Touched by the Sun

Last week’s poll showed that the thing that keeps most of us from telling our truth is the fear of public scrutiny.

I get that. I think most people get that. Think about what happens with kids on social media or anyone for that matter no matter how old when personal information or photos are exposed. You don’t want to be vulnerable again. You don’t want to be hurt again. The only control you have seems to be hiding and not going through all of that again on an even larger scale.

Since I’ve spoken with the bishop, I’ve been a bit paranoid. I get emails from people all of the time and occasionally things just don’t feel right for some reason and a spidey sense goes off. Such was the case where a gentleman wanted me to call him instead of email. When he got done telling me his story, he wanted to know something about me….how many kids did I have and was I planning to take legal action in my case. I felt vulnerable. I didn’t know this person. Yes, we are all connected in a sense and I don’t mind sharing if it helps other people, but to be directly asked by someone….I don’t know.

And it’s not about who is asking or the situation really….it is about a feeling. I’ve ignored or questioned feelings before. Not anymore. Well, I say that, but upbringing is hard to overcome. I was raised to be polite to everyone. And to smile. My mom tells me to smile even when I am video chatting with her.

Anyway, someone this week said that they didn’t think the priests actually knew what the outcome was for their victims. Perhaps if they could see the damage they have done, it would help open their eyes. Personally, I don’t think they care. And if they were shown the outcome, would somehow make it about themselves and their own “feelings”.

Have you ever lived with an alcoholic? Someone you know who has good in them somewhere, but as much as they seem to show remorse for something they’ve done and promise never to do such a thing again….do we really believe that will happen?

I think enablers do. I’m an enabler. I’m working on it. But I am.

But, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the fourth rule for dealing with a narcissist…and that is….

Don’t assume a narcissist cares.

And once again, I don’t diagnose people and I really don’t care whether or not someone is a textbook anything. I only know that when I look at these rules and apply them to my life, it makes sense in many cases, so….

Our “Narc” love bombs us. Praise, warmth, sensitivity, flirtation….making you feel warm and fuzzy and worthy of love…and we want to believe. I mean, we live in a gray world where the highlight of our day might be having good painting weather or being able to button our jeans. Or is that just me?

Anyway, although we say we don’t want drama in our lives, we do want that bit of color when it comes along. Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated? To have a talent or your intelligence acknowledged? To have someone look into your eyes like you’re on a first date in high school again?

Pleasurable feelings that have been deeply buried because life sucks and I’ll never fall in love again….as someone else pointed out this week….we are pack animals. We are programmed to connect and to care and to touch and be touched by others.

And if we are “damaged” and unsure of what love is really supposed to look like, we can be tricked. Even when we think we know better. That is why older people are more vulnerable and are targeted by con artists….because they tend to be lonely.

I remember one night, sitting in a bar with a friend. I had a drink in front of me….the only one I planned to have as I was driving. She had been seeing a married man. A physically abusive married man to boot. She “knew better”, but was drawn to him for whatever reason. Usually they say it is because we fall in love in the beginning of the relationship, within the love bombing stage.

So this guy shows up. I am not thrilled as I know what he is and what he has done to my friend. But he brings all of us ladies a rose, and buys us a round of drinks. Okay, this guy I saw through….because I knew the backstory and because we were in a bar where you meet someone like this all the time. I didn’t touch the drink . I finished the one I had and left.

Again with my mom….when I told her what had happened, my mom told me I had been rude and since he had paid for the drink, I should have drunk it. My mom never hung out in bars without my dad. And she is….once again….a representative of a time…not so very long ago.

But back to “our Narc”. We’ve been love bombed by someone who has taken an oath to follow Jesus. Someone who knows the Ten Commandments and would not break them on purpose. Someone who can see into our soul and loves everyone as does God.

He’s not some guy in a bar. We know what that guy is after. This guy is pure. Sex for him only exists within a loving relationship…and marriage. There is no doubt that he cares.

Plus, I think that if we are damaged….and by that, I mean have had damage done to us and carried it with us….I think we tend to relate to the damage in others….or what we think we see.

Now, I’ve read that Narcissists are indeed very damaged people….and that they know how to put on a front very well. But I think we need to look at their damage as if it were ashes in the aftermath of a fire. There is nothing left inside. Nothing to give you. Nothing of substance exists within. They are empty and in need of taking from you. And take they will….until you feel like you are empty inside as well.

These are not just words on a page. There seem to be so many people in unbalanced or emotionally abusive relationships. Relationships that seemed so right at the beginning. Relationships that sometimes take many many years for people to figure out what is going on because they are too close to see the forest for the trees. Good people who empty people have sunk their hooks into and drain the life from. But I digress.

Logic can be an unwelcome intruder when it comes to having your love light lit and you feel passion stirring. But listen. We make mistakes and we always will. But value the love that you have to give. And try to bring more color into your life…not so easy right now….but try to bring the color to your life yourself. Enjoy being you.

Have a good week, and please take our poll.

Feelings

I got an email this past week from someone asking to join the Abused as Adults group and when I explained that it was for people who were abused at the age of 18 or older, the person’s response was something to the effect of….how can it happen to adults….they should know better.

I’d like to say that it was no big deal and that I handled the situation with grace and dignity, but my response was….no response. I couldn’t. Because the question was either ignorant or deliberately mean. And in either case, nothing I could say would matter. I can’t waste my energy where it doesn’t matter.

But it hit me….it did. Right in the middle of my chest where I thought my armor was. Obviously there was an opening in the armor I hadn’t noticed. Because it got inside of me and twisted itself up into a pretzel and squeezed itself into my soul.

It was a knee-jerk reaction. But again, I knew it was better for me to not answer this person as I was too emotional and I would have said something like….so what you are saying to me is that once you hit your 18th birthday, you are responsible for whatever someone does to you…is that right? So if you are raped, mugged, beaten, killed, conned, manipulated, cheated on, used, harassed, lied to, bullied…..whatever….that it is your fault. It wasn’t your fault yesterday, when you were still 17….but today now that you are 18, and from now on, it is.

With all the heightened emotions in the world right now, and with many of us being so isolated, it can make it all the more difficult to take a look inside of ourselves to see what is going on there. I know that for me, my sleep pattern has been thrown off and I feel like I am living with my foot on the brake trying to stop anything bad from happening.

Last week, when I had my Zoom meeting with the bishop, it felt difficult to sort out what was going on emotionally during the meeting.

One of the questions he asked me was what made me vulnerable. Someone asked me why the bishop was asking me these questions and why wasn’t I asking him questions. I think more accurately, the question should be….why wasn’t the bishop asking the priest these questions? What made him choose me? Why was I being asked why I thought he choose me?

Well, as I think about this….as the layers of the onion unfold and I go deeper into the depths, one of the things I think we may all be able to identify with is…..the body remembers. Or the brain. Or something. Again, I’m not an expert. Just a human who has lived a long time.

I do know that both on a personal level and a professional level, it was a whole lot better when my boss was pleased with me and not screaming or being hostile. That makes sense. So, as things began to change on his end and he began to interject increasing levels of uncomfortable with different emotions, I was still doing my best to please to keep him from screaming and from me feeling threatened.

He could have fired me at any minute at his whim. He didn’t need a reason. And it’s not just about the money. It’s about how that feels. It’s about having your layers stripped away to your core. It’s about having all the protective armor you have amassed over your lifetime stolen from you….about every self-help book and class you’ve ever taken erased from memory…..about your world imploding like you have feared it would ever since you can remember. It is about feeling powerless to stop that. It is the realization brought back that you are not enough….that love and approval is conditional and based on the mood of the person who is in charge.

Also, when I spoke to the bishop, as I said, I fell back into trust mode. Even as I heard him say that Jesus died on the cross for each of us and I felt like I didn’t need a homily or a reminder of how we are all human and that God loves all of us at that moment….because I felt that what he meant was that “he who is without sin” etc. and that this was not about a crime, but rather just a man who was human.

When asked about my faith in God, I did say that I have never lost faith. Not in God or in loving spirits or guides….but I have lost faith in the church. Totally. I didn’t get the chance to say that to the bishop, though. But I don’t trust the institution anymore. That is sad. No Santa. No Easter Bunny. Now to find out that the church is not real, either.

And I found that I still wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that the kindly gentleman sitting behind the desk on the Zoom call cared about me and about all of the souls in his care. I wanted to believe that he sincerely would listen to what I said and try to prevent this from happening to someone else at whatever means is at his disposal.

But as a wise person said to me this week….they are a business. They aren’t going to do anything that is not in their best interest. Maybe it does help a bit to know that there will be one child in this world who will not be raised in the Catholic Church because of this. One less innocent to harm. One less donation in the weekly collection box.

But I guess that really doesn’t matter to them as long as they can get money from the government.

But that is not what is important, really. Let them keep their money and their gold and their self-importance. To me, they are like an abusive ex and it is healthier for me to stay far away. I don’t need rituals and sacraments and threats of Hell in order for me to connect spiritually to a source of greater love.

And you know, I don’t want to be this person. Not really. I am not the person I set out to be in life. I never thought I would be talking against the church. I never thought I would be an outcast in so many areas of my life. I’ve never been a fighter. I never even swore until I got married and had kids. I didn’t. Then it just became a quicker, easier way to vent frustration. And it became easier and easier as time went on….

I also heard from someone who said that they had a very similar experience to the one I had and that it is difficult to explain getting pulled into the manipulation and feeling like you have to do something you don’t want to do.

It’s difficult to talk about. I get it. Especially harder when the people you love tell you to let it go and lawyers need proof and bishops sympathize but tend to try to normalize the event by equating the actions of the perpetrator with sin, and when people say you should have known better.

But that is exactly why it is important to talk about it. We need to normalize this type of abuse…this gaslighting and coercive control and manipulation and abuse of power….so that it is brought to the light and seen as the legitimate form of abuse that it is. This is important. Not just for adults who have been abused by clergy….but for adults in every relationship in their lives.

This kind of thing needs to be taught to children along with Math and Reading skills. The church should be leading the way in teaching this….not covering it up.

Please take a minute to answer this week’s poll. Have a great week.

Cheek to Cheek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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