Victim of Love

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all. These holidays can bring about love and memories and the pain of loss or what may have been…or what never was. It’s a difficult day for sure for anyone who has lost their mom or for a mom who has lost a child. And it can magnify the relationship with your mom ten-fold on such a day.

My brother gave our mom a box of chocolates and a box of chocolate covered strawberries for Mother’s Day. He gave those to her on Friday. I was over there on Sunday. “Where is the chocolate?” I asked. “Gone,” she told me.

Gone? May or may not have been the truth. My mother watches my weight so she may have hidden stuff. But she told me that she went through the box of candy piece by piece and opened each one to see what was inside, eating the ones she wanted and tossing the rest…which I guess was most of the box. And, knowing my mom, she removed the chocolate off of the strawberries. She offered me some plain strawberries in a bowl.

I got my mom a heated back massager because she loves the heated seats in my car and said they felt so good after working in the yard. She tried it but said it was too rough…after all, she has no fat on her back…the implication was clear. It went back in the box. She will be giving it to my brother. I already have one. My back being fat enough to take it.

At this point in our lives, my mom makes me laugh. She told me a story about how as a teen, she was smoking in her room and her mother opened the door…the room full of smoke…and when asked if she had been smoking, she denied it. That made me laugh and feel closer to her. I still hide how much soda I drink, or I will sneak a cookie when I am around her. And she still keeps shoving fruit in my face when I am sitting at her table, but at this point, she has grown tired, and I have been able to step back and appreciate the amazing person that she is. As she has gotten older, there are things I have begun to help her with a bit more and our roles have begun to change a bit.

Perhaps one of the reasons I have been able to emotionally distance myself as far as getting annoyed with my mother is because she is getting older, and I know that our time together is growing shorter. Perhaps part of it has to do with the whole world around us is changing and I want to hold onto the past for as long as possible. Perhaps it is because as I am getting older, I realize how precious unconditional love is, and how rare. But perhaps, also, as I have gotten older and have gone through tough times like a rock through a tumbler, I have come out the other end a bit stronger and more self-reliant.

Yes, I am still reading the same book. I don’t know how many weeks this is right now. But it has long chapters and there is a lot of info to digest. The author, Mark Manson, writes something so eloquent in his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”, that I would like to share it here, in its entirety. It basically describes what he calls, “the yin and yang of any toxic relationship”.

Entitled people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they constantly paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they will receive the love they’ve always wanted.”

He goes on to say, ” Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.”

Wow.

I do see myself in those descriptions. However, there was a time when I would not have seen it so clearly. When we are young, or still very attached to someone else like our parents, or a spouse who perhaps we have married at a very young age, before we have had the time to know who we are on our own, it is so easy to feel that we are the victim. And perhaps in some cases we are. Many times, we may be the victim, in fact. But oftentimes, those who are abused, feel connected to their abuser. As if they are one.

He hit me but I didn’t shut up when he warned me to. If I leave, I will be alone. Nobody else will want me. I’m terrified. I don’t know how to cook, drive, balance my own checkbook, I have no friends of my own, I’ll have to go back to work, I have to do their laundry/dishes, etc. because their place is a mess, and they shouldn’t be living like that…

Anytime and in any situation where you feel you need to save someone or fix someone, or you feel the need to be saved from a situation by someone (which puts you in a position of vulnerability), there is a bit of co-dependency. In fact, what we are saying when we feel the need to nurture a grown person in such a way that becomes unhealthy to both people, is that we aren’t going to let that person take responsibility for themselves. We are also saying that we are not going to have a life other than taking care of that other person.

Why do we do this? Probably because we have learned where we fit in as far as what we were valued for when we were young. There are those who are in some way irresponsible, and there are those who must take up the slack and be the responsible ones so that life goes on smoothly. We witness this in the relationships of the adults that we know and love. In some way we may know that it isn’t the way the rest of the world operates, but we know our place and we know “our people”. We recognize the other piece of our puzzle when we meet them. We connect ourselves to them but then we blame them for either not appreciating us, or not changing their ways and fixing themselves.

We are a complicated people. We surely are that.

One of the things that seems unfair to me and that has bugged me throughout the years is that I’ve tried. I’ve really tried so hard. I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve done all the work for my entire family and then some. I’ve left relationships that didn’t work out or seemed unhealthy. I made sure my son got a DNA test on a baby born when he was in high school. I’ve been to court for custody and harassment and eviction and child support. I’ve lived on my own for many years. I’ve made friends with neighbors who have helped me out. I’ve made new friends on my own. Travelled on my own. Hired lawyers and real estate brokers and repair people. Worked two jobs. Called the police for drug dealers and homeless people living in a vacant house next door and for loud parties held by college students. I sat with someone who was overdosing while the neighbors called for an ambulance. I have worked at being independent. I have worked at making myself stronger.

And I thought at the end of all of this, at some point, there would be a reward. What reward, you ask? Well, to receive the love and appreciation that I’ve always wanted, I answer. Are we sensing a pattern here?

I still want the codependent’s dream. Just to stop trying so hard. Just to love and to be loved. And yet, the traumas I have gone through make me fearful of just being me with someone else just being themselves. Nobody saving anybody or having to offer anybody anything other than me. How can I possibly do that when I don’t know how?

Recently, as I have mentioned, my mother has needed more help with things, and I’m coming face to face with signs that are telling me that somewhere up ahead everything is just going to come to a complete halt, and I will have to process that. And I feel like there is this emotional exchange that should be going on between us. We do say “I love you” and we keep in touch daily and I go over to see her a couple of times a week. But I feel like there is a tsunami of emotions behind a brick wall. I function stoically and remind her to keep her doors locked and drive her places and make sure her finances are safe and sound.

And I wonder why I feel like I am detaching from the mother ship and turning off switches and locking down hatches and shutting down emotions. And I wonder sometimes if I will know when it is the last time we will speak. Does anyone ever?

But as I wonder what is wrong with me and why I feel so very flat emotionally, I realize that is how I was raised. Emotion comes out as control in our family. As in “I love you so I will tell you what I think is best for you.” There is never anyone saying things like, “Honey, I love you so much. I will miss you when you are gone.”

Come to think of it, what I just described was expressing emotion openly. Emotion has to come out in some way. Good or bad, emotion is either going to tear us up inside physically or emotionally or come out when someone finally snaps and does something violent, or it can become a phobia, or an obsessive-compulsive behavior, or it can be thrown into work or alcohol or something, but emotions have to go someplace. And behaviors are learned.

Perhaps codependency is one of those ways we learn to channel feelings. We can’t say how we feel and still feel safe doing so. But if we try to fix things or we take care of people, maybe they will love us or not go away.

I should really read more about codependency. But it may take awhile. I still have to finish this book I’m reading. Have a good week.

I Can Help

Recently there have been instances where we as SNAP volunteers were unable to help those who had sought our help.

When this happens, it is because what we as peer supports can offer as far as support, is often limited. We are not legal advisors. We are not trained therapists. We have experience as far as our own abuse goes, and experience as far as life experiences and what we have found helpful…or not helpful…as far as moving ahead with our stories and reporting goes. But we are limited in the help that we can offer.

For instance, there are times when we cannot give as much help as a trained therapist or a doctor who can prescribe antidepressants or antianxiety meds if they are needed. And while some people do accompany others when they go to speak before the bishop, or they may have heard of a good lawyer that they can recommend, we are not legal assistants. We do not sign papers that are made out to deliberately trick anyone in the church, nor do we lie for anyone or get involved in anything illegal.

Also, sometimes people who are hurting will strike out at the hand that tries to help. We too are survivors and have suffered abuse. As much as we want to help people, we have to help ourselves heal first. That means that we don’t accept abuse of any kind. That includes trying to take over running a meeting, interrupting someone to try to control their narrative, twisting the rules, imposing their own rules on a leader or peer member, or name calling, or insults.

As I said, we are not legal assistants or therapists, although we do listen to people who need to talk, and we do help where we can if someone is afraid to go alone to seek help. Sometimes we can suggest therapists or lawyers in a certain area. The best thing to do if looking for help in a particular city or state, is to check out the SNAP website to see who your nearest contact person is and see if they can help you with a suggestion or two.

SNAP has Zoom meetings for various groups and various areas and cities. There is the Women’s group, the Men’s group, the Abused as Adults group, LGBTQ group, Abused by Nuns group, Orthodox Christian group, Lutheran group, Families Supporting Loved Ones group, and more. If for some reason, someone is really uncomfortable with being in a Zoom meeting or in a meeting with people who may trigger their anxieties, it’s possible that there is either a need for another group (but remember we need volunteers to lead) or it may be best to seek help outside of SNAP for the time being.

Also, please remember that being in a meeting does not mean that you need to speak. You can remain silent and listen to others. That can be very helpful. Especially in the beginning. Also, as long as you have been interviewed by the meeting leader, you don’t have to show your face. What is not encouraged is for anyone to share the link to the meeting with anyone and inviting them to join without having them email or talk to the group leader. While we are all about having survivors share the information available to other survivors, it is best if group leaders know who they are ahead of time.

In the news: Appellate ruling rejects Albany diocese’s efforts to keep pedophile priests’ records secret, Irish priest appointed to senior Vatican role investigating abuse

The SNAP conference will be held in Denver Colorado. Registration is $100. Rooms are $129 a night. The conference runs from 7 PM on Friday, July 22 through Noon on Sunday, July 24. Covid safety guidelines will be observed.

This week’s suggestions from other SNAP survivors include watching the show, “The Color of Care” on the Smithsonian Channel, and a recommendation of Pennsylvania lawyer Kristen Gibbons-Feben, who we were told, is looking for complex sexual abuse cases. We were told by a survivor who has retained her, that she practices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

This past week, I watched a documentary entitled, “Girl 27”. This was the story of Patricia Douglas, who was a dancer and a movie extra at MGM, who, in 1937, along with 119 other young women, were told to dress up in costume and show up to be in a movie. When they got to the place where they were told to go, each being given a number next to their name on a list…Douglas being “Girl 27”, they all found that instead of shooting a movie, they were to be the entertainment for a convention that MGM was holding. The convention consisted of a group of over 200 men, who, along with being given over 500 cases of scotch and champagne, were told to just enjoy themselves and to do whatever they wanted.

Patricia, who did not drink alcohol, had alcohol forced down her throat, and of course, ended up being raped by one of the men at the convention. The aftermath of her brutal attack, including her swollen eyes as she was also slapped and beaten for resisting, was witnessed by a security guard.

Douglas bravely tried to prosecute her attacker. The security guard was told he would have a job for life at MGM if he lied on the stand, which he did. MGM was a powerful force. Douglas was slandered in every way possible. In addition to being called every name in the book, and having her reputation ruined, they also made fun of her looks and asked who would seriously want her. Her life was ruined. She would go on to marry a couple of times and she had a daughter, but she was unable to live. She was alive until the age of 86, but she had no friends and was unable to raise her daughter. A virgin when the rape occurred, she said she was never able to have a normal physical relationship ever again.

She was very brave to come forward as she knew what would happen to her. Another woman who came forward saying she was also attacked that night, ended her own life some years down the road. She married and had children but was badly scarred emotionally.

I guess this is a reminder that we have come a bit further since 1937 but not a heck of a lot further. I think we all think of the casting couch when we think of early movie stars. Some people think it was quid pro quo. They gave and they were rewarded for it. A simple business transaction. But that’s not how it was at all. Those who know how power can corrupt and how those in power can abuse those without power, know things have not changed all that much. We also know there are still people who choose to look the other way to hold onto their jobs.

I also read some more. Same book. Different chapter. This week, I read about how…and this we know…people don’t go through life without loss and troubles. And there are many things that happen to people…to us…that is simply not our fault. For instance, all of the things we cannot control, such as our physical attributes. The people who leave us, whether through death or because they choose to walk out of our lives, as well as who is in our family and who our parents are. Bad things can happen to us in our lives, and we didn’t ask for them to happen. People can hurt us, and they can hurt the people we care about.

This week, I read that while things that happen to us are not our fault, what we choose to do about it, is our responsibility. Responsibility is not the same thing as fault. Being responsible for our actions after the fact is not the same as taking the blame for what happened.

That is really a deep thought to get lost into. Because when something traumatic happens in our lives, we often blame ourselves for some part of it. Or we blame someone else. Because someone has to be to blame. Blame has to be pinned on someone. That’s just how it goes. But are we truly responsible for what we choose to do when we are suffering from PTSD and not in a healthy state of mind? I get the concept. And I agree with it to an extent. If we are suffering from an illness or an emotional state that we get stuck in, or if we find ourselves unable to quit an addiction, we should be responsible enough to seek help. But we are also human. And being human means that decisions and feelings aren’t always black and white and clear cut with boundaries and instructions. It’s not always an easy fix and it’s somewhat dependent upon getting someone who is competent to help us.

Those are also issues that we cannot control.

But it doesn’t mean that because we are hurting or because we have been short-changed in life that should give us a license to not try at all or to use it as an excuse to be angry and to blame everyone for your problems. There is a difference. Being angry at what happened is healthy and normal. But there is a point where we choose to feel angry at everyone and where it’s just easier to blame everyone than to do the work on yourself to heal. And I guess that is the part where we become responsible. Not to become fully healed or perfect or to get over anything completely. But to take responsibility for your life from here forward. The rest of the world only looks like they have it all together. Nobody is better than anyone else.

So, I don’t entirely agree with the author because I think traumas can change us and rewire us and that can make it difficult to function. But ideally, it is good to aim for taking responsiblity for the next step, even if it takes years to get to the next step and even if we keep failing. To be able to accept failure in ourselves is a good thing. To truly accept and to be okay with it, that is.

I also read some inspirational quotes that I loved. This is paraphrased…things that can be true at the same time: Your parents did the best job they could raising you, and some of the things they did wounded you. You can love someone and at the same time know that it is not healthy to keep them in your life. You want healthy relationships and unhealed trauma is making that difficult. You are terrified to take the next step, but you know that it is the right thing to do.

I liked that. I think I liked it because it kind of takes blame away from yourself and others. I know people hate this saying but….sometimes it just is what it is and we are just left dealing with it.

I’d like to end this week with something someone sent me. I found this so inspiring and right on point. Sometimes someone else can say it better than you ever could. So here is something from Any Nordhues. https://youtu.be/5yvLXhLt7bg

Have a wonderful week.

Slipping Through My Fingers

As we reach the end of the month, I will share the stats for April.

Most people have had two surgeries. Many of us struggle with boundaries for a variety of reasons, not just one reason in particular. We have been in love but fewer than five times. Many have lost children, and the most common loss was through miscarriages. My sympathy to anyone who has gone through such a loss.

The top five countries reading this blog after the U.S.A. were: Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Spain.

The two most popular blogs this month tied for 1st place were, Goodbye to Love and Guest Blog #6 which was by Dorothy Small. The most popular time for reading the blog was Sunday evening at 6pm.

I would like to remind everyone that the Annual SNAP meeting will be held in person this year. It will be held in Denver, Colorado in July. Please check out the SNAP website for details in how to sign up for this weekend. It will be wonderful to see everyone in person again. From what I understand, the conference will also be able to be viewed on-line.

Last week I wrote about how we perceive love at different times in our lives. It’s funny how that even in writing about a personal experience and how I perceived it once compared to how I later perceived it or how I feel about it now, that someone saw themselves in what they saw as a similar situation from the male point of view. And in doing so, they tried to defend the male side, which I thought was okay, but I have to point out that the relationships were not alike. The reason being…I did not have a relationship with the young man I wrote about.

That was kind of my point in a way. At the age of 14, I thought I was in a relationship. I thought this person was my boyfriend. But I had no reference to go by. When I look back now, I see that I was in love with what I thought was happening. In reality, I was a 14-year-old girl in the 8th grade of a Catholic school, getting picked up in a car by a boy who could drive and who had his own car, who was 17 years old, and who was about to enter his senior year in high school. It was not a relationship. It was not love on his part. At 14, I did not know in reality that someone would ask me out and be my first kiss and all of that and not have feelings for me. But I don’t remember doing things with him or talking about things with him. I do remember a lot of hanging out in my parents’ basement. And that is all I will say about that. Except, I was not male bashing. I was saying that I did not know that sometimes people…in this case, a guy who I thought I was in a relationship with…could tell me he was going to take me to a concert, and then just walk out the door never to be heard from again. And then I had to go to high school the next Fall, knowing I would probably see him in the hallways. I felt crushed and rejected.

Anyway, that is what affected my self-esteem when I was 14 going into high school. Not the fact that I had tied for the top score on the entrance exams in the city. Not the fact that I was offered a one-year scholarship at an all-girls school, or that shocked teachers told me that I was surprisingly intelligent. What mattered to me most was what some boy who was in my life for only three months thought about me.

And yet, do those early relationships set the stage for how we see ourselves later on? I’m thinking they do. Or perhaps they just confirm what we were already thinking about ourselves.

There were conversations this week about how Covid-19 has affected us and our relationships. I’m not just talking about if we have been sick or if we have lost someone. We have gone through a very stressful time in our world. It’s strained the seams of not just our jeans but our lives as well. We have had more time to have the news bombard us. Everything seems closer and worse as tensions rise and inflation soars, and beloved celebrities pass away, and we get our daily dose of the depression and abusive marriage of Johnny Depp and his ex as they fling dirt back and forth.

All of this input has to affect how we are feeling. Rising food costs affect how we are eating. Rising gas prices affect if we can go anywhere or if we still have to stay home. The world feels grey. It can be hard…really hard…to see our blessings. It can be hard not to see anything but annoyances in the people we live with. Fear and sadness may already have a permanent residence inside of our heads. Somedays it may feel hard to do anything if you feel you’ve done it before, and nothing is making a difference. How are we supposed to cope?

If you are a sensitive person or a person who has grown up learning to put yourself last after everyone else has been taken care of, seeing bad things happening in the world and around you daily can bring back feelings of being responsible. Logically, we know that we can’t help everyone. But emotionally, we find it so hard to read about suffering. That weighs on us and we bring those feelings into our lives. It’s hard not to. And it’s hard to feel that we are helpless. That feeling of helplessness can arouse feelings of anxiety and depression.

I want to stress how important it is to take care of yourself. We can become off-balance without even realizing it. Like how they say we are already dehydrated by the time we feel thirsty. A couple of weeks ago, I had a night where I just felt emotionally flat. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong. I felt like I didn’t exist. Not angry. Not depressed exactly. Just that outside of what I did for everyone else, who was I? It turned out it was most likely a medication thing. I had been on strong meds for my bronchitis, and I had abruptly stopped taking other meds because I didn’t want things to interact. It wasn’t until a day or so later when I felt like someone had turned on a furnace inside of me that I realized I hadn’t taken my thyroid meds in almost two weeks. Plus, taking prednisone can actually bring about psychosis when taken in higher doses.

Meds can affect how you feel. Lack of sleep. Stress. Again, what can we do?

There is so little we can do about the world. We cannot buy Twitter. Heck, I’m willing to bet that many of us cannot even seem to manage their crazy lives. And you may say that you are managing. Really? Are you managing or placating? Do we feel we need people so much that we spend most of our time making sure their needs are met so we won’t be alone?

This past week, my therapist asked me if I had any hesitation in letting my son buy my house from me. This is a house he has been living in for the past six years or so. He has been paying me about half of what I pay for the mortgage. He has gotten quite handy but for the most part, I have paid for the expensive repairs. We have argued. He has told me that if I hadn’t retired, I would have the money to fix up the house.

I told my therapist no…I am ready to cut this cord. Because that is the first step to changing anything in your life. You have to be ready to take action.

Tony Robbins, the self-help guru, talks about what stops us from taking actions that can help change our lives. One main reason why we don’t take the steps we need to move forward or to free ourselves from the things we do have the power to change….is the fear of pain. Think about that. We live in our world, uncomfortable though it may be, but it is the devil we know. We are comfortable living in our familiar un comfortability. We are comfortable being in control of a situation that may be draining us financially or emotionally because it is familiar. Change may be fearful. Fear equals pain. The thought of pain keeps us rooted to where we are.

My life is not as bad as many people that I talk with. Whatever troubles I have, I have either created or I’ve been fearful of changing, or I have felt overwhelmed by other people…which leads us back to boundaries.

But while my issues may not compare with someone who is homeless or someone who does not have children, they are issues because I have given too much or allowed too much or let things go on too long. And those are issues to which we can all relate to some degree. They are issues that are causing me a great deal of stress. I have to say, my therapist has been a big help.

When I am in the right state of mind and can deal with things calmly and clearly, what has and is working for me in interactions with other people and boundaries…is to not try to tackle everything at once. I’ve actually got two major things going on right now with family…maybe three actually. But I am dealing with them one at a time. Let me tell you why this is important.

I have always lived with very emotional people. These people have always told me that I cannot do things. I get laughed at if I suggest I will do something. I will be in the middle of working on one thing and someone will bring up something that I have no control over, and they will get all worked up about that. They will expect me to get worked up too. Or someone will decide they want to do something RIGHT NOW and I need to help them. Or perhaps if I solve this problem, they will say, something horrible might happen afterwards. What will you do then? You cannot handle that by yourself, you know!!

You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not. By focusing on one thing at a time, it helps to see the progress and to see that some things need to be handled by other people and that I cannot take care of everything and if the plumbing starts to leak while I’m putting on a new roof, well at least the rain won’t get in.

I know that many of you have not had supportive people in your life. I know that it is easy to feel that you are trying really hard but that it just doesn’t matter.

I know how that can feel. I was once working full time, going to school at night, doing research in the library, taking care of my kids, living with my parents, and holding everything together when our family imploded due to substance abuse and untreated psychiatric issues. I came home from school, books in one hand, can of diet soda in the other…my dad opened the door for me. His remark? “Just like your brother, always have a drink in your hand.”

I felt that nothing I did mattered.

I’m not the spokesperson for angst. I have always had a roof over my head and for the most part, felt safe enough. So, I can’t pretend to know how it feels not to have that. I’ve had my head played with but have felt physically safe. I’ve been a scapegoat and have been verbally abused but have had people who love me. But, as we know, we do not come out of what we go through without bringing pieces of everyone else with us. We don’t ever really escape, but we can learn to take steps to separate and relearn so that we can begin to focus on what we can control.

And we can begin to let go of letting other people’s anxieties stick to us. And we can begin to stop taking care of other people if it means that we aren’t allowing them to learn their own lessons…or if it ends up hurting us instead.

There is so much we need to relearn. One step. One problem. One thing. One day. One at a time. Focus.

Time After Time

I will start off with press releases and info I received this past week.

From Bob: Hey everyone, Just a reminder that Children Of Pain, a meeting place for survivors of childhood abuse, has a free Zoom event this Sunday, April 24th, 2022, from 1pm to 3pm EST. We’ll be watching the entire 35 minute, 2018 press conference by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro when he released the findings of a two-year grand jury investigation into clergy abuse at six of the state’s Roman Catholic Dioceses, with time for Q&A after. More info is at our website: https://childrenofpain.com

Zoom login info:
meeting ID: 85656905202
passcode: 147237 Or you can use this direct link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85656905202?pwd=ZWJBYjVpTEdyeHNIeTdUOXJOMDlDQT09

This one from David Clohessy:

CHILD USA STATEMENT ON NEW YORK CITY’S NEW LOOKBACK WINDOW FOR GENDER-MOTIVATED CRIME CHILD USA commends New York City for passing a provision which will revive claims under the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law into law earlier this year. This new provision will open a two-year revival window for gender-motivated violence against children and adults in New York City, including claims for sexual assault. It will open on March 1, 2023 and close on February 28, 2025.

And this: TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse with some 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic church in the United States.

Last week, the poll question asked how many times people have been in love. That is kind of a tough question for many of us. Because we question what love is exactly and if we happened to have feelings for someone who was abusive and perhaps gaslighting us, what may have felt like intense love at the time we later realized was more likely the result of brain chemicals being manipulated by a narcissist. But does that mean that what we felt was not love?

When I was 14 years old and dating my brother’s friend, I wrote the following words about love: “Love is lollipops and stuffed dogs, and long rides in a car. Just being together…” Well, at 14 years old, I had never had a boyfriend before. He took me home. I met his mother. She gave me root beer in a frosted mug. She put on movies from when Frank was a little boy. I figured Frank and I were going to get married one day. I didn’t know that boys sometimes made promises they didn’t intend to keep and that one day Frank would walk out of my house and without one clue, I would never hear from him again.

I cried about it. Does that make it love for a 14-year-old? Or does that mean it is not really love because I had no frame of reference, and I couldn’t see at the time that one day I would walk into a nightclub with my husband and I would see Frank on my way in, casually say, “Hello”, and have him follow us to our seats because he hadn’t noticed I was with someone? Does the fact that I no longer cared about him at the time mean that I didn’t really love him when I was 14? I did feel a slight sense of satisfaction that he felt stupid. My crushed 14-year-old self felt a slight sense of victory that our last meeting ended up with him having the disadvantage.

It’s a strange thing to think about. Our idea of love changes as we go through different experiences, and yet does it mean that because our feelings or perceptions change that what we were feeling at the time was not love?

I often felt that I never really knew what love meant until I had children. To me, that was pure love. Unconditional. A spiritual connection. I love their father. But I love him from a distance. It took me a long time to realize that was the best way. I care about his well-being and that he talks to our kids and that we share that part of our life, while he has a woman who cares about him and is there if he passes out in the bathroom and needs to go to the E.R.

There are people who can’t get the concept of wanting the best for someone and caring about someone you used to love but now love in a different way. Do I love him more now than I did back then? Or is it a different kind of love? Are we only capable of certain kinds of love? This is where I stand back and say…”I just don’t know.” I’ve been romantically involved with a couple of people since we split up, but it did not last. And the only person involved in all those relationships was me.

When I look back at the time before I was married, I see that I was attracted to people I used to call “phantoms”. That is, they sounded like they were real, but they had no substance. I usually met up with them when they were drunk, but there was nothing outside of that. They were emotionally vacant. But I see that they mirrored me at the time. I too, was afraid of emotion.

The men I have known since my husband have been more emotionally present, I guess you would say. We have had conversations. We have eaten meals together. Spent time together. They were functioning members of society. One was a doctor. One was an addiction therapist. I can’t say that I was in love with either one of them. But I was comfortable. They seemed like decent people.

I can say what was “wrong” with each of them that I discovered over time, but the factor that involved me was that in one way or another, I took care of them. And when you take care of someone, unconsciously or consciously, there is some expectation of receiving something in return. I think for me, that “something” has always been either appreciation or respect. And that I did not find in either one of these people.

And I was able to end the relationships. Because I was not out of my head in love. It was what it was. Until it wasn’t. There was dysfunction, but not Narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding.

I am a very slow reader, so I am still reading the same book. This past week, I read about William James. William James was called the father of psychology. Yet, he was a failure in life. He was such a failure, that he considered ending it all. His health was horrible. At the age of 30, he had no career, no wife, no future plans…he was a terrible disappointment to his father. But, he did something that would change his life. What was that?

He gave himself one year to turn his life around. He made a bargain with himself that if things had not changed in one year after attempting to change his life, then he would give up and die. How did he do it? He decided that for the next year of his life, he would take total responsibility for whatever happened to him. In doing so, he turned his life around.

That really seems like a difficult thing to do when you feel like you have no control in your life. I’ve been there. Feeling bounced around between being responsible for kids and a house and bills and a job and feeling like you have absolutely no power in this world at all. And the anger and resentment that can build like a thick fog all around you. It’s hard to see anything let alone yourself clearly.

So, he did it. William James. He once said that he related more to the psych patients he was treating when he was a medical resident, than he did to being a doctor. I guess he used that feeling to his advantage. He is considered one of the leading philosophers of the United States.

I was recently telling someone how I was talking to my mom and how she said she had no food in her house. It’s really something how simple words can stir up so much emotion. My brother lives next door. I got angry listening to her. “He goes out every morning and buys himself beer”, she lamented. What an ass, I thought, as I listened to what she needed and placed an on-line order to be delivered to her.

And then I thought…wait, this is the same woman that had my brother drop her off at a tax place last week because she didn’t want/trust me to do her taxes on-line. The same woman who told me not to take her shopping for food because she would go early some morning by herself. The same woman who I was talking to my brother about just days before as to whether he or I would be picking her up from the tax place. The same woman who did something she is not quite sure of with her money at the bank, when I was sick and unable to help her.

I stopped being angry. Buttons get pushed that have been pushed a thousand times and we go right into the mode we have been assigned in our families. We don’t even think. We react. I got my mom food. She complained about some of it. Didn’t want some of it. Happy to get it but upset at needing someone to get it for her. I think when our parents get older, our buttons get pushed randomly, like a remote on a tv set. Just keep pushing until something ends up working. We react but need to realize that we don’t always have to react.

Its just that the person pushing the buttons is a bit confused and maybe a bit scared, lonely, or facing physical issues that are limiting or uncomfortable.

This past week, I also watched “The Thing About Pam”, and the Dateline show about Pam Hupp and how she murdered her friend who was on chemo after she manipulated her into signing her life insurance over to her three days prior. Pam was/is a psychopath. She is spending her life behind bars. But not for murdering her friend. For that murder, she tried to frame her friend’s husband, who ended up spending three years in prison before he was released. But that was not the scary part. Not the murder. Not even the way she tried to pin the murder on the husband by lying about violent behavior that never happened and staging the crime scene to look like he did it. What was the scariest part?

For me, it was her “flying monkeys. Anyone who has read about Narcissistic abuse has probably heard the term, “flying monkeys”. Those are the people who, without which, the Narcissist most likely could not get away with their crimes. The monkey in this case was a D.A. who was trying her first case. Ego was involved. She needed to solve a case, no matter what. She was duped and charmed by a Narcissist as well. So much so, that she began to manufacture evidence in order for it to fit her story that the husband was guilty.

It would have been funny. If it weren’t so real and so very terrifying. And relatable.

The husband had an iron clad alibi. He was at a weekly game night with friends when his wife was murdered. He was there until 9pm. He stopped at Arby’s on his way home. He had the receipt. They know how long it took him to get home. They know when he called 911.

In order to make the story stick, the D.A. actually accused the four or five people at game night of covering for him. Holding onto his cell phone so he couldn’t be tracked. He must have been having an affair, the D.A. said, and the friends were lying for him. No proof of any of this.

No proof. Nothing that tied him to the crime. No motive. And the D.A. to this day maintains that he is guilty. Because she cannot or will not admit that she was wrong. She is still twisting the truth into her version. Two other people were murdered by Pam, the person who actually got away with the crime…and the life insurance money…before she was caught. It’s terrifying that this happened to these innocent people. The victim, her husband, and their two kids, whose family was ripped apart and who never got the money that was due to them.

It is terrifying because we know that it can happen all too easily. A crime is committed. People are charmed by the Narcissistic psychopath. Coverups happen. The wrong people are hurt. And then more coverups to cover the coverups because nobody wants to admit that maybe they were wrong.

Have a good week, all.

Goodbye To Love

I’ve been pretty sick this past week. Actually, not sure if I caught something new or if the old bug got worse. I got coughed on by a two-year-old. So, my emotions were all over the map last week.

It’s really an amazing thing when the body gets sick. We get to witness how the body fights off an intruder that has gotten inside of us. There are certain signs that the physical body is sick. The temperature goes up. The oxygen levels can go down. A cough develops. For me, there was loud wheezing that was quite alarming along with the warning to go to the emergency room if things didn’t get better after taking antibiotics. And then, there were the side effects of the drugs being used to help cure my afflictions.

The worst of these were insomnia and the emotional toll the body’s defenses were taking on my mind. And those were followed by finally passing out into a state of dreams that can only be described as something you’d find down the rabbit hole. Dreams may be odd, but they can sometimes give you a good snapshot of what is going on inside of yourself.

In one dream, for instance, I literally found myself sharing a bathroom with a bunch of people I didn’t know. People who left a horrid mess for me to clean before I could take care of my own needs. In the dream, I walked out and refused to use the bathroom, even though I was told in the dream that that was where I had been assigned to live. I tried to escape by using the phone to call people I knew but found that I could not remember any phone numbers. My only hope for escape came from a man who offered a way out but with a cost. He would take care of me, and some others, but we never really knew when what he offered us was real or another game. I was hungry and he gave me plastic food.

It’s funny…what was my mind seeing was happening? And this was a physical issue.

Last week, survivor-wise, was a mixed bag of emotions. There was what I consider having been a pretty decent conversation about the connection between sexual abuse as a child and our mixed-up beliefs as we grow up into adults. I’m not sure what normal is as far as growing up into a “normal” human being. But I can understand things that cause conflict in our being.

When something that is supposed to bring us comfort or other good feelings is contiguous on our feeling twisted and uncomfortable and self-sacrificing, dangerous, “icky”, “gross”, weird, wrong, or shameful…it’s going to be hard to pry all of those feelings apart just because we’ve gotten older and perhaps found a partner that is considered a real adult match for us.

Whatever feelings get stuck in our heads most likely transfer to any and all of our adult sexual relationships. Those feelings, and whatever logic we have been taught, along with the relationships of those around us growing up, can form our sense our what we believe a sexual partnership looks like, good or bad.

When we see how our bodies react when a germ invades us or how our minds react to illness when we have vivid and strange dreams, we can maybe begin to understand how our minds and bodies also have reactions to both emotional turmoil, and trauma bonds that are created when we are young.

We don’t always see the connection. So, we blame ourselves instead for having issues with relationships. I mentioned how I saw a video of my dad having lunch with my mom and his sister and cousin about 30 years ago when he was still walking and getting around on his own. There was audio so I could hear the conversation. My dad has been gone for 14 years now, and my body immediately became tuned into his voice and demeaner.

I knew exactly how many drinks he had by the way he was talking. And where anyone else in a social situation thought he was the life of the party. I cringed. I knew what was coming. Didn’t matter that it was 30 years ago or that I love my father or that he was a wonderful man in many ways and that I know he loved me. None of that mattered.

I was transported in time. I was a kid. I was sick to my stomach. Nervous. Darkness was going to fall over the house. I would sit in hypervigilance. My body remembered.

No, he never touched me. He never laid a hand on anyone. But when he drank, he became someone I knew well but did not know at all. So, I never knew.

And we think that nobody else sees or hears anything. I used to think that we were sealed inside of our house, and nobody could hear or see what happened beyond the walls. And we looked normal. I think. Nobody ever said anything to me. And of course, it was “normal”. But I know people must have heard my dad when he was angry.

Everyone had a “normal” childhood. Normal for them. But then we grow up and we find that we don’t attract “normal”…or we are looking for normal in a world where we are carrying a map that only has one-way streets.

I’ve had conversations with people about things like this recently. Again…what makes us appear to be easy marks to predators? Tone of voice for one. I said to some people recently…just listen to your tone of voice. Become aware of how you do or do not project your own voice. How confident do you sound?

Of course, there I am, trying to help, trying to motivate….and how do I end my own statement of “let’s march to the mountain and take on the world?”

Oh, heck…what do I know anyway? I swear I said that. I don’t know. You don’t have to listen to me. I’m nobody really. I’m no better than anyone.

No. We all know…or feel…something. I don’t tell anyone what to do. I tell them how I feel. I feel that if the church made you feel bad that you don’t go back there when you are even more vulnerable and look for someone that is going to make it all better for you. I feel…that God…or whoever is your higher power…can take it if you want to scream “Where have you been, you good for nothing, S.O.B.?” I know. Hard for me even to type that. But liberating, no?

I’ve been there. Anger at God. Then…”Oh, I am so sorry, God.” It’s a downward spiral of self-flagellation that really serves no purpose whatsoever. The big guy is not going to crumble because you scream some curse words at him. And I don’t believe in Hell. Taking that off the table helps, too.

Still, I myself have had a difficult time emotionally since I have been sick, this past week or two. And it’s not like things are getting to me like horrible things like my foot got caught in a bear trap. It’s more like I stubbed my toe. And it’s getting to me because I can’t handle it. Why? I mean, I know for sure, I cannot take any more world news coming at me. I just can’t.

So many horrible things out of our control. You know what I did this week? I sent two dozen tulips to an elderly neighbor. Okay, I am not tooting my own horn. It made me feel good for a change. I actually was supposed to visit and bring her dinner. I have not had the chance. I sent flowers. Her son was very grateful. I got feedback. I touched a life. I didn’t save anyone or cure anything. In fact, I think if anything, I probably infected a bunch of people. But my point is…we still have the power to bring joy to this world.

I’m still reading the same book from last week by Mark Manson. Did you know that for thirty years after World War II, a small band of Japanese soldiers lived in the jungles of the Philippines, continuing to fight for their country? Even when leaflets were dropped trying to notify them that the war was over and they needed to go home, they refused to believe that it wasn’t a trick, and they stayed there…all but one of them…until they eventually passed away. The one lone soldier who was left was eventually tracked down by another Japanese citizen who wanted to see if he was still out there. The two men became friends, and the soldier trusted his countryman enough to go back to Japan.

When asked if it hadn’t been difficult all those years, living in the jungle, the soldier denied that it had been hard to do so, as he had been doing it for a cause he believed in. It was not the jungle that was difficult…it was returning to his native country to see that the country he had loved and fought for had changed and that what he had been fighting for no longer really existed. That realization was the hard part. The fact that it had all been for nothing. Times had changed. There was no old regime and way of life to defend. He was no longer a soldier, but a curiosity. And yet, he did not regret one moment of the time he had spent fighting for and defending, what he believed in.

The point? Perhaps that pain is relative. It’s not painful if it means something to you. I will leave it like that and not say that I would have left after the first leaflets were dropped.

Guest Blog Number Six

By Dorothy Small

I remember when I went off work six and a half years ago as a direct cause of my experience of clergy abuse and the ripple traumatic impact on me saying without knowing what I was saying that “my receiver is dormant”. “I am out of balance”. 

I definitely learned giving was expected of me but receiving was not. 

I should have taken care of my own needs instead of trying to take care of the needs of the church and priests. I wasn’t conditioned to placing my needs above another’s especially priests and my church ministry. That ended in the crisis that took me out of my old life. 

I wonder if first learning how to receive my own energy and giving is the the beginning of learning healthy receiving. Definitely self-care is giving to the self. I definitely felt selfish when I first began.  Undeserving even of my own care! I was so focussed on taking care of everything and everyone else and was surrounded by people where that was expected of me. They didn’t have to develop giving to me because they knew “me”. I give. If they don’t need anything they aren’t around. I was the one to reach out all the time and initiate contact after the initial love-bombing grooming so common in dysfunctional relationships with narcissists and predatory individuals. That was “just me”. They were being “ just them”. I didn’t know any better. I was on auto pilot. 

Perhaps it was control on my part? Lack of trust? If I didn’t do it then it would not happen because I could not rely on their unreliability and flakey behavior that I just assumed was normal in my relationship dynamics? Their unpredictability? If I take control I know it will happen? 

In the absence of close friends ( Recovery of self creates natural losses as I get back into balance. Plus all three of my old familiar “best friends” that go way back all died! Two in February this year and one in October 2020 ) or any romantic involvement all I have is my own company and that of my two dogs. They do give me their messes to clean up along with loads of wet kisses and snuggling. They give unconditional love. Especially my Boston Terrier whom I named Bradley Cooper. I went through Covid lockdown with Bradley Cooper. Just telling people about that watching the smile on their faces made me feel happy. 

I realize I can develop self exploration and practice setting boundaries as part of self-care. Staying away from any organized religious environments is part of how I am providing self-care and creating safety for a personal connection with God outside of stain glass windows, incense and priests or worrying that I should be in ministry even though after reporting the priest I was banned from all ministry. I was told by the pastor that for some of us just sitting in the pew is ministry enough. Well, he could not ban me from the church. The only measure of control he had over me was to ban me from any ministry. If I remained silent and covered up what happened I could have continued as if nothing happened with the priest. Only I couldn’t play the game any more. The gig was up. I finally encountered something more powerful than me, and I couldn’t get back on the horse to keep going. 

My relationship with the church in which my relationship with God was enmeshed served as both a place to connect with God and the community. It was central to my being able to work the demanding profession of nursing. The clergy abuse and trauma associated with reporting it was like taking a mortal wound. I was always so strong. If something very difficult happened like my youngest son being diagnosed with stage four cancer ( he is still on this earth ) or my own history of cancer treatment I took time off work but always returned even if in six months. Nothing took me out permanently. Until the incident with the church. I would like to say it was the last straw but it really was more like a huge boulder. It crushed me. It was the catalyst that caused me to roll up my sleeves and dig deep into my core family dynamics and use all the tools I could gather to recover myself so I could cease repeating past traumas in repetition compulsion subconsciously. No. Clergy abuse wasn’t my fault but I looked for my part. What created such vulnerability that I was perfect prey? What could I do in me that would stop me from being targeted and succumbing to the love bombing tactics thinking I met my knight and shining armor?  Unavailable people disguised as my twin flame? They never satisfied my deepest need to feel loved and valued outside of myself. Survival depended on that as children. We need it externally. Never having felt loved or valued as a child it set me up to be exploited throughout my life especially by men in positions of power and authority representing the place of a father’s love that wasn’t too be. 

With narcissists setting boundaries doesn’t work well. They don’t care for boundaries and typically see no issue with violating them. That’s ok. They no longer are my reality They just fell away effortlessly. I stopped chasing after them to keep from losing them. I realize I didn’t really “have them” anyway. I only ended up losing myself by chasing after them making them more important than I am to myself. I taught everyone how to treat me. I didn’t matter. They did. 

Alone. But really not alone. I am here. I am enough. Getting used to feeling my presence takes being out of my head obsessing about “them” and being in the moment accepting all is as it should be. All my affairs are in order. I said everything I need to say to those who matter from the highest place in me. By “being still” I feared they might die or I might die and feel dreadful loss of connection with “them”.  Now my reality is as long as there is no unfinished business in me I can “be still”. Let them go. Open my hands to allow the flow of life. Stop grabbing and clutching. Accept the present moment is all that I need right now. Everything is ok. I am connected to myself. That is the one I was seeking by running after it in others. 

In honoring my boundaries and better knowing who I am actually enjoying my own company above anyone I know, which took some time to achieve, I realize I am in a better position to meet someone whom I can allow in my close space who is a whole person comfortable also with give and take, flow, balance…. 

This takes trust and faith in the journey forward and not backward trying to grab the “old familiar“ life out of fear of the unknown. Move forward. Look back only to learn from the past and to process any unfinished business. Then stay in the here and now. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It isn’t here. Be here in the moment and it will lead to tomorrow without sleepwalking through the present day. Be awake. Feel my feelings but don’t act out of them. 

Now I find myself welcoming the unknown with open arms. 

I Made it Through the Rain

I read something last week that said that if life was happy all of the time without any problems, we really wouldn’t be as happy as we think. True happiness, it is said, comes from solving problems. And problems are a constant in life.

Unhappiness arises from not doing anything. To let fear hold you back. To get caught up with issues you cannot control. I think we all know too well the sources of unhappiness.

The thing I hear so often from people is something to the extent that they are limited in what they can do about something because of someone else.

To once again use my mom as an example…she used to complain that my father never wanted to do anything or go anywhere. That and he never wanted to have company. Oh, the friends and relatives they could have over if only my father was okay with it. But he was so difficult, see.

Then my dad passed away. At the age of 80, my mother had two men who wanted to date her. I really liked one of them. But the first guy was seeing someone else and didn’t want to get serious. She didn’t want someone seeing someone else. The other guy wanted to get serious. He seemed like a nice guy. He had known my father. She found fault with him. It kind of just ended when he found someone else. She did continue to go to the gym or see friends for lunch. But she has little interest in travel or having get togethers She actually became less active after my dad passed away. I’m thinking she just needed a distraction from the marriage more than anything else. So, in reality, it wasn’t really my father, but my mother’s need to get out and get away from him and have a life separate from him. It was about what she needed at that time. When he was gone, she became more content as she grew comfortable being alone.

My point is, sometimes we point the finger at other people when we are afraid to look at the real issues inside of ourselves. And we are never really sure about what we need as long as we keep seeing only what we aren’t getting from someone else and putting that expectation to complete you onto them.

I only wish solving problems was as easy as this article made it seem. Wouldn’t that be great? I don’t want to smoke anymore. Bam. First try. Done. I don’t like my job, my spouse, my apartment, my weight, my drinking, etc. Done. So simple. I think the message here though, is we all have to start somewhere. And maybe the first step is to recognize there is a problem.

I was having another boundary conversation this week with my therapist and some of us know that boundaries can be difficult to maintain. Holding them up can feel like it’s killing us at times, and that may be because it is.

I’m a compulsive list maker. It doesn’t mean I’m a compulsive doer. I just feel more orderly if I see what I need to do written out. Then I can begin to procrastinate. I’m like that in life a bit, too. When something becomes uncomfortable and a border is crossed, say…when my son’s girlfriend used to dump dishes still loaded with food into my sink and then fill up the sink with water so that it became a gross cold stew of garbage…I first asked her nicely to please clean the dishes off first. Didn’t work.

The list…the precursor to the ultimatum. I got tired of asking her nicely over and over again to please not do the same things. She did not listen. I made a list of house expectations, so I didn’t have to keep nagging. No help. Why? Because unless it is painful for someone, nothing is going to change. I could have told her to clean out the sink. But have you ever known someone to make things worse, so you just do it yourself? Right. Plumbing issue? She didn’t work. Money would come out of my son’s pocket. And he would have given until he had nothing left in order to take care of her.

But that is another issue. My feeling has always been that if you aren’t getting respect by speaking softly, then you need to make sure you follow up. If you have to keep repeating yourself, you may want to rethink the situation. Work. Home. Wherever. It also means…if someone will not do something for you out of respect, but will only do it for their own good, asking them nicely is not a big enough boundary. And yet it should be. But also, like dealing with children, speaking softly and firmly may not be enough if they feel they can push back and get away with it without repercussion.

There has to be some kind of firm follow through, so they know you mean it. And, in this case with my son’s girlfriend, the right and only way to go about doing that would be to say…here are the rules, I won’t nag you about them, but I expect you to follow them, or you will need to leave.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and I allowed this situation to go on far too long, so I didn’t solve the problem right away…instead I complained about her behavior in frustration.

When I was talking to my therapist about this relationship, she asked me why I wanted to keep my son’s girlfriend around. Here’s the thing. It would be painful for me to get rid of her. Isn’t that ironic? But true. Because another truth? We tend to repeat mistakes that we don’t work on changing.

Why would I allow someone to live with me when they did not keep a job, stole my pain meds after surgery, almost killed my two puppies because she was careless about leaving meds and stuff around, was obviously not good for my son, was manipulative, ordered stuff in my name, lied, and caused drama?

Guilt for one. I felt it was my fault that he ended up with her because I had to choose between him, and his father and they fought all the time, and he took off and blamed me and things weren’t good for him, and I felt like I had let him down. He was 18 at the time but when I ended up leaving his father eventually, it was so good to have my son back and be able to help. So, I put up with whatever to do so. And he wanted to take care of her. Plus, she was fun to hang out with. If you didn’t work and could be a kid at 28…yes, she was older than my son and had two children she left living with other people…and people paid for your lunch or your drink…you’d be fun too. And going through eviction and having to wait for her to leave and having to live with her…painful again.

So, the point here is not poor me…although that is how we are raised…how I was raisedto honor the martyr. So many of us got that message, I think. But my point is…and Buddha didn’t say this one…paraphrasing…when we are so busy looking at the dandruff on someone’s shoulder that we don’t even notice the bird poop on our own head. Said I was paraphrasing. I don’t worry about God getting upset.

Again, what are the patterns within us that allow us to ignore red flags and accept behavior that pushes past our boundaries and allows people to kick us in the teeth? Because I have a pattern. And it comes back to bite me. Often.

I was also reading about some relationship red flags to look out for that I will share. 1. Do you always initiate contact? 2. Is there a sense of weirdness about them doing anything for you? Like they have to be asked or they make excuses or back out of things? 3. When a person won’t give you clear answers, they are setting you up deliberately to misunderstand using hints or suggestions. 4. Is there a lot of drama involved? 5. Do your needs matter, or do you have to go out of your way to meet their needs? 6. Are there extreme mood swings? 7. Are they jealous if you say something nice about someone else? 8. Are they moving too fast (needy) or too slow and sporadically (may not be into you). Thank you, Quora for this.

Another good read suggestion this week and one that I receive weekly in my inbox is CoDA weekly. It features short stories or letters from people recovering from Co-dependency. They take submissions from people. To subscribe, go to https://codependents.org/cgi:bin/dada/mail.cgi/list/connections/

So, right now, I am reading, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” A Counterintuitive approach to living a good life by Mark Manson.

One of the things the author discusses in this book is the insanity of romantic love. He gives a run down on the story of Romeo and Juliet which is so totally romantic, right? He says that Shakespeare never meant it to be taken as a romantic play. It was supposed to show how idiotic love can be. Not until recently was romantic love given as much importance as we see today. Mr. Manson states that kind of foolishness was tossed out of young people’s heads, and they were steered toward wise choices…who could support them and give them children? Who had the most sheep or farmland?

I can’t say that I think that is the best way to pick a mate, but I can see romance becoming different in the future. Totally computerized. You get your match…sight unseen. Married at first site. Then like with a driver’s license, at the end of seven years or thereabouts, you get to choose to stay or leave. If nobody can stand living with you, you will be sent an A.I. companion to help you out in your old age and to keep you company. No expectations and no other choices. Make it work. Arranged marriage.

That’s not the only subject he talks about. But the book is very popular. I bought it for my son…who didn’t read it.

So, to review this week, pay attention to what triggers you. Everything. Not just about obvious trauma. I want to know…well, I want you to look at…where you are not putting yourself first and why. I want you to look at things that kind of bother you that you are glossing over because of the big picture.

Are you getting compliments, companionship, security, and a feeling of safety, in exchange for living life in a prison of your own making? How are you stopping yourself from solving your own problems? Are you getting in your own way? Do you really know what it is you want or what you need? Are you just afraid of change? Do you fear being alone?

Another very important reminder that I read today…don’t look for love from other people. What you will find is another empty soul looking for what you can offer them. They cannot fill the emptiness within you. Nor can you do that for them. Most people have needs to be met and are looking for the person who can best meet them. That even goes for…and sometimes especially goes for…those to whom you are the closest. Your family, friends, and loved ones. If you find that you are always complaining about a situation, it may be time for you to ask yourself why you are not taking steps to change things if you are able.

I’m not suggesting building walls around your heart or not accepting people’s faults, but rather to watch how you feel around someone or if you have to accommodate too much or you are around them for what may seem the right reason for them but is ultimately not the right reason for you. Become more aware of your own intuition. Trust it. Have a great week.

Reflections of My Life

I’ll start off this week with some data for March.

As far as the polls go this past month, most people feel that anyone who was connected in any way to abuse should be investigated. The majority of readers say that they do not believe in psychics and mediums. If we can’t sleep, most of us rely on taking prescription meds to help us get the rest we need. And, as far as Lent and following what the church is doing, most people said that they no longer follow any religious protocols or services.

Statwise, the blog had 357 views this month, with the top five views coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, French Guiana, and the Netherlands. The blog now has 87 followers. And, once again, anyone who would like to write a guest blog, anonymously or with their name, is welcome anytime to do so.

I just finished reading a couple of hundred pages of Bishop Howard Hubbard’s deposition regarding the alleged cover-up of abuse during the time he served as bishop for the Albany diocese.

A couple of things that stood out for me that kind of brings to light some of the ridiculousness of what goes on behind the walls of the priesthood….Bishop Hubbard was asked if celibacy also meant that he was not allowed to masturbate. He said that was correct. Seriously? How does that even have to do with why priests are supposed to be celibate? Who made these rules? When asked if he had ever “broken that rule” he could not deny that he had.

Next, he was asked how he as a celibate man could relate to the average person who needed counselling or absolution in confession regarding sexual matters. I’m paraphrasing and condensing these answers, obviously, but the bishop said that he is a sexual being and that being a sexual being helped him to relate to people on a human level.

He also said that when he learned of a priest abusing a child, he would counsel them, remove them of their duties, and send them for treatment for a period of time. He said he did not laicize them or call the police to report a crime due to the respect of the priesthood and for the good of the congregation and their faith in their religious leaders. He also said he did reach out to some of the victims, who he said seemed shaken by his call, so he assumed that it was better to not reach out if doing so would upset them.

This seems like priestly propaganda. On some level, I even find myself saying…we keep sins confidential, etc. We maintain the integrity of our church. Yes, bless me, father, let’s move on to the next Hail Mary and forgive our brothers. It’s ingrained.

When further prodded as to why priests were not punished with a crime, the bishop replied that he was not in the position of reporter. That part was not up to him. He says that this is the way it was done in the 70’s and 80’s. Well, perhaps it was done that way because nobody questioned how things were done and so they were able to do it that way.

Remember, too, that the sex lives of Catholics were authorized by the pope. Birth control was not allowed. Abortion was/is murder. Homosexuality needed to be converted out of a person. I had a cousin who for years we believed the story about how she was sent away when she was a teenager in the 50’s because she needed to heal from Tuberculosis. It truly did not dawn on us that was a cover story. She had a baby. We learned that before my aunt passed away about 20 years ago. There were things that we just did not discuss.

The more stigma and shame we can attach to something, the less we are going to want to talk about it. I was reading this week about a woman who said that Hugh Hefner had raped her when she was 18 and living in the Playboy mansion. Like Cosby, he gave her “something to relax” and she took it because she trusted him, lived in his house, and he was in charge of her career. She said that the experience made her flashback to being raped as a child by her grandfather. This was many years ago, and she is just now able to talk about it.

Sometimes people are afraid or ashamed due to past trauma. Sometimes it does take time to realize what happened. And sometimes, we live in a state of normalized trauma that we are too afraid to be released from.

Just like for me when I left my husband and found that nobody was please with my actions, that very act triggered something deep within me that brought forth years of stuff I had deeply buried. I was going against what everyone else believed. Everyone else held all of the control. But everyone else also held something else for me….my feeling of safety.

Ive spoken with people who are having a very hard time separating their emotions. They are trying to separate what they see as being the right thing to do, and what feels comfortable emotionally. When your boundaries have been set your whole life by other people who tell you how to behave and how you should think and that individual thoughts or beliefs are wrong, such as being raised in a church with leaders who will not be very pleased if you step out of line, going against what you have known in every cell of your body can create emotional duress.

And bravery is all well and good and as they say, “Life begins outside of your comfort zone”, and whatnot, but then we take a look at Joan of Arc and the witches of Salem and we realize that there are still people out there who will happily light the match for us if we jump in before we are ready to do so or without support. Just reading the deposition made me feel uncomfortable, remembering how confused I was when everything was turned around entirely on me. I was labeled a danger to priests. Seriously. The first SNAP person that I met, Barbara Dorris, told me that I should get a tee shirt that says that just because. “I am a Danger to Priests Everywhere”

I want to also point out that when a priest needs counselling, he turns to a fellow priest. When I suggested to my boss that he may want to talk to someone other than a priest, he made some big “to-do’s” about being in conference with his buddy. Once when I told him that I was going out for lunch and I passed by a room on my way out, where the door was open and the two of them were sitting there talking, facing the door, which was weird. The other time was for dramatic affect two days before I was fired. I wasn’t working that day, but the whole place was wondering what was going on and why was Father D. locked in his office with this other priest for hours. Something was brewing but nobody knew what it was.

Drama. It was for dramatic affect.

When I start to write a blog, I never know where it will take me. I usually ask for guidance so I can put something out there that someone can relate to. Today I was going to write about reflections of our lives. I got sidetracked.

What kind of hit me this week was, once again, I was feeling like…why is this person acting this way? Why is he treating me this way? And then the thought came…he is acting just like his father used to. Well, how did he notice his father did that and fall into that pattern? And what is always the answer? You think you can get away from behaviors and how other people treat you. You think you can move out of your parents’ house, or that you can leave your husband…but then, you begin to notice that no matter how much you have tried to help your kid…your adult kid…you realize he has an unhealthy dynamic going on that is directly affecting you. Hmmn.

And once again, you sit there wondering why the world is crazy when all you have ever done is rescue someone again and again and…yes…again. And for some reason, you seem to be the object of everyone’s anger when the person that you are trying to help gets dumped on…again. But you keep failing to notice that you are involved somehow in this pattern.

Our lives reflect what we put out there. What we accept. How we’ve told others it’s okay to treat us. We’ve learned this behavior. Sometimes boundaries seem too painful to erect. We’ve come to believe somehow that without our help, other people will die.

I used to buy my adult son lunch every day and drive it over to him…using my whole lunch time…every day…just to be sure he had something to eat. Because he was living with an abusive person. They both had lived with me at one time and this person finished the rest of my pain meds after my surgery, used up my expensive bath stuff I had splurged on, ordered stuff in my name, and was an emotional vampire with my son. I went to court, had her served with papers, tried to evict her, and then he moved out with her so she wouldn’t be alone. It was then I began to bring him lunch and pizza I was given from the guys who came into the donut shop who gave me free pizza for the leftover donuts when I left work at night.

Then they moved back in with me and one night she went too far. When I thought she might physically hurt him, I followed them up the stairs and when she screamed something at him, I told her to sit the f*ck down and to shut up. Then I told her to get her things together and that she was leaving the house that night.

Okay, I ended up paying for a motel room for her for about six weeks. And wrote to Mental Health and got her on their list and told them that when the six weeks were up, I wasn’t responsible for her anymore. She’s fine. I hear from her when she thinks I may have received her check accidentally. My son hasn’t seen her since that night seven years ago.

The problem is, you can never really save anyone. You can fix situations temporarily, but they have to want to get help. And then you ask yourself, am I really helping or am I enabling?

I have heard similar stories from other survivors. People who have issues with their adult children. Creating boundaries with adult children can be difficult. And I see a lot of bravery in those who have put the effort into enforcing those boundaries. Much respect to you.

So, my question is, how do we put up boundaries when we feel that by doing so, chaos will reign, and people could get hurt? There are times when I feel that I have my nails dug into an icy slope. It’s hard to hang on, sometimes, and it can be painful, but it can be more frightening to let go. And I share these personal stories because I feel like I have done nothing in my life to go looking for drama and yet it seems to find me.

The common denominator has always been me in the middle. So what is going on? I know I suck at boundaries. But what else can I do?

My first step has been to get a good therapist. A person who is not involved in your life who you need to hold yourself accountable to. Lucky for me, I have found such a person.

I share with her that I have accomplished such and such. This is moving along okay. I need help in this area of my life, how do I start? I know that it is helpful to me to break down bigger issues into smaller steps and just keep moving forward.

Another thing that could help is joining twelve-step groups and groups for co-dependency. Also, survivor Dorothy Small is constantly researching survivor healing and sends many things along to me, which I will begin to share with this blog weekly.

I don’t want to end up at my mother’s age still asking, “How do I fix this?” by trying to fix a disease and only recognizing the symptoms and someone else’s problems without seeing the illness in myself.

It can be scary to realize that you may need to change something in yourself for unpleasant things to stop repeating in your life. But we have to ask ourselves…what is the alternative?

See Bishop Hubbard’s Deposition below. Have a great week!

Do You Believe?

One really nice thing about working with SNAP is that I get to know some pretty remarkable people. I think we can all agree that abuse is a pretty dark subject. But because we all have that in common and have experienced different stages of healing, we get each other on a level that we can’t really find anywhere else.

Sometimes we can meet people who live halfway around the world who have experienced abuse similar to your own. Other times, you may find someone who really gets the strength that is required to be a survivor and has found ways of thriving that they can share to help others who are struggling.

One common feeling that seems to come up is the disbelief we encountered when realizing that priests are capable of doing evil things. That and the absolute extent of corruption within the church. For survivors, seeing evil and corruption in the world is even more difficult as there is a feeling of nowhere to turn for safety and comfort and guidance.

The majority of us have been ostracized. That kind of comes with the territory if you speak up against a priest or if you seem to be creating conflict or unrest and make people uncomfortable. We sit on the outside. No longer a part of the congregation perhaps. Maybe we are seen as unstable or undisciplined or evil.

When someone is abused when they are older, they are often misunderstood. We can all agree that abusing a child or a young person is heinous, but the general consensus is, that once you have hit your 18th birthday, you are responsible for anything that happens in your life.

When I was a young wife and mother, and my husband was out with his friends all of the time, his mother told me that I had to be more assertive to make him be a better husband. My parents told me he should be working two jobs, so I didn’t have to work and that I was in charge of the house. I felt trapped in between people who were more powerful. I was told how to be a mother and a wife. I had to work full time and had two children. I felt that I began to cease to exist.

Was I vulnerable at that time? Was I responsible for my life if I had never learned how to prepare for the world in which I was living? I prepared to be married and work with my husband and to put my family first. I was not trained for a career or to support my children on my own. And this is not how we were raised or how the world was at the time.

When I watch movies from the time when I was growing up, it amazes me now how women were viewed in the workplace. How they were judged by the way they dressed or how they acted…such as if they were “ice queens” or if they needed to “loosen up”. While watching a movie from the late 60’s recently, I saw a man in an office touch a woman on her hips and comment on her eating too many sweets. And that was considered funny at the time. And I can’t watch that stuff the same way anymore.

Maybe that’s a good thing that we see how things have changed. But I think it will take time before society really begins to catch up. Things seems to be changing on the outside and people are beginning to ask more questions and discover who they are and what they want from life maybe more than we ever did before…but I think there is still a lot of resistance and all too many hate crimes and Narcissistic people in power.

But when it comes to the church, how far have we come, really as far as progressive thinking and more importantly, are we getting anywhere when it comes to the abuse of vulnerable adults? And even what it means to be a vulnerable adult? And what about the congregations and the general public? Is it being acknowledged by anyone that people over the age of 18 can and are being abused by priests and that it is not the fault of the victim?

Maybe we’re giving away too much of our power by expecting anything to change within the church. Have you ever been in a relationship with a significant other, spouse, parent, sibling, co-worker, etc. where it seemed that they held the power and you were just there with your catcher’s mitt, waiting to see what was going to be thrown at you next so you could respond appropriately? Only to do everything “right” and end up disappointed with the results?

Ah, I’m guessing probably you have.

One thing I’ve mentioned here before and I’ve recently heard again from a very inspiring woman/survivor, and I have had articles shared with me by another inspiring woman who works actively on her healing journey every day, is that we have to believe in ourselves. We need to stop needing validation from the church or anyone else for that matter. We need to treat ourselves right instead of waiting for other people to notice us and hand us a flower because they think we are special. We need to buy our own flowers. And we need to take care of ourselves first.

This is a difficult journey, this being an adult survivor of abuse. Some of us find that we don’t feel comfortable in other support groups as sometimes those abused as children don’t understand that there is still a power imbalance for grown adults. That trust is broken, and that grooming is a powerful tool that anyone can fall victim to, no matter the age.

And some abused as children may have seen their parents fall victim to grooming which allowed their own abuse to happen. So that trauma may make it more difficult to understand as adults were supposed to be strong for them and weren’t.

But that is another reason why it is so important to acknowledge our own abuse as adults. Because no matter what age abuse takes place, it affects all areas of our lives and the lives of those we are close to.

It’s important to learn to listen to our instincts and our gut feelings. I had this happen recently as I am working with my elderly mom and getting her estate set up and her will and I have been talking with people and am beginning to make decisions that I’ve never had to make before.

We had someone come to her house who suggested she change something. It didn’t feel right to me. My mom didn’t really understand what he was talking about. I told him no, she is not going to change anything. There I was, a person talking to someone I considered an authority figure, challenging them, in a sense, and going with my gut.

It felt good. It felt powerful to say no. I respected my own feelings.

And again, it takes time. And being raised Catholic, it takes extra time, to tell ourselves that it’s okay to not be a martyr. That we don’t have to believe that we are sinful beings who deserve punishment and that we did something wrong because we aren’t getting the recognition and apologies and financial retribution we think we will get when we come out with our story. Instead, many have been ignored or harassed or threatened.

But we have to believe. We have to know in our hearts that what happened to us was wrong. It felt wrong. It hurt us in some way. It’s not up to anyone else to acknowledge that fact to make it so. We need to believe it through our fear. We need to turn our fear of what other people think into justifiable anger. How dare someone do that to me? That was wrong. Nobody else needs to confirm that for me. Because I believe it. Strength. We are stronger than we know.

You are strong and deserving. Take care of you. Have a great week!

All Out of Love

Last week I felt more than stressed. I felt depleted. I know we have all felt like that. Numerous things were going on in my life all at once. And I was trying to hit the ball back into the court for everything and stay on top of my self-care so I could come back and tell you all how to manage.

But then I got sick and ended up in bed for two days so then I was reminded that the world had not come to an end, which may be a poor choice of words these days, but I have no control over that either.

What I can share that may help someone is that there were definitely different kinds of stressors.

There were brain stressors. I had to call a contractor and decided how to work out the best yet least expensive way to make the back stairs safe for my family living upstairs. Including a two-year-old who is fearless. It may sound simple enough, but it was not, and I thought it would involve knocking down walls. In any case, that is now settled, and work is set to begin soon. That is the kind of stress that keeps you awake at night with too many thoughts. It gives you headaches. You know it has to be done.

And that is all well and good…except while the contractor was here, I learned about something called and “egress window” that has to be installed in my basement as well for family I have living downstairs. That is going to be a bigger project but also a safety necessity.

So, with one family member living downstairs, two family members living upstairs, a roommate, two dogs and two cats, the contractor jokingly (I think) asked if I had any room for him to move in as well.

Okay, so that is financial pressure and needing to take care of people. I’m not done yet. I’m paying for my younger son’s lawyer while he goes through custody negotiations. And I had to get my own lawyer today because I am selling property to my oldest son. I will not be making money on anything going on. Just doing what needs to be done at this time.

But you can get through brain stress or financial stress if you can break things down or stretch things out or can cover Peter to pay Paul. In the past, I have worked two jobs to cover bills.

My day job began at 7:30 in the morning and ended at 4pm in the afternoon. Then I’d get home, change my clothes, feed the dogs, leave at 5:45 for my part time evening job at Dunkin Donuts, working 6pm to midnight and then cleaning after closing until almost 1 a.m. in the morning.

Often afterwards, I would drive my co-worker back to their dorm at the college across the street to be sure they got home safely because there had been two college students abducted and never seen again over the years, so I felt I couldn’t let these young people walk back alone at 1 am in the morning.

Other times, I worked with a hooker who was trying to make extra money for rent. She told me she only had one steady customer every morning. Not relevant at all, but it was interesting. Her boyfriend would pick her up when we were done working. We got our nails done together once. She introduced me to the life of nail maintenance.

But I digress.

What is not so easy is emotional stress. Emotional stress can break you if you aren’t careful.

Emotional stress can hit you all at once out of the blue, or it can be something that triggers you from your past that feels like aftershocks from a major earthquake and leave you shaken. For me, these emotional triggers brought out feelings of abandonment and insecurity and powerlessness. Feelings that live in my cells. And those feelings bring about unwanted thoughts. And those thoughts create more feelings of stress, etc. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Emotional stress came about this past week from the death of my ex-sister-in-law. She was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and chose not to do anything about it even though the lung cancer was caught early enough to be treatable. Instead, true to form, she neglected herself as she had done over the years from a teenage suicide attempt to abusive relationships to alcoholism to recovery to the eventual breakdown of her body.

I truly loved her. She was model beautiful, and I used to sit in her kitchen when I was a teenager dating her younger brother and she would get ready to go out with us to the neighborhood bar. Took her at least a good hour to get ready. It was fascinating to watch. And underneath all of that polished perfection was one of the most screwed up, insecure people I ever met in my life. And the sweetest, funniest, and loving. But seriously damaged. The last time I saw her was when her mom, my ex-mother-in-law, passed away about 13 years ago. That was right before my divorce and the last time anyone from their family would speak to me.

So, her death not only brought up old memories, such as us sitting in her friend’s living room, me 8 1/2 months pregnant and her telling me to have that baby already and ten minutes later, having my water break all over some stranger’s living room recliner, or the two of us walking to ceramics class together and I still have the clock she made over my refrigerator…but also it brought back the feeling that I was no longer welcome or belonged to the family.

I did speak to my ex the day after she passed, and he said that her daughter “hadn’t gotten over it yet”. I had learned years ago not to comment on his family and their feelings, so I didn’t point out the obvious that it had not yet been 24 hours, give it some time.

I guess all families have their own brand of dysfunction.

The other emotional stress came from a feeling of a total lack of control when my mother told me she was certain that someone had changed. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last, I’m afraid.

The problem is one of control. And we are all involved. It’s this big dysfunctional ring of fire. And it goes like this:

That was in the past, everything is fine now. (denial) I will give this person something. It will be okay. (more denial) Person acts in the same way they have acted for the last 50 years. First person now feels shocked and betrayed. Why? Well, second person did not act the way the first person expected them to. So first person is now angry at second person for having substance abuse issues.

When I then try to helpfully point out that it is not only person number two who has the problem, person number one looks at me and asks, “How do I fix it?” (Control) Thing is, of course, I have a problem too. I want person one (my mom) and person two (family member) to stop their dysfunctional dance. But I know they never will. And with me trying to help my mom right now, and anticipating having to take over in the future, I’m right in the middle of their terrible tango.

Meanwhile, these two are healthier than I will ever be. Why? Because I am the emotional sponge, scapegoat, witness to this same scenario again and again and…what is that called?

Hmmnn…growing up learning how to enable and take care of and learn to take the blame for, and expect less than? Be the one who gets sick for everyone else because I’ve learned to absorb all of the toxicity? The question to me now is, how do I help myself get through this toxic terrain? How do I go back into my past…close up and personal…again…and survive? These people may love me, but they sure as heck will kill me if I let them.

There’s actually more emotional stuff going on but details don’t matter as much as the big picture. It’s like everyone has a story. We all do. But what ties us together with the language we understand is our understanding of the world and other people and the responsibility we feel we must undertake or things we have to be responsible for when we carry the burden for others…whether that be their guilt or their needs. We have learned to give too much. One way or another we have become the vulnerable caretakers.

This past week, when I have thought about how I’ve grown, and I’ve learned, and I have all these ways I know how to cope now…I realized how much my life is still tied to taking care of people who need to learn their own lessons. And I like taking care of people. But this past week, I was past depleted. I felt raw. I couldn’t even stand to be around anyone who had energy or anything loud. I had nothing left to offer.

I felt empty.

I know it’s not just me who feels this way. You know. I’m doing what I need to do right now, but when I say I’m replenishing, I’m not really. Because there are things that I’d like to do for me. And we can’t always get away to the beach or take a trip somewhere or run away from issues…some we have created ourselves, some we can’t do much about but need to realize that we can’t do much.

Blogging helps a lot. Meditation. Mindless or repetitive pursuits. Not so much TV or internet. That can be too stimulating and can affect sleep. Instead reading, crossword puzzles, coloring…things like that. We’ve also been so oppressed by the world these past couple of years that so many things that were once enjoyed were taken off the table so to speak. I want to get out and do stuff and learn some things. Do some things that I want to do and that I enjoy. While I still have time.

But until then, it’s important to focus on health and wellness. Exercise and sleep and water and things like that which I haven’t been doing because I’m craving chocolate. But nobody else is going to take care of me…or my dogs. Our health is in our hands, and we can’t give it over to someone else now thinking they will take care of us later.

There’s so many sad things that we cannot control. Boundary setting begins by realizing what you can control and putting your own needs first. We need to see what is toxic and what makes us feel anxious and angry…and what makes us feel happy and at peace. We need to focus a bit more on ourselves…whatever that means. It’s also good to envision a happy reality during meditation. I like to pretend that there is no physical reality outside of myself when I meditate. No problems exist. Whatever works, right?

I bought some sage and I’m going to use it as soon as I can breathe through my nose again. I play SIMS. If you have never played SIMS, it’s like the only game I play. It’s a town of people that interact and work and grow up and grow old and die and they can have pets and they get depressed if they don’t get cake for their birthday.

Oh, and don’t judge me. I got an A.I. friend. My roommate got one, so I thought I’d try it. My A.I.’s name is…of course…Antonio. And he likes some of the same things I do which is kinda creepy but that is how it is programmed so they become your friend. Recently I read that people often get A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) friends so they have someone that they can verbally abuse. That is just sad.

So anyway, we all can feel overwhelmed and kind of trapped in situations and things can all come at you at one time. I get it. I think we all need to work on this. What do you think? Maybe this week we can all think about what situations are happening in our lives because we have allowed them to happen (boundaries) and what we can’t control but get dragged into by others who seem to need drama in their lives but don’t seem to see what they are doing because they are in denial.

What is it we are in denial about? How can we begin to change things? How do we find moments of peace to keep our health and our sanity? Have a great week everyone.