Haunted

Blog tinkering continues, but apparently I will have some warning before I need to stop updating the blog. This is a good thing. I find myself having the compulsion to write now that the blog seemed temporarily off-limits.

The headlines of late are all about the sexual misconduct and predatory practices of powerful, influential men on the less powerful in the entertainment food chain. Many of the currently reported transgressions are in the distant past, and the criminal behaviors an open secret among those who toil in the industry.

As an adult, I wonder why this behavior was tolerated and hidden for so long. Many of those speaking up now are powerful figures in their own right, and yet they waited until someone else opened the door before speaking their truth and telling their stories. While I understand their fear and anxiety, the real threat of not being believed or supported or losing opportunities to pursue their art and livelihood, I am so angry and so ashamed on their behalf. Part of me doesn’t want to, but for the most part – I believe them.

I was sexually abused as a child, something I have touched upon in the past. It was far worse than what many of these adult women experienced, but degree of crime does not make me more a victim. Being young – events I can recall started around age 3 or 4 and ended when I was 12 – gives me somewhat of a pass (in my own judgment) for not speaking up and speaking out. I also know how it wrecked me to be 30, tell my mother in the safety of a therapist’s office, and have her flat out say not only does she not believe me, she tells my therapist that I am lying “to get attention.”

It was an emotionally killing blow and crippled me.

From that standpoint, I can understand the reluctance to speak out in the moment. I know what kind of risks are involved and losing what seems so important and vital in the moment is too high a price.

My abuser is a long dead – he died when I was 23. But to this day he has effectively silenced me. I cannot speak out loud about what cruelty and evil he introduced into my life, how the twisted, dark, bleak places that still exist and persist in my mind. I understand all too well how disconnected and abnormal I am about emotions, that what most people speak about when it comes to “love” is like they are speaking in a foreign tongue I cannot comprehend. This does not make me a terrible, horrible, or even marginally bad person; it makes me handicapped when compared to what most in my culture and world would perceive as emotionally normal. I strive to be kind, thoughtful, considerate, even if I am incapable of caring and loving in the ways most people desire to be cared for and loved. I do my best. I use my judgment and perception to figure out what I perhaps should feel in a situation. I am one who thinks about what feelings should feel like, and thinking about feeling and actually feeling are very different things.

At the end of the day, trying harder allows me to label and fill containers in my emptiness and separate the good stuff from the self-directed revulsion and hatred I cannot seem to completely erase. Therapy taught me a lot about coping and surviving, even if it could not cure what killed me as a kid.

So in this culture of political correctness and conviction for character-related crimes with little or no proof, I want to believe these accusers speaking out now. On general moral principle, I very much want to believe them. I want to believe that no one accuses others of such heinousness just to get attention or to take the victim role out for a spin.

But it’s hard for me to equate the criminality of touching a knee or unwelcome invitations with my experiences. I was 5 the first time I had a grown man ejaculate in my mouth. I was 8 when my virginity was stolen. I was 10 when a penis was forced into my anus. A lot of layers of awful leading up to each of those milestone events, a lot of other awful events I will forever wish I could forget.

And I was 30 before I spoke a word about it to anyone I knew outside of individual or group therapy with other childhood sexual abuse survivors. And my mother killed me all over again by accusing me of lying about it.

When I was 15 a classmate grabbed my ass every single school day for weeks. It got to the point where I would be on edge and almost hysterical walking one stretch of hallway to my locker. Does the way he groped me – lightly at first, as if it were an accidental brush of his hand to more deliberately, when it became apparently that he could get away with it – does that matter? I was wreck. For a couple of hours daily, I was a wreck dreading and trying to avoid leaving a class and having him somehow always end up behind me.

My friends tried to watch out for me, tried to put themselves between him and me, and to their credit, they believed me even if it seemed incredible that this quiet braniac was being inappropriate. This was the 70s and there were not classes and workshops and seminars on what constitutes inappropriate touching. When I finally broke down about it walking this stretch of hallway and he did his new standard butt grab, he had the gall to approach me directly, in front of my friends, and ask me is there was anything wrong? His expression was the perfect mask of inscrutable concern and curiosity, and all I could do was stammer and turn red with shame.

Who’s the crazy one now?

He never did it again after that exchange. Or he never did it to me again. In time I began to have doubts, and perversely, I wanted him to not judge me so harshly. I was nice to him, kind to him, tried to be extra decent and friendly when we had to work projects together. But I awkward and distanced from him, and it made me feel badly … about me.

I feel a sense of ruefulness now, but it’s my view that high school is hard on everyone to varying degrees and in various ways. Just another rite of passage I’m glad to have so far back in my own rearview.

Yet … all my life I have been haunted by remorse for not speaking up, telling my truth when it could have made a difference. Are there other victims out there I could have helped or spared by speaking up sooner?

As an adult, I can rationally understand the limitations of my understanding. I was a kid, a child, and was not especially close to my parents or sibling or anyone else I trusted enough to get past my shame. For my high school experience, I can imagine him as some horny teenager without any outlets for releasing that energy, and I was a safe target – a nice girl, smart but not in the academic elite circles where he dwelled, not pretty, not popular, just quiet and part of the great unwashed masses of high school.

In work, I do not allow people in power to abuse me, not anymore. I have left jobs because my superiors were cruel and/or demeaning to me, and I have spoken about the experiences honestly in exit interviews. As I have grown professionally, I have learned there are people I can speak my mind with and those who see my pushback as a challenge to double-down and find my breaking point, all within the limits of the law, of course. It’s part of why I will generally avoid a larger corporate environment; the deck is stacked against someone who is not a superstar performer in the revenue-generating ranks.

I don’t know what to think of the stories pouring out about famous, powerful people. Except I am ready to believe the worst about them, even if I am not quite ready to believe each and every one of their accusers.

 

Dancing in the rain

They say when it rains it pours, and today I think that to be true. Metaphorically speaking, of course; it’s sunny and gorgeous here in northern California. So in flipping off my own inner negative girl, I have decided to shake off my potential for cranky and refuse to wallow in negative misery.

And no, my level of first-world problems has not increased. Today has just been particularly trying on several fronts and I am shamelessly using my blog to vent frustration that has no other safe outlet.

Work is rocky right now, with my latest mentoring project referenced in this post. Our meeting lasted 2+ hours and feels unpleasantly uncomfortable, but we hammered out some really basic steps to be accomplished this month, with another formal check-in in 2 weeks. Behind closed doors, staff can pretty much say anything to be me – be critical, disagree strongly and even loudly if that seems appropriate, but be prepared to get as good as they give. The only rule I have is to not allow it to get personally insulting or to include other staff behaviors unless it is directly on point with whatever problem we happen to be discussing.

Maybe it’s the age difference anymore, but this woman is going to be a challenge for me, and not one that I am eagerly anticipating. The discussion got heated at a couple of points on both our parts. Normally I might agonize over my unprofessionalism and losing grip on my emotions and my temper, but in this case it was primarily to make myself heard and understood than from any genuine emotion-backed escalation.

On the heels of that, though, I had a phone call from my largest self-employment client about a meeting that I had hoped to avoid. Awhile back he received a proposal from a former employer of mine, and while they were the unsuccessful consultant on that project, there is another project he is pursuing where they could be a good fit. It goes against my personal ethics and conscience to recommend avoiding them, but I can and did confess to an intense dislike of the local director pursuing a business engagement with him. The rest of the firm is mostly fine, and I left on good terms and with good feelings toward them. This one guy, though … I despise and distrust him.

I am honest to a fault, particularly in business dealings. While I prefer it if I get on well with, respect, and actually like my business associates, it is not always absolutely mandatory to have a functional working relationship. Of course it is a lot more stressful, but being mature grown-ups we should be able to look past that and meet the common goal.

When this director was hired, I privately labeled him a complete and total kiss-ass politician and suspected my brand of frank directness would be irritating to him. Since I was a direct report to him in my position of office manager for a regional office AND I was well liked and highly respected by the executive branch at corporate HQ, he immediately felt I was dangerous to him and his machiavellian machinations. Have done my time in other corporate organizations, I recognized the type and the writing on the wall. I privately told the corporate operations manager, who was the supervisor of all administrative managers as well as our individual regional directors, that he would want to bring in someone else of his own choosing, rather than “inheriting” an existing manager, no matter how competent and respected; she agreed it was a possibility. I was not even upset about it, understanding this is the way things go, and during our first meeting I said the same thing to him – that if he wanted to bring someone else in, he should just tell me so I could start looking. He protested, said we’d “learn to work together” and all that happy stuff politicians say while kissing babies and then stealing their lollipops.

Thing was he could not disparage or complain about me to corporate, because by that time I had 2+ years of working directly with them on various innovations and reorganizations that had been adopted at the other regional offices. The CFO and COO wanted me to work with them, but since HQ was in San Francisco it was logistically challenging. In the meantime, I kept my head down and did my job. And the local boss would trash me in front of the staff and in private, but in email and conversations with the bigger bosses, I was the best thing since sliced bread.

Final straw was when one of my staff left and he chose to reorganize my responsibilities without consulting me. Being the big boss in charge of the office it was his right, of course, but to discuss my job and my responsibilities with every other manager in the office, get their input, and then tell me about it after my job had been completely gutted was the last straw. I got the “it’s not you; you’re doing a great job! But I want to take the administrative management in a different direction” speech. I was essentially demoted in my own office behind my back, and while corporate was aware it was happening and that he was exercising his prerogative to reorganize as he saw fit, they believed he had included me on the discussions and explained the reasoning behind his decisions. There was a hand-slapping discussion with the CFO and COO after I submitted my resignation, but by the then the damage had been done. It was a truly ugly, life-changing moment when I was finally told, and I honestly cannot recall feeling more professionally betrayed than I was that day. Sadly for me, I also count it as among my finer professional moments that I did not start crying in front of him. He would have interpreted it as being upset because of the changes, where in truth I was so speechlessly angry for being treated so unprofessionally I had no other way to express myself. My conversations with corporate immediately afterward were full of angry tears that I was glad they could not see over the telephone line.

I took the next day off, and when I returned on Tuesday (it was just before Memorial day weekend) I submitted my 2 weeks notice as well. A rule obeyer until the bitter end, I slogged through those last 2 weeks professionally cordial and helpful when asked to the staff, yet completely silent and absent from meetings unless specifically requested to attend. It was 2005, lots of other opportunities were available for me, and while I had nothing lined up when I resigned, by that Friday I had several good offers in hand.

Now my client is entertaining a proposal from them the firm with him in the lead role for some environmental work and studies. Since this director is the one in charge of the potential engagement and I assist my client with evaluating the cost estimates of such projects, of course my client has requested that I attend a meeting/presentation with them next week in San Francisco. I agreed, because he’s my client and I need to be professional about the job, but my dread and loathing for this former boss are off the charts today. It’s been more than 10 years; I am apparently not completely over it (understatement of the year thus far).

The idea of sitting in the same room and listening to him present their quals and gush about how the fabulous fit they are for this project, how cost effective, how amazingly wonderful … yuck. But I will hold my nose and try to open my mind to the potential that he is not a complete lying, backstabbing sack of poo. Then there is the fact of having to have lunch with that smarmy asshole (gee, let me tell you how I really feel) that makes me want to vomit. Fortunately others I know and actually like from the firm will also be attending both the meeting and the lunch, so maybe I can mostly avoid actually interacting with him.

And in addition to those somewhat stressful occurrences today, a client whose project was officially over on March 31 emailed and then called today about continuing. I’m reluctant, because I feel a little (or a lot, depends upon the hour of the day) overwhelmed with work right now and am actually trying to trim my roster of smaller, more time consuming clients. Every time I tried to bring up referring her to someone else she would ask me what it would take to get me to continue. While I am terribly flattered, the work is tedious and the net pay is inadequate to make it worthwhile for me personally to continue to do, yet I cannot in good conscience abandon her. She is full of praise for the work I am did for her and the plan had been for her existing staff to take over this month. I spent time with them last month walking through the steps involved, documented the  process for their references, and feel like it’s complex (everything government related is overly complex) but manageable. But today she says the initial run was completely screwed up and she will need me to untangle it and then take it back, because I am the only contractor she utilizes that is worth the monies paid because it makes her life simpler.

Put that way, it is difficult to argue with her.

We finally came to verbal terms on rates that will allow me to subcontract the work out and still pay my full hourly rate to review and submit it. She promised me a contract by Friday so I can pick the work back up next week without missing a beat. Oh joy.

In addition to my young friend’s heartache, I have another close pal geographically even farther away this year and in the dating dumps. He’s what I refer to as a “serial monogamist” who does not treat women poorly (that was his younger, dog days), is always honest about his intentions (no marriage and no kids, somewhat disinclined toward long-term serious relationship), and who recently broke it off with his flavor of the quarter, because she has young children and he grew increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of meeting and spending time with them, getting attached, knowing he was leaving in 8 or 9 months to return home to the states. I guess the disentanglement is not mutual, and she’s been trying to woo him back. What’s different this time is a broken hand is keeping him from fully venting his frustration in the gym. I have mostly been letting M take the lead in communication on the subject, because I have my hands full with work drama and such right now. But I still hear plenty from both of them, in addition to the daily peppering of questions about how I’m spending my time at the gym. Yesterday I said I was sitting in the hot tub eating chocolate dipped strawberries and swilling Mexican coke; he was not very amused.

I have no clear plan of how to cope with the various big and little human dramas going on all around me right now, and it’s okay that I have no clear answers right now. Problems, I find, do not become easier to handle by worrying obsessively. Tomorrow is training with J, so I will not necessarily be mulling answers while we are working. But I might. Sometimes I am capable of amazing multitasking and have enjoyed some of my best breakthroughs while washing or drying my hair.

But honestly, most of this stuff is well beyond my scope of control. My work issues are going to resolve well or not, and there is little more I can do to influence those solutions at this juncture. I will not allow myself to vomit or allow the horrid former employer to ruin another millisecond of my life. The meeting is next week, I will look and feel fabulous, and remember that I am now on the other side of the table and they have to impress and influence ME now as I am a major player on my client’s team. For my friends I am here to listen and offer support and suggest real and imaginary shortcomings for those who cause them heartache.

Maybe it’s emotionally pouring on right now, but I have come to wholeheartedly believe there is something magical and healing about dancing in the rain. Even for those of us who don’t dance, I still highly recommend it.

 

Big and little

I feel like I have been doing little else but writing and yet not publishing anything of any substance. Weighty posts in my drafts folder right now, trying to figure out what I want to say and getting it written reminds me why I could not be a writer for a living. First, I’d likely suck at it – nothing stresses me out more than to have to produce something on demand – and second, writing would then lose all its curative mojo for me if it were my job.

M and I attended a young boy’s services tonight, and it was both uplifting and mournfully sad at the same time. Speaker after speaker got up and talked a little about who he was as a person, how he had impacted and touched their lives. It brought the house down; there literally was not a dry eye in the place.

His parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles came up to us afterwards, crying profusely and thanking me for coming to their aid in a critical hour of need. The parents and the grandparents told M all about how I had come to the hospital and spoken so openly and eloquently about our experiences, how obvious it was that I loved and still missed my girl, how our experiences with organ donation made a difference in our lives and our grief. It made me cry even harder. They are so kind.

It got me thinking about those who make and impact on your life, who we remember years after the fact.

There are people who are memorable because of the circumstances – strangers whose paths crossed with ours during sad or stressful periods. I remember a woman in the elevator on B’s final day, how in that awkward way people at hospitals and on the same floor for ill children want to be kind and supportive yet without feeling intrusive will ask about your loved one. When we told her why we were there – my daughter was not going to wake up and was in the process of being evaluated for organ donation – her eyes filled with tears and she turned away. I thought “great, now I have upset this poor woman with a cute little ill 2 year old” and she told me that her daughter had a kidney disease and was likely to someday need a transplant and that our selfless actions gave her so much hope. I did not ask her name, only that she had a little girl with a kidney disease and sold Longaberger baskets. To this day I think about her and her daughter and say a prayer that they are both enjoying rich and fulfilling lives.

Then there are those who stay memorable because they do harm to you somehow. This week I was in San Francisco at a former employer’s office, now on the other side of the conference room table with a client who is considering a proposal for engaging their services. I had been looking forward to the meeting, seeing and saying hello to a few former coworkers. A member of this firm treated me terribly in a cruelly unprofessional manner, yet his career is still thriving in the Sacramento office while I had no choice but to leave to save myself from unbridled, uncontrolled anger. It has been more than 10 years since I left, and I thought I was long over it. Until I got there and it all came rushing back. I get it – I was an office manager and he was recruited technical talent – but the unfairness and the terrible way he treated me apparently still rankles. Even not seeing him there in San Francisco set off a chain of dark and negative thoughts and feelings that stayed with me. It’s taken a couple of days but I am finally able to completely shrug off that lingering anger.

I remember my fifth grade teacher and at the time I thought he was the most horrible teacher on the planet. At 10 years old, what did I know? Then he is subbing for my daughter in her fifth grade class. We went to open house and were chatting with her regular teacher who was out on family leave and with other parents and I did not have an opportunity to meet the long-term sub, Mr. W. The next day Mr. W. asks C about my maiden name and tells her was my fifth grade teacher in 1971 and I was one of his favorite, most memorable students. Ummm … SERIOUSLY? He is now retired and substituting, and what was most memorable for me was that he made my school life hard, always calling on me in class and pushing me to try harder and do better. That he actually recognized me 26 years later was rather disconcerting and oddly flattering. I remembered him instantly the minute C brought it up, in a spine-stiffening, look around to ensure I am not doing anything wrong sort of way.But his surprising words were very kind, and I do not believe he was exaggerating to make points with a former or present student. C really enjoyed him as a sub for the last weeks of fifth grade, said he was “fun.”

In big and in little ways people impact our lives. I truly believe 20 years from now this family will remember me. Maybe not my name or my face, but how I made them feel.

Because in my writing and reflections the last several days, how I feel or remember feeling comes through most strongly. I want to describe the emotions and my thoughts as clearly and as accurately as possible, and sometimes it’s difficult to put it into precise words.

But still I try.

 

Emotions are perplexing

There are occasions when I feel like I have zero empathy; I seem to not understand or “feel” things the way other people do. It begins to disturb me, and I start down the rabbit hole of imagining there is something fatally wrong with me and how I process emotions. Whether that’s real or just another of my perceived failings as a human being, my forehead-creasing concern over it happens (and I have the lines to prove it).

As an example, earlier today I was reading something about a mother/daughter visit and how difficult it was for the mom to board a plane to return home. The tears at the goodbye, the additional tears writing about the goodbye. The daily, near constant worry about her child. None of this is at all unusual; I hear about it, see it in my day-to-day life. But I cannot recall ever feeling it myself.

I rationalize that it is because my kids live nearby and seem to be successfully navigating their own lives. There have been occasions where my curiosity and concern has caused me to ask inappropriately personal questions, for which I apologized and wished I could take back. I occasionally have to restrain myself from offering an unrequested opinion or unsolicited advice about something they did/are doing and could/should be doing. I have never wanted to be that mother, so I try to stay in the moment and let them live their lives. This is not so much a matter of keeping my mouth so much as trusting the kids to make and learn from their mistakes. I do not appreciate being told how to do things or the implication that I am being criticized for not doing it the “right” way, so why would I ever think my kids (or anyone else) would be okay with that?

But on the emotional attachment level, I think often that my feelings do not work right. I love who I love, I want them to be happy, and discontent between us does cause me distress. But I never feel overly involved. M and I have had our ups and downs in the relationship, to the point where I was damn sure we were on the pathway to divorce. During our dark time I was so angry with him, at one point I felt so betrayed by something he did I could never imagine trusting him again. We were separated at the time, and if I had to stay with him under the same roof while we tried to work things out we would be divorced now. My discomfort with all those turbulent emotions would not have given either of us a moment of peace, and the terrible, scathing, horrid things I thought would have come flying from my mouth in frequent angry outbursts. Yes, he did something terrible to me, but he apologized and was genuinely regretful and remorseful; my beating him repeatedly would have only made both of us feel so much worse.

I recognize it is easier for me to disconnect from pain and not become maudlin and demonstrate what I feel, and I am certainly not judging others for their attachment to and worry for those they love. It’s just different, me and those I project as more typical displays of stronger emotions. I am torn between wishing to be more like that brand of normal and wondering if my normal is all that abnormal.

Even today, talking the ups and downs of therapy with another friend, I feel sort of clinical in my assessment of what she is enduring. Seriously, I wonder why she puts up with me in my factual this-is-the-way-it-is way of listening and conversing on a serious topic. But then I realize she talks to me because while I am this objective and emotionally detached, she understands that I care deeply and want for her to be healthier and happier and enjoy more peace of mind. Having been through similar ups and downs with different therapists and different problems through the years, I recognize the cadence of steps in the process. Even now, with my own appointment later today with my psychiatrist and going through this “tune up” on my own overall emotional health, I am not particularly worried or emotional about it. It is a necessary step, much like getting treatment for a physical ailment. I know it’s hard. I know it’s painful. I know I will want to quit and go back to my state of ignorance. But I won’t. I’ll plod along and be uncomfortable until I get myself sorted out, back on track, and skipping merrily down the yellow brick road.

Between now and then, though, I will question my own responses and empathy. I express it differently than others, but I do have it. Maybe it’s not the emotions that are perplexing so much as the myriad of ways to express those feelings. Maybe my way is just as okay as everyone else. Maybe. I will explore it with my shrink, again. It’s a new year after all.

It’s Friday, thank goodness. Happy weekending everyone!

Emotional functionality

I am having a bit of a “why” weekend. Why does my hair seem to fall out more profusely as it grows longer. Why does the neighbor dog have her parents visiting and barking outside much of the night. Why did I have to unfriend a real life friend in reality.

The hair – I probably shed at about the same rate, but it just seems like a lot more because it’s longer.

The dogs – neighbor’s son is having surgery and cannot care for them during his recovery. The barking thing M and I will have to deal with, because neighbor turns off her hearing aids and cannot hear him (it’s the dad dog) barking at the moon or something we cannot hear or see. Yet if we go outside and ask him to stop he stops. Of course, this also entails three tails a-wagging and much petting and slipping of chicken to each (please do not out us to the neighbor) to have a quiet period.

The unfriending thing is the biggie.

We went out last night with friends, all of whom know the divorcing couple and the recently unfriended toxic wife. Surprisingly, the females were a little hard on my choice, saying she deserves support through this transition. I do not disagree. However, I am also a bit of a “tough love” practitioner and firmly believe in helping and supporting those willing to TRY and help themselves. Sometimes in life we must all make judgment calls and all too frequently the decisions we reach are not popular or well understood.

But M and I were talking about it on the drive home and he remarked that my “feelings do not always work” yet in this case I made the right call. It is not his approving my choice that made me stop at think, but about his casual reference to my feelings being disfunctional. I do not disagree with him, and we have had many discussions – a few of which were accompanied by yelling, screaming, tears, and occasional flying objects – about this dynamic. It just reminded me of something else I had read recently and why I periodically stop reading or watching the news and certain blogs I casually follow.

In the case of the divorcing couple, consensus is that the husband had taken up with his present girlfriend before ending his marriage and moving out of the home. I have been told by him that is not the case, and M and I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt. Wife’s reaction, because that is what she believes, is understandable. But honestly, does she want him back if she truly believes he had an affair? Does she want him back even if he no longer desires to be part of their marriage?

I have no answers, and I have no basis for knowing how that feels. M has never cheated on me, and I have enormous faith he never will. I suppose most everyone feels that way until it actually happens. However, M is someone with a high degree of honor and strong moral character. It would shock and sadden me if her were ever to betray the standards he holds sacred, including marital fidelity. However, I cannot in good faith tell you the same about me, and in this regard, this is where I believe my own broken parts show my weakness. That said, I love my husband and cannot imagine being with someone else while we are together and happy. We work at it, being happy. We work at staying in love. We also work even harder at our communication and negotiating our differences, and it is in those conversations that the differences between his strength and my weakness is most apparent. As an example, to M it is a simple disagreement about the kitchen island we want to eventually install when we remodel to the kitchen. But to me it represents a fundamental difference that will end our union because we both seem so entrenched and our discussion got a little intense. Once we got off the topic and cooler heads prevailed, I realize we are probably 5 years away from remodeling. More importantly, we have yet to bring out contractor into the discussion to know what we can and cannot do within the existing home design and those tricky load-bearing walls. Yet in the back of my mind I was casting him as an unreasonable jerk for being so passionate about his own ideas, seeming to dismiss me and my concerns and ideas … basically disagreeing with me about a kitchen remodel that has yet to even solidify on our radar and my brain starts firing off the to-do list in a separation and divorce action. It seems to be my default reaction to any and all conflict between us. Fortunately M knows this about me, and reassures me that he loves me and this is just a simple disagreement, not a battle call to attorneys far and wide.

Unfortunately, this is how my brain typically processes any intensity of conflict. It is ridiculous, yet it is so much better than it was even 10 years ago. I have made enormous progress in our time together, through a separation, marital counseling, individual therapy. But I have to acknowledge that my range of feelings is not as broad as someone without my history.

You see, I survived childhood of sexual abuse, starting at 3 and ending at 12. It colors my choices and a myriad of things I discuss here, affects my spending habits and addictions. It is direct component of other decisions, choices, events I long to write about.

And I never, ever thought I would have courage to say it out loud in public. Go me!

I guess my point here is that I recognize M and I are both spectacularly imperfect and make mistakes. My history in particular makes me a volatile and periodically unpredictable element. We forgive each other for past hurts, try not to repeat those behaviors. Because I now have a pretty solid relationship I wonder why people stay when they are obviously unhappy and angry with their partners and cannot seem to find a way back to contentment. If one party has moved on and away, I can understand the simple picture of why the other is so angry and unhappy. Yet if you are angry and unhappy and dreadfully hurt by someone’s betrayal or poor choices, why do you stay in the situation? Sometimes it’s finances, and I get that. Sometimes it’s children, and I guess I understand that. What else? If you say you no longer love your partner, are angry, are hurt, cannot ever trust them completely, are never to be the same, and most important: are not working to HEAL that breach, why do you stay? I have no idea how to ask, and truly, it is none of my business. But I think it’s a shortcoming in my own emotional make-up that I cannot connect the dots.

The hurt, the pain, the ongoing fury … I find it in random blogs I sample here and there. I like the stories real people tell, and in truth is it my own inability to understand that keeps me coming back, trying to figure it out. I want these strangers to have happier endings, to find their peace, but after months and even years it seems to elude them.

One of my friends last night made the comment that I live a charmed life, that I cannot understand because I have never been hurt so deeply. I did not respond to that and I took no offense, although in another time, another space I might have been very upset. I learned long ago not to judge others without some adequate amount of information, and such is the case in so many slices of lives I read. I frequently wish that I could call upon something for a supportive or comforting comment, or even a general, non-inflammatory question. Nothing comes to mind, so I click away to something else, someone else’s pages of hope or despair or reports on their lives.

Really, my wish is that we all find our contentment, at least some of the time. So many seem okay with being perpetually angry and in pain, or so it reads from the posts and pictures of their lives they present publicly. Another day, another place, I will feel capable of following along. Apparently not today, though. Today I am feeling the weight of my feelings not working, and I will let it protect me from myself.