Category Archives: conditioned to accept abuse

Conversational Narcissism

narc

I finally have a word for it.

Conversational Narcissism.

This word defines a phenomena that I’ve experienced in my husband’s family pretty much 100% of the time I’ve known them, dominating each and every conversation I’ve had with them.  Something that I’ve come home with, shaking my head, trying to figure out why these holidays, vacations and gatherings seem so hollow and confusing.

I’ve been angry, dismayed, disappointed at the endless spinning of conversation designed around anything and everything THEM.  For years, I sat dutifully as my in-laws laughed and told tales of their vacations, their careers, their homes, the decor in each of these homes, details of friends I’d never met as well as stories of their children, their jobs, where they live.  While I thought I was being polite to my elders by listening albeit feigning interest often, it began to occur to me that they knew NOTHING about me.  It hit me hard one day when one of the in-laws or one of my sisters-in-law (can’t remember which), were listing all the professions represented in the family as a sort of parlor game.  The list comprised of a doctor, several teachers, an engineer, a technical theatre designer, a business owner.  One of the sisters said it sure would be great to have a nurse in the family to round out this list.

I was dumbfounded….I probably even shook my head in disbelief…. I’m sitting right there as a nurse with 20+ years in the field and they didn’t even know that? It would be less embarrassing to say that I’d only been in their family for several weeks or months….and I cringe when I say this, that I’d been married to my husband for over 5 years.  How did they not know anything about me or more importantly, how did they never stop talking about themselves long enough to ask?

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Needless to say, I seized the opportunity to enlighten them that they did indeed have a nurse in the family, my background and education. I continued and went on to tell them about my daughter, their new granddaughter and niece, and all of her interests and accomplishments.  But it left the most bizarre taste in my mouth because I’d never, ever met a family that operated like this.  After this awkward informational session, I figured  we had struck new territory, that they indeed had a bit of background now and from then on we’d have healthier, more give-and-take kind of conversations.

I was so wrong.  The dynamics of this family were so well entrenched that nothing changed.  There were no probing questions or interested inquiries.  I continued to find myself listening as a bystander becoming more invisible through each of their never ceasing conversations of self.  His parents would continue to invite us over for a “visit” which meant come over and sit and listen to us talk about ourselves.  Even during tragic moments, suicide of a grandson’s friend, my own heart attack and hospitalization, or the mental breakdown of a cousin, would ANY subject besides themselves be approached.  The invalidation that I and my daughter felt was so palpable that we stopped going to functions and holidays because even though our bodies were there, we simply didn’t exist to this family.

Fast forward to today.

When I found this article featured in Oprah‘s magazine entitled, “The Mistake I Made with my Grieving Friend” by Celeste Headlee, I literally yelled WOW.

I finally have a word for this disrespectful and disproportional soapbox that I witnessed. Conversational Narcissism.

In this article, the author admittedly realizes that she is using the “shift” to make a conversation about her during a moment when her friend is grief stricken by the loss of her father.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency to insert oneself into a conversation as “conversational narcissism.” It’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. It is often subtle and unconscious. Derber writes that conversational narcissism “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America. It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and co-workers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life.” Derber describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment.

 

Here’s what it looks like taken from actual conversations with my husband’s family.

Shift Response:

Laurel: Did you hear that your grandson Ben lost a friend to suicide?

In Laws:  No, I didn’t.  A lady from church just lost her grandson recently in a car accident, it was awful. She’s having a really hard time.

Support Response: 

Laurel:  Did you hear that your grandson Ben lost a friend to suicide?

In Laws:  No, I didn’t!  What happened?  Have you spoken with Ben or his friend’s family?  We need to reach out to him and give him some support during this rough time.

Shift Response: 

Laurel: I’m unable to attend Thanksgiving this year because I just got out of the hospital and don’t feel well enough.

In Laws:  Okay, I’ll just ask my daughters to bring the food that you would have normally brought. We always have so much food at our gatherings.

Support Response:  

Laurel: I’m unable to attend Thanksgiving this year because I just got out of the hospital and don’t feel well enough.

In Laws:  I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were in the hospital again.  We’d love to have you come and don’t worry about bringing food.  If you can’t make it, I’d love to send some food over to you later.  How are you feeling?

You get the idea.

The excitement that I feel when meeting a new person or even getting to know more about an old friend is based on the healthiest of a give and take conversation.  I love to talk but I also love to listen.  And ask questions and probe into the depths of a person’s stories and soul.  You know, meat and potatoes stuff. I can’t imagine it any other way. I want a dialogue, not a monologue.

But for the “conversational narcissist”, the goal is to get their needs met, not to get to know a person.  It is an ego feeding maneuver which is entirely one sided and executed to keep the attention on them.

For myself and my daughter, we simply had enough of these experiences and now are a no-show to family functions which interestingly, aren’t even really noticed.  As long as enough of the audience shows up, this family can conduct their usual lopsided interplays and never be the wiser to the fact that we’ve ditched them. Actually, they still haven’t stopped talking about themselves long enough to notice.

 

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How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? by Karen Hernandez

karenGod commands it – Honor your mother and your father.

I believe God passed down this commandment with the meaning that when you do honor your parents, you are honoring God, because, after all, God is our ultimate parent, considered “Father,” to many.

The question begged, however, is what if your parents do not honor you? What if your parents are abusive? What if they treat you with disrespect? Are we, their children, still expected to honor them?

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pushing through

Heartbreak changes peopleAlthough I’m borrowing this phrase from a fellow blogger, I’m going to let her story speak for me today.  How long have I just been pushing through?  A day, a month, a year?

Over a year ago, I lost a situation that was pure joy for me.  I lost it due to my emotion regulation problems that are a result of abuse.  My lifeline of joy that fed and distracted me from the pain is gone.  I’ve not been successful at replacing it yet although I do try each day.  I push through.  Just like my friend  A Heart of One does in her blog post.  The particulars of her life are a bit different yet the result is the same.  Our hearts are broken and we just don’t know how to fix them.  That’s all there is everyday….heartbreak….

     All of my life, I’ve been pushing through…pain, grieve, exhaustion, lack of supports.  I’ve made it work, kept going.  Do or die.  If I felt myself getting sick, I’d will myself to not be sick, keep going, don’t have time to be sick, take a rest, stay home, do nothing.

     I tried to push through today, still want to on some level.  I tapped into a painful memory last night.  Curled into a ball, on my side, clenching my bottom, mouth shaped into a scream, eyes wide, head jerking back, shaking all over, then crying.  Me, but not me.  A past me.  In pain, terrified.   He did not care about pain he caused or the fear that I felt.  It was a moment of complete horror.  I lived it and lived through it again.

Full article at http://aheartofone.blogspot.com/2013/01/pushing-through.html


I’m the dissenter….

Recently I read a conversation on Facebook where a friend was crying out in pain due to her family shunning her.  Her pleas were confused, angry, sad. By her standards,  she’d been loyal and loving in her gestures toward her family over the years but they had chosen to ostracize her for reasons that they wouldn’t share with her. This challenged many feelings inside her.  She questioned her reasons for staying true to herself, thinking maybe she should have been softer with them, perhaps even more enabling.  Many times she’d reached out attempting to find a common ground with them, something to build a new foundation upon, to no avail. But the bottom line of her pain was that she missed them.  Terribly.  Her emotional loss visits her often.  And I felt her pain even from where I was sitting 1000 miles away.

If you change out the players and setting, you have my exact family situation.  Since my friend and I feel many of the same feelings towards ourselves and our families is probably why we’ve stayed close.   It’s also why this post struck so deeply.

As hard as I try to maintain contact with my family, they just aren’t motivated to return my gestures.  As I’ve grown and learned more about myself, I’ve been able to temper my anger toward our abusive upbringing that we all were subject to.  I, above anyone else, know the deep wounds etched in our young psyches.  I guess I always figured that this fact would make me safe to them.  I understood. I got it.  I was one of them.  Yet somehow, sitting in one of my many therapist’s offices over the years, I convinced myself that if I healed, worked hard, found the solutions for us and held up the light of illumination that they would somehow follow me along that hallowed and healing path.  My fractured reasoning combined with a dogged and desperate approach to enforce my fractured reasoning would result in many, many failed attempts and lots of heartache.

For a while, I was just plain pissed.  After all, I was one of them, how could they turn their backs on me?  I had gone through divorce from an abusive partner, poverty that left me selling my possessions including my car, a child to care for and a tender spirit that had given so much that she’d lost herself completely.  They turned their heads, they wanted nothing to do with me.  When the anger began to wain, the depression ensued, medications were taken, anxiety filled my days with my child.

This was a painful, painful time and the healing took the form of one minute after another, one hour, then one day.  My trust eventually extended to several women friends who gradually over time replaced my family of origin.  We created our own family gatherings, raised our children and moved on piece by piece.  But this was hard, hard work.  And dammit…I didn’t want a replacement for my sisters, nieces and cousins, I wanted THEM.  They were the ones that my heart stayed attached to, they were the ones whose blood my body recognized simply by standing close by or thinking of them.  What I realized is that there aren’t enough curse words, things to be broken or tears to be shed that will make another person return to you if they don’t want to or simply can’t.  And it was in this last phrase that I finally took another step toward healing.

My family can’t be around me.  They just can’t.  And they don’t.

I don’t exactly know why or do I have any explanations as to my conclusion but have had many possibilities given to me by loving friends, sponsors and therapists.  One thought is that I am the one person in the family that left.  I am the dissenter.  Like the little girl in the photograph, she’s the one who is standing up, preparing to separate herself from the circle.

In their eyes, I chose to honor myself, putting my individual needs over the group’s needs, get the hell out making sure that my life and my daughter’s life would never reflect that stagnant, cesspool upbringing that I had.  I had left the cult and the cult like thinking that defined us. Following this line of thinking, my family then shunned me as a religious community might shun those who no longer follow the thinking of the group.  So maybe, we were really just simply a sociological~philosophical~anthropological~spiritual textbook example? That’s the cunundrum, its all of these truths but  it. is. not. simple.  Have I overthought and personalized a situation that perhaps historically has happened throughout time?  Believing I was not unique actually made me feel a bit better.

I search for reasons behind the fact that they can’t be around me.  My friend and Inner Bonding facilitator, simply states that they are too wounded.  Their inner child feels too wounded to be able to give any love back to me at this point and maybe never.  But what does that mean for me?  That I never know them again?  That years go by and people die and new babies are born and the children get married and I’m never, ever a part of this?  I was wounded too but found a way to free myself, why can’t they step up and do the same?  We could lift each other up instead of giving up and staying so stuck, perpetuating the same cycles over and over.  They have the same ability that I did to throw off the blinders and go out into the world and experience other ways of life outside the cult commune.  Wow, look who just showed up!  The angry cheerleader strikes again!  I want to inspire them with my chosen set of values, yet when they don’t respond, I’m pissed.  Hmmm…..

Actually, I’m hurt and sad.  I miss them and I want them whole and happy.  I want to see their children and have them know my daughter.  Then, I’d like to throw in a family reunion where we all have T-shirts printed the same, with a rainbow overhead, while we frolic the day away proclaiming our undying familial love for each other.  Insert my family as interesting, well read, politically moderate and non-racist individuals who love themselves and perform altruistic work for a living preferably with an environmental flair.  And you can see where this goes….off into fantasy land. But since this is reality and the previous scenario is not going to happen, I learn there is absolutely nothing to do about it.  Except to pray for their peace.  And well, there is that acceptance part.

Using my best  DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) skills, I stay as centered as I can and allow the feelings to wash over me.  My mantra being that I must accept myself and my family for who they are and what they can give.  Just accept….with compassion….the place where we are at this given moment.  Send them love.  Send me love.  Breathe.

My niece responds via text  “damn, I miss you”.  She has read the quarterly upbeat newsletter type thing that I do.  Actually she confesses that she received it a week before but looked at it with dread for days before opening and reading it.  That puzzles me but I let it go.  My newsletter is similar to what families send out around the holidays, updating family and friends that they don’t see in person throughout the year.  I’ve chosen this method of communication by default.  Since we don’t have family reunions or holidays together or even Facebook connections, it is my safest, best and most creative way to stay in touch.  The subjects are benign and safe.  This issue was about the dogs in our lives.

Here’s the other thoughts that I try to release from my heart….How can you miss someone and let that be the overriding feeling?  As in, I miss you so much but will do absolutely nothing about it.  I will simply choose to sit here and miss you and deny myself the experience of trying to work things out or even let myself think that I deserve a chance at happiness?  I’m going to tell you just enough to let you know I still think of you,  making the move to reach out and give you a quick, elusive, snippet of love and then yank it back so fast that you won’t even really know it was there.  An illusion, a wisp, a fantasy that can be denied.

I mailed out 12 of my newsletters to my family a month ago and to date, I’ve received one text of  “damn, i miss you”.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Give yourself love and compassion and then extend it to them.

Related articles:

6 Steps of Inner Bonding

Dr. Margaret Paul,  Do you chase when someone withdraws?


my “muse” is pissed….

Any attempts at writing today have been thwarted by the growing, raging fire in the pit of my stomach.

I’ve prayed to invoke my muse several times this morning to no avail.  Then I realized that she’s there, she’s working with me, its just that she’s as pissed as I am.  Spitting, ranting, pissed off.

I wish I could be more eloquent right now.  So often during these trying times of an election year as muck and shit flies around, I’ve maintained composure.  It requires slowing my mind down, practicing all the skills I have to combat the ignorance that surrounds issues of gay marriage, hate crimes, poverty, health care and specifically today, women’s health.

Only once during this post will I mention the name of the ASS/IDIOT/BASTARD who attempted to coin a phrase, “legitimate” rape.   Rep. Todd Akin of MO, my neighboring state, attempted to re-define the word rape, splintering its definition to fit his own personal agenda and actually insinuate that a women’s body can discriminate against the sperm of an attacker versus the sperm of a lover (or in his case, he would mandate that it be the sperm of a man, preferably white, in a traditional Christian man-woman marriage).  With zero regard to the population of women rape survivors, their husbands, partners, children and families who try to love and support them back into being whole people again, he managed to re-traumatize the already traumatized.

This is all the credence I will pay him in this post because I’m not interested in giving him any more power or attention.  I now switch over to the people I care about.

I am interested ,however, in saying to all the women who are rape, incest and sexual abuse survivors, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t listen to him.  Don’t hear his shiftless blame and put it on yourselves, further traumatizing yourselves for a situation that was put upon you with violence and a mis-use of power.  It was never your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t do anything wrong.  I have no explanation as to why these violences continue to occur against women, men and children but I do know we aren’t to blame.  In terms of our biology, we can’t prevent an egg being fertilized as a result of a rape.  We just can’t.  And this man is an uninformed idiot to have made this statement.

Of all the articles I’ve read today, I believe Eve Ensler said it best in her article in the Huffington Post, “DEAR MR. AKIN: I WANT YOU TO IMAGINE….

“When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.

Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a “legitimate” rape.”

To the survivors: PLEASE, continue to love yourselves, forgive yourselves and keep on with your healing.  Don’t let a person with so little understanding and sensitivity undermine any chance you have for happiness and peace.  Don’t accept this War on Women.  Power has already been misused on us, we are about recovery.

To Mr. Todd Akin:  I pray that your sisters, daughters, wife never have the experience of sexual assault.  They would be sorely in need of support that you obviously can’t provide.  You are an extremely disappointing and small man.

To the voters of Missouri and anyone who knows a MO voter:  PLEASE support Claire McCaskill in her re-election as US Senator.  She’s a friend to women and she gets it.

Whew….that felt good.  I needed to say those words.  Now on to other writing topics but delighted to know that my “muse” is an activist too.


“the boy” drunk dials me….

“the boy” called me today which he does periodically.  The younger generation call it drunk dialing but I know this pattern from a historical perspective and know he just needs to make contact with a person from that time who understands him.

Certain phone calls I rarely answer but his I do every time.  This was the first time that he was stumbling, almost incoherent drunk and to top it off, he was driving.  After extracting the information that he was minutes from home, I kept the conversation light until he reassured me that was in his driveway, out of the car and inside his house.

“When are you coming home?”, he slurs into the phone.

His voice was an immediate shock of familiarity even though its been a year since I’ve heard from him.  His pleading words took my breath away.  I didn’t expect him to call let alone ask me this tough question.  He misses me, he says.  He doesn’t want anything, just to visit with me.  Even now as a full grown man, his deepest wishes are to have companionship, connection, family.  Our sober conversations where his feelings are sufficiently stuffed down, wouldn’t have revealed his pain. But today, his emotions unleashed and fueled by alcohol, they came tumbling out.

My heart is immediately beating with his. The rhythm synchronistic and strong.  We are small children again marking time as the cycle of physical, emotional and sexual abuse alters us forever.  It changes who we might have been and steals all opportunity for joy in our future.  We are branded, he and I, with trauma.  Deep, imprinting, searing scars.

I tell him that I’ve been taking care of myself and that I miss him too.  I hear relief in his voice at my words that I’m doing good.  He wants to know that I’m okay and that I can always call him for any #%&!ing thing I need.  His voice is urgent as if he’d been thinking those thoughts all afternoon at the tavern and had to purge them quickly.  His courage coming from cheap rum and cokes.

As children we were there for each other.  We were handed a situation that no child should ever have to deal with.   5-yr olds should never have to know how to defend against raging, drunken, ignorant adults wielding their pathology on them, but this is, in fact, is what we had to do.  We became expert ninja fighters at a very tender age.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fighting.  The sensation of burning slaps, welts and impact upon our small bodies is a feeling that has always been present.  Back to back, we would stand, flailing hopelessly against people 10 times our size.  But we always, always tried.  Defending each other was the only dignity we had in that cruel world we grew up in.  An earlier post tells a more complete story. https://rescuinglittlel.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/boy-torture/

I tell him that soon, I promise, I will come visit him.  I do not ever use the word home as it is not.  My home is where my beautiful husband and daughter live with our dogs, our garden, our family here.  But I know what he means, he’s asking me when am I coming back there to help him defend against the demons that are in his head.  The ones that huge amounts of alcohol consumed in the middle of the day can’t even come close to drowning out.  He wants to know if there is any peace beyond the crazy, futile gyrations that he takes himself on.  He wants to know, what Van Gogh perhaps imagined when he created the series of paintings near the end of his life.

Van Gogh’s image “Worn Out”

Vincent Van Gogh, himself,  wrote in Van Gogh: The Life. VanGoghBiography.com

I was trying to say this in this print — but I can’t say it as beautifully, as strikingly as reality, of which this is only a dim reflection seen in a dark mirror — that it seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of ‘something on high’ in which Millet believed, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man like that, without his being aware of it perhaps, as he sits so quietly in the corner of his hearth. At the same time something precious, something noble, that can’t be meant for the worms. … This is far from all theology — simply the fact that the poorest woodcutter, heath farmer or miner can have moments of emotion and mood that give him a sense of an eternal home that he is close to.”

This is what “the boy” wants to know in his moments of emotion and mood.  Where is his eternal home?

And reaches for the closest anchor he can think of.    Me.


the hole

AS SHE WALKED HER PATH, THE EARTH STARTED TO TREMBLE, the air around her thick and still, its surface opening up and swallowing her whole, plummeting her downward, downward into the pitch black darkness and muck.

the dark terrified her instantly, she sat paralyzed from shock, unable to move for hours, unable to make sense of the instant void that surrounded her

the dust settled while her heart stopped its pounding to realize the was in  that place again

it took hours to leave the shock, to gather her wits, find her courage to scratch her way out, scaling the walls only to fall back down over and over and over

eventually she wore out; exhausted, crumbled, weeping and scraped, she began to pray for hours while looking up at the light and the heavens beyond the opening of the cavity that contained her

she heard voices and leapt up thinking her prayers were answered, the people came and looked down the hole at her

“help me please, help me out of here”, the people didn’t move but said it was her place to help herself, it had to be her journey out, no one can help you but yourself

“don’t leave me please, i have been trying very hard” but the people who looked down on her said they loved her and would be with her when she got out and reminded her to use her skills and then they were gone

their words cut her heart and she bled

she wept with despair in the damp dark place, in that place

night came and then daylight, days came and went, she was thirsty and in agony cried out for her mother, for God, for mercy

many more times she attempted to scale those walls, looking for solid surfaces to grasp, rocks came loose, sliding down again

the people came back to look down on her and ask what she needed, “i need help, throw me a lifeline, get someone to help me please, i can’t do this myself”

again they didn’t move to help her but tossed her some food, saying that they were embarrassed to call for help, they had never known someone so dirty and trapped, it would bring shame to their family but would be happy to be with her when she got out and then they were gone

their words cut her again and she bled, but this time the bottom of the hole shifted and gave way as she felt herself plummet deeper into the abyss

she screamed long after they were gone, long into the night until she didn’t recognize her own voice any longer, as if it came from somewhere else in her soul

the nighttime animals began to come to her and encircle the hole and give comfort, they offered their wisdom and insight while she reflected on her place in the hole. it brought her peace but still no answers as to why she was denied help, why she wasn’t worthy of assistance

more days and nights;  weeping, raging, begging, accepting

the people came again and looked down at her.  “its such a beautiful day, the sun is shining and we’ve been enjoying ourselves so much,  how are you doing on such a lovely day?”

to this, she raised her hands and with what little strength she had, threw rocks at their faces, cursing at them for leaving her alone in such a desolate place.  she screamed at them for ignoring her cries for help and for their empty words

the people were horrified at her angry outbursts and quickly retaliated with scolding and finger pointing “we will not be yelled at after everything we’ve done for you”, their shouting so loud, it echoed deep into the cavernous hole, reverberating off the walls and into her brain until she felt her insides shake with their fear and hatred

and then they were gone

it is here that she finally breaks.  no more hope, no more tears, no more believing in love, no more trying to get out.  she slumped against the filthy wall of her prison and surrendered to her  inevitable demise


shining Father’s shoes

This is going to be one of those stories that makes me queasy to put down on paper.

I already have a tightness in my stomach and my head is starting to swim.  I don’t feel eloquent and words are not flowing from me.   I  feel little, vulnerable, and so desperate. But I need to write about this and force myself to go forward with it because to truly release the hold that trauma and shame have on one’s soul, you must drag it into the light no matter how difficult that is.  It must be removed from the rat’s maze in one’s head, doomed to run the same rutted path.  Once its out, you can look at it, dissect it, let your loved ones look squarely at your worst fears and help reassure you.  Otherwise it stays inside and festers into illness of your body and soul.

Somewhere as a little girl of 5 or 6, I got the idea that men liked having their shoes shined.  I’m thinking that during the 40 and 50’s that may have been true when men dressed more formally and wore dress shoes as daily attire.  I’m sure it was considered a treat to sit at one of those stations and have someone spiff up their shoes a bit and most people’s houses I knew had a tin of shoe polish and a shining cloth as part of their household items.  I must have seen these items lying around or saw a scene in a movie of men having their shoes shined and internalized this thought.

This is where my thinking goes astray.

Why on earth, would I consider myself to be so subordinate and subservient to put myself in a position that I would kneel in an attendant position in front of my father, voluntarily lower myself to an inferior status, is a question that I haven’t completely answered yet.  I  know that I would practice on shoes that he wasn’t wearing, rubbing vigorously as if on a time schedule, practicing my efficiency. I don’t remembering him ever asking me to shine his shoes, I just wanted to. I’m guessing I thought it would gain me some approval from my ever distant father, the father whose only attention came at night, in secret, in the dark.  

I wanted to do anything, including prostitute myself to gain his affection and admiration.  This I know for sure, my motivation was his approval.  I would wait for him to come home, having rehearsed and practiced my craft and convince him to sit on the upper part of the picnic table while putting his feet on the seating area.  It was there that I would kneel in front of him, apply the polish and pop the buffing cloth showing my expertise until he would smile at my skills.  Even at those moments when  had his approval, I found it still wasn’t enough and proceeded to spend my lifetime trying to fill that leaking sieve of a psyche that would spill its contents as fast as it would come to me.

Adding insult to injury, my family, so very cruel with words, reinforced my shame by reminding me that I was a deplorable, pathetic girl who couldn’t get enough attention.  “you are a spoiled rotten child who always has to be the center of attention”  echo in my mind. Those types of scenarios set the stage for a lifetime driven to fill the emptiness by doing anything to gain approval from my father and subsequently other men throughout my life.  Shining shoes was just the beginning.

My daddy taught me to be comfortable kneeling down in front of him, being servant-like in my approach to him, letting me humiliate myself with so little regard for my dignitiy.  Weren’t you the one who should have instilled a sense of myself instead of teaching me to be your dirty little slave child?  You had already stripped me of the innocence  of my body and now you were closing in my soul.  Damn you.  I hate you so much right now.

I see that beautiful little girl with her rag and polish, waiting for you to come home so she could endear herself to you by lowering and subordinating herself and all the while you were perfectly, fucking fine with it?  How come I can look at her and see her beauty and you can’t? 

Thank God for my anger because it is my fury that sets her free.  Here’s where she and I rewrite the story.  I tell her to get up and I hold her tight, whisking her away to a place where she is honored and cherished and not depersonalized.  I set her down in a soft place to heal and teach her ways to find her beauty.

You never thought I would grow up to be intelligent and courageous about all of this dysfunction, did you?  You never thought that I could outsmart and outwit you by escaping far into my brain only to thaw out later.  You had not idea of my strength as I tackled all the screwed up thinking given to me by you. BUT I DID.  Guess what? You are dead and I’m over here finding and claiming my power.  Little by little, memory by memory, I am blotting you out, I’m blotting out all of the men you let near me, I’m reprogramming my brain, one tiny detail at a time until soon, I will have a completely new way of seeing myself and the terror I grew up with.

So yeah, I knelt before you, like you were some savior or God to me.  I did that.  I was a child that didn’t know any better and relied on a monster for a father for some shred of attention..

But that was then and this is today, I’ve long gotten her out of that cesspool of existence.  

Kiss my ass and shine your own fucking shoes.


i hurt for the women…

Try as I may to steer away from politics, it reached up and grabbed me by the throat this weekend.

It isn’t the political arena itself that disturbs me.  That can be a fabulous forum for learning about others, working for change, finding common ground and truly being a crusader to help those who can’t speak for themselves among many other purposes.  Politics enlighten us to others’ opinions and passions and when used for a higher good can be a liberating venture.

But when the media and political arenas are methodically and maliciously used to hurt, to inflict purposeful pain, to divide people from their place of connectedness with their fellow person/themselves/God, to destroy and mock for the sole purpose of making money or some vile sort of entertainment, that’s where I hop off the bus. 

This weekend I’ve chosen many courses of action related to the “war on women”.

It has been particularly challenging for me not to lose myself when this type of negativity presents itself.  Friday night was spent in a long distance phone conversation while my friend sobbed.  She, like myself and many others, felt that heaviness of pain thrust upon us by a man who succumbs regularly to the urge and addiction to hurt.  I watched another women attempt to be heard while comments and name calling  were flying around on Facebook and while I don’t know for sure, I think she was trying to alleviate her confusion in the spirit of communion. And I’ve raged in my own way.  Mostly I’ve reached out virtually to women I know in an attempt to “hold hands” with them as we sort through this together.  It is a time when I need my tribe the most; to help me find the beauty and purpose that grounds me.

I do hurt for the women; their families, their partners and children.  Wider than that, I hurt for their communities as the ripple of negativity plunges us under.  We hear the word “slut” and it becomes more than just a bit on TV, it becomes personal.  I think I actually felt a universal “wince” as those brutal words were played and replayed.

But true to the survivors that we are, we bob back to the surface, gasping for air, begin to clear our heads and process what has just happened.

And today, we are back.  Still holding hands with each other for support, we slowly start moving again.  We go to our gardens and look for the first sign of growth; some are reading to their children, others are silently praying for a more loving world while others are shouting it out.  Our bodies go back to our jobs but our hearts still hear the faint reverberations of hate.

We sit and hold this pain until its evident that it has passed through us instead of sticking in our hearts.  We again accept the challenge of how to love back in spite of the hurt.


boy torture

i am ready to channel and write down one of the most painful, repetitive childhood traumas that i actively remember.  none of this is speculation as i have it locked in my memory, ready to replay over and over , which it does often.  i also have it on a DVD by a fool that actually included it in a home movie collection because my family of origin suffers from ignorance that would be unbelievable by most.

this memory is one like a swirl, a whirlwind kind of feeling, a merry-go-round that you run around and around and then just jump on.  it requires me to consciously summon up a place that is dirty and haunting, a place that i hated then and hate going back to now.  when i do go there, its effects are immediate. i feel them instantly and completely.  this memory has many facets to it; betrayal, child abuse, powerlessness, ritualistic and premeditated cruelty.  there aren’t enough vile words to describe how i feel about these occurrences; evil, ignorance, insane, devoid of any conscious, sociopathic in nature…

my nephew was only six months younger than me because my oldest sister got pregnant young and my mother got pregnant old.  that put us less than a year apart even though i was technically from the generation above him.  none of this mattered because he was my little brother, my buddy and pal, my best friend in the whole world, an extension of myself.  i can’t remember a time without him, i felt the feelings that siblings feel of just always being there.  i mothered him and clucked over him as we grew up together and he loved it, he was kind and sweet, would play any game that i thought of because i was the thinker and he was the doer.  boy innocence wrapped up as a gift to me, i couldn’t get enough of him and he loved me the same way.  sometimes, we would just walk through the yard holding hands because that is how life felt the best to me…

somewhere around four or five something different started happening around us.  a switch flipped and suddenly we weren’t being left alone to explore the world together, we were being prepped as if our status had changed.  the men from the farms around us started paying attention to us, i suppose because we were no longer babies and under the care of our mothers but now separate beings left abandoned for younger babies in need; small persons for the men to amuse themselves with.

in the farming world, late afternoon meant coming in from the fields, taking a break from the heat; a pattern that i knew well and even though i knew it was coming, would fill me with dread as the summer sun started to make its downward turn.  these vile, sweat stained animals called men would stomp in from the barn where we would hear the tractor engine turn off, the instant silence of that engine noise fading left an eerie void,  giving me a cold tremor up my spine.  then came the beer can flip tops hissing, they would guzzle one down quickly and have the next one ready to sip with not much conversation at first.  they had to catch their breath which they eventually did by leaning up against the car or a tree, then slowly they migrated toward each other usually forming a semi circle and facing one direction.  looking toward the field or standing with their backs to the sun, these vile men would look for a distraction to the chores that they had been paying attention to all day.

i’m not sure why they picked us to torture and tease, i suppose because there wasn’t anything else for them to do.  their lives were farming, drinking, sex with their wives or the current woman they were cheating with, sleeping and eating.  too early for dinner, the wife wasn’t finished with her chores yet and couldn’t be distracted, they turned to the children who held a status barely above a farm animal.  

as the beer began taking effect, it gave them a glazed, snarly kind of aura.  one of them would start picking at something about us, noticing us, summoning us over to their circle citing some random offense in their ignorant backwoods language…”look at that sissy boy picking flowers with the girl, he’s not a real boy…come over here boy…somebody oughtta teach that boy to toughen up”. . .it would go something like that, my sensitive friend and brother, demonized by his own father and laid out as fodder to the neighbor men;  the father maintaining his loyalty to the adult men over his own son.  slowly they would taunt the boy in, pulling on his good nature and willingness to obey his elders.  verbally they would begin to laugh and snicker at him as he stood before them, eyes filling with tears and head hanging low. i will myself to help but i can’t, i’m already frozen;  my body knows this scene too well from experience and has reacted accordingly.  i know they would soon escalate their taunting so i try to get my body to move, to stop being paralyzed and immobilized by what i knew was coming.  if i could provide a distraction, if i was bigger, if i could only stop them…but i was a very little girl, one tenth of the size and weight of these full grown men.  once they started it would be almost impossible to stop them but then again, i had never really seen anyone try, except me.  

when they bored with verbal taunting, hungry for something bigger,  they would move on to shoving the boy baby from one side of the circle to another, sometimes hitting him around the circle with switches from a nearby tree, and sometimes, when they were feeling particularly cruel, they whipped him until he got his own bundle of switches gathered to be used on himself.  my boy angel would grow wilder and wilder as the shoving and laughing continued; the more frenzied he got, the more frenzied they got.  when he fell to the ground in the powdery dust, they would kick and poke at him to get up and he would shoot up, full of rage, fists flying at the men one of which was his father.  they would hold him out at arms length by the hair on his head and let him flail the air with his rage.  once he was in a full blown hysteria, they might slow down a bit because the howling shrieks of the boy child had alerted his mother inside the farmhouse…or sometimes it alerted his grandmother whom neither would do anything to stop this horror but whose presense seemed to slow the men down.  maybe in some way it took the  fun out of it for them.  i’m not sure at all because try as i might,  i can’t begin to think like these animals do.  even as an adult, i can’t wrap my head around such evil.  

the one person would defend the boy at all costs to life and limb, was me.  i would flail myself at these men as i didn’t care if i got hurt, that wasn’t important.  i would throw myself between him and the men trying to shield him from the shoving and kicking, both of us getting covered the dirt that would puff up everytime we hit the ground. the laughter seemed far off in the distance and the only sounds we heard were that of our bodies thudding against the ground and the breath leaving our bodies….it seemed to go on forever, time stood still…. i would bite the nasty, sweaty flesh of those man arms that would hurt my friend…. their slimy, slick arms picking me up and throwing me in the air…my beautiful summer sundress falling over my head and blinding me…the smell of beer, stale breath, grimy sweat that hadn’t been washed off for days, lingering, lingering still, to this day.

at some point, they would grow tired of the game or the mother/grandmother would give them the look that said “even though i won’t protect these children you should probably stop doing that to him but i know you are the man and i shouldn’t question you because its just not done so instead i will just light a cigarette and avert my eyes from looking at my very own child being actively tortured.”  they would eventually shuffle off, throwing their beer cans at the dog, finding something in the barn that needed to be done next while i gathered up my boy child;  my tear stained, dirty friend who had wet his pants. we would go as far from the house as we could. sometimes i would sneak back up to the house to the water spigot and find a way to bring back a drink or a wet rag to clean him up a bit and hold him until his sobbing and gasping turned into a quiet blank stare.


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