Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why, women? Why??

I don’t understand. I’m pretty good at being able to mentally and emotionally put myself into somebody else’s situation and experience at least some of what it must feel like to face their challenges and fears. I don’t understand any woman’s decision to stay with an abusive partner. For one thing, true partnership is NOT defined by abuse, and I had a really hard time settling on that word to describe such a person.

I’m watching Dr. Phil rebroadcasts on OWN. I think he gives a lot of common sense (or what SHOULD be common sense) feedback and asks questions people in crisis don’t ask themselves. He’s good at prompting people to think about the reality of their situation and make a decision for themselves. He goes one step further and offers to facilitate them regaining control over their lives, repairing what can be repaired and moving toward a better life. I respect that. He opened tonight’s show about domestic abuse with the question, “Do you find yourself walking on eggshells to keep from upsetting other people?”

No, actually, I don’t. I’ve never been one to tiptoe through a conversation, certainly not for fear of inciting somebody else’s anger. I don’t think I’ve always had this level of awareness, but I know I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind. Not even in 1st Grade when the teacher told me I “colored wrong,” but that’s a story for another day. :-)

What is it that makes a woman accept and excuse abuse? What makes anyone justify somebody else’s hateful and hurtful actions toward them? I can’t get there in my mind. What would you do if your child were being similarly treated by a classmate or another kid in your neighborhood? Would you advise your child to just keep a low profile and not say anything that might upset the bully, or would you move heaven and earth to protect your child and fight for a safe environment? What example are you providing for your children? Do your actions prove out your words? Face it, it won’t matter what you say to them if what you do doesn’t bring the goods.

Mothers who accept abuse as part of daily life are effectively raising more abusers and more victims. They’re showing their sons that it’s acceptable to be abusive, and they’re showing their daughters that it’s okay to be abused. And the cycle continues. I know abuse happens in the reverse as well, and I’m not blaming the victim – I just don’t understand the rationale that leads to that place.

When I was very young, I knew I was the apple of my dad’s eye. He made me feel as if the sun rose and set with me. When I was 9, he left us for another family and went so far as to blame it on my younger brother and me. As a divorced parent, I now know that what he did was despicable. All I knew then was that it was my fault. Our family was hurting and it was my fault because he said so. At some point during my mid-teens, I realized that he was a coward for blaming his children for his actions, and I vividly remember deciding that I would never again accept the blame for what somebody else chose to do. Never.

Perhaps that simple act of becoming aware made the difference. I don’t know. I only know that I am wholly unwilling to take responsibility for someone else’s unreasonable reaction or unmet expectations. I will not apologize for or compromise who I am or my integrity for another person. There is no single person on this earth worth that sacrifice.

Of the three women featured on Dr. Phil, only one’s husband was willing to participate. One husband didn’t know his wife was on the show, and the other said that if she went, she’d come home to find all her things on the front lawn. All three were afraid of their husbands. All three were afraid to speak up for fear of the consequences. Fear has no place in a healthy relationship.

Dr. Phil has a few statements that he uses on a regular basis:

  1. The best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior.
  2. You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.
  3. How’s that workin’ for ya?

If you were disrespected and mistreated yesterday and the day before, and the day before that, recognize the pattern. It won’t change by itself. What advice would you give a friend in an abusive relationship? What would you say to your sister? Why aren’t you saying it to yourself? How’s that workin’ for ya?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Purging and discovery

empty candy wrappers
7 different stickynote pads
old junk mail
loose beads
Downy wrinkle releaser
empty envelopes
chewable vitamin c
pink ribbon rubber bracelet
FireMountainGem catalogs
empty jewelry boxes
Michael's coupons that expired in February
nail polish
old sale papers (coupons expired in July)
random buttons
bucket of cashews
empty disc holders (why the cds weren't in them is beyond me)
Garmin Venture gps
book light
stapler (that actually belongs where it was)
various pens, pencils and markers
spiral notepads
purple ruler
disconnected webcam (you're welcome)
books I've read, book I've borrowed and need to finish
trail mix
tax forms (so THAT's where that went!)
craft fair documents
business cards
printer owner's manual
scotch tape
ace bandage
3M command strips (LOVE these and I know I have more in a drawer somewhere else)
tumbled & polished rocks

and an unbelievable amount of dust.

I cleaned my desk today.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tough Love

Every good parent knows what it means, and knows how painful it can be. It is, when guiding a child toward becoming a respectable, independent adult, an unavoidable heartbreak. No matter how much wisdom we impart, no matter how much sense of responsibility and integrity we try to instill, no matter how much we love and want to protect them, there comes a time when consequences must be experienced for the lesson to be learned. Furthermore, the lessons most important are the hardest on us both, and the ones that likely take more than once to really take root. Still, as parents invested in the future quality of life for our children, we take the hard line over and over again, hoping the light will finally go on and stay on in their not-yet-mature brains. I've heard "I hate you, mom" more than once. It isn't hate though; it's frustration from not being able to challenge my authority and win. The apology that inevitably follows is genuine and we move forward without the baggage of those growing pains. We cannot change what has already happened, but we can learn and make today better than yesterday with the knowledge of what hasn't worked so well.

To be compelled to exercise tough love on my kids is a natural part of being a parent. To be compelled to exercise tough love on a friend was unexpected and frankly, it took me several days to craft my message to be direct, honest and firm without any emotional flaming darts. I recognized the potential for backlash, both from the recipient and those within her circle of friends with whom I am also connected.

Tough love is an investment, but it never feels like that to the one on the receiving end, the one who has responsibilities and truths to face, and very likely amends to make. I only hope enough of the message was received before she severed our connection. It's been said that a word spoken can be rejected, but a word read will lodge in one's brain.

I certainly hope so.