All That Really Matters…

It’s that time of year again. Most of my life I have approached the holidays with a combination of dread and loathing. From my earliest memory I still can feel the disappointment and fear that comes from being a child in tough economic times – money, or more rightly the lack thereof- was guaranteed to get Mom and Dad at each other’s throats.

Christmas time was always a really turbulent time of the year. Dad, especially, always wanted to do the large and lavish holiday things but the money wasn’t there. So he would get bitter and depressed. If only he would have known that a quiet and frugal observance of the Incarnation and birth of Christ with sharing and love would have been so much better than just another series of money fights.

It was better to put up simple decorations and lights and to make homemade candy with Grandma than to dance around the tension at home.

I have gotten to the point where I can barely tolerate the retail bonanza that accompanies the holiday season. I love Advent and the religious observance of Christmas. I can even get into the decorations and baking, but no, I am not into buying tons of crap for people who (like me) do not need tons of crap.  Meaningful, needful and useful gifts are one thing, especially for someone you know is in need, but simply procuring a piece of vapid kitsch to wrap up so you can say you gave someone a gift is just not my thing.

Maybe that sounds sort of Scroogish but there’s no need to get me anything either. I do not need any bath sets, Walmart knockoffs of colognes that give me migraines, or socks and granny panties.  I don’t mind a good gag gift, a raunchy calendar or good theological books (that I would have to choose…)   The only things I really want are intangible anyway.

And off to the intangibles. I really want that one thing I have found to be so elusive- to be loved, to belong, to be accepted the way I am even though I wasn’t made for this world.

That’s a lot to ask, and maybe even wrong to ask, but who knows?

But “He Said He Loves Me,” Lies from the Pit of Hell, and Boiling Frogs

love and lie

I’m not into telling people how to live their lives.  If I had the cash to buy myself a remote mountain retreat with an indoor pool, hot tub and Internet access to have everything I need delivered to me, believe me, the only people I would communicate with or see face to face would be people I want around.  That would be less than 3 people on most days, up to a maximum of maybe 10.  Quality matters a lot more than quantity as far as humans with whom I choose to share physical space.

I think that sometimes my outlook has to do with the fact that I am still recovering from and will always probably be recovering from the effects of toxic relationships.  I have been bitten enough times to be a lot more than twice shy.

My default in relating to other humans, if you are familiar with the first stage of Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development, is mistrust. As far as being in my inner circle, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent.  It’s practical and it’s pragmatic on my part to be wary, especially if you have endured what I have endured at the hands and whims of others.

I don’t share this to troll for pity.  I don’t want anyone’s pity.  For the first time in my life (and that’s 50 years, folks) I am thankful for where my life is right now, and for what I am NOT putting up with.  I am not getting the hell beaten out of me by older siblings and by the kids at school.  I am not working for psychotic, coke-head bosses, nor am I working 80+ hours a week for a pathetically inadequate salary.

I am not married to an idiot who didn’t want his own son and proved it by signing off his parental rights for the low, low price of $7500.00 in back support.  I am not married to a drunken sot (who admittedly was a slight improvement over idiot #1) who put on a good show in front of people, but behind closed doors engaged in more than enough verbal, emotional, financial, and yes, even physical abuse at times over twenty years to last many lifetimes.

boiling frog

I’ve seen the metaphor of a frog in boiling water- the hotter the water gets the more of a tolerance the frog has, until he just boils to death.  I didn’t know what normal was, so as the heat got hotter I blamed myself.  I tried harder. If I could just do more, earn more, if I could be something other than a frumpy klutzy nearsighted scared puppy…

It wasn’t normal to have to sleep in the car because of the loud music and tirades in the middle of the night.  But he claimed to love me. So I slept in the car many nights.

It wasn’t normal to be tossed around by the hair.  But he claimed to love me. So I cut my hair super short, so he wouldn’t be able to get a grip on it.

It wasn’t normal to make excuses for Jerry’s drunken behavior or to try to mediate between him and his drunken friends.  But even through his drunken stupidity- he claimed to love me. So I kept making excuses.

It wasn’t normal to clean up after a 40 or 50 something year old man with the toileting skills of a toddler and a supreme ability to trash an entire house in minutes. But he claimed to love me. So I kept cleaning up after him.

It wasn’t normal to be ordered to do laundry, cook and clean right after coming home from major surgery. But he claimed to love me.  So I tried to do what he wanted even when it was against medical advice.

I didn’t have the clarity of mind or the sense of outrage I should have had to simply get out of the boiling water and to jump out of the pot.

Nothing was ever enough. By the time Jerry died I finally understood that there was nothing I could have done that would have been good enough to keep him from abusing me. Whatever was in his psyche that caused his behavior didn’t mean I had to stand and take it.

It’s easy to see the best course of action from the outside of the hot pot- get the hell out- but when you’re on the inside of it, it’s normal, it’s familiar, it is reality, even if it’s killing you.

I made excuses with the best of them.  I was afraid of losing my housing- which was a very real fear because the house we lived in was provided by Jerry’s employer.  I was afraid of being alone.  I felt worthless because he kept telling me how nobody else would want a weird and physically “damaged” person like me and that I should be grateful for him.

He mocked me because of my surgical scars and reminded me constantly how physically unattractive I am.

The longer he’s been gone, the more I can see the bullshit and lies more clearly.

I can look into the boiling pot from the outside and say no way in hell am I going to land in there again.

If anything I would want to teach by example, even if the example is of what NOT to do.

Don’t stand for being degraded and controlled.

Fight for your child(ren) to the death no matter what that might look like.

Remember that you have the right not to be abused.