I am…

Enough.

I have been thinking my life has indeed been a journey of reaching for completeness, for ultimate peace. For me, this image depicts the journey of connecting to my own inner light, which to me is what I imagine death to be; to be fully integrated and whole spiritually.

reaching

The Silence is Deafening

I have been struggling with a class conversation on domestic violence and whether to speak up when you see someone being victimized. My frustration comes from many places. Beginning on a personal level, I was in a domestic violence relationship for many years and one of the (many) reasons I stayed was feeling like I had no support because no one seemed to notice the way my husband undercut my thoughts and feelings by the way he spoke to me, or about me to others, or that I was often upset and stressed. At the time, I didn’t know how to reach out, or how it would be received if I did? After all, my (then) husband was often the fun, life of the party guy. My family seemed to love him and seemed to look past his harshness toward me, but then again he also treated me like a princess at times. Of course, my family has its own dysfunctional system in place. Did no one ever question why I was forced to take car rides and then came back puffy eyed and broken? I remember feeling hopeless when no one seemed to notice, and that hopelessness kept me isolated and questioning my own sanity. I was slowing drowning and didn’t know how to swim. Basically, I was in a frantic doggie paddle trying to stay afloat and still try to be a good mom. Would I have listened if someone spoke up and said “you deserve to be treated better” or better yet to my husband “your treatment is unacceptable?” I don’t know. But what I do know is a seed can be planted when someone steps up and speaks out. I can close my eyes and clearly remember a scenario in which a stranger spoke up on my, and my children’s behalf. It was at a gas station and my (then) husband was screaming at the attendant because of some perceived slight. The children and I were in the van and could see this interaction taking place. My (then) husband came to the van yelling about “how dare this idiot, lowly gas station clerk not give him paper towels” and when I asked my (then) husband to calm down his rage was directed at me. The attendant came over and asked me if the children and I were ok, and explained that he was worried about our safety. I, of course, said we would be fine but was, as always, inwardly not so certain. Long story short: this man’s simple, but powerful gesture, planted a seed in my head that not everyone thought my (then) husbands behavior was ok. This of course is the very short snippet of a very long battle of coming to terms of my situation. But my issue is, as a social worker, I feel it should be my duty to speak out and step in when I see this happening in public. I understand that speaking out can endanger myself and that of the victim, however, the victim is already in danger and has most likely lived through much worse than what is being publicly displayed. I don’t think domestic violence is going to be eradicated until people begin to stand up and declare, “No more! This is unacceptable!” That means within our families and in public. Apathy does nothing to promote change, and as a social worker and as a human being, I demand better and work hard at being an agent for change. I am working to educate myself so that I may interject in a manner that can be effective, but I refuse to remain silent. Silence can be deafening, and is just another way to re-victimize.

An open letter to the victim blamers of the world:

 As much of the world continues to consider domestic violence a woman’s “fault” for being weak and not walking away, I know better. I will fight until my dying breath to change perceptions of domestic violence, it is one of my missions: to educate, to inform, to change perceptions, and to fight for those who cannot.

I am angry. I am angry at the displaced blaming, the sheer ignorance and bias that permeates our society. When did it become a woman (or man’s) fault for the violence perpetrated upon them? How did society turn someone’s violent, controlling, obscene behavior into “why didn’t she leave?” “she should have taken the stairs” “she married him didn’t she” “she must have made him angry” and “he seems so nice.” 

Fuck that. “She” most likely grew up believing love is anger, love is control, love is conforming to make everyone happy, love is manipulation. She most likely believes that she is unworthy: because she is a woman, because she has been told she is crazy (over and over again)…until she believed it, because she has been threatened to have her children taken away, because she is told she couldn’t survive without a man, because she just. does. not. have. any. sense. of. worth.

So before you cast your stone, think beyond your nose. 

Disingenuous at Best, Manipulative at Worst

Being able to recognize the signs of a manipulative person is sometimes difficult. It is important for us to have tools in our repertoire in order to be cognizant of behavior that is  disingenuous and/or manipulative.

Manipulation is often used to coerce a conversation, instead of engaging in one, and can be used to intimidate and control.

Often, we go along thinking the best of folks and second-guess ourselves instead of second-guessing another person’s motive. We all need to be more attentive to our ever-present, and often disregarded intuition. If it just feels yucky or off, it probably is.

I have compiled a short list of signs that might alert us to manipulative behavior. Face it, we all are guilty of manipulation on some level, so we need to keep these in mind to guard against other’s subtle or aggressive manipulation, as well as our own possible conscious or unconscious motives.

These are but a few tactics used, and some of what I have found in my research over the years:

Feigning innocence: Quite often a person who is being manipulative will be adept at pretending they have no idea what you are talking about when confronted with their manipulative behavior: Who me? Be careful not to question your own instincts.

Shame and guilt: “You don’t care enough about me”, “I would never do that to you” or “You are selfish” are a few phrases used to shame or guilt a person. This is also an attempt to deflect the responsibility away from them.

Minimization: When you attempt to explain your feelings, a manipulative person will assert that his/her behavior was “not that bad.” Meaning: you are wrong to feel the way you do.

Victim Blaming: Turning your circumstance, tragedy, etc. into their triumph: “Oh, poor so and so, I hope they manage to get their life back together.” This is an attempt to make themself look compassionate, yet it is a dagger thrown at the victim while simultaneously claiming a self-righteous stance.

Anger and Control: “This is the way it is going to be and there will be no discussion about it!” Slamming of doors, walking out, and yelling are tools used to manipulate and coerce a person into submission.

Remember, you have a right to your feelings so don’t give your strength and power away.

On Becoming an Adult Orphan

I sit sipping my morning coffee feeling unmoored from the loss of my mother. I am now forced to contemplate my life without a mother, without a father. I close my eyes and imagine myself as a young child whose balloon has escaped my tenuous grasp. I begin to weep as I look down at my unfurled hand, the same hand that held my mother’s just one short week ago as we laughed as if we had all the time in the world to share. I feel a penetrating void slowly burden every inch of my body. My eyes look skyward and trail the balloon as it floats aimlessly. Now what? No one is left who intimately remembers the day of my birth, no one who loves me unconditionally and imperfectly, as only a parent is able to, and no one who remembers my fears, silliness, challenges, and triumphs quite like a mother and father. I capture my last glimpse of the balloon as it bumps between tree branches and temporarily gets stuck as it meanders on its journey. As quickly as it gets stuck, the balloon breaks free and I watch it float out of sight. I understand. My life is forever altered, and nothing will be as it was. Goodbye sweet Mother