My sister’s three children, who are grown adults now — the eldest is forty, and the younger two are in their late thirties — like to blame her for the way their lives are now, drawing on countless stories of a “horrific” childhood raised by a sometimes absent practicing alcoholic. This is always heartbreaking for Carol but she has learned to say “Goodbye, I’m hanging up now,” when it gets redundant and too difficult. I’m sure their childhoods were indeed difficult, but at what point does one say, “What’s happening in my life now is up to me. These are my choices. No one else is responsible and no one can change those choices except me.”
It’s easier to blame, though. It hurts less, and pointing that sharp finger at ourselves takes blind courage. I know, because for years I went to Al-Anon meetings missing the point. I talked about the alcoholics in my life: my dad and my sister, and how they had wronged me; how screwed up my life was now because of them. Sound familiar? 😉 I reasoned that since Carol had started drinking when she was 16 and I was an impressionable three, my childhood was essentially taken away from me. I vacillated between the placater/pleaser and the lost child/adjuster in Claudia Black’s family roles For those of you from alcoholic families, which role(s) did you play?
Naturally, I felt tons of victimization in these roles, and I played it to the hilt. Poor me, poor me, I cried at the meetings, and — I love them so much — no one at those meetings ever once stopped me, trusting the process.
It has taken years, and I mean years, for me to get to the place where I can sit down at an Al-Anon meeting and know I’m going to talk about some facet of my life that I need help with. Because that’s what it’s all about. Al-Anon is for me. AA is for the alcoholic.
Not that I still don’t play the blame game every now and then. Who doesn’t? It’s like something that almost rolls off my tongue and I have to consciously stop myself. Oh wait —noooo, what happened was my own choice! 🙂
So, hi! Here’s the thing; I feel like I should be apologizing, since I haven’t blogged, or written at all, since my dramatic farewell post on April 8th of this year. What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t blog, even though I tried prompts to help me write, I tried freewriting, I even signed up for National Novel Writing Month, but I couldn’t get myself to write a thing. Ah, well, it’s a hard time of year for me. Sixteen years ago this moth my dad died. This year, instead of getting easier, you know, to let go, it’s weird. I think I can sense him, like, around me, and sometimes I hear whispers that I’m sure are him. It doesn’t scare me or anything, it’s just a little freakish.
Enough of that, though! If you are not familiar with Holidailies and December, it’s the month where each blogger who signs up endeavors to write one post each day of the month. Radical, right? 🙂 I’m encouraging you right now, if you want to join this crazy holiday fun, I don’t think it’s too late! But, even if you don’t want to commit, it’s great to read others’ posts.
I’m trying something new for this month. I ordered a writing game from Bas Bleu, an entertaining web store, and it’s called Writer’s Prompt Sticks: Memoirs–Life Stories. I bought for NaNo, actually, because I thought it might assist me with my temporary (?) block. I was meant to be writing a memoir, just a slice of my life, not much really. But it seems I’m super at reading books about writing, and talking with others, and listening to podcasts about writing, just not so hot at the writing itself.
Anyway, each stick has two prompts on it, and I’m meant to pick one and write for eight minutes. I already know I’m shortening the time for the sake of this challenge, because when I do write, I write like Taz, and I don’t want you to end up with 8k words you just skim or close the page on.
Here we go. Setting up my timer now. The two blog prompts to choose from are:
1) Write about a time when you had a spiritual awakening.
2) Write about a time when you were in a religious or spiritual situation and you felt nothing or it felt ludicrous.
They just get right down to it, huh? I think I’ll combine the two because the first prompt won’t take me very long. 1) I was raised Roman Catholic and I went to church every Sunday as a kid, you know, it meant something to me when I made my confirmation at 13, my brother Jimmy being Godfather. But I was very naive, and gullible (are they the same?), expecting the Church to be everything to me, to make up for every single thing I ever felt I was lacking. Feelings are fickle things, not to be trusted most of the time, because they can change on a dime and are severely disloyal. One minute they pretend to be your best friend, and the next thing you know you’re hiding your heads under the cover because you’re too scared to let yourself think, let alone feel.
Then in the summer before I turned 19, this was 1980, an exceptionally good year–except for this one thing. I had just finished my freshman year at college and was home before my sophomore year, hanging out with my best friend, Cathy Bruske. We were in a park near home, and we started talking to some guys on motorcycles. We felt that daring rush only familiar to late teens: anything could and would happen, and we were open to it all. The guys were sweet, and semi-cute, so we ended up following them back to one’s place.
The exact details of what all happened, I don’t really remember. I know I was drinking a could beers with them and Cathy, and somebody had pot, I might have smoked. I can’t really figure out why something so traumatic is such a blur to me, but there you have it–and maybe it’s a blessing, meant to protect my psyche from something I don’t wish to revisit.
One of the guys invited me into his bedroom. I don’t want to go into what all happened because I don’t know who may or may not be reading this. I guess I was sexually assaulted. I guess it’s iffy, a few counselors tell me it wasn’t an assault, at least not sexual, because there wasn’t any actual intercourse. You know what I say to that, to them, the naysayers? BULLSHIT. Maybe you hadda be there, but this is one time I trusted my feelings.
Somehow in that haze I got split up from Cathy, and I don’t know how in the hell I found my way back to our home in Detroit. Just lucky, I guess. I don’t know how, I felt torn apart and lost, and ended up at our parish church. This is the church I had grown up in, went to all those masses in, recited the Apostle’s Creed. I don’t know if they still do, but back then the priests lived right next to the church, in a rectory. It must have been the wee hours of the morning and I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking, but instead of going home, I went to church, parked, and walked up to the rectory door. I knocked, and rang the door bell, and banged with my fist and yelled, but no one came. I’m sure, if you’re with me as my wiser self, you can think of many reasons why that door wasn’t answered–logical, helpful reasons. But all I could feel at the time was that my church and God had turned their backs on me, that I was ruined. I didn’t cry, and still haven’t shed a tear about what happened all those years ago. It took me a long time to tell anyone, because of shame, and–well, the believability factor. There you have it. My answer to prompt #2.
That’s about all I have to say for today. Oh, that and I’m one of The Deplorables. Except I’m educated, I’m not racist nor xenophobic, and I’m certainly not a misogynist. But you can decide now whether or not that’ll keep you from reading any of my posts.
According to Wikipedia, the bystander effect, a.k.a. bystander apathy, “is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”
The first case that caused research into this “effect” took place in 1964. At that time, 28-yr-old Kitty Genovese was raped and stabbed to death in front of her apartment.
The attack lasted over 30 minutes and was witnessed by several dozen people (at least, it was reported, but later found to be not quite accurate–only about a dozen people actually witnessed the crime.) who failed to report the incident. Some didn’t know an actual crime was happening, claiming they thought it was a “lover’s quarrel,” while others knew a crime was happening but didn’t report it because they assumed someone else already called the police. My only question is, how do you confuse someone being raped and stabbed with a “lover’s quarrel?” Right?
Remember the movie “The Accused,” with Jodie Foster? I think she might have won an Academy Award for her role as a women who was raped by a bunch of men on a pool table in front of several witnesses who did nothing. Some even clapped and cheered. The actual incident took place in New Bedford, MA in 1983.
There are more incidents of The Bystander Effect, probably many more than are reported, but I will not cite them all here. I can tell you about something that happened to me and my mother years ago in front of our own house. My brother Greg has a penchant for Packards. One day he was over, visiting, and he couldn’t get it to start. He told my mom and I that if we gave him a push start, he was sure he’d be able to start it. So (foolishly) we started pushing, and got sort of running, not thinking we should let go of the car once it started.
We both fell in the street, my mom flat on her face. She could’ve broken her nose, but thankfully didn’t. Of course there was a lot of blood, and my brother and I helped her stop the blood while she sat on the porch. She didn’t want to go to the ER. My point is, we fell right in front of my “across-the-street” neighbor’s house. They had their screen door on, so I’m sure they heard and saw everything that happened. There was also the neighbor kitty corner from us. Not one person bothered to see if we were all right, even as my mother sat on the porch bleeding. No one checked in on her later to make sure she was okay.
Are these bad neighbors and friends? Not at all. They most likely didn’t want to get involved or assumed someone else would help. Neighbors aren’t like they used to be, after all. It’s not an easy world to live in any more. And if we could ask Kitty Genovese, she might reply, “Was it ever?”
Hope you enjoyed this late late blog post. I’m really very sorry. It’s not my intention for them to be late. I get caught up in things and forget, which is not to say you are not just as important! Please stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post, which will most certainly NOT be late. 😉
I got an interesting email from WordPress in which told me they “missed me.” You and I both know that’s propaganda-esque crap, but the stats show people still visit my site even when I don’t write, which hasn’t been for months.
The problem is, I’ve changed a lot in that time. I don’t want to write about the same things. I’m not the same person anymore. I don’t go to Al-Anon, I hardly whine about my sister and nephew anymore, and it’s just not on my radar. They live in Ann Arbor, and I don’t see them often enough that they are a problem for me. My boundaries are intact.
What I do struggle with, what is the “new me” if you will, is social phobia and panic and anxiety. I’m also trying to read through the list of books in 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Given that I’m already 52, I realize I have to read faster. LOL
Crocheting is still a big thing for me, but I don’t want a separate blog about it. I want to talk about it here when I’ve accomplished something especially difficult, of which I’m proud.
Also, my mother is 87 now. Sometimes we get along super, just fantastic, and other times we are at each other’s throats. I can’t explain it. I might need to blog about that here.
If this new blog approach sounds like something you might be interested in, keep on coming! If not, see you on the flip side, and thank you for reading as long as you have. You are all dears.
Have a sunny-side up day.
Okay. My name is Chris, and I’m a status-checking junkie. In fact, I’m thinking I might close my FB account for good. Have to think some on that.
Here, read this quote from Finding God in the Dark: “The blogosphere is reality television for people (conservative Christians) who consider themselves too good for reality television . . . Status updates about perfect playdates or craft projects, or magazine-quality photographs of picture-perfect birthday parties induce lots of fawning compliments (and private eye rolls) from other moms. Moms are the most underrated competitive people-group on earth. If I had to go to a rumble in a dark alley, I’d be sure to take a few stay-at-home moms with me.
“Facebook can let your friends know what you’re reading, what you’re watching, what you’re buying, what you’re thinking, when your birthday is, who you voted for, and what you’re doing this weekend. And it had all better be awesome.” (emphasis mine)
Chew on that for a bit. It’s sort of controversial, and I’d love to know your thoughts about it. ❤
Peace out. xx
When I saw this cartoon it made me laugh so hard, and I was drinking coffee at the time. 😀 Then I realized it’s all about expectations and how what we think about things make them difficult. I hope that makes some sense. We dive into recovery and expect so damn much from ourselves from day one. God forbid we don’t meet those expectations. So when we can learn to laugh at ourselves it’s f***ing fantastic!!
When I told the brilliant Dr. Walker this morning (therapist) that it wasn’t fun making paper cranes anymore, and I told him the whole story about how everyone on Facebook (yes I have that much power) knows about my promise to make 1,001 paper cranes in the memory of an old cherished professor. So now it felt like a crushing burden, and it wasn’t a joy any longer. I kept putting it off each day until I was too sleepy. So he said “Why does it have to be 1,001? Why can’t you just make as many paper cranes as you want, keeping the fun in it, thinking of your old prof while you’re making them? The gift is not in the quantity of the cranes, it’s in the gifting of them, it’s in the meaning of them.”
How’s your mood lately? Me, I’m ever working on irritability. 😦 I’m a work in progress. Mania is still at an all-time high, so it would be better if I could be in a rubber room right now, but it’s not an option. LOL
Not so happily, I got in an argument with my sister again on the telephone this morning. Two bipolar people trying to both be right at the same time is so not good. We made up a safe word for when either of us feels things are getting out of hand: orange. Yes, orange. As in: “Orange you glad I asked you to stop talking?” 😉
After that conversation I got off the phone and just wept. But post-therapy, I decided the conversation belonged right here, along with my bad feelings, because I was being way too hard on myself: Then I walked away from the crap, literally turned my body away, wiped the stupid tears from my face, walked outside and looked into this:
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: no matter what you are recovering or healing from, it’s a tough process. To borrow a phrase, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We didn’t get damaged in a day, and we’re not going to get stronger, healthier, more empowered in a day either.
The biggest take-away I want for you to keep in your head with this post that took me forever because I kept nodding off (It’s so not you or the subject matter! Lack of sleep and problems adjusting meds is all. It’ll pass.) is this:
Be careful who you give your power to. Peace out. xx
My sister and I are more alike than we are different, and sometimes this makes us competitive, even—I have recently learned, in our respective illnesses.
We each grew up with an abusive, hard-working, hard-drinking father. My shostra (sister, in Polish) is 13 years my senior, and she grew up in the 60’s, a turbulent, changing, experimental decade. The way we each dealt with our abuse was different. Carol turned to drugs and alcohol. Me, the ever helpful codependent, did my best to help her stay sick and keep the rest of the family intact until I was in my late 20’s and got help for myself (by way of a major depression and 1st hospitalization). Not to say that I didn’t do my own share of rebelling. When I was in grade school I was famous for getting into actual physical tumbles (a.k.a. fist fights) with other girls (girls can be so mean to each other), and once, because I had short hair, when a boy called out to me (as a safety girl) whether I was a boy or a girl, I shouted back, “That’s for me to know and you to find out!”…and he promptly chased me all the way home.
But I was always the writer. Writing was my way of coping with the chaos around me. Starting at around age eight, I kept “chapter stories” of the perfect family, in my eyes. Yes, the kids in the chapter stories misbehaved, and yes, they got in trouble, but they weren’t called names and they weren’t given the silent treatment, and so forth. Everything was always talked about, so very “Brady” like. LOL
My shostra was always the other type of artist, the kind that would make you so jealous if you could see her work. Clay and steel sculptor, mixed media, painter, you name it, she’s done it. She has taught at Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, which, if you don’t know, is a major, major feather. Part of me has always been so proud of her, and part of me has watched her, casually draw up a sketch of something or other and had to fight back this evil, jealous side that couldn’t make a straight line to save her life.
When my dear shostra was dx’d with bipolar I disorder, her doctor told her that she probably had it from a very young age and if she’d been diagnosed earlier, she may not have become an alcoholic. I have been dx’d with everything from major depression to borderline personality disorder to now finally, two years ago, bipolar II disorder. Though I may have been borderline, I very possibly “aged out” of it, which sometimes happens.
I never experienced true mania until during these–what is it, three now—past hellish weeks. I must have had something like hypomania during a hospital stay for a doctor to diagnose me with bipolar II. And I’m pretty sure this episode started out hypomanic. If it had been caught properly by the first doctor who saw me before I went back to my previous shrink who diagnosed me correctly last Friday (I think. I’m losing all sense of time), it would most likely NOT have turned into full blown mania. Mania, for me, is not fun. My sister enjoys when she has an episode. She gets tons of stuff done, loves not sleeping and on and on.
But–the whole point of this post is to say, when I told her Dr. Sack said I’m in a manic episode, she was all like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. What—are you trying to be manic now? Do you want to be like me or something?” I was floored. It was like all the air got sucked out of the room, or gravity ceased to exist. Who would want to be manic? Oh. Good. Lord. I pray, even though all that I can manage ceaselessly is “Help please God,” all the time, for this to just go away.
So. Yeah. LOL Competitive even in sickness. And now guess what? She’s writing. So not only is my perfectly creative shostra a talented mixed media et al artist, now she’s writing a memoir of her alcoholism. Oh, but I’m not supposed to say, “Hey, that’s my territory.” But I feel like the shadow. Always the shadow.
Still, although she can make me cry, she makes me laugh in my belly. I love her…..all of her, not just the easy parts. I hope she feels the same about me, prickly and all.
Just for fun:
Peace out. xx