Tag Archives: pain

the pain of forgiveness

Dearest Big Sister,

Even though you think you have arranged your world in such a way that I can no longer find out what you say about me, or Kate, I can assure you that you have not.

So, let’s set the record straight on the latest, shall we? I have not, did not, or ever would refer to you, your friends or anyone else associated with you as a  “monster.” That, sweetheart, was something you did on your  own. The fact that you also mentioned your parents in your latest rant indicates that they may be wondering why Kate is no longer hanging out with you, and perhaps they asked you about it. I’m sure you were completely honest in your response and gave them the whole story. You know, the one you claim I only know half of? Yeah, that one.

And as if that weren’t enough, you also made it perfectly clear to anyone who may be in any way associated with you and Kate, or you and me, that I am indeed cruel enough to call you or anyone else a monster. There are other words that do come to mind when I think of you, as I do every day: hurting, misunderstood, ignored, unjustly accused, scared, alone, abandoned. I’ve seen you during all of those emotional crises over the past ten years. Did I call you names? No. I held you while you cried. I listened to you pour hour heart out. I tried, in my very meager way and ability, to comfort you, to counsel you, to console you, to be there for you.

And now, weeks after I’ve had any interaction with you at all, you announce to the world that “your ex-best friend’s mother called you a monster.”

You wanna know what I find encouraging about this entire experience? Simply put, Kate is learning, quickly, how to defend herself, how to speak up and express her own opinions, her likes and dislikes. Kate is growing up. And as she does that, you get more and more angry, as do others who move in both of your circles, others who also seem to enjoy insulting Kate in public almost as much as you do. Why is that? Do you think true friendship means that friends must agree on everything, that you can control your friends, even force them to bend to your will, that you have the right to chastise or in any other way deliberately inflict pain on any “friend” who disagrees with you? Do you realize that there have been, and still are, people who are afraid to say or do anything in opposition to you, just so they can avoid the downpour of anger they know you will hand out, just for saying “No, I don’t want to do that today”?

My heart breaks for you, Big Sister, as it does for all of the people who have come into your life, only to be pushed aside like an unloved doll or a broken toy, a possession that no longer functions as you would have it.

So, the question comes down to this: can I forgive you for the pain your behavior has caused Kate, and me? Yes, child you are forgiven. Not for your sake, but for my own. Can Kate forgive? I don’t know; that is a decision that must come from her.

There’s a flip side to that question, which is this: can I, will I, condone your continued behavior, your insults, your anger thrown about for all the world to see? No, I don’t condone it, nor can I stop it. Only you can do that. I can, however, continue to speak the truth, in love, even though it falls on deaf ears.

Perhaps one day, when you get tired of carrying the burden of inflicted pain, or the loneliness that comes from consistently pushing away the people in your life who love you and care about you the most, you can forgive as well.

…and after everything you and your “friends” have put Kate through, she responds with this.


relationships, part 2

Kate, "Big" Sister, "Little" Sister, Cielo

Remember this post?

There’s an ugly sequel. Right before Christmas, one of the girls “ran away from home” in a figurative sense. She’s still here, but not. The details aren’t important; actually they’re quite trivial in and of themselves. I think it was the cumulative effect of actions and reactions occurring over a period of years that finally broke the ties. One of them has been re-established, but it’s a slip knot, and the least amount of tugging on that thread will cause it to unravel again.

Big Sister is gone from our house. Kate and Little pulled away from Big after they dared to stand up to her, and were rewarded by a smack on their noses with a rolled up newspaper. Actually, it was more like a concrete pipe, but you get the general idea. Kate and Little have remained close throughout, leaning on each other, helping each other fill the hole that Big left when she bolted. Big and Little reconnected in early January, but that connection is the slip knot. Kate has known Big for over 10 years; her wounds go deeper.

Hubby and I have been Big Sister’s only effective parents since she was about 8, and our parenting evidently hasn’t been all that effective. We are still connected in FB world. Big has been pushing the envelope a bit out there, and has the potential of putting herself in danger of losing her job, among other things. This week she posted something that was inappropriate from a language standpoint: “I’m gonna cuss like a drunken sailor, for all the world to see, because I can. [my translation]” Hubby suggested that she tone it down, citing statistics of employers and prospective employers who regularly check their employees’ social networking sites. Her walls went up. Hubby had “made her feel bad about herself.” (No, sweetheart, you did that yourself.)  A distant relative of Big’s backed Hubby up, saying that Hubby was really trying to look out for her because he cares for her. She said, “Sometimes the people who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, are the ones who care the most about you.” This went back and forth a while, until Big asked the question, “What’s the big deal?”

This morning I found myself writing a message to Big, and I learned something about myself. Yeah, I already knew it, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves exactly who we are, how we got where we are, and most importantly, that we don’t have to stay where we are:

It’s a big deal because, obviously, there are people in your life who love you. Unless you’re omnipotent, you can’t know that anything you say or do is “not offensive to anyone.” Maybe something is offensive to someone, but they don’t tell you because they’re afraid of how you will react. This entire thread is evidence of that.

You’re looking for an “amen corner.” You want everyone to agree with you, all the time, and if they don’t then you interpret that disagreement as disapproval of you as a person. Kate tried to help you, and you struck at her, which caused her to strike at you in self-defense. She is still in self-defense mode. Look at the situation honestly and think about what has happened in the past, every time Kate has disagreed with you over the tiniest thing.

You have been raised as an only child. I know about that. I am an only child; I recognize the behavior patterns in you because I’ve LIVED THEM and continue to try to rise above them, and I’m 51 years old. This is a life-long learning process, and we’ll never get it right. The point is to TRY to listen to the people who truly love you and maybe let a word or two of what they’re saying get into your head and start rolling around. I don’t think I really learned this until I was 40, and it was my mom who pointed it out to me.

I know that, if you do read this, you won’t respond. At some point a decision has to be made, by all of us. I can’t stop loving you, even though I know that you probably wish I could, and would, do just that. I can’t stop loving you any more than I could stop loving Hubby, or Wubby (even though he has gone off in search of his own amen corner), or Kate. I’m sorry that your mom and dad and step-mom have failed you as parents, and they have. I can take some of that pain, help you look at it and understand it until you take a step toward putting it down. But you have to want to look at it honestly and try to understand it. Until you take that first step out of your comfort zone, no one who really loves you will be able to help you. And those folks who are still in your “amen” corner….are the ones who will trap you there, and they don’t even know they’re doing it. You think you have control over them; when you tell them to jump, they say “sure, how high and how far?” But they’re controlling you, because your subsequent behavior is a direct response to their action. Did they jump? Was it high enough, or far enough? Or, heaven forbid, did one of them say, “I don’t feel like jumping today.” Out comes the rolled up newspaper for that one.

I can guarantee you this: you can stay in the corner as long as you want, but eventually the folks that are in the corner with you will get tired of being there and they will move on.

And your corner will be empty, except for you. That, my darling girl, is NOT life. It is closer to death. I’m speaking from experience here, and it’s ugly, damned ugly. If you stay there long enough, death will start looking pretty good. And those thoughts are NOT acceptable in the eyes of God and the Universe and the people who continue to love you in spite of yourself and your actions toward them.

As I think about what I’m writing, I realize that I’m not talking to you at all; I’m talking to ME. I have my own thinking and accepting and moving out of the corner to do.

Someone said, “Unless you’ve had your heart broken, you don’t really know about love.” There’s truth in that statement.

I love you.

And my heart is broken for you.

the absence of words

Everyone I’ve talked to recently who has been to the Grand Canyon says the same thing: “I can’t find the words to describe it.” Well, neither can I, so for now I’m not going to try. With the exception of business travel to Philadelphia, Charlotte and New York, my travel experience is limited to mission trips to the Dominican Republic and to the Gulf coast following hurricane Katrina. Vacation has always meant “beach” or “mountains”, both of which are abundant here in North Carolina. The first time I went to Santo Domingo I knew, immediately, that I would be coming back. I’d like to say that I know I’ll be going back to Arizona. I can say that my brain is already busy thinking about different ways to accomplish a return trip.

But, my brain is busier thinking about something else. Before we left I was journaling one morning and I noticed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to put words together. I think it started in earnest during the spring when I was involved in the Walking in this World class. Call it whatever: writer’s block, pressure, performance anxiety…or probably something more like just plain old apathy. Doesn’t matter; the end result is that I can’t find words.

I lied just now. I can find them just fine. What I can’t do is express them. A very strange thing happened when I was a working girl in the early 90’s. March was the traditional month for performance reviews and merit increases based on job performance for the previous year. I happened to go out on maternity leave in early January one year and returned in early March, just in time for my performance review for the previous year, which had been a doozy. We were redesigning an entire system and during that previous year I had learned new system, new programming languages, new techniques, you name it. One of those new languages was learned on the fly when the author of a big chunck of code went out on, you guessed it, maternity leave, earlier than anticipated. We were in system test. I walked into work on a Monday morning to find a hard copy of her program (all 200,000 lines of it) and a pile of system test error reports, and a note that said something like “Have fun!” And I did. Learned Algol on the fly, corrected the errors, made changes, kept my own programs up to date, yak yak yak, survived the holidays and then had a baby.

Then March came, I went back to work and immediately had a performance review that went something like this: “You did a great job last year, but your salary raise will be delayed for 8 weeks.” Funny thing, I was just out on maternity for 8 weeks. The review continued: “I know it looks like we’re delaying your raise because you were out on maternity the first two months of this year, but we aren’t.” I had to ask. “So, why are you delaying it?” The answer was: “Well, it’s NOT because you were out on maternity. And it’s NOT because of any problem with your performance during the past year, because you did a great job.” Huh? “So what you’re saying is that my raise is being delayed because I did a great job and the delay has nothing to do w/ my maternity leave which just happens to have been the same duration as the delay in my raise, right?” Right.

Kinda hard to argue with that logic. There aren’t words. Here’s another, much less complicated example. Suppose someone hits your thumb with a hammer. Hard. And then that someone says to you, “I know you think that your thumb hurts because I hit it with a hammer, but it doesn’t. Not only does it not hurt because I hit it, in reality it actually doesn’t hurt you at all. You just think it does.” Could have fooled me. Oh, and that bruise looks pretty darned real to me too, but that’s just an optical illusion created by sunlight reflecting on the swamp gas hovering above my hand.

Did I even have a point to this?

Emotions. Feelings. They are what they are. Sometimes they hurt and sometimes they feel pretty darned good. Sometimes the logic behind them doesn’t make any sense. But to say that someone isn’t feeling a particular emotion when it’s obvious that they are is a lie. Don’t tell me that I’m not feeling what I’m feeling, even if what I’m feeling makes no logical sense to you or to me. I may understand in my head that what I’m feeling doesn’t make any sense. And I can take steps to adjust my emotional reactions to whatever so that they are more in tune with the logic of the situation.

But for the moment, if something hurts, please don’t tell me that it really doesn’t. I know it probably won’t hurt as much tomorrow, or next week. But it hurts today.

There’s a list of things going on right now. Some are good, some are not so good. Some are scary, some are exciting. I’ve used writing, journaling, in the past to work through a lot of stuff and I need to do it now. But I can’t find the words. I think I have them and then when I read them back to myself I hear other voices saying things like “you can’t feel that way” or “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “you know your whole reaction to that is wrong” or my personal favorite: “Nobody would ever feel that way about what you’re experiencing so there must be something wrong with you.” I love that one.

I’m still not sure I had a point. Or maybe I did. There’s so much that needs to be said, about the trip, about getting the kids ready for college and high school and the added responsibilites that both of them are facing, about facing mid-life and mapping out the next path in life, about my personal successes or (probably more noteworthy) failures in dealing with any of this stuff. I think I have a handle on something, have some words wrapped around it that make sense. But then I hear myself thinking that my words might be misunderstood or might make someone angry or confused or whatever and it becomes so much more about making sure I don’t cross anyone else’s boundaries, real or perceived.

The end result is that I file the words away and say nothing.

No, it really doesn’t hurt.

Remember Yosemite Sam, when he inherited a million dollars and Bugs Bunny came to see if he was worty of receiving it? All Sam had to do was hold his temper in check because, if he lost his temper, he lost some of his inheritance. It took Bugs doing varous painful things to Sam through the entire cartoon, but finally Sam got his temper under control and, no matter what crappy thing happened to him, he just laughed and said “I like it!” Unfortunately it cost him the entire inheritance to get to that point. The things Bugs did to Sam were painful, but Sam wasn’t allowed to say “ouch!” or fight back. So he clammed up, smiled and said “hurt me again, it’s ok.”

Kind of like that.

Little Girl, Lost

The little girl I used to be is lost in my basement.

I went down there yesterday looking for a book. I found these pieces of that little girl, scattered in cardboard boxes, plastic storage boxes, and a trunk:

a naked, dirty baby doll.

a plastic circus elephant coin bank; you put the penny in his trunk, pull his tail, and he throws the penny into his back.

her first pair of prescription eyeglasses.

a broken souvenir of the Empire State Building, given to her by her first “boyfriend”; he was 5, she was 4. His mother was her babysitter. He went to New York on a vacation and brought her back the souvenir.

clothes that she made for herself when she was 10 or 11: a skirt, a blouse, shorts, a dress.

one of her favorite sweatshirts: there are two sets of footprints facing each other. One set has 6 toes on each foot. The other set says, “I like you. You’re different!”

her only ballet costume and black ballet shoes.

a pocketbook.

a list of students from her fourth grade class: Chris F, Robby R, Regina H, Tammy M. Contrary Goddess is on that list too.

“Teaching Little Fingers to Play”, “My Recital Book”, “My First Hymn Book”: all circa 1965.

school books: Virginia History and Geography, Spelling Correctly, Journey Through the New World.

a stuffed black bear, souvenir from her trip to the Smokey Mountains when she was 9.

Evening in Paris, purchased at the Ben Franklin on Front Street.

Avon bottles in cartoon character shapes, that used to contain shampoo.

vinyl records: 45s, LPs of Donny Osmond, The Jackson 5.

a matching scarf, hat and mitten set, green and gold striped.


a single blue mitten that she knit herself.

her girl scout handbook.

a heart-shaped pink box that began its life as a Valentine candy container. Now it holds broken costume jewelry, an old wallet, string, various other junky broken things. I think her daddy gave her the candy, but I’m not sure.

Who is this girl, and why is she in pieces in my basement?  

I cried for her. Hard. For hours.

And I can’t seem to stop.