Discouraging

Recently, someone I know spent a great deal of time trying to talk a friend out of getting a divorce. She was convinced that this divorce would be the worst possible thing her friend could do. She applied a lot of pressure and created a ton of doubt. The jury is still out as to whether she changed her friend’s mind.

But the whole time this was going on, I was thinking, “How dare you?”

First of all, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in any relationship. And it’s not for you to decide how someone else is to live life. Even if what that person is doing seems like a monumental mistake, it could be the catalyst that brings on greater things for him or her in the future. At the very least, the experience may be an important life lesson. The choices one makes are what shape that individual. You don’t have the right to determine someone else’s shape.

In my opinion, the only time you should try to intervene in another person’s decision-making process is when that person is contemplating suicide. Because that’s the one choice in life from which one cannot turn back. Give your opinion about other things if asked, yes. But don’t get all definitive unless someone is about to step off a cliff.

I came by this belief the hard way. Once, I was in a relationship that was making my life so miserable that I decided it was time to move on. I had all my stuff packed. I had decided what to say. I was ready.

And then I made the mistake of telling my oldest sister. And she screamed at me. Because she liked the guy.

At the time, my self esteem was so low that that was all the discouragement I needed. Maybe she was right. Maybe this was a huge mistake. I mean, he was a nice guy. A great guy. Was it his fault that he left me feeling unfulfilled and alone? Was it his fault that I felt as though we had no common goals, that we were working toward nothing, and that our future would forever be exactly the same as our dreary present? Was it his fault that I felt more like his mother than his partner? It’s not like he beat me or cheated on me. What were the odds that I’d wind up with anyone better?

And so, with tears in my eyes, I unpacked. And he never knew. And we stayed together for another 12 long, miserable, unsatisfying years. What a waste. What an unbelievable waste. For both of us, because he certainly deserved more, too. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

Discouragement is an interesting word, when you think about it. It basically means that you are taking away someone’s courage. No one has a right to do that. Ever.

Discourage

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The Gifts We Give Ourselves

So, today is my birthday. I’ve written before about how short-changed we Christmas babies are. And frankly, at this point in the season, I’m kind of over the idea of celebrating.

Maybe birthdays ought to be a day in which we take a moment to celebrate ourselves. We give ourselves many gifts throughout the year. They may not be wrapped up in a big bow, but still, they are gifts.

Doing the right thing is a gift, as is making the hard, but rational, choices. Not eating that third, delicious slice of pie because you know that in the end it will make you feel sick is a gift. Saying no is often the biggest gift you can give yourself, because it isn’t easy, but in the end it’s such a relief. And saying yes is a gift too, because sometimes you need to take a risk and push that outer envelope.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a huge gift, and it often reaps unexpected rewards. Giving people space to be themselves is a gift, because it enriches your world. Giving a hug is like receiving a gift, and it often keeps on giving.

A great gift to give is cutting yourself a little slack. There are plenty of people out there who are going to be hard on you. You should not be one of them.

The biggest gift we give ourselves is acting with integrity, being kind, and treating others with respect, because until we do these things, we cannot expect them in return.

So today, and every day of the year, give yourself a gift. Celebrate the wonderful person you are. By doing that, you’re giving a gift to the world.

Gift.jpg

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What Mother Does This?

I have zero desire to be a parent. I have no idea what it’s like, and I don’t want to. But I do know that if I had become a parent, there are certain things that I would have never done.

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and wonder how I ever made it to adulthood. My mother was an amazing human being. You’d have loved her. Everybody did. I’d never be writing this post if she were still alive. But I have to say that some of the choices she made with regard to my upbringing leave me absolutely speechless now that I’m looking back at them as an adult.

I won’t even get into the whole looking-the-other-way-while-I-was-sexually-abused thing. That’s a subject for another day. I’m just too worn out to even tackle that topic.

No. Today I remembered something that makes my adult eyes widen in horror, and sorry, I need to vent. So here goes.

When I was about 8 years old, my mother, my stepfather and I went camping. We had a little trailer and we stayed in a very nice campground. So far, so good.

But after we got there, the campground manager approached us and said that a violent offender had escaped the local prison and police would be searching the area, so we should probably stay in our trailer and lock the door. No sooner had he said that when we saw a helicopter fly overhead with a spotlight. The guy was close.

So we sat in the locked trailer. I don’t know how long we were in there. I was 8, so it seemed like an eternity. My mother was content. You have never seen anyone get lost in a book the way that woman could. My stepfather, too, was content. He fell asleep sitting up, as he was wont to do. The man spent very little time conscious, which suited me right down to the ground. I, on the other hand, was bored silly.

I guess my mother finally got sick and tired of my whining, so she let me sit outside at the picnic table. She kept the door open, but locked the screen door. Safety first, I suppose. For them, at least.

It was pitch black outside. I saw police flashlights in the woods in the distance. I was fascinated by the helicopter.

Then, out of the darkness, I saw a scruffy man approaching. Suddenly I was aware of my vulnerability. I went to the screen door and whispered, “Mom…”

I didn’t want to draw his attention, in case he was the bad guy and he wasn’t heading specifically to our site. I didn’t want him to notice me. And being the respectful child that I was, I also didn’t want to insult him with my fear if it turned out he was one of the good guys. I whispered again. “Ma…”

She was lost in her book. And her parental radar, which was feeble at the best of times, was apparently switched off. My stepfather slept on.

The guy was getting closer. I was terrified. Even after all these years, I can feel my heart beating a little faster just thinking about it. “Maaaaaaaa…” I hissed.

When she finally looked up, I was clawing at the screen door and the man was looming over me.

“You should get your kid inside, Ma’am. It’s not safe out here.”

So she unlocked the screen door and let me in.

And then she yelled at me for not saying something.

It was awful then, but I didn’t grasp how outrageous the situation was, because stuff like that happened all the time to me. I still have a hard time feeling safe to this day.

But from an adult perspective… damn! Who does that? What mother does that?

Jeez. My inner child needs a hug.

Vulnerable by Julia Galemire

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Forgotten Bruises

I bruise easily. So easily, in fact, that I think my sister worried for a time that I was a battered woman, when I truly wasn’t. I’m just a pale-skinned klutz, is all.

Quite often I can’t even say what caused a bruise. Many times, when I bump into a door knob (or whatever happens to be the offending solid), I say to myself, “I should write this down, because I’m going to be black and blue, and I’ll forget why.” But I never do. (Write it down, I mean. I pretty much always forget why.)

It kind of makes me wonder about the other forgotten bruises in my life– namely, the emotional ones. I know I’ve earned the right to be cautious in relationships, for example, but do I really remember all the causes for this caution? How will I ever know for sure?

Maybe that’s a blessing. I doubt many of us want to dwell on all the slings and arrows we’ve experienced in our lives. And I am grateful that I’m still willing to take a chance when a wonderful person crosses my path.

But on the other hand, it might be helpful to know why I’m overreacting in a certain situation, or why I’m making a choice that even I can see isn’t particularly rational. The bottom line is that we are all a product of our past experiences. The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to understand your gut reactions.

But I’m beginning to think that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to sometimes take that x factor into account: the forgotten bruises. They made an impact, too. And while it would be great to always know what makes you tick, the honest truth is that you won’t. Not always. That’s what makes us human. So be gentle with yourself, dear reader. Just do the best that you can.

bruise

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Staying Out of Trouble

At the risk of sounding ultra-conservative (heaven forefend), I really don’t get it when people are incapable of staying out of trouble. I mean, I understand making mistakes, believe me. I’ve screwed up a time or two. But when you do it over and over and over again, and can practically hear Dr. Phil whispering in your ear, “How’s that workin’ for you?” You really have to wonder.

Is it about bad choices? Because I’ve managed to choose not to break the law my whole life long. It’s not always easy. I’d love to grab that brand new suede jacket and run like the wind, but I choose not to. Sure, I’d like a little instant gratification every now and then, but the first time you tried to play with a candle flame as a child, you should have learned that actions have consequences.

Is it about feeling like you have no choices at all? I can relate to that, too. I’ve lived in a tent. I’m 53 years old and I’ve only just now managed to scratch and claw myself to the very murky, sketchy bottom of the middle class. And I know darned well I’ll never be able to retire. Things are stacked against the 98%. It sucks. But at least I can look myself in the mirror.

You see, I never had much. But I knew I had integrity, and that no one could ever steal that from me. I could, however, give it away. I chose not to. Because it was all I had.

I guess what it all boils down to is what’s most important to you. Possessions? Control over others? Or your own self-worth? Maybe think about that before robbing your next liquor store. Because that money isn’t going to stay with you. Neither will the drugs. In the end, all you have is you.

handcuffs

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The Choices We Can’t See

“So, why didn’t you do it like this?” She asked.

“Because it never occurred to me,” I replied.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a similar conversation, both as the inquisitor and as the embarrassed person who failed to find the obvious solution. It makes you wonder how many choices are out there that you just never see.

That’s why I always find it so helpful to discuss issues with third parties. Inevitably, they bring a unique perspective to the table. Not that I always take their advice, but it is always good to have alternatives.

It’s almost as if the fifth dimension (rather than being a band that sings about the Age of Aquarius), is a land of invisible options. It’s a place that we sense, but can’t seem to access, try as hard as we might.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” I ask, while pressing my nose against the window of that quirky dimension.

I suppose that if we always got things right, there would be no challenges in this world. There would be no room for improvement, and nothing to strive for. It would certainly squelch all creativity and innovation. What would be the point?

I like the concept that there are choices out there that we don’t see. I like unlimited possibilities. I only hope that we figure things out at the most critical junctures, because much hangs in the balance. But it kind of makes me wonder if it’s ever possible to get something completely “right”.

L0027293 The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biom

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My Run-In with the Random Word Generator

Sometimes I can’t think of a thing to blog about. Today was one of those days. I was getting rather desperate, so I consulted the Random Word Generator. Perhaps it would inspire me to break through this blockage.

The first word it gave me was “lip”. No. I’m sorry. Maybe this was a bad idea. What on earth could I do with the word lip? Nothing. That’s what.

I kind of got irritated. Curse you, Random Word Generator! You were supposed to save me! But I’m not one to give up. (Especially when I can’t think of anything else to do.)

I noticed that the generator allows one to choose the number of words that get generated at a time. What would be good? Three, I decided. And this was what I got:

unfortunate memory cancer

Okay, granted, that’s a bit bleak, but really, when you think about it, it ought to be a thing. Because who among us doesn’t have memories that they wish they could forget? The sound of Trump’s voice springs to mind.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind erasing some of my past relationships, from beginning to end. I’d also like to apply chemotherapy to some of the idiotic choices I’ve made in the past. And those bell bottoms that I wore in the 70’s? Blot them out of existence. Please. I’m begging you.

True confession: I’ve been getting more forgetful lately, and it’s scaring me half to death. But on second thought, it might have its advantages. Who knows what unfortunate memory cancers I’ve already been cured of?

Brain_memory

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Adult-y Chores

I was feeling petulant, so I did what petulant people do these days. I left a snarky post on Facebook:

Screenshot-2017-10-20 Barbara Abelhauser

“There’s nothing worse than adult-y chores,” I was thinking. I had to go to the dentist and get a filling. I had to have the rear struts on my car replaced. I had to go to a home improvement store and buy 3 huge bundles of fiberglass insulation to put on the under-floor of my house. I had to grocery shop and get gas. I was tired and grumpy just thinking about it. And to make things even more special, it was raining. I would have greatly preferred staying in bed and cuddling with my dog Quagmire.

Then a friend responded to my post, “Just remember what it was like being a powerless child. Those chores are ok by me.”

Whoa! Perspective!

That’s a very good point. I still go into a bit of a panic when I’m feeling powerless. And that was my status quo as a kid. Sometimes I felt like the only logical person in my world, and yet I wasn’t taken seriously. I could see disasters on the horizon, and I’d speak up, and not be heard. And then sure enough… catastrophe. It was frustrating.

I absolutely hate not being heard. I’ll take a visit to the dentist every day of the week, rather than go back to that powerless place of childhood. As an adult, I get to make choices. They may not always be fun choices, but at least they are mine. There’s an awful lot to be said for that.

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Anchorage

No, not the city in Alaska. The word. A place to drop anchor. Most people long for this. Now that I’m a homeowner again, I kind of feel like I’ve finally found such a place. It’s wonderful. It’s a huge relief. As a matter of fact, for the first time in my life, I look forward to coming home, I feel safe here, and I am a part of a community. I’ve had maybe one or two of those things before, but never all three simultaneously. I’m 52, and this is a first. And I like it. A lot.

But anchorage is one of those amazing words that brings up conflicting emotions in me, depending upon the context. I hate to see people who are trapped in their lives. There’s nothing worse than doing a job that you hate because you feel as though you have no choice. It’s awful to stay in a relationship simply because you’re afraid to be alone. (Been there. Done that.) It’s heartbreaking to see someone stay someplace simply because it’s all he or she has ever known.

I know several people who have limited themselves in one way or another, and it makes me very sad. To me it looks like wasted potential. I want the most for the people I love. My expectations for them are high. It makes me crazy when I know people are capable of more than they are allowing themselves to achieve. I want everyone to go to college and travel and take risks. But a lot of people don’t do these things. Their fears hang on their necks like… anchors.

And now’s when I have to remind myself that everyone is allowed to live their own life. If you are content living in the place where you were born, and never expanding your horizons or learning anything new or being exposed to other cultures, then it’s really none of my business. You can and will make your own choices, including making no choices at all.

Is your anchor a connection or a hindrance? I’ll let you determine your own anchorage, as you have every right to do. Meanwhile, I’ll try to scream into my pillow as quietly as I possibly can.

Anchor

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On Being Let Down

I’ve been cranky lately. Grumpy. Impatient. Out of sorts.

It all started when it finally dawned on me, at the age of 51, that my sexually abusive stepfather had started grooming me for his pedophilia at the age of 7. The hard core abuse didn’t start until I was 11. Not that that’s an excuse. And I had been dealing with that for most of my life. But I had been operating under the illusion that I had had a few years there before the dark shadow truly descended.

On the contrary. Looking back on certain incidents from an adult perspective, there was a whole host of inappropriate behaviors from almost the day he married my mother.

As a child, I didn’t know any better. I just knew that the man made me uncomfortable, and I tried to avoid him. But looking back now, I can see that several things would have been nearly impossible for an adult to miss. And yet my mother chose to look the other way.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother very much. But I know that if I had been in her shoes, I would have made different choices. For starters, I’d have never married the pig in the first place. I’d have put my child’s safety ahead of my desire to get out of the projects and be supported by the first available scumbag that happened to come my way. And the first hinky thing that happened would have been the last thing he ever did. I know this as sure as I know the earth revolves around the sun. But that’s just me, I guess.

Over the years, a lot of people have let me down. Teachers. Counselors. Adult relatives. No one heard me. No one wanted to see. I was 21 before I independently arrived at the concept that none of this had been my fault. I should have been told that by every person who crossed my path.

From that, I suppose I could have learned to distrust the world and lash out like a wounded animal at anyone who came close. But I have always been someone who zigged when the rest of the world was zagging, so instead, I put a lot of pressure on myself to not be like those people.

As a result, I am probably the most dependable person on the face of the earth. I listen. I act. I speak out, even when it might be uncomfortable. If I say I am going to do something for you or with you, only hospitalization or death will keep me from doing so. I can be counted on. I keep my promises. I don’t look the other way. I stick my neck out, even though I often risk getting it chopped.

You’d think I’d have acquired a healthy dose of cynicism after a lifetime of being let down by people. But because I’m capable of doing all of the above, I expect it from others, and I’m always rather stunned when they fall short. And good God, do they ever fall short.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint you. It’s part of life. Perhaps part of my anger should be directed at myself, for having set such high expectations for the people I care about. They aren’t me.

Maybe when people don’t return phone calls, ignore messages, don’t follow through, or stand me up, I shouldn’t take it as the abuse that it feels like. Maybe I need to develop a thicker skin. Because the fact of the matter is, I can’t control when other people screw me over.

There’s really no point in wasting energy on an existential tantrum because I can’t force everyone to live up to my standards. I can only learn to set up healthier boundaries and try to make better choices moving forward. Emotional distance. That’s what’s called for here.

disappointment

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