“Why are you still single?” (re-visited)


weddingring

A while back, I wrote a scathing rant about why I was still single. So scathing that some men actually stopped talking to me for awhile.

I was okay with that.

I didn’t feel like I needed to apologize for breaking bad in a blog about things that at the time I felt really needed to be said. But I was harsh.

Let’s just say I wrote the blog on a day when I was really pissed off about how  men sometimes treat women.

At the time, it had been assumed by a guy with an unrequited crush (and some major personality issues) that I was a lesbian because 1. He hadn’t gotten anywhere with me and 2). I had suggested that humanity should be kinder and less judgmental to all–including non-heterosexuals.

I knew I was fighting a losing cause, at least with this guy. So much of our population, male and female, are unbelievably messed up about their sexuality. But his assumptions made me mad enough to speak my piece.

It isn’t easy to be  ’50-something’ and single. Especially if you’re reasonably attractive and have certain expectations about what you consider to be reasonable and fair.

Yet, when I went back and re-read my blog, I found that in that year, I’d made quite a journey away from the frustrated single person who wrote it. Yet, some things were still the same.

I have lived, for the most part, for almost 10 years in a very conservative small town. This town, which proclaims itself ‘the Holy City’ has shown me some of the most unholy people I’ve ever met. I sometimes wonder why the cross that some get so worked up about doesn’t fall off the water tower in celestial disgust.

In that small town, I’ve had women treat me badly while clinging to their unattractive, creepy and sometimes leering husbands  as if I, by my very single status, must want them. I’ve even been told by a church secretary that if a woman is single, other women assume that she must be ‘on the make.’

I had one woman accuse me, because I met and began a relationship with a male of a small devotional group, of treating that group like ‘a singles bar.’

I don’t have anything to do with these individuals anymore. At some point, something in me rose up and cried “Nonsense” to such silly women and equally silly men. If a marriage is so fragile that a woman has to stare down every single woman they meet as possible competition, I suggest they go ahead and call a lawyer. They really don’t have a marriage.

These days, if I encounter women who act like that, I immediately distance myself and don’t give such foolishness dignity. I don’t need to. While I am not a fan of marriage, I honor it. If a couple has gone to that trouble, there is no way that I’m going to do anything to rock their boat–not even if the guy really wants me to do so.

And yes, there are those men–often in the church or religious community. I’ve had ministers and other respected church members leer, make suggestive comments, even feel way too compelled to stare at my chest during conversations. I’ve had fellow church members contact me for what I thought was going to be a date, when it turned out that all they wanted was quick, easy sex.

Or, when some men get caught flirting by their mates, they have blamed me, saying that I had the wrong idea about their intent (when you really couldn’t get another idea about their behavior.) Their wives believed them because it was easier to blame me than to address with their husbands why they lacked self control or respect for their marriage or their wife.

I have certain expectations about how I think men and women should act. When such ham-handed attempts at getting their desires met are not successful, I am shocked about how nasty and childish such men can be. It makes me angry.  And it reminds me of why I choose to be single, even when I’m often judged for doing so.

I’ve been engaged twice, but I never really wanted to get married. I’ve only recently realized that. The two engagements took place in my twenties when I was still buying into what I thought society expected me to do–get married, settle down, have a few kiddos and then start pressuring others to follow suit.

For years, I found myself in one go-nowhere relationship after another. Some were really painful, because I really loved the men involved. Some of them said they loved me, and I believed them. At least, until their consistent actions showed me that their words could not be trusted. Or worse, once they realized that the relationship might take some work, they jumped ship and acted like there’d never been a relationship.

This can be especially hurtful in the church, where men I’ve known break up by saying “God” told them to do it. You know, sometimes, that is valid. But I think that is  often an immature excuse by someone who really needs to man up. If God is going to end a relationship, I really think he’s going to tell both parties.

Or, you find the super spiritual guy (or thinks he is) who confesses all his sins in the relationship, usually on social media or at a church service. Of course, the ex-girlfriend is made out to be some unstable Jezebel type. He gets the forgiveness of his fans in church, and goes on to create relational havoc elsewhere.

Lastly, you find the couple who have, in their pasts, been up to everything immoral under the sun. Things that would make Hugh Hefner blush. Some of it while in church leadership positions. Yet, they are the first to lecture the single person struggling with very real temptation to sexual immorality. They are the first to pretend they are  something they are not.

In my journey as a single woman, I was once treated as a sexual ‘hit and run.’ I got pregnant during that brief relationship. The man in question had married a former girlfriend by this time and never knew he was a father. I had a miscarriage, alone and without medical care. It took years to forgive myself for going from a college ‘good girl’ set to go to seminary that Autumn to whatever it was that becoming sexually active (with the wrong guy) had made me.

At a later point in that journey, I  tried to turn my sexuality over to God. So much so that I gave him permission to even decide who gave me the next romantic kiss. Now some would say it would be foolish to think God would be that much of a micromanager. However, I didn’t. And time went by.

Lots of time. Decades even.

During that time I was in relationships with men who couldn’t commit, were abusive, who hid behind the church and did very inappropriate things. I was determined, that when I next had sex, that it wouldn’t be a booty-call or a one night stand. It would be making love on both sides, something that God could look at while it was happening and smile, knowing that two of his kids had finally gotten it right.

Recently, I was talking to a male friend, discussing my most recent ‘go nowhere’ relationship attempt. He’d been there for all of it, from its exciting beginning to its sputtering end. He’d seen me cry about the guy involved. He’d held back his opinion for the most part. But finally he didn’t.

He just called it as he saw it. He told me that I purposely chose men who were not appropriate relationship choices. The narcissists, the users, the spoiled brats, the men who see women in full color stereotype–with no room for adjustment. He said, “Laura, if you wanted to be married, you would have been by now. You just don’t want to commit.”

I was almost ready to admit this. Almost. But my friend’s revelation shocked me. I wanted, at least a little, to blame someone else. The men who treated me badly. The women who tried to make me fit their stereotypes of a old maid. The churches who made me feel as if I were a leper because of the absence of that little band of gold. But not me!

But you know, my friend was right.

It’s just not possible, unless we’re living in a really ugly world, that there could be that many men who are that relationally inappropriate. And yes, I’d had some great platonic guys for pals. But had ‘friend-zoned’ them like crazy. Like a person who was….terrified.

I just was not willing to believe that there was a man who would treat me right. I told myself I had never seen it. And maybe I hadn’t–because I was too busy looking for the cheaters, players, Peter-Pans, and abusers.

Having said all that, I remembered recently joining a dating site. I put up what I thought was a honest profile, and by the next morning got 5 hits. I took that profile down in an emotion that I can only, in retrospect describe as terror.

I don’t like some parts of being single. Having better boundaries now that when I first came to my town, I can stare down the weirdos and the wanna be wandering husbands. I can choose to avoid the men who stare at my breasts as if they’ve never been weaned. I can choose not to be in friendships with insecure women who want to act like they are in some petty 50’s sitcom.

Yet, I still meet the types that drove me to write my earlier, angry blog. That day, I announced to the interested world why I was growing old with my cat instead of the latest dream-guy.  I described the guys who use inappropriate behavior to try to pencil women into a certain box, but instead just proclaim to the world why they don’t have healthy relationships.

I guess I will always meet them.

However, now, I’m willing to believe that there are also nice guys out there too. I’ve met them. I work with them. If they are eligible, and the interest is mutually there, well, I guess we’ll see. I’ll ask God about it. And believe that He, being the loving Father (not micro-manager) that he is, will take as much interest (if not more) in arranging a match for one of his daughters.

Till then, I remain single. Not because I hate, or am frustrated, or even because I match some stereotype of some equally hating and frustrated male. Because I choose.

And also because I think I am worthy of someone who will treat me as the gift God  has been making me into all these years.

I choose health in how I deal with others, and how others deal with me. It’s not negotiable. And I will wait, even if that wait takes years or a lifetime, because finally, thankfully, I know my worth.

Finally, I expect others to recognize it as well.

And that, my friends, is, one healing year later, why I’m still single.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing SANITY


This week I had an unfortunate experience at work with someone who I was forewarned was ‘difficult.’ Despite my inner alarm bells going off, I approached the person, confident (smug?) that my social work skills would make it easy to get the verbal information I needed and be on my way.

Two hours later, I was sitting in my supervisor’s office, explaining what happened. While being supportive, he asserted that I had allowed the conflict to go too far.

That evening, I sent an email to a trusted person with whom I know I can be myself. I also know that he will be honest with me. He agreed the day had been difficult for me. He also said something that really made me think. He said, “I’m glad you were able to make it productive and recovered your sanity.”

Huh?

I quickly understood. When we are confronted, regardless of how we get there, our choices can lead us into something a lot like…insanity.

Especially, when I left the high road and started being as unprofessional as I perceived my ‘opponent’ to be.

It quickly became…insane.

Now, let’s look at that word. When one uses ‘insanity’ we think of all sorts of images. Being a bit on the dramatic side, I visualize frothing at the mouth, Bedlam, all sorts of mental health nightmares.

However, what is insanity? I’ve heard a simple, but apt definition.

Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.

That’s what happened to me in my conflict. The moment it looked confrontational, the most wise course was to have retreated and handled things a different way.

Instead, I went straight into battle. Ultimately, I was able to prove that I was, by policy, doing things correctly. However, it took time to wage that battle. None of it served the client, or ultimately me or the professional with whom I battled.

It started with me feeling blindsided with antagonism. It worsened when the person adeptly twisted nearly everything I said to try to make herself right, and me wrong. She went back 15 or more years and quoted outdated policy. She threw out comments that sounded like she was a therapist dealing with a unreasonable client. It felt like being sucked into a whirlpool of…you guessed it, insanity.

I got angry, defensive, and became determined to prove that I was right. Maybe, in part, I ultimately succeeded. But what was gained? My sparring partner was difficult by reputation, difficult with me, and likely will continue to be that way with others.

Why? Because it works for her.

It works.

It may only work in her very distorted way of feeling okay about herself and her actions, but it nonetheless works for her. Otherwise, she would have changed it. As dysfunctional as our lives can become, when something no longer serves our needs, we change it.

When I was addicted (a lesser word does not suffice) to unhealthy relationships with men who were stubbornly unwilling to act in healthy and respectful ways with women, I went through decades of misery. I was determined that my love would show them a better way to live.

During my last unhealthy attempt at ‘relationship by being a therapist,’ I was shocked by a sudden insight into the character of my would be ‘love.’ The way he behaved, pushing love from himself and treating women as objects to use and abandon while calling himself a nice man. It was hypocritical behavior that most everyone around him saw through.

People who had known him much longer accepted him as he was. If he truly wanted to be different, he would have been. However, his self-deception worked for him. It worked. And until he got sick of the lies he told himself, he wouldn’t change. Why should he?

Going back to my recent conflict, the similarities are amazing. My community partner is about the same age as my former love interest. They have years in the professional world. Lots of education. To hear them talk, lots of insight and wisdom. Just not much evidence that any of it shows in their dealings with others.

Now, about how I responded.

For years I struggled to help my would be ‘love’ acknowledge the deep wounds that caused him to behave as he did. To grieve those wounds, and move forward. He resisted with a vengeance. The adult ‘dirty diaper’ he wore was very comfortable.

Ultimately, with regret, I moved forward. Left him ‘stuck’ as it seemed he wanted to be stuck.

I wanted to grow, and could not do so trying to weed an unproductive garden.

It wasn’t easy, and I’ll probably always be worried about him, concerned about the barren way he lives his life. However, my 12 step experience reminds me that he chooses this life.

He chooses.

Healthy love inspires both parties to grow and become. Co-dependency brings both people down.

My community partner also chooses her life, even if it regularly plunges her into conflict with others. Even if it makes most of her time likely about those conflicts and not about serving her clients. It is a waste of God-given gifts, time and talent. However, it is her choice. Whether she actively recognizes it or not—she chooses.

I had a choice, too.

That day, I chose insanity.

That day, once I blundered into the orbit of an antagonistic person, I chose to try to fight a war that I could not really win.

To ‘win’ would have meant that I helped my community partner to see my good intentions, and for her to follow existing policy. It might have even led to an apology from her for being adversarial in a way that did not serve our mutual client or agencies.

To ‘win’ (if such a win was needed) would have meant that neither of our supervisors would have had to get involved to mediate.

To truly win would have meant that the conflict didn’t need happen at all.

Could I have done it differently? I’m not sure. It was later easy to sit with a supervisor who knows me well, wants to see me succeed, and who wasn’t being adversarial, and do a situation ‘autopsy’ if you will. To calmly discuss what might have been done differently.

I want to do better should there be a future encounter with this worker. To do that, I have to be rational, and yes, sane, no matter how tempted I am to act otherwise.

Embracing sanity is choosing rational behavior. I don’t have to like, or be best buddies with my adversary, whoever they are in life. I do need to, with knowledge of who I am and what my motives are, walk into situations with truth. Let that truth be what defines me, not my reaction to unexpected moments of push-back.

When I choose sanity, I chose to take a deep breath, step back and choose the high road. Will I do any better next time? I don’t know. As this situation retreats into memory, I may forget. But what I can’t forget is this—as others have a choice, so do I.

Today, I choose to behave sanely in an often insane world.

A Word about Grieving


He was a man in his late sixties. He had the same job for years and had always been a valued employee. But currently, he was close to being fired.

His grandfather had built the church he once attended. Now, he never went. No one questioned it or stopped by to invite him back.

He went out to the mailbox one day and got a letter that made him so angry he didn’t know what to do. He practically ran to the phone (back in those days, it was anchored to the wall) and called the letter-sender.

When the young woman answered, he curtly said, “I got your letter today. I just want to ask one thing. Why the hell do you care?”

Now, this young social worker could have done a lot of things. She could have answered with anger in return. She could have gotten self-righteous. She could have done nothing at all, saying “I’m sorry you feel that way,” professionally ended the conversation, and left this man to his bitterness.

Instead, she sensed an opportunity to do something, even though she didn’t know what to do. So, she let him talk about how everyone–family, friends, preacher, etc. had seemed to disappear from his life after the death of his beloved wife from cancer. During the phone call, this man did everything in his power to anger the social worker, bait her, encourage her to join the party who had seemingly turned their backs on him.

She didn’t. She was young, and could really get defensive at times. She had her wounds too. But that day, God was in this. Before the end of the conversation, the man agreed to meet with this worker, as part of her Hospice after-care program.

The letter which so incensed him, was something that was supposed to be standard, but had been neglected in the past, due to staff turnover. The worker and a co-worker came in determined to make that part of a busy regional hospital efficient again. To that end, they sent letters on the 3 month, 6 month, and most importantly the year anniversary of the death of the person to the next of kin. Those letters offered support in the form of counseling, telephone support, referral links, whatever the person needed.

It wasn’t flowery or preachy. It was simple and inviting. Some immediately responded. Some never called.

This fellow called.

The worker, new to grief counseling, knew that she had her work cut out for her. She knew the stages of grief. She knew that grief could come out as anger. As a Christian, she understood that this was not the time to try to make a convert, but could mention God if the door was opened. On the way to the first of many trips to her new client’s place of employment, she asked God to give her the right words. She knew that she didn’t have them on her own.

The farm equipment dealership had generously offered their conference room to the social worker when they heard she was going to be involved. They paid for as much or as little time as their employee needed instead of asking that he take leave time. It was, in their view, a last ditch effort to help a once valuable employee who was losing them business. He had been a great salesman, wonderful with people, albeit a little rough around the edges. Now, he was yelling at both vendors and would be customers. He couldn’t do his job. They didn’t want to fire him, but that was looking like it was their only answer.

The worker mostly listened for the first part of the initial session. She heard an amazing amount of grief, rage and hurt. And you know, it wasn’t just about losing his wife. That part was there–because he really loved his wife, had put her on a pedestal that decades of marriage had never caused her to fall off of. Yet, with the aftermath of her death, he lost his friends, he looked like he was about to lose his job, and most importantly, he had lost his faith in God.

He talked about how his grandfather had helped build his small country church where he was a lifelong member. How he had willingly given time, service, talent and money whenever the church had need. Yet, when his wife, a former school teacher beloved by everyone passed, a strange thing happened. No one called after the funeral. No one came by the visit, not even the preacher.

One day, walking on his farm, he had a pistol with him. And–he planned to use it. He could see no reason for staying alive. The only person who made life worthwhile was gone. And no one else seemed to give a damn about him.

The worker offered to call the preacher (was tempted to call him out on his neglect) but this man, her new client, said no. The preacher was just a man, and the client didn’t like him much anyway. But there was someone he was angry with, and he wanted some answers, pronto. That was what she could help him with. The one who took his wife away.

That being God.

The worker didn’t shame him, or tell him he was going to go to hell for being mad at the creator. You see, she had been mad at God before too. Maybe not for as good a reason, but she’d definitely yelled at the heavens, demanding answers. Answers that took years in coming, but once given, were received with more mature gratitude.

Instead, words came out of her mouth that even surprised her. She said, “God can take every bit of anger you want to throw at him. Talk to him. He wants to hear from you.”

Now, I don’t recall (because I was that young worker) much about what else we talked about. We had a few more lengthy sessions where he poured out his feeling, doubts, regrets and questions. He asked me things that I thought might be more suited to ask a priest, but I did my best, always asking God, prior to seeing my client, to give me what was needed to be said.

We talked about how he always thought he could ride his family’s coat-tails to heaven. Or those of his deeply devout and spiritual wife. He never thought about personally knowing God. Didn’t know that he needed to. With my varied experience in many denominations with many different ideas about how to be ‘saved,’ I didn’t give him a glossy pamphlet with some easy five step plan of salvation.

I’m not sure I told him anything about that at all. But I did tell him that it had to be individual relationship. No one had coat-tails big enough for us to hop on and make that trip to heaven. We had to reach out. We had to receive the grace. It wasn’t about being good enough–no one could ever be. It was about coming before God privately, knowing that our need was so great that only God could provide for it. And that there was nothing, literally nothing we could not say. No need to use our polished ‘preacher language’ around God. He already knew. He knew our hearts, our souls, our very worst and most sacrilegious moments.

And He loved us anyway.

Our counseling time ended well. His grown niece and nephew got involved again in his life. Upon meeting me, they expressed concern that I might be looking for a wealthy husband (I wasn’t.) They encouraged him to terminate counseling, and last I heard he was engaged to a woman closer to his age and worldly possessions.

It irked me that his relatives misunderstood my purpose or motives for working with him. First and foremost, to this day, there is nothing more sacred to me that maintaining professional boundaries with clients. However, they didn’t know that. What took the irritation away was knowing this man was smiling again. He was again successful in his job. He’d found love in his life with a nice lady. And best of all, and perhaps for the first time, he’d found faith–real faith in God.

These days, several decades after my youthful professional experience, I sometimes remember that client. At the time, I felt incompetent. I had the diploma, I had the job, and I had the brain pan knowledge. However, when the moment came to act–I wasn’t so sure what to do. So, I asked the one who did know–I asked God. He gave me words, and through His grace (not my competency) a life was changed.

Today, if you have grieving people in your life, its okay not to know what to say. Who does? How do we explain the departure of good, godly loving people in our lives? How do we offer comfort about that which we could likely not be comforted if it were us? All these years later, I don’t think I would change a thing about what I stumbled onto.

I stumbled onto God and some very real truths about His nature.

God is okay with all our emotions, even the most negative of them. It wasn’t his choice for us to be thrown out into this unpredictable world with its tragedy and unexplained mess. However, when life happens, as it does to all of us, in this broken world, He is there. He can take all of our anger, as well as all of our love. He’s not afraid or rejecting of either.

The best gift we can offer to a grieving soul, or anyone, is the encouragement to take everything to God. Put it in the mighty hands best able to handle it. It might not magically go away, or make sense for a long time–years. But the change will begin. God is the one who is always available, doesn’t have easy answers to hard questions, and who loves us with a love that extends beyond the grave.

Amen.

A word about Gratitude


 

I wake up most every morning feeling grateful.

For life, for a good night’s sleep, for the coming weekend to sleep in if I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, for the purring 6 pound fur-baby snoring next to me.

Gratitude has become a way of life.

It wasn’t always that way.

There was a time, mired down deep in depression, and let’s just say it, self pity, I didn’t think there was a thing to be grateful about.

I remember talking to a manager at the place I worked, and asked him how he was doing. I didn’t really care to know, it was just the small talk you usually made in the break room. But that day, he surprised me.

He stopped, pondered the question, and said, “Well, Laura, I’m doing good. I’ve got breath in my lungs, I’ve got a roof over my head, I’ve got a job. I guess its a pretty good day.”

Then he went away, much to my relief. At the time, I also had all of those things. But, I wasn’t grateful.

Why?

I wanted More.

What More? At the time, I was obsessed (not too strong a word) with rescuing men who didn’t want to be saved. I am tempted to laugh now about those wasted years, and I would, if it weren’t so darn sad.

I’ve talked before about one of my mentors, Keith Wasserman, and how he likes to say things that make you think twice. One day, he answered a phone call from me that way. When I asked him how he was doing (and yes, this time I did care to know) he threw me for a loop by answering ‘I’m grateful!”

At first, I thought this was just one of his stock “Keith” comments. But in time, as the comment came back to me over and over again, it did an amazing work of not only healing, but of changing my perspective on the world. I learned slowly, in some pretty dark times, that when your world is falling apart, when hope seems scarce, and the light at the end of the tunnel seems to have been turned out until further notice, gratitude is sometimes all we have.

I learned, slowly, baby step by baby step. It calmed my anxiety. What did I have, right then to be secure about? I went down a list to consider this question.

Did I have a job? Yes. Okay…many people don’t, and would love to have one. Did I have a roof over my head? Yes. You know–there are lots of people who don’t even know the last time that they had a place to call their own–a place where they could lock the door, put up their feet and know that they were home.

Did I have breath in my lungs? Yes. And, if we could ask them, there are countless people every day who no longer have that privilege, and I am sure they would like one more minute, one more hour with those whom they love.

We all have a lot to be grateful for.

These days, its even better for me. I finally understand, deeply understand just how much God loves me. And that has changed my life.

These days, I don’t usually have to do an intellectual exercise to think of how greatly I am blessed. It seems to just bombard me. I have a job that I love, that challenges me and which often makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for humanity.

I am part of a church that really gets out there and gets their hands dirty in working with the poor and disenfranchised. They really walk their talk. And, when I move to Lexington, I will have more opportunities to be part of that. For that, I am grateful.

As I grow more healthy in how I manage myself and how I respond to others, I find that the people I am close to and am growing close to just astound me. They are a diverse people, both from real life and social media. They frequently humble me with their comments,  their wisdom, and their generosity of time, spirit and love–both for me and for others.

I find myself, in my 51st year, often speechless when I consider the people around me–such good, loving, whole-hearted people–that I finally know how to appreciate. No more  tilting at windmills for those who always seem  just out of reach. No longer do I cling to people who make me question or second guess myself.

The people in my tribe know how to love, aren’t afraid of it, and are mature enough to be responsible in how they show and act it out. For them, I am grateful.

Some mornings, I wake up, and my heart is so full, all I can say to God is how grateful I am. Because of His divinity, I know He understands, and doesn’t require more. Still, being human, I want to find the words.

Gratitude is a way of looking at the world. Not from the bitter, half-full or even empty, bottomless pit perspective. Rather than looking at what we don’t have, it is looking at what we do have. Realizing with each positive affirmation we make, we  enable our souls to take a step higher. Gratitude makes us grow. It makes us whole.

These days, as I survey the world around me, I don’t have to be gently scolded about my attitude. I don’t have to be reminded that it could be so much worse. I don’t have to really do a whole lot of anything–it has become a habit to look at what is good in my world and not what is lacking.

Does that mean that I don’t have bad days, grouchy moments? Of course not. Anyone who works with me, is friends with me, knows me, knows that my shadow side still comes out on a regular basis.

However, when tempted to pity, I am often reminded of how far God has brought me. How He turned a life that should have been just another sad child abuse statistic into a life of hope, joy and love. How it seems, especially at this time in my life, that I am walking into a place of peace and confidence, like a flower finally ready to bloom.

For that I am grateful.

What are YOU grateful for?

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I became a ‘treasure’


I wasn’t taught to be a treasure.

Far from it.

I was told by a disgruntled father that my conception was a mistake, caused by a mother desperate to keep him in an unhappy marriage. He used this guilt for years, put on a young and very vulnerable child to later excuse his sexual abuse, emotional blackmail and other types of manipulation  of me for which he never took responsibility.

He told me the only reason he stayed in his unhappy marriage was to keep me from being driven insane by my mentally unstable mother. He told me that his expectation was that I grow up to be a psychologist, and that my mother was to be my first patient.

When I copied what he did and started writing fiction, he made a point to ridicule and find fault with everything I shared with him. I later realized, after becoming successfully published in local newspapers and a national magazine, that this might have been jealousy on his part.  I found, as an adult, that critics were generally the first to cast doubt on those who actually do things, because the critic was afraid to try.

He told me that he was the only one I could ever trust. He told me that I had a horrible singing voice and I believed him for years. It turned out he was just wanting me to be quiet that day, and thought, apparently, that was the best way to shut me up.

When I was over-spoiled materially and over-complimented as a young child by my mother’s family, he told me that instead of being pretty that I was vain. When I performed in a play and asked him for his critique—he told me the one thing (that I’m not sure even happened) that he saw that I did wrong. He then assured me that he was the only one who saw it.

As a teenager, I tried repeated overdoses (of drugs that he himself abused) that freely lay around our home. Because I was a teenager, and suicidal behavior had to be dealt with, (even with parents eager to not have attention focused on them,) I was sent to a psychiatrist. En route to the doctor, my father confessed to me that he feared that my mother was trying to poison him.

Once I got to the doctor’s office, wanting to get it over with, I charmed the doctor and made up a story that made me seem like a normal girl who was just overreacting. Of course, I didn’t want to self destruct! In the car, on the way home, my father said to me, “Now that you’ve talked to the psychiatrist, do you still feel like your mother wants to poison you and me?”

I was too shocked by the way he’d turned his comments around to respond. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d say things, then insist that I’d said them, or do things and insist that it was because it was ‘what I wanted.’ He did his level best to prevent me from having the money for college, and then tried to sabotage my financial aide by having it sent to him and not paying the bill.

When I found out, and assumed responsibility for my fees, having the school money sent to me, he was furious. However, he was starting to realize that I was no longer the child terrified of his anger and incapable of asking questions. It was last time he tried to interfere in my education.

I would later confront him about many things. His response was that the sexual abuse was because I was ‘there,’ and that I was wrong to think I was special in any way. I was simply convenient. Or, he would blame his mother for her failings as a parent, expressing desires for warped things that no mother should provide. Or, he’d blame my mother for being an inadequate sexual partner. Things a parent should never share with a child.

These were some of the many justifications he used for his behavior. When, at 28, I had had enough and permanently distanced myself from him, I got a self-pitying letter from him (also signed by my mother who was easily manipulated by him) telling me that he planned to keep all the ‘abusive’ letters I had sent to him. That all he ever wanted to do was love me, and he was tired of trying to build a relationship with a brick wall.

By that time, I was pretty strong in some good ways. Therapy and reading several good books on healing from sexual and other types of abuse had helped me call an end to his brain screwing attempts. I finally knew when to call, if you’ll excuse the phrase, ‘bullshit.’

I took the letter and highlighted every attempt that I perceived to be an attempt to manipulate me. The letter hardly had a sentence that was not highlighted. I didn’t respond, because by that time I was worn out trying to deal with his warped vision of the world. I knew the worst thing I could do to him was to do nothing at all. Silence was both my best weapon, and the best thing I could do to protect myself.

Years after that, when I faced severe health and financial troubles, my paternal grandfather tried, in his sweet, but ineffectual way, to shame my father into helping me. My grandfather got a letter from my father that was later shared with me. The letter stated that I had made it clear that I didn’t want to be in my father or my mother’s life. My father stated that he and my mother always stood together against the world, and that they didn’t need anyone else. That they had moved past it. “It” being the defection of their only child from that world.

A family member just as selfish and unhealthy in his own way, self righteously called the letter ‘appaling.’ He then proceeded to kick me when I was down every way he could, mostly because I was getting financial help from my grandfather—money that the family member felt was rightfully his.

When asked about my allegations of abuse, my father said simply that I was ‘delusional.’ When I needed my birth certificate to get my driver’s license changed in South Carolina, he refused until my grandfather had to use threats of disinheriting him to get my father to comply.

One of the last things my grandfather said to me during our final visit together was that I was not, as I believed, a disappointment to him. That I had not, as I believed, failed him, because at the time, I could not work professionally, and struggled with severe health issues. But still, it didn’t really sink in.

When you grow up in an environment like I did, there are multiple challenges. When I really started trying to do better in life, work hard on healing and making better choices, I found that I still surrounded myself with people who, for whatever reason, re-victimized me.

It seemed that I had a very accurate radar to spot the dysfunctional souls who could use words and behavior to try to (or actually) control me. I met men who hearing my story, immediately tried to get sex or acted in other inappropriate ways with me. I met women who were basically ‘story whores’ who wanted to hear all the gory details and then gossip about them.  I met few people who actually wanted to be a healing part of my life.

After decades of this, I made a quiet decision. I had truly had enough of re-victimization. But at the same time, I had had enough of my own bad attitude as well. I had seen my parents use faulty justifications about why the healthy world recoiled from them, and at times held them accountable. Why they were not well liked and barely tolerated in our town.

With my own behavior and lack of accountability, I was well on my way to a lifetime of the same sort of broken relationsihps. But finally, I realized that I had to take some personal responsibility. If I gave bad, I most likely would get bad. If I pushed people, good people, away, they might likely, after a time, stay pushed.

As part of a 12 step program for codependency, I learned a lot. But I also found myself in a group of people who seemed to find a sort of fraternity in their brokenness. After a point, they did not move on. Instead, they shamed people trying to move on. They told them that they were trying to act superior. The message was (or seemed to be) “Move on, get better, but don’t move on too much. Don’t get too much better. If you get healthy, don’t rub it in.”

I moved on—right out of that support group. I felt that I had learned what I could, gleaned what was left and now, for my own health had to separate myself. In the years that followed, I spent a lot of time alone. There were times that I honestly felt that I couldn’t stand other people. And while that might have been an okay place to be for a while, I finally realized that mostly—I just couldn’t stand myself.

I didn’t see myself as a treasure. I had had too many people manipulate, hurt, let me down. I was tired of telling my story and then have the hearers attempt to exploit me, or judge me. I recalled a woman saying (of telling our stories) that our life experience was our ‘pearls.’ That we were not to give them to others indiscriminately. At that time, I rejected that outright. But I realized over more time, that this was wisdom of the best sort.

My life was the only pearls I had. My story was a treasure, even though at times it was a quite painful one–both to hear and to tell. But there was still more that I didn’t get. That I…..that broken, rejected, messed up girl who had tried so hard to give up and check out of life—was a treasure as well.

No one had taught me that. I had been treated as a convenient person to use and abuse. I  was expected to take it, keep those crimes secret, but never was I treated as a treasure. The few loving things I had heard in my life were attached to horrible manipulation meant to keep me close to an abusing party. Attempts to change that meant that I was ungrateful, or downright crazy. These were the messages that I received.

About 7 years ago, I had a huge ‘ah ha’ experience which led me to seek out the support group, and later other healing experiences, and things started changing. But very, very slowly. So slowly that I could only see the change from reading old journals, or even looking at old social media posts. My life improved.

I found the courage to try for and get employment as a professional again. For a long time, I second-guessed myself, asking for validation from my co-workers, bosses, etc. I would hear myself talking to clients, saying some very good things, and wonder who that person was.

I had yet to make the connection that I had good things to give. That my life experience, far from permanently breaking me into some unusable mess, had broken me in all the right places. It had put me where God could put together my broken pieces into something for His glory and to the use of His kingdom.

I experienced a renaissance, if you will, in that time, learning who I actually was. What I wanted and what I needed to shed. What I wanted to keep. Who I wanted to keep—and who no longer needed to be in my life. My need to be validated became less and less.

I embraced the fact that I was really an introvert, and that I preferred a few close people rather than the acclamation of many strangers. I began to catch the ugliness in my actions and thoughts that needed to be changed. Being a victim in the past, I didn’t want to victimize others. Simply said, very close to my mid-century point, I started to grow up.

Still, old habits die hard. This year, I decided, slowly, to stop setting myself up. I did this by firstly, doing a few things I really wanted to do, instead of waiting to do them with others. I did those things for me. Instead of saying, “Someday I will,” instead, I started putting a date on when I would do those things.

I also looked at my personal finances. I paid off some debts that I had let continue longer than they should. I learned that it was okay to say ‘no’ to something if I truly didn’t want to do it. I learned that it was okay to pull away from manipulative people who tried to keep me doing things that were good for them, but only obligation for me.

For the one or two downright hateful people in my life, I learned to stop trying. Just let go the hope of them ever being decent towards me. To simply pass them by without sticking my neck out in hope of teaching them a better way of acting. I just was tried of being slapped when I was trying to do the right thing. In short, I started to love, just a little, that battered girl within, who came so close, so many times to not making it.

This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve truly been wholeheartedly excited about Christmas. I’ve decorated and gone through the motions in years past, tried to force myself to express a happy attitude (when I didn’t feel that way–because it was expected). Was hardly aware that this was what I was doing–but the absence of feeling that way this year really points to where I’ve come from.

There was a time when I tried to make people around me do what I thought they should. In this last year, I have only looked at what I need myself. Ultimately—I am responsible only for me. If someone refuses to do something positive or good, they only let themselves down. I don’t have to jump on that train.

This year I didn’t try to get my neighbors or co-workers to be part of some Norman Rockwell Christmas complete with decorations and gift-giving. I gave to those I loved, and those I truly wanted to give to. When I gave a gift, I did it with a full heart. I made it fun. I even made a point of putting gifts under the tree for me, instead of waiting for gifts from others which likely would not come.

This year, I decorated my own office door, and enjoyed it. If others did, that was great. If they did not, well, that was on them. I took responsibility only for what was mine to take responsiblty for. My life only. How refreshing!

This year, I approach Christmas with a sense of hope. Maybe for the first time ever. In my 51st year, I’ve come a very long way from the financially spoiled but spiritually, emotionally and otherwise impoverished child I once was. Although that will always be part of my identity, it doesn’t have to be who I am today. Today, I know that I am a treasure. God has put together the broken pieces into something beautiful.

It has been a struggle to know that it is okay, not narcissistic to know that I am a treasure. My life is a patchwork quilt of experiences. Though I share my story in part here, I no longer do so indiscriminately with people one-to-one. If I do it now, I do it for the purpose of encouragement or education. If I find someone who wants to rend my ‘pearls’ under their feet or judge me, I step back. I’ve worked too hard on my life to step back into re-victimization.

This year, Christmas to me, is a celebration of hope. Celebration of those who have found their way into my tribe, who share part of my heart. Those are healthy people now, people who I am learning and who are learning me as we go. People who I don’t have to apologize to for telling the truth. People who are healthy enough to love and be loved.

I have discovered that even as I have found these human treasures that it is okay and (finally) safe to learn to be treasures for them.

Why We (shouldn’t) Fight


It’s been a hard week for me. I’ve been in mourning.

For decency, common sense, for what some who claim to be Christians have sunk to in the name of winning at politics.

It’s the Monday after the election. Some call it a huge mandate by the American people. I’m tempted to call it the flatulence heard around the world.

But, I guess I won’t.

Saturday, I turned on my television for the first time since Donald Trump was determined to be president-elect of the United States. Sunday evening, I watched him speak on 60 minutes.

My worst fears haven’t started happening. Wholesale riots and looting in my home town, missiles in the air, Russian soldiers coming down my street ready to take over. No martial law has been declared (as far as I know.) My bank account has not been frozen because I dared to vote Democrat.

Black and Hispanic people have been treated badly since the election. One man, upset about not getting his way in a South Carolina post office, told a black worker that he would ‘tell President Trump.’ That President Trump would ‘burn a cross in her front yard.” And this poor lady, known as a kind soul in her small town, took it.

That frightened me.

But still, 7 days post election, the world (as I know it) has not come to an end.

Although, for the better part of a week I thought (and acted) like it had.

I wondered who I could trust. It is clear that many voted for Trump, but had dishonestly acted as if they weren’t planning to do so. They were afraid of being mocked or losing friends.

And of course, its none of my business who anyone votes for, but Tuesday’s outcomes made me wonder about this world that I call home—and the people who live in it.

My original actions were a bit dramatic. I planned an ‘austerity’ budget because I feared bank shutdowns in a Trump regime. I took down my Facebook account and told people who I stay in contact with why and how to reach me. I did not buy a newspaper, or listen to a radio news or television news broadcast until this past evening (I still have not bought a newspaper.)

I didn’t want to eat, drink, or engage with society. I didn’t want to do anything fun. I felt like I was mourning the death of a loved one.

Quite a bit of emotional investment. Especially since I didn’t even like Hillary Clinton that much.

She had been my lesser of two evils, when my choice, Bernie Sanders was defeated.

“You have to let go of this sadness” said a trusted and good friend at work, last week, as I drug myself around the office.

Did I?

I wasn’t sure why. I mean, what else was there? Where was my hope? What had I to look forward to over the next four plus years? Might as well not make any hopeful plans. Might as well not try.

To me, our electoral college had voted for insanity over sanity. I pictured a soon to be police state full of gun-toting S.S. like thugs. A place where women were no longer safe to walk the streets without being oogled and grabbed. A place where cynical male politicians who had never walked in my shoes or lived my life got to make my reproductive decisions.

I spent a lot of time praying. I tried to pray for the right things. Some may gasp, but I prayed for Donald Trump and the newly elected Republican Congress. I wasn’t mad at God. He hadn’t done this. America (or a majority of electoral voters) had.

But who, exactly, was responsible for this?

I guessed I knew from some nasty and immature comments that some of my longtime acquaintances in Alabama put on their Facebook pages. Comments that proved them to be every bit as shallow and hypocritical as I had long suspected them to be.

Easy fix for that. “Unfollow.” “Un-friend.” We had never had that much in common to start.

But some who were making these comments, loyal, cheering Trump supporters, I couldn’t zap that easily.

Because they were my friends.

Because I loved them.

Because they love me.

I went around in a fog, reserving my energy for my job and basic survival. This is similar to what I do during deep winter months when seasonal depression gets the better of me.

I tried to distract myself. I did genealogy research. I read about medieval European women who were great leaders. Who stood up to much worse ignorance and bias in a world much more primitive.

And I watched WWII documentaries.

My favorites are an unabashed propaganda series called “Why we fight.” In it, they explained the rise of Nazi Germany and how the appeasement of Hitler pulled us into an apocalypse of world war. Watching them this past week, I was glad my grandfather, who despite his faults, will always be my greatest hero, had not lived to see this election ‘mandate.’ This thing which I thought was surely the beginning of the end of the world.

As I prayed, however, something strange happened. I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, repeatedly, “Give the guy a chance.”

What?

I took what I viewed to be an answer to prayer to the Nth negative degree. What else could I do? I could sign petitions to have Hillary declared winner due to her popular vote majority (did it) and to have the electoral college abolished (yes, again.) I could investigate my old ambition of emigrating to another country. And I could stand and grimly smile at Trump supporters when the world began to explode, smug as I said, with my dying breath, “I told you so.”

Yes, God was in this, I reasoned. He gave an evil people what they demanded, a racist, sexist, ignorant, unprepared leader—a tin-plated despot with bad hair. Beware what you ask for, right?

I waited to hear President Obama tell President elect Trump that since he already knew everything, to figure out the new office all by himself.

But no.

They met. A 15 minute meeting became an hour and a half. He was gracious, and it seems Trump even listened and may be willing to compromise on some of his plans such as the wholesale ditching of the affordable care act.

I waited for Hillary to preach doom and gloom as so many others were doing. Instead, she was also gracious. In turn, Trump thanked her for her service to the country and vowed to promote healing in the country. He spoke directly to racist bullies, telling them to ‘stop it’, no doubt surprising some of them who thought that he would be their direct line to the KKK.

Over the weekend, I saw a news photo of the politician I truly cannot stand, Mitch McConnell, trotting by Trump’s side like an over-enthusiastic terrier. And yes, it made me angry. McConnell played politics to win—by hook or by crook—and his side did just that. I felt demoralized afresh.

But maybe it isn’t as bad as all that.

Maybe, just maybe, some of what Trump said was like Mitch’s daily drivel—just to win the vote. Maybe my dystopian vision of a Trump-led 4th Reich will not come to pass.

Maybe all social workers, left leaning Christians and those who actually give a damn about the poor and displaced will not be loaded on buses and sent to concentration camps.

Maybe, just maybe, America still has a chance.

But how?

One way that we might pull victory from the ashes is NOT to fight the victors.

What? Yes, what I just said. Stop fighting. Don’t obstruct. Don’t make the next four years an exercise in futility. We CAN do better.

How? By being different. By using our current, wise President’s example and being gracious, willing to compromise. Perhaps we can send a message that win or lose, Democrats and Progressives can be the better men and women. Take the high road.

Show by example what true leadership is all about.

It seems like our divided nation has elected entertainment over leadership. A reality show in Washington to beat all reality shows.

But maybe I’m wrong about that.

I hope so.

I’m not saying suck up everything that the winners dish out in January. And I’m not saying to stop fighting injustice. But this election is over. Accept it. It’s done. Move on.

Let’s show by being a better loser, better party and better people that we know how to lead. Be better than the last 8 years of Republican obstruction. Shame (if its possible) people who used fear, hate and lies to vote in an unprepared and unqualified candidate.

Let’s not be ‘business as usual’ for the next four years. Let us be the change we wish to see.

Maybe there is some hope after all. But hope lies in choosing cooperation. Choosing not to obstruct. Choosing to show America what the best can really, truly be.

TRUMP: WHY HE SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED


 

 

Is anyone in America frightened besides me?

I really thought I’d heard everything from the bombastic Trump.

Really.

It shocked me that he was suggesting that he would not accept the results of the coming national election. But I thought the backlash he got was enough to take care of his careless claims.

Then, we have our most recent story covered by all the major networks. Trump doesn’t want to have an election at all. He wants to cancel it. Just ‘give it to Trump’ he says, referring himself in third person.

That gave me the ice water in the veins sensation that is usually reserved for narrowly being missed on a highway by a semi.

America, I think he’s serious.

And, he’s had good company in the recent past.

There is a large section of America who simply will not accept that a Black president has brought our nation out of the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Don’t try to fool them with facts, they won’t see it. A woman actually called for a revolution if Trump loses. Trump, who rose to power bemoaning the loss of liberty in America, is now calling for the nation to give up its right to vote and make him their dictator.

What frightens me, is that I think some might be willing to listen.

Let Daddy-bear take care of everything, they might think. Growing up depending on the government for everything else, why not give up their liberties? What would that really mean? God forbid that a woman just might be sitting in the oval office. Anything, even the loss of one’s bill of rights would be better than that!

Last week, I found a delightful little book at the public library. It was packaged like a children’s book. It was even titled that way.  But then a quick read and a look at the call letters on its spine made me have my doubts.

The book was called, “The child’s first book of Trump.”

I know that this candidate has gotten his share of satire directed at him. However, at first glance, it looks like even children are being encouraged to throw stones at the Donald.

Or—maybe not.

The book shows an elephantine orange balloon not even being given the dignity of being called human. “Beast” is one alternate descriptor.

From his televised outbursts, I don’t think that it’s a book that Trump would find funny.

Not a bit.

A person with a strong sense of self would find it funny, maybe uproariously so. They might even add a page or two to lampoon themselves.

Likely Trump will try to sue the author. Or the publisher.

In this book, at the end, the reader is advised to ignore the Trump. This he cannot abide. This he cannot stand. Ignore him and he’ll likely deflate.

Maybe, he’ll even go away.

Or, will he?

I’m not sure that many of the masses who proudly wear ‘deplorable’ t-shirts (This was spotted in a local mall recently) would understand how closely Adolf Hitler’s rise to power mirrors what Donald has used in his own campaign. It is eerie, and can’t be ignored.

He, like Hitler, is a fan of the ‘big lie.’ If you say something, no matter how patently untrue, over and over, enough times, somebody (usually a lot of people) are going to believe you.

And there are a lot of people out there who believe in the Donald.

America is emerging from a horrible crisis, made by an illegal war. You may not agree with me on that, but everyone has to agree that there were serious problems in the last eight years. President Barrack Obama advised in his first inaugural speech that it would be worse before it got better.

It got better, but not quickly enough for some in our instant-gratification society. And so, many turned against him. To support their angst, some tried to dress up the facts in the same clothing that made the fairy tale Emperor naked as a jaybird.

People believed them. Because it was convenient. Because it supported their self-pity, greed, hunger for power and latent racism.

Because it was just easier to do.

Hitler rallied a large class of people who became strong by making scapegoats of those seen as the ‘enemy’ of Germany. Trump has mobilized people doing the same—using women, minorities and people of different religions as the lightening rod. We have seen a segment of our population arise that is shocking and ugly.

But—they’d better be taken seriously.

These are the folks that may try to forcibly get Trump the throne that he so covets. The people with the guns, the dogs, and the hatred to back them. They may actually see themselves as heroes in some ‘do or die’ cause which involves ‘them and us.’ Never realizing how they are being used by a man who is power hungry and who doesn’t care about them except as a means to an end.

During the 1930’s, there was a huge pacifist movement over most of the world during that time. People had been through the ugly first world war, and they didn’t want another one. They wanted peace. They wanted hope. They thought that pretty words and patient gestures would win the day. They kept giving Hitler more and more room to expand, hoping that he’d eventually be satisfied and stop.

They were naïve. Are we?

It’s been 71 years since the end of the second world war. There has been a growing movement of Neo-Nazism in this country and all over the world. There is a strong sense of entitlement from our youth, and from those who really have the most to lose should a tyrant like Trump seize control.

Every American, indeed every person in the world watching this election should be frightened. Because, the Donald means it. He wants to cancel the election, because he knows that he can’t win fairly. Once he got to the White House, forget working with the three branches of government who provide a system of checks and balances. He’d just overpower them. Call in the military, or his unwashed friends who put him in office with their 4×4’s and rifles. America would cease to exist.

We can’t afford to ignore Donald because he’s not going away. If he loses a free election, which now seems likely, he’s not just going to oppose it, he’s going to do everything in his power to cause an obstruction that makes congressional games of the past look like child’s play. We can’t afford to cluck at him like a generations of Neville Chamberlains (the English Prime minister who placated Hitler.) We must understand Trump to be the madman that he truly is.

This man has encouraged violence at his rallies. This man has encouraged that physical harm happen to his opposing candidate. He wants to build a wall similar to the one a Republican president once demanded be torn down in the USSR.

He’s coming for your freedoms, folks, and don’t think for a moment that he isn’t.

Trump says that Hillary Clinton lies. Okay, so she has. Haven’t we? I really think the person who is not guilty should throw the first stone. She supports the right of choice in women’s reproductive health issues. Okay. Don’t support that? Then, do something to stop abortion  by supporting these women in trouble. Don’t put a crazy man in the most powerful office in the world.

Like it or not, like HER or not, Hillary Clinton is your only sane choice. No Politician is ever perfect. They’re never going to be. But you can choose between a future and what may possibly be the beginning of the third world war.

Don’t ignore the Donald. Go to the polls. And make the right choice for freedom and sanity. This guy is serious—and he is Dangerous.

Go to the polls and let your voice be heard.  It’s freedom or fascism. America or Trump’s destructive vision of a Nazi-like world.

The choice is up to you.

Regarding an incident in a ‘Christian environment’


This was a day off. I had looked forward to coming over to the seminary library across from where I live and doing some research about 13th century England. That’s what I thought I was coming for when I put on my sweats and headed across the road.

Maybe the Lord intended it to be more.

I’ve learned in my 38 years of being a Christian, that God’s kinda weird like that. You think you’re headed somewhere to do something you like. You might actually get to do that. But sometimes, just sometimes, God has some work for you to do there, too.

It’s happened in the weirdest places. Places where someone said something that invited the conversation about how greatly God loves us. How greatly that he desires to be loved by us, and all the many reasons why he deserves it. My life story alone would be a testament to that. But that’s a story for another time.

In this library, there is one floor for community borrowers to use the internet. Using my smart phone, I can do everything I want to do–research, even writing. But it takes longer. So, when I have time, I head over here.

I got here about noon, and immediately groaned inside. There were two folks nearby that the description ‘boundary free’ was made for. And, I know, I talk a LOT about boundaries, but there’s a reason for it.

Boundaries are important.

The two individuals were indulging (and I use that word purposefully) in a loud conversation that would distract anyone trying to study or research. This is a pet peeve I’ve had for years in coming to this library. There was a time that coming here was a substitute for fulfilling human relationships for me, and I spent more time here than I did anywhere else. As my life has grown, and my relationships deepened, that’s no longer the case.

I understand, with sympathy, if that’s all you’ve got. If that’s the only place there might be to get your social and attention needs met. However, I don’t ever remember being so loud that anyone ever called me out on it because I was disturbing others.

The loud male of the two individuals used to work and study at the seminary and has a voice that projects. He might be better off as a radio broadcaster. At some point in his 30 or 40 something years, someone should have gently taken him aside and told him to adjust his volume. Perhaps, they have. If they have, apparently, the lesson didn’t take. Or maybe, he just didn’t care about the needs and rights of others.

The lady of the duo tends to stop me every time we are near each other in public. She always, without taking a breath, has a long litany of current crises, spoken with copious tears. There was a time when I would have, thinking it was expected of me, prayed for her on the spot. However, as time passed and my own boundaries improved, I saw this lady was never crisis free.

And that likely, these events (if they were true) were either self-made by bad choices or the need to get attention. I felt like she sucked out my spirit each time she pounced on me and demanded gratification.

I started avoiding her.

This morning, the two of them, Mr. Booming Voice and Mrs. Everyone Owes Me Sympathy were together. I kept my eyes on the floor and prayed fervently that neither would recognize me. Their volume got to an amazing point.

Then, a miracle happened.

A student library worker came over and was firm and respectful with them. She told them to lower their voices. To show respect for others, that surely they understand the need to allow others to have quiet to study and to work. Then, she walked away.

Immediately, another boundary-free individual advised the male loud-talker (regarding the library worker) to ‘complain on her, get rid of her.’ He didn’t like the ‘way’ she called them out. He’d heard her do it before. It was a “Christian environment’ he said. That sort of thing should not happen. He suggested that the loud male talk to the head Librarian about this. The one who could hire or fire the student worker. He said that he would come along as a witness.

And inside me, anger happened.

Anger that went from 0 to 60 in about five seconds. I did my erstwhile library companion, who I unfortunately know well, one better. I contacted the library supervisor before he could, online. And let her know my perception of what really happened.

And maybe, its really just my perception. But when you work with someone, and watch their behavior over almost a decade, you get a pretty good idea about who they are–strengths, weaknesses, and ability to change. This guy is the same as when I first met him–a aging, defiant, short-tempered guy who has no clue why his wife divorced him, and why he has been unable to keep a job.

Having him as a ‘witness’ is your worst nightmare. But there’s more. My guess is that his objection to the library worker’s behavior has its roots in racism, not anything else. She was black. The man she spoke to (and his equally loud female buddy) were white. How dare she, right?

But listen up, white America, fairness is here to stay. Equality has arrived. And if you don’t like being called out by someone who looks different than you, find a cave to live your life in, with people who think just like you.

His comment about a Christian environment really drove me to the ledge. I remember this guy working with me at a restaurant a while back. He did a half way job, wouldn’t accept constructive criticism, and made nasty cracks about women coworkers who tried to get him to do things the way he was trained. He didn’t last long. And no one missed him when he left, nor were they really surprised.

I’m not sure what sort of alternate universe he lives in, but apparently it is responsibility and consequence free. No one should correct you when you’re disrespecting the rights of others–even if it their job. Especially if they don’t look like you.

But my library friend may need to review key parts of the New Testament about what his savior, a dark skinned Jewish man, had to say about personal responsibility.

Firstly–we have some.

To God. Then to each other and to ourselves.

That doesn’t make us victims, nor does it give us a right to be bullies. It doesn’t give us a right to sail through life expecting that when we act selfishly or without care for others that we’ll have it overlooked.

And yes, there is a time and place for everything, but I don’t think the library worker did anything wrong.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I take personal outrage when some self-important busybody comes up to me to tell me what they think I need to know. I’m not going to do that to them, and I don’t want them to do that with me. I’ve called a few out on that. To one completely inappropriate woman I used to work with, I told her, “I don’t think we have the level of accountability in our relationship for you to say that to me.”

I meant it then, and I mean it now. Before we call someone out on anything, we need to check what relationship we have with someone. Before we just assume we can correct them, or as is sickeningly used in my community, ‘encourage’ them (i.e.-call them out) on something that is annoying to us.

In this case, the worker had come to work that morning. Her job is check out material, answer questions and keep order at the library. That’s her relationship to everyone in the library building. If she hadn’t addressed the two loud talkers (and they were very loud and disruptive) it would be an unspoken assumption that this behavior was okay.

It did not make it less of a Christian environment for her to call out inappropriate behavior. It made it more of one.

I don’t know this lady, really. She’s about my age, and seems to be a no-nonsense type. The type that I probably wouldn’t crack a joke with. But that’s okay. Maybe we’ll never have the ease of that kind of relationship. But as of today, she darn sure has my undying respect. She did her job, she did it firmly and with dignity. If the two offenders and the ‘witness’ n’ever do well who objected don’t like it, they can go to a coffee shop where they can be disruptive at will.

A Christian environment has rules and expectations. Love is about responsibility and expectation as much as it is about warm fuzzies and grace. Cheap grace is when a person keeps messing up with no desire to change, knows they are offending others, and keeps doing it. God may forgive them, but I doubt the quality of their lives and relationships will improve.

I came to the library to study and research. I’m going to get to do that. But first, I wanted to speak out about Christian community. What it is and what it definitely is not. The student worker was right on. God bless her.

I wish there were 1000 more brave souls just like her.

Amen.

Boys will be boys? (The problem with misogyny)


Some real life examples:

A young middle school girl gets into a fight with a boy, and is taken to the principal’s office. The principal tells her that she is a ‘tease, like all women are.’ The little boy stands there and listens intently.

A woman sitting in a restaurant is approached by a stranger, who disregards the book that she is reading, insists on talking to her, and ends the conversation by telling her to ‘lose some weight.’

A man confronted with the sexual abuse of a relative (that he did nothing to prevent) yells at the social worker that he will ‘kill her’ and that the reason she is ‘fat’ is because ‘she can’t get any and she takes it out on men’ like him.

 “I’m the man in my house, and I run things because I’ve got this thing in my pants.” This said by a wealthy customer  to a cashier who had made a comment about women being treated equally.

“You’ll never be able to prove it” A restaurant manager says to the worker who he frequently is inappropriate with, who he later lays off work because she ‘freaks out’ around him.

A presidential candidate, after being exposed for talking crudely about women, and feeling entitled to grab and kiss women, says, ‘that’s just locker room talk.’ Some women support him because they despise the strong female candidate opposing him.

The problem with misogyny, it would appear, is that the men doing it don’t think that they are wrong.

It would be simple to look at all of the above truthful accounts and consign them to some bottom-feeding population of welfare recipients, uneducated, or toothless bunch of Jerry Springer fans.

Problem is, that most of the men above were men of good incomes, well educated men, pillars in their community in some cases, who somehow felt entitled.

Entitled to what? At being able, in fact, expecting to get away with, treating a woman any way that he wanted.

If we look at candidate Donald Trump, it would appear to be that he thinks women are objects for his potential gratification. He believes that his money or fame entitles him to kisses and gropes if the woman is beautiful to him. And it seems that he believes that such women are shallow or submissive enough to accept such behavior and not complain.

And sadly, especially in the past, some women have allowed such behavior.

I remember talking to my paternal grandmother about my father’s sexual abuse of me and others. When I expressed confusion about what happened, she sighed and said, “Oh honey, all men are like that.”

And I truly believe that she, also being a victim of such abuse, honestly believed this was true.

Women have been socialized, in the not so long ago past, that they ‘had’ to put up with certain types of behavior. They could lose their jobs, after all. This being before laws went into effect that could end the careers of the gropers and touchers who used position and power to sexually molest their employees.

Some of it, however, is just how women have been socialized in this country.

We are trained to be ‘nice.’ We are trained to cover our bodies, not be flirty or suggestive, because God knows men can’t control themselves. If a man acts inappropriately, we’re supposed to look over it, because if we respond as they deserve, and tell them to take a flying leap, they just might think (and can tell others) that we are lesbians.

And that won’t do, will it?

We are trained to put up with much, tolerate much, and try to explain away everything.

We’re trained to roll our eyes when the men in our lives break bad and act like Archie Bunker or Donald Trump. We’re trained so well to be Edith Bunker’s would-be twin, that at times injustice often appears to win the day.

But, not always.

I’ve been astounded, and saddened to hear female supporters of Trump excuse, downplay, or even giggle about his antics. Many of them are elderly women of the generation that often didn’t have a choice (due to no sexual harassment legislation,) to do anything but to try to laugh it off.  They act out the stereotypes that were force-fed them and are suspicious, even nasty towards strong women like Hillary Clinton, who does not tolerate female bashing or potential sexual exploitation.

With such women, I wonder if it is not envy of Hillary’s generation, and the ones which have followed, who can protest, who can bring legal action and charges, who can be believed.

But still, the women of today have their holdouts.

The world is different, but not that different. I still see women in professional positions who think that they have to flirt with their male bosses, dress provocatively, and put up with their ‘man stuff’ (inappropriate talk, unwanted advances, etc.) because ‘boys will be boys.’

I actually heard a high ranking female professional blame a woman for being raped. She said that it was the girls fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She stated, “Dumb girl.”

As if it were the girls sole responsibility to keep herself out of harm’s way. As if men are not responsible for controling themselves.

These are the sorts of messages our young men get. From television, movies, social media, radio, and yes, from their own parents. The more conservative you go, especially in religious circles, the more stereotypical you can get. Messages like men should be understood, given the benefit of the doubt by women. Anything less is somehow not feminine. Somehow not Christian.

However, we need only to look at Christ’s human incarnation to debunk that. When given the chance to send Mary to the kitchen to help her sister, Jesus chose to let her remain with him. When given the opportunity to support the hypocritical stoning of a woman caught in adultery, Jesus called on the men to examine their own souls first.

Jesus respected women. In fact, it was women who discovered that he was no longer in the tomb. Any man who thinks that being lecherous, abusive, and crude is acting as a follower of Christ has clearly chosen a false Messiah—Jesus didn’t act like that, nor did he condone it.

I think we have an opportunity, as parents, teachers, social workers, whatever our role, to teach the next generation that women-hating is wrong. That using women is wrong. That pretending to be nice so that a woman will admit a man to her bed is also wrong. That manipulation or exploitation of any sort—is wrong.

There has been such a lack of accountability in our culture for men. I recall having to wait to move into an apartment because the sole male occupant refused to clean it up. He was waiting for his girlfriend and mother to do it. When asked why, he grinned and said, “Oh, you know, I’m a guy.”

His girlfriend and mother did later clean it, while being angry at me for insisting that he move out on time and leave a clean apartment. Simply said, they enabled this irresponsible male who thought (and had been trained to think) that being a ‘guy’ meant waiting for the women in his life to do the heavy-lifting.

There are many men in our society who can cook, clean, launder, sew and still throw a football. There are many men in our society who would not tolerate a woman being mistreated. There are many who refuse to repeat the stereotypes that they were spoon-fed to the next generation of young men. Society is changing, and it seems to be threatening to those who have enjoyed or even suffered from past status quo.

But we simply can’t turn a blind eye to men (and boys) acting badly. If they act this way, they need to be called on it. If they can’t accept responsibility for their acts, they need, simply, to be shunned.

It is possible to be a man and act with self-control, respect and dignity. To not see women as simply an object to get their sexual and other needs met. To know that simply because a woman is beautiful does not give men the right to touch them. Two year olds do that when they see something visually appealing. More is expected of adult men.

We need to send this message out loud and clear by who we elect for governmental office, and yes, also who we allow in our lives and in our personal space. Sending a message like this does not make women less feminine.

Women can be both feminine and strong. In today’s world, more than ever, we need to be both.

Inside Hillary’s “Basket”


It seems to me that the right to freedom of speech, is, to say the least, subjective.

It seems that, at least to some politicos and their supporters, that you only have the right to free speech (without apology) if you agree with THEIR views.

Donald Trump’s entire campaign has been run on stirring up America’s latent fears about losing freedom and how to regain said liberties. And yes, I have had a lot of fun razzing some of his supporters. The ‘Billy Bobs’ who declare their loud, unwashed support for Trump, and his desire to make “Murica” great again.

One writer gave a gag campaign promise that making “Murica great” would be ensuring that beer tasted better and women’s ‘boobs’ were larger.

Okay, I guess you got a good part of the population sold.

We’ve had our fun with Donald’s hair, Donald’s women, and his creepy comments about two of his daughters. One he said he might go after if she wasn’t his daughter.

Ugh.

The other  daughter, he stated, took after her mother in two areas—legs and boobs. Really Donald? Why are you noticing those parts on your biological child?

Big Ugh.

Yet, I’ve noticed when I post satire or even Donald’s latest self-combustion on my political page on Facebook, I get amazing comments. If the people weren’t friends, I would possibly make unkind comments in response. But then, I would lose those friends.

I notice that a lot of people who support Trump lack the ability to properly spell. That’s not a joke. Just look at some online comments. What worries me is that similar education-free folk also put Bevin into office in Kentucky, who is now happily trying to take their insurance benefits away.

This morning, on the radio, a Arizona realtor, a strong Trump supporter, compared him to a ‘bright light in the heavens.’ I nearly choked. She then said, “He says what I think.”

Which brings us to Hillary’s ‘basket of deplorables’ comment.

Listen up, Folks—Hillary, when she said that, said what I THINK.

Not about every Trump supporter. But about a few.

Like David Duke, who was formerly of high leadership in the Klu Klux Klan. Like the defiant Kentucky House of Representative candidate Dan Johnson, who posted pictures of President Obama as an Ape on Facebook.  Like the white nationalist who applied to be a delegate in Trump’s campaign. Only when a major firestorm started about this, did he resign.

Inside Hillary’s basket are the sexists–think Donald’s recent comment about the beauty pageant contestant who gained weight. Add to that basket the racists, who beyond all reasonable efforts to convince them otherwise, still believe Latinos are here to take jobs away from them, instead of taking the dangerous, low-paying jobs Americans are unwilling to do.

Need more company in that basket? The folks who think that Obama is in league with the Islamic state to take over the world. Or, those who supported the birther movement, and still quietly mutter about it, despite it being disproven, and even being turned around and denied by their candidate.

Lastly, in that basket go the folks who childishly chant “All lives matter” when confronted by justifiably angry African-Americans saying that ‘black lives matter.’ Okay, I’m with you–all lives DO matter. But to generalize on this specific issue is once again attempting a cover-up of the problem. That problem being, that for far too many years, a large segment of our minority population have been treated as if their lives DID NOT matter.

When injustice is ignored for generations, can any reasonable or decent person expect no protest? “Black Lives Matter” is a great slogan–because it calls attention to the very real blindness of white privilege. Coming up with a taunt to throw back to disenfranchise those protesting is just as evil as the crimes that have taken the lives of innocent black citizens.

I recently met a wonderful Islamic woman who is legally in the United States. We did some work together. We liked each other and got into a long conversation after work. Religion came up. She spent most of that conversation trying to prove to me that not all Muslims are bad, extreme, or hate women.

She need not have bothered.

I never believed that all Muslims were bad, extreme or violent. Sad that we have become a nation where such apologies are seen as a preface to a friendship between people of different cultures or religions.

Hillary, after making only a few snarky comments here and there before opening fire at the Democratic National Convention, really caught fire for the ‘Deplorable’ comment. She duly issued regret. People still jumped on her.

However, when Donald spews his nonsense, a lot of his supporters just wince and say “He’s just being Donald.”

Really?

Hillary started her comment with the apologetic, “To be grossly generalistic.” Now it is possible that some who over-reacted don’t know what that word (generalistic) means. Or, maybe that’s just me being unkind. What’s really the problem here?

Why is it that when Hillary, a college educated woman, speaks and tells what she sadly sees to be the truth about some of Trump’s supporters, she gets universal hell-to-pay? Since when has telling the truth about some of Trump’s loudest fans gone out of vogue? Or telling the truth in general?

Trump thumps his manly man chest and spouts out exaggerated and often unprovable comments. Inflamatory things. Things that might cause a nuclear war had he access to the nuclear codes. Then he waves it off saying that he ‘didn’t mean it that way.”  Yet, Hillary speaks about a group that we all know is out there and politicians on the other side of the aisle collectively lose their minds.

America, let’s face it, haters exist. By the time some read my blog, they may put me in that group. I’m okay with that, because I know who I am. Not a hater. Maybe a disdainer, but not a hater. I just don’t like to see people suppressing the free speech rights of others then whining about the loss of their own rights.

If Trump has done one thing right in his campaign, he has brought the puss in the infection that affects America to the limelight. Hillary’s ‘deplorables’ are only evidence of that long ignored infection. We can’t fix that issue without education, discussion and the same application of laws for everyone. The same justice for everyone. In that, our country is sadly lacking.

America needs to look inside its collective heart and examine the contents. What we really think. What we really feel. Do we need a man who proudly calls himself a ‘genius’ for not paying his taxes? Do we need a serial adulterer who threatens to talk about a woman’s struggle with her husband’s infidelity? Do we need a man who has encouraged a competitive world power to hack into our secure data base?

Look at the true issues here without getting vile or ugly. Hillary’s deplorables are out there. Human hate and evil have existed from the beginning of time. However, in our time, a lot of that evil seems to be attracted to the person of Donald Trump.

We all need to look deeply at ourselves, and be absolutely sure that we don’t fit into that basket too.