In Spite Of, Not Because Of

So many good things came from the Christine Blasey Ford hearing. She started a long overdue national discussion about abuse and, even more basically, about what it means to be a woman in this world. This genie will never be put back into the bottle, and I think our culture will be all the better for it. Being heard provides an opportunity for healing.

Believe it or not, I’m a very quiet person. Because of that, it’s assumed, I hope correctly, that I’m a good listener. Therefore, people tend to confide in me. So I have heard a lot of amazing stories of survival over the years.

These stories have left me with two lasting impressions. 1) We live in a world that is a great deal more violent and abusive than most people realize or care to admit, and 2) I will always be fascinated by people’s ability to survive and even thrive in spite of the many obstacles that are thrown in their paths.

I know a woman whose mother tried to kill her on multiple occasions. I know a woman whose parents attempted to beat the gay out of her. I know a woman who was sexually abused at an extremely young age by a never-ending series of her mother’s boyfriends. I know many people who have been beaten up for simply being who they are. I know a man who was so severely tortured by his alcoholic father that to this day he is afraid of his own shadow.

I’ve learned of knives being held to throats. Legs broken and improperly healed. Humiliations and punishments beyond your worst nightmares.

Every one of these people survived in spite of, not because of, the people around them. Those people should have been supporting them and raising them up in life, not beating them down. The fact that abusers seem to flourish in this society is an outrage.

Survivors are my heroes. They have a depth of character that people who have had the good fortune of waltzing through life unscathed will never achieve. But I’ve come to believe that depth of character wasn’t brought out by the abuse. I think it was always there, deep inside. Humans have this uncanny ability to default to incredible if given half a chance.

So, if survivors are already awesome, imagine how much more they could have been without the toxicity that was injected into their lives. What gifts has this hostile world deprived itself of? What are we missing? How much further could this society have evolved without all the harm that it inflicts upon itself? What an incredible waste.

Something to think about.

Michael Paul Miller The Calling
The Calling, by Michael Paul Miller

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Intentional Helplessness

A friend once told me about his aunt, who, as a teenager, decided to sit down in a chair and not get up, to the point where months later, she couldn’t. She never walked again. Stuff like that pisses me off. It’s manipulative and counterproductive and, frankly, mentally ill. But she had to have had help in her stupidity, because she must have eaten and defecated during that time, and someone must have dealt with that.

This reminds me of the many adults I’ve encountered in my lifetime who refuse to learn how to drive a car. I have little respect for these people because invariably they expect family members to chauffer them around or run errands for them. By rendering themselves helpless, they actually are controlling others. I believe in dominance and submission circles this is referred to as “topping from the bottom”, and I find it infuriating.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not attacking people with anxiety disorders or those who have mitigating circumstances for their behaviors. I’m only going after those passive aggressive manipulators and the people who enable them. There’s sometimes more to the story, and I realize that. But back to my rant.

I don’t know who annoys me more, the people who feel they have the right to place all that extra burden on those around them, or the people who enable them in their efforts. Stop doing grocery runs for mom and see how quickly she either grasps the concept of public transportation or learns how to freakin’ drive like the rest of the adult world.

I’ve also crossed paths with people who have grown their fingernails two to three inches long. I’m sorry, but I am not going to pick your nose for you. I refuse. Can’t pick up the credit card you dropped on the floor? What a pity. Here’s a nail clipper.

Back in the dark ages, before internet, when we shared one computer for the entire office and it had a black screen with green, ectoplasmic lettering, I had one coworker who absolutely would not learn the few simple key strokes required to retrieve the data that was essential to have at various times throughout the day. She’d wait until I was at the computer, and then she’d ask me to do it. I did it once or twice, but then I said, “Look, write these steps down, because next time you ask me to do it for you, I’m going to say no.” She didn’t write it down. Next time she asked me to do it, I said no. And she got angry. I’m sorry, are your fingers broken? No? Maybe it’s your brain, then.

I guess I just don’t make a very good enabler. It would be impossible for someone to live under my roof and grow to 600 pounds, to the point where first responders have to remove a bedroom wall in order to cart their butt to the hospital. No. To get to the point where you’re too fat to walk, someone has to be willing to shop, pay for, and hand you the twinkies, and I’m not your girl.

I even get irritated with women who wear 5 inch heels and then complain they can’t run. Yes you can. You just choose not to. There’s a difference.

Life is going to throw you plenty of curve balls. Why on earth would you want to place obstacles in your own path?


[Image credit:]

Bridge Symbolism

Having worked on drawbridges for over 12 years, I’ve come to know how strongly many people feel about bridges in general. Just publish your plans to demolish or replace one, and brace yourself for the public outcry. People love to walk and jog across bridges, and many’s the time I’ve witnessed marriage proposals. Fishermen often have their regular spots staked out, and people love to hop out of their cars during bridge openings to enjoy the weather. For some inexplicable reason, the mentally ill are drawn to bridges as well.

Another strange thing about bridges is that people view them as bigger barriers than regular streets, even if they are fixed span bridges with no chance of causing a delay. People will not hesitate to take a 10 minute drive on an interstate which has the same length of road without exits as even the largest of bridges possesses, but if their route contains a bridge, that same 10 minute drive is viewed as a hassle to be avoided.

What do bridges symbolize to people? In the tarot, the bridge card means progress, connections, and stability. Often people view bridges as the only way to reach a destination, and therefore bridges are a way to overcome obstacles. Bridges also represent transitions. “Crossing over” is a euphemism for taking that journey from life to death. Perhaps that’s also why so many people use bridges when they’ve made the unfortunate decision to end their lives, a decision which, speaking from personal observation, is made far more frequently than is reported in the media, and is also a decision which they instantly regret, judging from their screams on the way down. You can be fairly certain that any bridge that you cross that is more than 40 feet above the water has been a place where someone has died.

Perhaps my favorite bridge symbol, though, is that of hope. If you can just get over that bridge, you may find yourself in a better place on the other side. Some bridges are harder to cross than others. If you’re afraid of heights they can be scary. If feeling the surface shaking below your feet unsettles you, then your crossing can pose a challenge, but trust me, that challenge is deceiving. You do NOT want to be on a rigid and inflexible bridge. Not if you want to live. So in some ways bridges can represent a struggle, but one with the prospect of better things on the far shore. I find that inspiring.

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