animal hospital slowly recovering. For two hours Wednesday night, my mom and I sat in the car, in the dark, in the rain, while we waited for someone to take the dog inside. Then we had the form. Then we waited for someone to come get the form. Then they told us to sit there until the vet checked him in…which if we had waited, would have taken another two hours.

We left. I told the vet assistant that I was going to get my mom home…she’s 93 for God’s sake….and that they could call her there.

It’s been a very emotional roller coaster the last couple of days and I have never prayed so much for a human being as I have for that dog’s recovery. He is my mom’s companion. Her world. In this crazy, pandemic don’t leave your house world. She is alone without him.

Then my friend’s father passed away. I have known the family since I can remember being alive and she is a good friend and I could not see her while she was up here from another state where she now lives and her dad was dying. I emailed her. Then I saw her in the crowd (outdoors with masks) at the graveside service. Was able to speak to her for a second.

There are many things horribly wrong right now. Too much suffering going on. But it’s tough when you know your mom is having her Thanksgiving dinner alone or you can’t properly comfort a good friend at a tough time. I know the reason for it and I am not going to complain because so many people have it worse. But by not having what you take for granted, it kind of makes you thankful for what you have always had and thought you always would have.

Things can feel really depressing right now, so it can be difficult at times to keep going and just doing the things that need to be done. I remember going to be evaluated for a college study of some sort years ago. I was interviewed and was then asked….”how long have you been depressed?” Huh? Depressed? Me? Hmmn. I’m not depressed. Well…maybe. I do cry a bit now and then. I do feel like everything is a chore. Not much brings me joy.

You can be depressed and not know it. So this is just a reminder….there are online services. National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s not just for when you are about to jump off the bridge. It can be for when you feel overwhelmed and find yourself crying or unable to sleep. There are also counsellors who are doing on-line work these days. So, please take care of yourselves.

Other feelings can sneak past as well. If you marry a narcissist, you may find that you aren’t the only one affected by the union. Your children will most likely carry on the unseen trait and be abused or abusive. Being able to talk to other survivors who have sailed in the same boat that I have, has opened my eyes. Doesn’t make me any smarter, but it does show me that other people out there have experienced similar things in their families and ask similar questions about life.

I see clearly my grown children and their patterns when it comes to picking romantic partners and what they consider “love” and “normal”. Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t know what’s normal either. All I know is that when I look back on my love life, the main common denominator is…me. And again, we don’t start out in the middle of the web, so….how do we trust ourselves to know what is really love and normal at the beginning of getting to know someone?

I keep telling my kids that if they want their lives to change, they need to change. Counselling can help. Sometimes it can. Sometimes friends can help even more by their knowledge and their example. But I have one son who doesn’t believe in abuse unless it’s physical. Perhaps that is just an easier way to not work on your problems. Because it is not easy. Way easier to blame someone else. And, the thing is, as one who has gotten caught in too many webs myself, I know that even when someone is emotionally and verbally abusive and abusing their power at your expense, there is that narcissistic/co-dependent dance that we do. And so we blame the other person because we can’t see where we end and they begin. Even when someone points it out to us. We have to see it ourselves. It’s sad. So sad. And so very hard to see past the web to realize it is not normal and that we can get out and be okay. It can take time.

This week, I spoke to a young woman who told me about a priest who was trying to groom her and her friend. I can’t get into the whole story, but when I look at that sentence, I see that these were young people who knew what was going on….and knew the name for it. And knew where to call to talk about it. I know that we all tend to get disappointed and disgusted with “the system” and how hard it is to get justice, but to me, this is huge. This is a start. Education. Coming forward may not bring justice to our stories, but it may help someone else. And that is what I told her as well. Did not tell her what to do, but told her that when someone makes a report, it helps others to come forward and do the same.

Last week, I spoke with a mom whose son had stayed silent about his abuse for years. He stayed silent until he saw SNAP survivors on the news talk about their abuse. It can be frustrating to feel like you’re doing nothing to change anything. That you are only talking about it. But these stories show that the work we are doing….everyone….all survivors….does make an impact and a difference in the world.

Four years ago, I had no idea what happened to me. I thought it only happened to me. I was ashamed. I did what I thought I had to do so I wouldn’t get a priest in trouble. It seemed to go against everything….and against God….to speak against a priest. And to speak against a priest who I thought had feelings for me…which must have been something I did….I felt all alone in the world.

I felt inside everything that society says on the outside when they victim shame someone. I was not a child. I should have known better.

And then, it took so very long before I believed that I belonged with other survivors. I learned about the term “grooming” and about cover ups within the diocese. I learned that adults are abused very often and that they are too ashamed to speak out.

And if this knowledge becomes more acceptable to adult victims of clergy abuse, perhaps we can heal more of those who are still out there living in the shadows and blaming themselves. Perhaps the time will come when there will be no more second guessing about whether or not it is right to make a report because we may get laughed at or told to come back when we’ve “got something better than that”.

Maybe with enough knowledge and seeing other people brave enough to talk about this issue….and believe me, it is terrifying to be threatened by the person who is abusing you and then to be torn apart by those who are supposed to help you. To be seen as someone who is trying to bring down the church. Maybe with enough knowledge and small victories…other survivors will begin to see that what happened to them has a name. And that it was not their fault.

Have a great week, please take the survey, and if you are an adult survivor of abuse by a priest or other religious person, remember we meet next Sunday at 7pm EST.