A New World and Me Too

Image result for quotes a change is coming

 

It’s been a while since I updated here, but the recent trend in outing men with a past that includes sexual assault, sexually inappropriate behavior, sexual abuse and misconduct is relevant given my having exposed Ed here …

Society is changing, redefining acceptable and unacceptable at a furious pace; gone forever is the naive notion that what happened in a man’s past has no bearing on today.  A man’s past has always mattered; people do not change – finally recognizing this as a collective can have only positive impact on society.

The solution, at least for now – in the early days of this revolution, remains exposure …

When I was about twenty years old, Ed won a cruise for selling a specific number of insurance policies, and he took me with him on this vacation.  The entire ship was filled with insurance agents who had sold the requisite number of policies, as well as their guests.

There was a woman – this is better than thirty five years ago, so I do not recall her name, but she was the guest of a colleague of Ed’s.  During the cruise, she became deeply offended by Ed’s unwanted touching – he would put his arm around her in group photos, try to hug and kiss her when she came to dinner, or when he saw her on excursions.

I told him to stop, that he was making her extremely uncomfortable, but he wouldn’t listen to me, and he didn’t stop.  She finally spoke up, after suffering through several encounters with Ed, and he thought she was, “extremely rude.” She did nothing but set him straight.

My wife’s own “Me Too” moment was given to her by Ed; just like the woman on the cruise, Ed was always touching and trying to kiss her …

and when I told him to stop, that his unwanted affection was making her uncomfortable, he acted as though she had the problem; he was, after all, only being friendly and polite.

Men like this do not alter their behavior, because they do not believe they are the problem.

Decent people have the right to know when they are exposed to those with a history of sexual misconduct. It’s that simple …

so tell your story, and hold them accountable.

A man’s past is an accurate prediction of that same man’s future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Image result for quotes forced to forgive

In his somewhat less than fully coherent email earlier in the week, Ed attempted to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.  In a brief note of follow up yesterday, he again reiterated his belief that forgiveness is necessary for healing.

There are a few key things about forgiveness Ed doesn’t seem to understand, for example: There are people who should not be forgiven – namely those who would take forgiveness as a sign that they weren’t so bad after all; this way of thinking opens the door to rationalization of their past, and future, behavior.  Ed has never understood the breadth or depth of what he has done; forgiving him before he fully comprehends would be downright self-destructive for me.

The problem inherent to forgiveness is that the power resides in the transgressor’s hands. The psychological impact of forgiveness on the forgiver is determined by whether or not the transgressor has made amends.  Forgiveness without amends leaves the forgiver with diminished feelings of self-worth.  To date, Ed has not sought to make anything right, he has sought only to move on.

Pain is deeper and longer lasting when the transgressor intentionally caused it – repeatedly.  This cannot be overstated; when you repeat a destructive behavior time without number, you did not make a mistake – you demonstrated something real and lasting about who you are.  Forgiveness for this [child abuse] is a process, and it is dependent wholly and entirely upon the transgressor’s sincere acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for ALL wrongdoing, and their  forthright desire to make amends for what their behavior caused.

Despite Ed’s belief in forgiveness as a panacea, it isn’t simple.  I am not simple.  My self-respect, peace of mind, and understanding are not based in my forgiveness of my father; and to forgive now would leave me despondent because he has not earned it.  Any benefit I could derive from forgiving him would come through his personal growth and desire to make right what he destroyed.

The kind of forgiveness I’m speaking of takes time and concerted effort to earn.  You don’t close the cycle and end the abuse quickly or easily, and those you have harmed need to know they are valued, treasured, cherished and loved now as they always should have been; they need to know it is safe to forgive.

Forgiveness is sobering, and honest.  And while we embrace the sentiment, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” it cannot be universally applied.  We cannot reap the benefits of forgiveness alone, we need the full and complete cooperation of our transgressor, and therein lies the quandary; those with the capacity to destroy the lives of their children seldom, if ever, see the need to repair.

So you see Ed, the ball is most definitely NOT in my court.

Yesterday’s Email

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Hi Tim,

I guess because it is Christmas ir [sic] Hanukkah – Jewish annual doy [sic] of atonement- that I’m reaching out to you.

First may you Rhonda rachael,[sic] Nicholas and wesley [sic] all have a blessed and joyfull [sic] Christmas and New year.

Next in tune with Hanukka [sic] I want to say I’m sorry for all the angry feeling I’ve had toward you this year and want to apologise [sic] for any of those that have hurt you.

This may sound conrtite [sic] or strange but in listening to a Jewish psycologist [sic]  friend of mine explain the purpose for Hannukka [sic] and its asking for forgiveness, as he explaind [sic] forgiveness blesses both the forgiven in that the guilt and pain is expunged and the forgiver in that forgivness [sic] is the beginning of healing.

And I hope both of these for you.

My reply:

 

 

Ed,

The Jewish Day of Atonement is not Hanukkah, it is Yom Kippur.   Known as the Jewish “Day of Atonement”, Yom Kippur begins on the evening of 11 October. It falls each year on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, ten days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is a day to reflect on the past year and ask for forgiveness for any sins. Rosh Hashanah extends to asking forgiveness of God.

 

 

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights in December. This holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

 

 

I’m an atheist because I’ve studied religions.

 

 

Forgiveness.  Although is can be said that we will all have need for the gift of forgiveness – both as forgiver and forgiven at some point in our lives, it is far more complicated than the assigned rhetoric or dogma will have you believe.  It is not a single act, but a sustained and ongoing process dependent upon the sincere and devout works of the transgressor, which in turn allows for an open-heart in those he has wounded.

 

 

Forgiveness can only be the beginning of healing when the transgressor admits his wrongdoing, assumes all responsibility for what he did as well as for what it caused, and then endeavors to make it right — whatever that takes, for as long as it takes. Without this, forgiveness is a fallacy; meaningless and empty for both parties.

 

Anger is not a primary emotion, it is secondary – a choice we make, and it is seldom, if ever, valid. Anger provides a surge of energy and makes us feel temporarily in control … and it is far more comfortable to feel in the moment than our true emotions – usually sadness, defeat, fear, anxiety, dread, vulnerability.  You, Ed, have always chosen anger.  The father I remember was always mad.  Always.  Nothing has changed.

 

I do not care that you were angry with me this year, that was your choice.  Everything – from beginning to end, was and is on you; all I did was tell my story.  If you wanted the ending to be different, you should have taken greater care while writing it.

 

And, if you wanted forgiveness for what you’ve done, you’d have taken a far different tactic when you felt threatened and confronted — you’d have remembered that you are the source for all that has come to pass, and held yourself accountable.  You chose anger.

 

I think you may need a reminder; I am not like those in your life now, I know who and what you really are.  I am not fooled by your false wisdom or attempts at intellect, I won’t fall for that calm placating voice and the manipulations of others it affords you – I am the son you cruelly and brutally abused.  I’ve seen and lived your darkness; there is no light or goodness in you that I can find.

 

 

 

Tim

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Reconciliation: A Caution Based on What I’ve Learned

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You begin to heal when you say, “No more.”  It took me a long time to recognize that – to feel the efficacy within “No More.”  It happened gradually  — when I realized the balance of power had naturally shifted because I had grown up. Eventually, I shut the door and never went back.

For me, no contact was the answer, and I maintain I had no choice, but many abuse survivors don’t walk away – for whatever reason, they hold on to dysfunction, often enduring a lifetime of abuse.

The attempt at reconciliation with Ed was a mistake on my part – people do not change.  I still believe people can change, but it takes a level of focus and commitment few possess.  It’s hard enough to make subtle changes – to lose weight, or resolve to save more money; changing the whole of who we are is damn near impossible.  And when dealing with an abuser, the need is a change in everything they are.

So I’ll amend that; I believe we can change aspects of who we are, but we cannot change our essence or our core.  A man who can beat his child – brutally and without mercy, will always be that man …

Real change begins with deep personal reflection, devoid of any and all denial, and progresses to the assumption of full responsibility for what you did and for what it caused. Finally, it entails making amends – not just with yourself, but with everyone you have hurt.  This last part can take the remainder of an abuser’s lifetime …

and those imbued with the capacity to abuse aren’t the kind who invest themselves in taking care of the wounds of others – they remain readily able to inflict pain, but not to soothe it.

Reconciliation with your abuser is a risky proposition, and it almost always fails.  In the trial, we are reminded of the pain – it can be a living hell.

I went to dinner with my father, sat beside him at a ballgame or theatrical production; spoke of trivial things, and not so trivial things, but it never felt right – or OK.  I was always his child in those moments – something I did not want to be, something I never wanted to be, something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy; he was, and ever will be, the father who beat and tortured me, the man I so feared and despised.

I learned a great deal in our correspondence, the written word so revealing of who we are inside.  He was candid, very matter-of-fact in his narcissism and grandiose belief in who he is today – so delusional in his own certainty in who he is:

Excerpt – 10/25/2014

“I have been thinking that one of my favorite Plays , and recent movie, Les Mis, has much meaning to my life with Janet. (Janet, my sister with developmental delays) I’m not good at character names, but I ‘m sure you and Rachael (my daughter) can follow along.. I’m thinking Janet and myself as the characters the ex prisoner and the woman’s small child. If I hadn’t stepped up to take care of Janet she would have remained in the State Hospital system and would have died simply a lost sole and her beauty and love cloistered from the world.”

Very determined to make me believe he was different, he played upon my compassion and empathy – he tried desperately to manipulate my feelings:

October 12, 2014

“Tim,

I came back early from my retreat at the Camaldise Monastery at Big Sur, I usually go off for a retreat at least once a year and alternate between Big Sur and the Monastery of the Redwoods, west of Garberville.

I usually go to get away for a few days where I can just be alone – fitting for the Introvert I am. The first day is mostly meditating and falling asleep as I meditate and simply catching up on needed rest. So why is this important?

During one of these sleeping meditations I woke up and realized I was crying. At 1st, I thought I was happy because of the wonderful “family” e-mail I had received before I left for the monastery. It took only a few seconds to realize that was not it at all, I was extremely sad. It was because into the middle of the ideal family e-mail spanning 20-30 years, there was a period of horrific pain, anger and mental distress for which I was responsible, and the pain hurt

.

I got up, closed the door to my room and sat with that pain, crying some more, then sat there and thought how I was going to say this to you. I came home a day early, thinking the long drive would help me decide how to tell you and arrived late last night. I was too emotionally drained and tired to put this down in words last night so I went to bed and am writing it now. This is how it came out.”

 

When considering reconciliation with an abusive parent, there is a ten-point check list to determine your own readiness, but perhaps the single most important consideration is this:

  • Have we both experienced significant emotional growth and change since we estranged? Or, are we the same as we were at the time of our estrangement?

 

I will say that it is crucial that you have grown and healed, but it is far more important that your parent has grown – and this growth MUST include the ability to accept without comprise all of what they did, all of what it caused – and they must be willing to make it right, whatever that entails FOR YOU! And all of this must be sustained throughout the course of any relationship that follows.  

Be careful if it seems too easy – never have the words “if it seems too good to be true it probably is,” been more true.

Be alert and ready to recognize false remorse, manipulation and gaslighting.

And don’t feel like you have to forgive until you are ready – and if that time never comes, understand that that is OK.

Just as it took time and contemplation to understand exactly how damaging my abusive childhood was, it will take time to fully process the impact of my failed attempt at reconciliation with my father:

It’s painful to realize your parent is a monster …

but it’s even more devastating to recognize that in the years of estrangement, all they have done is sharpen their claws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Tell My Story

“Violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny us. If we don’t assert our truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won’t go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. Truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It’s only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations from abuse.”
Christine Oksana

I will not go back to silence, to a time when not proclaiming my truth made me complicit in Pat and Ed’s lies.  I. Will. Not.

This blog has given me catharsis and solace – and an unmitigated view of the events that shaped my young life and led to a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.  It is my story, and I will tell it.

For others – the perpetrators of abuse, this blog is a stark, cold, bleak mirror reflecting the darkness of their soul. It has led to embarrassment, shame, and even confession. It has brought fervent denial, offered in vain; disbelieved by those who matter most.  It has exposed character flaws and vile, repellent acts committed only by the cruel and depraved. It has shined a light on generations of abuse; morally bereft parenting practices that have led to estrangement, alienation and mental illness.

It has brought me peace.

I have been fully well for a long time now; my thoughts clear, my feelings and emotions tempered only by what is real and true – it is good, so good.

I do not do this out of a need for revenge – nothing I could ever do would be enough anyway.  I do this because it is right, and it is true.  I offer no apology to those who would be far more comfortable with my silence – I did not ask to be Pat and Ed’s child.

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.”

The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis 

When we give shelter to those who have abused and tortured, when we cloak their sins and embrace their lies, can we really believe in our own goodness and integrity?

Thoughts At The End

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me to know that Ed got away with child abuse, rape and God alone knows what else, but it is less important than it once was.  In some small way, knowing the people he has fooled into believing he is a good and decent human being – the people who are, in reality, nothing more to him than props necessary to support his own self-delusion, know the truth.  They. Know. The. Truth …

what they do about that is their concern.

I’ve been silent for a few months, taking stock and reflecting.  That I saved all of Ed’s email, and thus his admissions that every word of this blog is, indeed, truth gives me an almost unimaginable upper-hand.

And yet, I don’t feel any sort of closure or relief.  At the end of the day, he proved me right; People Don’t Change – that is not solace.  He knows what he did, but he doesn’t know, or care, what it caused … how deep and dark the abyss he left his children in really is.

And when the chips were down, when he could have found redemption, he turned his back on all responsibility for who he is, and what he’s done, in favor of a life that is nothing more than a cover-up, and lie.  No father – no decent man does this.

So when you read this, and I know you will, remind yourself that while he appeared to be protecting you – the only person he was protecting was himself.

Propensities and Principles – of Reconciliation

“Propensities and principles must be reconciled by some means.”  –Charlotte Bronte

Reconciliation with an estranged family member is possible, despite the bleak statistics … the failure rate is staggering.

I’d read and researched, been up and down with my father in my attempt at understanding – I’d spoken to my wife, children, friends, mother-in-law and therapist.  I’d listened to the advice of my readers …

Somewhere in the process I realized that relating to him now based solely on residual feelings from childhood – my being reactive (negatively) to everything he said, and my not seeing him for the man he is today wasn’t productive.  My anger – justified or not, was standing in the way of problem solving.  And about this same time, I began to understand that I wanted the problem of estrangement solved, and I wanted it all to have a happy ending … if that was possible.

So, I stepped back and away from what happened when I was a child and suggested we start with today. Build a connection now – a new connection based on our lives in the present.  I told him about my family and my life during the years since we’d last seen each other, I gave him hope in the form of sharing a few fond memories I had of him while I was growing up, and I invited him to an evening out with our wives.

 I extended an olive branch …

remembered my own principles; ‘a man should not be defined by his mistakes, but by what he does to make them right.’

And in remembering who I am, it dawned on me:

I had to give him a second chance.

In my anger and pain I hadn’t realized that believing in second chances meant I had to offer something, too – a willingness, an open heart. 

I thought, eventually, we’d have to revisit my childhood – but armed with a new connection, a solid bond, the moment would play itself out differently – it would be less complicated and more constructive – less painful and more resolute – less angry and more understanding.

Maybe my decision was wise, I don’t really know.  What I do know is that I no longer feel a need to speak of my father’s mistakes with him, no need to revisit my childhood and make the man he is today confront the father he was then.  He may not have been the father I needed as a child, but he gets an A+ for effort now.

In addition to getting my father back, I’ve gotten a far more complete understanding of my childhood – something I needed to feel whole emotionally.

I admire and respect his approach – to this day he will not speak to me disparagingly about my mother.  This is, even in my family where my mother has caused a sea of pain, destruction and heartbreak, the right thing to do.   Denigration is not the key to understanding, truth is.

If propensity represents the dark side of human nature, as Bronte suggests, acting on  our principles allows us to be something greater …

and to have something greater:

relationships based in truth, understanding, kindness, loyalty … and maybe even forgiveness.  

Trying to Understand Narcissism

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In speaking to family members I hadn’t spoken to in decades, more and more is making sense …

what isn’t clear to me is how a Narcissist operates – how premeditated are their actions?  Do they scheme and connive, or do they fly by the seat of their pants?  Are their manipulations as delicately orchestrated as they seem – fine tuned to consider every possibility, or do they enjoy changing things up as the situation unfolds?  How are they gratified by what they do … ?

Don’t they understand their sarcasm isn’t witty or humorous?

Don’t they realize most people don’t simply banish family from their lives, or levy ultimatums that lead to conflict and estrangement?

Don’t they have some understanding that they are not entitled to happiness at the expense of others?

What is the source of their cynical and spiteful nature?

How is it they are able to convince people in their lives that others are damaged, disturbed, evil or flawed?

How can they make everyone around them accept, almost without question, a story so ridiculous, so filled with holes and out-and-out lies, it is obvious at least mild skepticism is in order?

And how is it we, those of us who have had our lives twisted and contorted through interaction with these people, cannot see with complete clarity – though we may have known on some primal level all along, as I did – just how ruthless and disturbed  the Narcissist is until we have gotten away from her?

Pat was safe until we all started talking to each other – her story only what she wanted it to be.

There has been much hurt, regret, remorse and sorrow as a result of her orchestrations and manipulations – and I am deeply ashamed of what I considered, albeit fleetingly, my father to be guilty of … things Pat led me to knowing they were false.  A Narcissist can take the mistakes of others and twist them into something  more; something dark, terrible, evil and willful – until you begin to question yourself, and what you believe.  Even now her lack of empathy staggers me.  Where is morality, decency and propriety – what fills the space inside where her heart should be?

I am angry, intensely so, but also relieved to know my assessments of her were never too harsh – if anything they weren’t harsh enough.

Naively, and despite some real evidence to the contrary, I believed I was her only real victim – but my sister has fared far worse than I have, and what she did to my father is unconscionable. And then there are the wives, or ex-wives, of the sea of married men she has seduced – one of which told us, after he’d gotten away from her, just how insane and disturbed he found her to be.

But that’s just it; you don’t fully realize, until you’ve escaped, exactly who and what she is.  I knew I didn’t like her, knew she had the morals of an alley cat, knew she was an abusive mother …

but until I left home, I had no idea how damaged I was as a result of having been her son.

And until I began talking to others she has hurt, I didn’t know their experiences with her were similar to, or even worse than, my own.

Does she not consider the consequences of her actions?  Or is her behavior indicative of cognitive shortcomings derived from a static mental state permeated by distortions and misperception?

Are Narcissists sick, and therefore deserving of compassion?

Or are they inherently vile; devoid of empathy and therefore evil?

And what happened to my mother … was she born this way?  Is she the Bad Seed?

Or did someone hurt her and cause this disorder in her personality?

In a case this complex, where so many lives have been damaged as a result of her actions, perhaps I shouldn’t even concern myself with why …

Maybe this time, only the acceptance of what is is appropriate …

because when dealing with a Narcissist, the only person you can save …

is yourself.

Knowing Why

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So much of our life experience is unique only to us.  We read, research, take in and process information, but what happens to us – even when it is similar to what happens to someone else – is unique.  We all have our own story to tell …

I have an intense need to understand my story for exactly what it is; I have to know why.

Not only do I need to know why I do and say and feel and think and act as I do, but I need to know and understand why the people in my life behave as they do …

Good or bad, I realize that knowing why can never erase something that has happened, but understanding can have a profound effect on the way I perceive those events.

Knowing why is the first step toward understanding …

In therapy, I was reluctant to talk about my childhood – it was clearly the source of my pain and depression, and I accepted that, but I didn’t understand how talking about it could help; some things don’t have a why, they just are – or so I thought.

My therapist explained that events occurring in my life at that time were not what I was reacting so adversely to, that my reactions – intense and inappropriate, were actually to unresolved childhood trauma.  And these triggers could not be disarmed until I examined them and understood why they made me feel the way they made me feel …

this made sense.  It still does – in fact, now that I’ve experience first hand the difference knowing why can make, it’s even more important to me.

This blog is not some “Mommie Dearest,” expose – yes, it portrays my parents in a very bad light, but that is not its purpose.  Writing helps me process, understand and conclude as nothing else can.  Writing is cathartic, the final piece in the puzzle that is healing.

Through publishing my writing, I’ve gained wisdom from the comments of others, satisfaction from furthering a cause I believe in, a deeper understanding of my own illness and its cause, and an apology from my father – something I never thought I’d get.

And that last thing, the apology from Ed, sparked a conversation that has led to a deeper understanding of who he is, and who he was. It has given me the ability consider his story.  I haven’t made it easy for him, but I don’t think I was meant to – it is good that we, both of us, have had to struggle for the gains we have made.  Nothing worth having comes easily, and learning someone else’s why takes patience and an open mind … something I was very reluctant to show Ed.

When I look back, I see a terribly broken and dysfunctional family, but I’m no longer the little boy in the picture.  Pat is still there, just the same as she always will be, and Elizabeth, unfortunately, still lives in that house, but I am gone … and I think Ed may be too.