I have started some variation of this post about a dozen times, never finishing them and feeling kind of dumb for bringing up old stuff that really matters to me yet is awkward to talk about. These tales and discussions are both personal and difficult to draw out into the black-and-white page, so I tend to skirt around and waffle on speaking plainly. Hence the title of this post … the ongoing conversation. I imagine there will be more, maybe a little meatier, a little deeper as we proceed.
Like so many others, I had a very unpleasant childhood. There was abuse, and from that there was additional blame, shame, denial, and ugliness. Knowing there are others who share my horror story has never been comforting to me; it simply makes me more uncomfortably aware of how awful people live in the shadows and thrive in our world.
From those early experiences I seem to have developed both empathy and what looks and feels like a limited emotional range. I feel vaguely shallow when faced with the degrees of angst and drama, love and sorrow in others. I guess I do not find myself swimming in the deep ends of the emotions pools.
What brought this on tonight … our NDN is not a nice person (but you kind of knew that from my earlier post), and I say that because it is my opinion that she abuses her pets. Rosie is routinely yelled at and threatened with a leather belt, so much as that she is cowed and frightened of NDN. It bothers me, but I do not feel it is actionable if I were to contact animal control. NDN is nearly deaf without her hearing aids, and what sounds to M and I like yelling may just be her talking to Rosie with her hearing aids turned off. I am uncomfortable with it, M is bothered by it, but we have decided that all we can do right now is keep a watchful eye and console and comfort Rosie across the fence when we see her outside. If we ever find something actionable – Rosie limping or having cuts or bruises or other obvious signs of abuse – we will document her injuries and call animal control immediately. Until then, we feel there are no other options.
It is a judgment call on our part, one that is hauntingly familiar from how trapped and isolated I felt as a kid. I get that I am talking about a dog here, one who cannot speak and tell me in language I understand that her owner is an ogre and treating her horribly. But it still disturbs me and makes me wonder about me and my own moral compass. Perhaps my own convictions are failing me or I am not courageous enough to stand up for pets.
And therein lies our disconnect. M and I are both animal lovers. However, we differentiate treatment of people from treatment of animals. If I saw NDN yelling at and threatening a child with a belt to the point where the child was continually cowering in fear, I would be calling child protective services without any documented proof of abuse or fear of reprisals. The welfare of another human being is far more important to me than whether or not my neighbor likes me as a person.
Our world has become a place where I question my own conduct and character with a dog. How sad am I to be paying enough attention to the animal rights folks that I contemplate myself as a potential character flaw because I’m not standing up for Rosie the goldendoodle?
This also ties in with my issues and inability to manage the depressed business associate. I feel guilty and pushed to my limits in dealing with him, yet I know I was fair and tried to reach a workable solution. Tonight I got a snarky email from him along with a half-assed spreadsheet that is incomplete and disorganized and going to cause headaches all around tomorrow. Maybe I don’t feel so guilty after all. I now wonder if I have been enabling his poor attitude and behavior?
Because I also feel limited in my response to emotion-charged situations, I second guess myself and my choices constantly. Perhaps I just hold myself to a higher standard of humanity in trying to overcome my flawed childhood. My mother said more than once that I was incorrigible, and I was 8 when I looked it up in the dictionary to know what it meant. Looking back now I think it a horrible thing to say about a child, and as it was something she truly believed about me, it shaped the whole narrative of our lifetime relationship. Sometimes I regret that, but it would have taken a herculean effort to repair and participation from both of us. Since my mother could never admit believing abuse happened to me made it impossible to heal the breach between us. That is what makes me saddest, that I, who love my kids to the full extent of my ability and would go a long way out of my way and my comfort zone to ensure their happiness and well being, was not loved by my parents in ways I could understand and accept as real.
Tomorrow is another day. It has all my hopes of being much better than today.