Embers

I feel like I can sum up where I’m at right now with the image of a once raging campfire that has settled into glowing embers.  Yes, you can still get burnt if you get too close but it’s warm and comforting when you’re at the right distance.   I’ve had time to ponder and muse.  And I’ve come up with some pretty good cautionary advice.  Here goes:

  • A man who hates his mom is an angry man.  It’s always okay to have boundaries and not like a family member’s behavior.  But to outright speak in hateful ways of the woman who gave you life?   Yowsers.  Certainly there are bad moms out there where hate can be part of the vernacular.  I’m not naive to that.  I think it’s important, though, to always listen closely to why the relationship is fractured.  James’ hatred stemmed from his mom still being in contact with his ex-wife.  I’m sorry, you can be fussy about that.  Hate and on-again, off-again cutting someone out of your life?  Huge red flag, my friends.  Give it time and he’ll hate you, too.  That’s what an angry man does.

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  • A man to whom you have to explain common courtesy and how to be kind is an angry man.  There is no amount of courtesy or kindness you can shower him with that will ever sway him to behave differently.   Kick him to the curb.  Share your kindness with someone who would never need an explanation of how to treat another human being.
  • A man who speaks ill of his ex-wife and every ex-girlfriend he’s had is an angry man.   I assure you that how he speaks of them is how he will one day speak of you.
  • A man who is over the age of 7 and has tantrums is an angry man.  He’s also ridiculous.  Give him a diaper, a juice box, some Teddy Grahams and notify him that you’re actually not his mom.  I mean, he’s already indicated he hates his mom so you probably don’t want to be her anyway.
  • A man who does not comfort his child when they are ill or hurting physically or emotionally is an angry man.  If your man is indifferent to his flesh and blood?  Do not date him.  He sucks.
  • A man who deliberately ignores you when you are sitting next to him is an angry man.  Every heard the expression, “Words hit as hard as a fist?”  So does silence.  At minimum, it’s bad manners.  With a sociopath?  It’s his currency.
  • A man who listens to your pain and then uses it cause you even more pain is an angry man.  He is also an asshole.  You are wonderful and do not associate with assholes.   Delete and block.  Dance merrily away.  A million miles away is a very good start.  It’s the only way out.

Truly though?   Anger and hate are the two most critical ingredients for violence.  Add a splash of mental illness and you have yourself a disaster.   While the stakes are different for all of us, I was not willing to play “wait and see” with someone whose past and present self oozed quiet, confusing cruelty.

 

 

Small Things

So many small happy things!

  • Claire got a part in the spring musical.  I’m always in awe of her drive and talent.  I was talking to my mom the other day and she commented on how she didn’t think there was anything that Claire couldn’t do.
  • Charlie was accepted to an awesome college and given two crazy great scholarships.  One of which only 10 incoming freshman receive.  He will be too far away for my liking but you gotta let the little birds fly.
  • Tater (my fat dachshund) has embraced his green bean diet.  And do not called the ASPCA or play some sad as eff Sarah McLaughlin for me, he’s getting regular food as well.
  • Edison (fluffy terrier) now snuggles under the blankets with Tater.  He is 9 and has never done this before.  By the way?  He thinks Sarah McLaughlin is lovely but tears up at any talk of angels’ arms.
  • Finishing up an exhausting but exceedingly interesting international conversion at work.  (Doing contract work at an amazing Swedish firm.)  It’s a bunch of technical stuff I had no idea that I’d like so much.
  • Had an evening of hopeful talk and wine in front of a roaring fire on a frigidly cold night with a dear friend.
  • Slayed a nasty case of chronic bronchitis like the badass I am, not missing any time from work or fun stuff in the process.  God bless my trusty Proair inhaler.
  • Received editorial interest in a meaningful article I wrote.
  • Got Hamilton tickets from my cute boyfriend for Christmas (am I the only one in Chicago who has not seen it) and tickets to Waitress for later in the summer!
  • Was reminded in ways small and large how loved I am.
  • Discovered a Mexican restaurant that is ridiculously good.  This is not always an easy task in suburbia and I totally mastered it.
  • Have found a penny on the ground each and every day.

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I mean c’mon!  It’s only January 4th and all this?  I think sometimes in my writing it’s not always clear that my life is cozy and good.  Yes, it’s hard and everything James should not have happened to me.  But there is happy to be found even so.

Inked

“I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”

 – James Joyce

While I love the idea of shedding what no longer serves you, I’m not a fan of being an asshole in the process.  Silence, exile and cunning were an intricate part of James’ abuse. I would say the exile/silence were married together and the cunning was a beast all unto itself.   I cannot imagine a more pathetic and vacant way to exist on this earth.   For James and abusers like James, it’s the air they breathe.

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What I have learned is that the exile/silence is about the abuser.   They would like you to think that it’s all about you, that you are somehow the cause and the blame for this shift in behavior.  I would personalize it, apologize for it and walk on eggshells to prevent it.  When I think back to the amount of times James gave me the silent treatment, wouldn’t return calls or texts and cancelled plans, it’s almost comical.

As an abusive man, James finds power in the control that exile and silence brings.  He experiences contentment in the pain that the exile and silence creates.   That pain and power fills his empty bucket.   But because that bucket is riddled with holes, he is compelled to repeat the cycle over and over and over.

Cunning behavior courses through an abuser’s veins.  James’ cunning is the mask he wears when you first meet him and are showered with love, attention, kindness and flattery.   It is how he is able to lead a secret life and cheat on you, all the while accusing you of being unfaithful to him.  It allows him to manipulate all situations to his benefit, making you out as the “crazy” one or “playing” the victim.

I’m quite sure that James thinks he is clever and always a step ahead of the women in his life.   He’s wrong.  I think some of us can’t quite put a finger on what is happening straight away.   Some of us cannot accept that we fell in love with a lie.  And some of us are too far entrenched to safely walk away from him.  In the end, one way or another, we figure him out.  A mask isn’t to be worn forever, after all.  It always ends up slipping.

I have to tell you something kind of bizarre.  James was so enamored with this way of being that he had these words inked onto his sad little self.  Honest to jeepers, if your boo has some shit like that permanently etched into their skin?  You need a new boo.  For real you do.  Never overlook things like this.  They are meaningful, even if they seem innocuous or quirky.  They are neither.

What is so incomprehensible to me now is how I never thought twice about it.   I mean, I did think that it was unattractive and badly done.  The meaning, however, wasn’t something sinister in my mind.  I assumed he was fond of the character Stephen Dedalus’ rebellion and disregard for convention in Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.  After all, James loved me.  We were peas and carrots, us two.  He wouldn’t hurt me.

But we all know how that turned out.

Yellow November

I feel like this picture and caption were written just for me.   My feet are tired from running but I write with truth and love.  I have to believe in a world where this little girl in her hopeful yellow dress does not ever have to fear encountering a man like James.  She was born to be free and joyful and find the love in her life that she so richly deserves.   She is what Yellow November is all about.

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The Justice League, Part 2

Dear Man Perplexed by All of “These Women” Coming Forward with Allegations of Sexual Assault,

I’ve heard so much about you lately.  Let me begin by saying that I’m not really all the pleased to meet you.  But in instances of overwhelming ignorance where I can shed even a flicker of light, I am more than willing to put differences aside and be cordial.  I’m seriously not going to shake your hand, though.

Let’s start with your question of “Why now?”  I’m actually going to spin the question a little and revise it to, “Why didn’t you say something when this first happened to you?”   Okay, let me pause for a hot second.  Me having to even answer this question is testament to the fact that entirely too many people don’t get the dynamics of being victimized.

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There are many reasons why victims do not speak up.  Too many to name quite frankly, but I will focus on the ones that resonate with survivors.  We are traumatized, we are scared of the perpetrator, we are confused (perpetrators gaslight victims to believe that what happened either didn’t happen or that what happened wasn’t that bad), we are afraid that we will not be believed and we are worried that the legal system will not protect us if we speak up.  Staying silent is a way to survive the horror of what we’ve endured and protects us from being re-victimized.

Now I will flip back to the “Why now?”  Let me paint you a picture.  Imagine that your smart, kind and accomplished daughter’s life was shattered by a man who emotionally and sexually abused her.  Now suppose this man is now seeking an elected office of some sort and is receiving accolades from the masses.  The masses who know nothing about the real nature of the man they support.   Wouldn’t you be outraged?  Wouldn’t you want the masses to know that the man they idolize is actually, in fact, a monster?  Wouldn’t you want to protect others?  Wouldn’t you want justice?

A woman speaking up during an election season is not doing so out of allegiance to a particular political party or political agenda.  Neither is she speaking out for her own personal gain.  If you think that these are reason why, you are wrong.  You are also woefully ignorant so I want to help you out and set you on the straight and narrow.  This woman that you are so confounded by?  She had her power taken away.  In its place, she was left with paralyzing fear, humiliation, trauma and self doubt.

Does this make sense to you?  Can you see it even a little more clearly through her eyes?  Through her pain?  Can you see that what she wants is for not one more person to be victimized?   And culpability for men who have thus far lived their lives free from prosecution for their criminal acts?

Let me tell it to you straight.  She is speaking out now because she’s tired of seeing powerful evil men become even more powerful.   She is speaking out now as a way of seeking justice from the legal system against her perpetrator.  She is speaking out now because she has come to realize that she does have power and that her power is the truth and her voice speaking the truth.

Sincerely,

Me

The Justice League

Dear Predator Trying to Explain Himself Away in Light of Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore and Al Franken,

How’s things?  Feeling stressed lately?  A little off your game?  Although I’m in awe of the women who have come forward recently with their stories of abuse, victimization and assault, I can only imagine that you are scared shitless.

Here’s the thing about those stories, dark one.  They’re not fiction.  They are truths.  You know it as well as I know it.  If you are worried, you may want to think about why that could be.   I’m confident that men who have not victimized women are not trying to recall things that they’ve done that may come back to haunt them.  Why?  They’ve done nothing wrong.   Your worry is compliments of actual events, things YOU did.  You.

You may twist and spin this to say that there’s a culture of fear among men in the country right now.  That any interaction a man has with a woman can be viewed with suspicion.  That any glance, word, touch can be viewed as victimization.  That women who come forward just want attention.

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I call bullshit to all of those theories.  A man knows when he is behaving in an inappropriate or abusive way towards a woman.  It’s as simple as that.  He knows.  I have tons of friends and none of them are harboring pain due to the time a guy accidentally brushed up against her or told an off-color joke.  We know the difference here and so do you.  Stop pretending like you don’t get it.

Good men?  They are resting easy.  They are keeping track of their fantasy football leagues, taking their daughters to karate, helping their sons with art projects, working hard at their jobs, out having a pint with their friends and generally unaffected by this climate of fear to which you refer.  It’s not rocket science either, lil professor.  You tend not to worry about getting in trouble for something if you didn’t do something wrong.

Addressing attention-seeking on the part of the accusers?  I can assure you that women are not speaking out for fame, attention or any other such nonsense.  Telling our stories is extremely traumatic.  It’s not something we want exposed for all to hear.  It’s not something, for example, I want to have to discuss with my mom or explain to my son or daughter.

Before you call me a hypocrite because I write about domestic violence fairly regularly, let me tell you something.   I write for the very same reason more and more women are telling their stories.  We want justice.  It’s a beautiful word.  And not at all elusive.  We want to live in a world where justice thrives and women are safe from the harm we experienced at your hands and the hands of men like you.

I suppose your best course of action right now is to mimic the behavior these brave women have so kindly modeled for you.  Tell the fucking truth.  Admit your culpability.  Make amends.  Get help.  But for God’s sake, start first by telling the truth.   I’ve heard it will set you free.

Sincerely,

Me

Weinstein-ed

Dear Facebook User “Exasperated” by the Me Too Posts,

You annoy me.  From whatever point of view your exasperation took root, let me be clear.  Lending a voice to sexual assault and/or sexual harassment (yes, there are many of us who have experienced both) is not something we Me Toos ever thought would pertain to us.   I absolutely never thought something like this could happen to me.  Until it did.

Our pain, our shame, our trauma is real.  We live it every single day in ways that range from manageable to incapacitating.  None of us chose to be victimized.  There is nothing I said or did or wore that created a pathway for this victimization.

Predators don’t actually look like someone you would see on a Most Wanted poster.  No.  They look like nice boyfriends, professors, coaches, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and the list goes on and on and on.  My guess is that the person you picture in your mind resembles the boogeyman hiding behind a bush.  Certainly predators like that exist.  But you have to understand that they are the exception.

Although endlessly perplexed, I’m sorry if you are exasperated by a group of women who are looking to feel less alone in their trauma.  But even more than being sorry?  I feel sorry for you.  Because your lack of understanding is exactly one of the reasons why we tell no one.  The reason we keep our secrets.  The reason why the cycle continues again and again and again by these perpetrators.  The only thing that changes is who they target.

I will not stay silent to make you feel more comfortable.

Kindly,

Me