Monday, September 16, 2013

You's and We's

We've got teenage girls going sideways all over the place here in the Casa de Vanci.  Sometimes the ride is so fast and steep that I feel like I should be popping dramamine.  Mostly it's what I would consider 'normal' teenage drama.  Some of it's long delayed reaction to abuse stuff.  Some of it I can't even quantify yet.

We're dealing.  We're coping.  We're working through it and we're talking, talking, talking (so much that I find myself fantasizing about afternoons spent in quiet libraries and silent museums.)  I know that the talking is what's keeping our various heads above water, and that keeping communication channels open is the best thing in the whole wide world for helping these young ladies to find their paths out of the different issues they're mired in, but lordy is it tiring.

Tonight I had an in depth conversation with one of the DD's, and we made a lot of progress.  Many words were used.  Many tissues were used.  Many issues were brought to light.  Good, we're developing a plan.  This is good.

In reflecting on the conversation after the fact, I had one of those weird connections to my own youth in the form of opposites regarding the language that I use with my children as opposed to the language that was used with me by the Abusers when I was a child (and adolescent.)

I say:
"We're going to figure this out."
"We're going to find a way to make this work."
"We're going to keep thinking about this and talking about this until we can come up with a plan."
"We're going to find a way to help."
"We're going to be okay."
"We're going to reestablish the trust that was lost."
"We're going to keep trying."
"We'll always be here for you."
"We'll always love you for exactly who you are."

They said:
"You're not doing it right."
"You're making bad choices."
"You're being selfish."
"You're not carrying your weight."
"You've messed this up for all of us."
"You're hurting us by being _______ (insert Vanci's current state of being here.)"
"Look at what you're putting us through."
"You're being vindictive."
"You've always been difficult."

It's interesting to me that the Abusers of my NFOO spend so much time and energy making sure that everyone in their lives knows that Family Is Important To Them.  They should wear sandwich boards for all the ruckus they make about it.  "We're a Happy Family!" they'd declare, or "Look at How Perfect We Are!" Of course, it's all sham, a con game, a ruse, a false front.  But it's very important to them that people who aren't in their family know how very family-centric they are.

It was particularly important when ENF was still slamming the holy book into those pulpits on Sunday, while NM pounded out all the hymns about forgiveness on the piano.  The sham was at Von Trapp Family levels at that point in time.  We could have had a freeking production team.

What a lot of wasted energy.

But when I was young and hurting (who doesn't?  Hormones suck.  School often sucks.  Other kids and teenagers are MEAN!  A lot of teachers (no offense intended, mulderfan,) are deeply unhappy people looking to exert control over those 'lesser' than them in order to feel better about their own shortcomings, and that truly sucks for those under their pretense of power, throw a lifetime of abuse in there and you've got one hurtin' unit of a teenager!) when I was fragile and vulnerable and self conscious, well, there was never any of that energy put into helping me to feel like I was a part of a family.  They never told me that we'd work through it.
They told me that they were sure I'd figure out a way.
Or, they'd say you've made your own bed, missy.
Maybe you should hit your knees.
I don't understand why you make things so difficult for yourself.

They never spoke to me in the inclusive, we're all in this together, we're all pulling for you, we're going to work it out and we love you, love you, love you language that is my natural way of conversing with my daughters.  I know why they didn't speak to me this way - because none of that support existed, yet another abuse they perpetrated.  When the goal is to get as much out of you as they can and to make themselves feel/look/sound/act/be perceived as "good," regardless of what it does to you, well, I was never more than a supporting role, a day player, maybe the chick who pulls the curtain open or moves the sets around between acts.  I wasn't invited into the Union.

I'm struck, though, that this is one more area where they didn't and never will get a piece of me.  I grew up with the Family Finger of Blame pointed permanently at my forehead.  My daughters are growing up with the constant input that they're part of, included in, supported by and accepted as wonderful by this little family unit around them. That they'll always have a home in our hearts and our heads and our home.  That they are never, ever, ever alone and that we will always be just that: We.

When I do speak to them in direct address; You, it sounds like this:
"You are so special/smart/kind/beautiful."
"You are so loved."
"You are so funny."
"You can always come to me."
"You are wonderful, exactly the way that you are."

I'm so glad that I can see this for what it is; one more piece of the legacy of abuse that I was handed that I've chosen not to pass on.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

For the Jonsies

(Those of you who follow me know that I've been out of the blogland loop for awhile.  I've been trying to reacquaint myself over the last few days, and I've been doing a lot of reading. Over at Jonsi's blog, she posted a month ago that she won't be blogging for awhile.  Although I'm very delinquent in my response, I have to write it. It has to be said.)

So, this one's for Jonsi and all the Jonsies of our world.  Those kind, loving and brave, brave, brave souls who reach out, care for, love and hold on to we grown children of abuse.  I identify here as an ACoN, Adult Child of Narcissists because it's an easy little acronym to type.  But what I really was when I started trying to crawl out of the hell that my 'parents' caged me in could be described in so many more words.

If you've ever read or seen the last Harry Potter book/movie, I wonder if you identified as I did with the last piece of Voldemort's soul - that horrifyingly maimed and disgusting infant-like creature on the edge of death that Harry and Dumbledore find in the King's Cross train station of the last act?  That's what I felt like when I crawled down into the cannon that would slingshot me out of the Crazymaker Clan.  I was convinced that I didn't deserve happiness, peace, serenity - that the sky would come crashing down around me ears and that I would be to blame.  I was convinced that I was worthless.  I felt worthless.  I looked worthless.

There was no help for me, as far as I was concerned.  I knew that I wanted out because it was so, so, so painful, but I was pretty sure that I would never feel... good again.  I was willing to settle for a lack of pain, but I thought that was a best case scenario.

These feelings of worthlessness and all their attendant horrors; these are what my allegedly loving, supposedly close, practically perfect in every way (except for that pesky Vanci who refuses to stay in line) family had spent my entire lifetime teaching me to feel.  This is what they wanted me to feel.  A well trained in willing victim; that's what they made me.

People often ask me how.  How?  How did I get away?  How is it even possible?  (And those cynical souls among us, who often soon enough reveal themselves to be Minions to Narcs or themselves Undercover Narcs, this is where they always ask, "Well, if you were able to remove yourself from it, could it really have been that bad?")  Some people, normies themselves or other children of Abuse who are looking for a roadmap out, though, they really want to know.

The answer to that is complicated and highly individualized for each of us, I think.  Some of us don't really even have an answer.  That's okay.  As we say in AA, it doesn't matter how you get here - it matters THAT you get here.  For me, though, a big part of my answer is this:

I had someone who convinced me to let him love me.

My DH doesn't blog.  He doesn't type, Facebook, email.  After 14 years, I've finally gotten him to text.  He can google search when absolutely necessary, but that's it.  Which is fine, we all have our strengths.  But it's meant that he's not out in this blogland with me, reading your posts and giving me perspective on them.

But Jonsi's been here since before I got here, and that, my friend, has been a huge help in my journey.  Seeing a non-ACoN's reaction to some of the things that we've talked about, reading the absolute certainty with which you've been able to drill straight through to the core issue of the problem that most of us out here share - that are parent(s) abused us!  Well, Jonsi, let's just say that if you and my DH met, you'd find that you're two peas in a normal person pod.

For me, when I got out of crazyland, and as I've stayed out it's been vital to my growth, to my healing to know that even when the deeply-implanted-in-my-head voice of the Narcs, the Abusers, the Minions starts its constant loop of putting me down, telling me I'm worthless and unlovable, I can turn to the other voice that's there: the person and people who love me.  My DH.  The Jonsi's.  Even when I knew, absolutely knew that it was impossible for me to be loved, for me to be lovable, DH, like Jonsi (and I'm sure others have different people in their lives like them, at least I hope so,) these are the people who did their damnest to convince me otherwise.  To show me that I was good enough.  Even that I deserved love.

So, to Jonsi and all the others out there who love people like me, thank you.  From the bottom of my formerly shriveled and now-full heart, thank you for being you.  Thank you for fighting for me when I wasn't able to, and for telling me that I had an absolute right to defend myself.  Thank you for re-teaching me what love really is.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shame is a Weapon

Hola, cyberfriends.
It's been a bit, please forgive my absence; life gets busy.  There's been a lot shakin' in Vanciland; mostly good, some bad and some indifferent but shakin' nonetheless.  I hope to get time to post about recent events, but it might have to wait a bit.
The Sun's been tracking lower in the sky, though, and the days have been getting shorter so I can see the hibernation (and therefore time to write,) season peeking around the corner.  I hope you're all happy, healthy and free of fear.

I've been reminded lately about shame.
How it festers, where it's hatched, what nourishes it and how it destroys.
You know about shame, too, right?

If you have a Abuser in your life - past or present - you know about shame.
I had a whole bushel of Abusers in my life.  Hell, Abusers were my life for most of it.  I know about shame.

I've carried it, eaten it, drunk it, watched it, heard it, felt it, slept with it, split a piece of bacon with it.  (Shame took the larger piece, too, the greedy bitch.)
I've also shaken it off, buried it, turned a blind eye to it, ignored it, acted it out and - at times - beaten it.

But I think it's one of those feelings, one of those gifts from the Abusers, that's... well, it's sticky.  Hard to walk away from.  It follows me, damn it.  And sometimes I inadvertently pick it back up and carry it around with me for awhile.  Shame is a shadow.  Always just there... right in the corner of my sight... but I can't quite grasp it.

I know where it came from.  It was given to me.  The Nparents always were shitty gift-givers; I'm not surprised that this was one of their most generous and graciously given gifts.  They sewed it into the very essence of my being early on, like infancy, and they made sure it stuck with me.

They used shame throughout my childhood - when I was abused, whether it was physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual, they knew they could get away with it.  They knew I wouldn't tell.  Of course I wasn't going to tell, and here's how they made sure of it - they made me believe that it was my fault.  If I told, wouldn't I really just be telling whomever I told that I was bad, I was wrong?  Furthermore, they made me believed that all the bad feelings I had, all of the pain and hurt that they caused me - that I deserved it.

This continued to work when I was an adolescent, but not as well.  I revolted, I told.  I felt momentary freedom.  But I was outgunned, because they responded with increased shame, monumental amounts of shame.  They used it to break me so thoroughly that it was actually easier for me to lie, to recant, to swallow my hurt and pride and future and protect my Abusers than it would have been to stand by what I'd told and continue to live (with them, under pressure, in the special hell that they created for me.)  They made their dirty, nasty, stinking rotten treatment of me my fault yet again, and they made me pay for ever telling in the first place.  They made me pay for years.  And eventually they worked me back around to believing what they told me - that I deserved the shame that they intentionally made me feel.

So, I did the only thing within my power to do.  I hurt the only person that I was allowed to hurt.

My self destructive behavior was on a Titan scale.  I almost didn't make it.  So they blamed me for that too.  As recently as three years ago, in my very last meeting with my Abusive Mother and Abusive, sick, twisted fuck of a pervert Father (and my counselor,) Abusive Mother threw out that I was "such a difficult teenager."  Ha fucking ha.  Who wouldn't be, carrying around all that shame?  But she was still trying to make it my fault, my burden, my cross to carry well into my thirties.

I pulled out of my death spiral when I had my oldest daughter, as much as I could anyway.
I think back to the amount of responsibility that rested squarely on my shoulders when I was eighteen years old, and I can't even fathom how I took even a single step toward wellness.  And were they there to help me?  In some ways, yes.  I had no idea at the time just how costly their 'help' would be.  I stumbled along the best I could, though, and I just kept trying to move forward.  One. Painful. Step. At. A. Time.

I'll never forget how hard my Abusive Mother worked to get me to marry my first husband.  He didn't even propose to me - she simply hijacked a conversation one day and asked him when we were going to get married.  She pressed until he threw out a date.  He of the crack pipe, who would leave me with bruises and scars of all kinds, with debts and with fatherless children.  He was my Abusive Mother's choice for me.  She even made me feel ashamed that I hadn't been with him for a while before (when he'd broken up with me,) and used to talk to any other guy who showed interest in me - some of them actually nice - about this other guy who was the 'love of my life.'  At 18.  Who fucking has a love of their life at 18?  Isn't every one of them the love of your life at 18?  What kind of mother does that?  But she shamed me into getting back together with him, and then she shamed us both into getting married.

When it went bad, as it was bound to do, she blamed me for staying with him.  She discounted the fact that I live in a joint custody state, and that if I'd filed for divorce at the time, he would have automatically been granted half-time with my girls.  It took ten months for him to finally be caught by the police - aggravated assault against me, which I testified against him for, which he then spent four years in prison for - and then, and only then would the state grant me sole custody.  But that wasn't good enough, I hadn't left soon enough, I wasn't good enough, according to dear old Abusive Mother.  (Note that this was also the time frame that I needed the most help.  I've found out now that this was also the time frame in which my daughters were being abused by my dear old Abusive Dad, and dear old Abusive Mother knew about it and covered it up.)
When I did leave, when I finally got it worked out, Abusive Mother had a heyday with trying to make me feel ashamed for the way that I raised my kids.  They'd help, sure, on their terms.  Never when I needed it most.  And then I was made to feel guilty, awful, shamed for not spending enough time with my children.  Here was my schedule for a year and half:
6 am - work first job.  Work second job.  Change diapers.  Feed the kids dinner (none for me, though, I didn't have enough money for that.) Put them to bed.  Go BACK to work at third job.  Home at 2 am.  Sleep until 4- 4:30.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I made about, oh, $13,000 per year.
But according to Abusive Mother, I was making 'bad parenting choices.'
Choices?  What fucking choices?

When I finally found a full time job, when I (out of the blue) met a decent guy who wanted me and wanted to be a part of my daughters' lives, according to Abusive Mother, I was being selfish.  I wasn't putting my children first.  And when decent guy stuck by me, when he adopted my daughters, when we bought our first house, when I was promoted at work... when I was successful, Abusive Mother said nothing.  Abusive Father showed up and asked to borrow money, or my truck.  The money wasn't usually repaid.  The truck was always returned with the gas gauge on E.

When I spent all of my time ignoring that decent guy (I'll never know why he stuck it out the way he did, but I'm grateful,) and allowing the bad influences of the Abusers to affect my daughters, I was supposed to be ashamed then too.  Because I had at least some happiness in my life, or at least I thought I did.  And they didn't like that at all.  I'll never forget the day before my wedding to decent guy (who actually proposed to me, who then spent the next six years telling me that my family was awful to me,) and I was at the Clan Compound trying to get things ready.  Abusive Mother said, at one point when I was trying to dig through my check register and find the last couple of necessary dollars to pull off the wedding, "Gee, Vanci, I wish we had something to give you!  It just always seems like when it comes to you there's nothing left!"
NSis had been married the year before, an event that I took a full week off of work to help pull off and that my Nparents sent me to her house with a $2,000 check to give her for wedding expenses.  Why send me with that check when they were en route the following day?  Shame, methinks.

And when I finally took a stand, Abusive Father said to me, "I just want you to know that I will NEVER forget the way that you have hurt us all, but I'm going to work on forgiving you."
At least at that point I was able to reply, "I'm not looking for your forgiveness.  Forgiveness is only necessary when a person has done something wrong, which I haven't."

Shame is a weapon.  Shame kills.

So, how to counteract it?
I know of only one way.
Tell the truth, always.
Tell it loudly and stick by it.
Drag the dirty secrets out into the light, kicking and screaming, and blast them with the brightest sun you can stand.
Ever notice how you don't have a shadow at noon?

And now, they've popped back up again.  They think they'll be able to use their Weapons of Shame to sway the DD's to their 'side.'  I'm ready, you abusive fucks.  Bring it on.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

That Which Shall Not Be Named - Still Exists

I adore some of the people who make up the family that I married into.  Others I try to find ways to understand and, lacking that, I meditate on words like: compassion.  Kindness.  Tolerance.  Acceptance.

I haven't written about them here much because this is the place that I write about how I was abused by my family of origin and my struggles to overcome that particular Homer-esque Epic of Trauma.  Simply put, my in-laws haven't been abusive to me; in fact my SIL and BIL have never been anything but supportive of me.  They're some of the people in my life who stood by me through thick and thin - even when they hadn't a clue what was causing my pain or what the holy hell was going on, they picked up the phone and they listened and talked and expressed to me six different ways from Sunday that they loved me.  They were proud of me.  They had my back, baby.

DH and I have traveled many roads together, some of the uphill all the way until you get to the washed out bridge variety and some that have been delightful scenic routes to beautiful places.  He's taught me how to allow myself to be loved in the skin that I'm in in so many different ways, and I've shown him how to crack open the shell of fear that he sometimes retreats to in order to let the sunshine in.

I've never particularly understood my mother- and father-in-law, but I've cared for them and they've cared for me in their own (extremely private) way.  We have very, very little in common as far as our beliefs, our life experiences, how we choose to spend our time, what we enjoy.  We eat differently and at different times. I like spices and fresh produce and food that has unique flavor.  They put ketchup on tacos and mayonnaise on... well, everything else.  They enjoy being 'country.'  I decidedly do not, to the point that I've been known to ask people who refer to a creek as a crick to show me, damn it, show me where that pronunciation exists in a dictionary.  They're crazy cat people (seriously, six cats is a ridiculous number of cats to have,) and I am firmly a one-dog person.  You get the picture.

We've found our vibe of co-existence over the years, though, and it's been mostly comfortable for me.

After all, with my background of family=abuse and mother/father/sister/brother=psychopaths, the in-laws have seemed largely normal to me.

Except for this thing, this giant elephant that stuck its trunk inquisitively into my living room a few years ago and has been slowly inching its mass further and further into the spotlight sense then...

My mother-in-law lies.  If I detailed it all, we'd be here all night, but here's a breakdown of some of the more egregious offenses:
She decided I was Mormon before DH and I got married.  Twelve years later, I still have no idea how she manufactured this; I had two children and was divorced, had lived out of wedlock with her son for almost two years, smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor and drank like a fish, claimed zero religious affiliation though my father was a Southern Baptist minister (very much NOT Mormon, possibly even ANTI-Mormon as So. Baptists are pretty much ANTI-anything that's not So. Baptist,) and my wedding dress - which she'd seen - barely, just barely covered my ass.  During one particularly energetic dance, it actually didn't cover my ass.  I, however, was drunk enough not to care.  The centerpiece of our wedding reception was a fully stocked champagne fountain.  We got married in our backyard and went to Vegas for our honeymoon.  Really, I would have been the worst Mormon ever.  Ever.
But instead of being forthright, instead of actually asking, instead of developing a relationship, she - without ever asking either DH or myself - decided that I was Mormon (a bad thing in their family,) and called all of the extended relatives to tell them this.

I remember thinking, "Oh... kay."
DH was furious, but I let it go because, hey, I loved the guy.  He loved me.  I had enough issues with my own mother, right?

There have been lots of other "Oh... kay" moments over the years.  Stories that didn't add up the first time she told them, much less as they morphed over time in the (repeated) re-tellings.  Alleged facts of her or other people's live that are thrown out in conversation as attention getting tactics, but don't really add up.  (She barely graduated high school while preggers with my DH, and has never worked outside of her home other than to volunteer at the seriously bass-ackwards and ineffectual "christian" school that she forced her children to attend, is barely literate and has never pursued academic or intellectual enrichment, yet she has begun claiming that she, "retired from teaching.")  Oh... kay.

When my FIL had a major and debilitating stroke, they both insisted for years that it had just been a 'baby stroke.'  No matter how many times I showed them and told them that by definition a 'mini-stroke' or TIA is a stroke that causes no long term effects, they insisted that FIL hadn't had a major stroke.  Even when the man had to attend physical therapy to learn how to use his non-dominant left hand to write with and to pick up such tricks as how to sit on his right hand to control the involuntary muscle movements enough to not backhand the person sitting next to him, they still insisted that he'd only had a 'little stroke.'  Oh... kay.

She claimed that the water test she had done on our well when we moved into this house was fine and clear of bacteria, yet after our disastrous incident with our well poisoning, when we got our fifth water test back showing that the contamination had returned... again, I asked her to show me a copy of that initial water test. I wish I could say that I was shocked when I saw that it said, right there in black and white, that our well water was contaminated (and therefore we had been drinking contaminated water for four fucking years,) but I really wasn't all that shocked.

What did shock me was the height of the wall of denial that she was willing to stand behind in order to be proven right.  Her response?  "I don't know what to tell you.  The water's always been fine for us!"  Oh... kay.

So, in the last week, we've all been dealing with some illness on my father-in-law's part.  He's had medical issues that have gone largely untreated by the non-involved and apathetic doctors that they insist on seeing (cause that's always been fine for us!) and he had another event last week.

I was the first person to say the word (stroke! stroke! stroke! stroke! STROKE goddamnit!) this time just like I was the first person to say it out loud the first time he was in the hospital for that alleged 'minor event' that wiped out all functionality on one side of his body.  And it got me thinking.

I grew up in this vortex of illusion and deceit wherein it was dictated that as long as we didn't name the Big Bad Thing, as long as no one found out about the Big Bad Thing, as long as we didn't acknowledge the Big Bad Thing, then either the Big Bad Thing didn't really exist or the Big Bad Thing was really just an Honest Mistake.  I distinctly remember my molesting ENF teaching the girl scout class on how a girl should tell, tell, tell a trusted adult if another adult touched her 'private parts.'   So, yeah, start with two parts abuse, add one part crazy and a dash or denial of reality, let cook for 30 years then watch the ACON dry out and run screaming for dear life from the NFOO Crazymaker Clan jello mold.  (Then watch the NFOO blame the Scapegoat ACON for all of it in the first place.)

My only way out of that hell was to get honest, real honest, and how.
And I learned that naming the Big Bad Thing and shouting about the Big Bad Thing from rooftops was not only the way to take away its power, but also to cleanse it, to remove the shame and fear and humiliation and fear from it and reduce it from the (Powerful) Big Bad (Secretive) Thing to the thing we're going to deal with.  To make it a part of life, and maybe not the most comfortable part of life, but a part of life that can be dealt with, categorized, taken care of, moved on from and possibly even prevented from reappearing in the future.

So now, the past, present and future medical issues of my FIL are coming out into the open.  Something will have to be done.  Something will have to be named.  Confronted.  Taken care of.  Dealt with.

And my MIL and FIL are so, so, so, so terrified of that, so frozen in the clutches of denial, struggling so hard to not see it for what it is, so willing to lie to themselves and everyone around them in order to deny the existence of the problem that they are risking my FIL's life in order to do so by not seeking immediate testing, diagnosis, treatment, solutions.  I'm super proud of my DH and SIL for spearheading this drive to name the darkness, though they're scared as fuck, too.  They're choosing not to hide from it or to make up stories to deflect reality or hide behind denial like they were taught to do, and I couldn't be happier for them.

Still.  Sigh.
What a cluster fuck.

This blog is about my deciding to carry the rocks that have my name on them.  I'm in the middle of the process of determining which rocks in this pile are mine to carry and of deciding which grindstone to throw the considerable weight of my support and will to.  It's going to take a lot of strength and thought.
It's going to take a lot of honesty.

I guess I'll just spend some time thanking my allegedly Mormon gawd that I've got honesty in spades.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Living Well

I've been out of the blogland loop for a while, and I miss it.  I miss all of you.  I miss posting because I miss the craft of it - this has been my primary writing vehicle during the last year, and I certainly miss the act of expression.  Mostly, though, I miss your stories and following you each on your arcs through them.

I do have a good reason, though, one that I'm sure you can understand.  Life's just been too good, folks, too full of such incredible adventures and heart-warming moments lately for me to have any time to stop by or to knock on your doors.

Have you ever watched a disaster movie or read a post-apocalyptic novel?  They all have some elements in common: the Event, (the disaster, the near end of the world as we know it, the catalyst,) closely followed by some form of Monumental Struggle for the survivors, (of varying length and quality, no doubt, but this period of scraping for continued existence is crucial, otherwise these stories would be short, gruesome and very unpopular,) and then there's a Rebuilding Period, (when societies of some sort are reformed, rules are re-established and we are made to understand who the good guys an bad guys will be,) followed by the Rebirth of the continuation of human existence, (where we learn that the good guys will find a way to build it better, stronger, even if a few of them have to die to do it,) and then there is the Great Peace.  The End.  Until the next time.

That last part, the final scene of episode I, that's where I've been lately, and let me just say that it's been fine.   In the movies or the books, the visual would involve a softly setting sun, a flower pushing up through the ashes and opening its petals, waves lapping at the beach, new loves clasping hands and holding precious children.

In my life in the past few months, it's involved relationships, relationships, relationships and all of the attendant reward of joy, love, excitement.  We've had a family vacation, several college visits, financial gain, accolades, good grades, happy outings, happy stay-inings, Spring weather, plans for a new garden and I even had a lovely birthday surrounded by people who I love and who love me and with no expectations of anything else being required.  It's been normal and sweet and kind and fun.

Six years after my NFOO Event, and after having gone through unthinkable pain to crawl back out of the crater, having broken the chains that  bound me, after slogging through scorched earth for miles upon miles, having weathered epic storms and fought raging battles, I've reached the shore of my Great Peace.  It is full of the kind of relationships that my ties to the NFOO kept me from having.  It's heaven.

I recently had an interesting conversation with my counselor, who's been with the FOC in various incarnations through all of this and was one of the primary voices of reason in the beginning of the struggle to reclaim my shattered internal landscape.  We only see him once a month now, and in fact he's actually seeing my youngest DD only as she likes to know that he's available to her if she needs to talk, though she's rapidly losing interest as her life improves with both distance from the Crazymakers and the course of her maturity.  So I guess he's sort of on retainer more than anything else.

I always talk to him alone for 10-15 minutes at the beginning of her session, just to keep him current on the facts of our lives.  Lately there hasn't been anything worrying to say, but I had explained to him an issue that DD was having and what she and I had talked about so that he would know some of the backstory if she chose to bring it up.  We'd basically already developed a resolution together and she was feeling pretty good about it at that point.

He said, "Vanci, a lot of people who have grown up in abusive homes grow up and have children and they try very hard to do better for their children, to treat their children better than they were treated and that's a good thing, that's progress.  You have done that and you've taken it further.  You've learned how to treat your children with respect and how to have actual relationships with them as the actual human beings that they are and that is what has stopped the cycle of abuse for all of you."

This was a key moment for me.
It strikes me that this is a key understanding to not only stopping continued abuse, but to making sure that abuse never starts in the first place.  Respect for children as human beings seems like such a simple concept, but every Narc and Abuser chooses to disregard this basic human right.  But now I don't, and my children don't either.

That cycle being shut down, shuttered, lit on fire, broken, buried, melted and GONE, that's been the point.  And that's what I've taken with me.
The NFOO worked forever to beat me, break me, hurt me, and they were exquisitely successful in doing just that for a long time - to the point that I almost, almost sacrificed even my children to their altar of insanity.

But I didn't.  And I came back, and I repaired all the damage I could find, not with some half-ass patch up job either.  Over and over again I've gone back to the source of the pain in order to suck out all of the poison, even when it's meant that I had to cut away some of the living flesh in order to do so.

And the reward?  For me, it's been that I've become able to truly love truly loving people.
The gravy on top?  I've almost finished raising two daughters - born into the Crazymaker Clan - who are so self-assured, so smart, so present and so loved that it would be unthinkable to them to allow the fucktards of the NFOO or their non-family counterparts to treat them like I was treated for years.

Oldest DD said to me a couple of weeks ago when we happened to see one of the NFOO members from a distance and I asked, "Are you okay?" - "Oh hell yeah, Mom, why wouldn't I be?  I don't need psycho people like that or their drama in my life.  They're not my responsibility."

Living well, it seems, is truly the best revenge.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Kindness of A Stranger

Yesterday would have been the 85th birthday of one of my heroes, Mr. Fred Rogers.
I loved his television show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, from a very early age, so much so that the thought of it now brings tears to my eyes.  Remembering that a television character - though an iconic one, still a stranger to me - was one of the kindest influences in my world... that's just heartbreaking.

Mister Rogers told millions of children, including me, this: "I like you just the way you are."
He said it over and over again.  He told me that it was okay to be me.  He showed me that there were hurtful things and people that happened in the sometimes scary world, but that I was okay and that I would be okay and that I was important.  He convinced me with his sweater and his sneakers and his consistency in feeding the fish that there were gentle, kind, caring people in the world... somewhere, even if there weren't any in my house.

I think back now and I realize that this man's influence on my early life was profound.  The dysfunction that the Nparents created was so total that my life until school was a vortex of isolation.  Even after I began to attend school, frequent moves and constant uprooting didn't allow me to establish any true connections outside of the Clan.  But Mister Rogers, man, he could get in.  PBS was a constant in every place we lived, thank goodness, and I remember the joy of finding out when I would be able to see Mister Rogers again after every move, at least until around the first grade.

That's about the time when the Nsiblings - possibly with the help of the Nparents, certainly without the Nparents stopping them - began to heap ridicule on me for loving Mister Rogers' show so much.  GCYB was pretty young still, but even a four year old will join in on calling his older sister a baby if everyone else thinks it's funny.

Wow, you know, you really have to work to hurt a child like they hurt me.  I didn't want anything from them, I didn't even ask for any of their time.  I just wanted to be left alone long enough to hear a stranger in a cardigan tell me that I was valuable, that I was wanted, that he loved having me for a neighbor.  I sat there by myself, cross legged on the shag carpet, holding my rag doll and talking to her like I would to a real friend, listening to a stranger telling me that I was likable, filling me up just a smidgen with the idea that I was loved.  I just wanted to get on that trolley that would take me to the magical land of make believe and go live in the damn tree with King Friday and Queen Sara.

So I sit here and type this with tears streaming down my face as I think of that lost, lonely, hurting little girl that I was, and I mourn for all the abuses, all the pain, all that years of struggle that I know she's going to have to face in order to get out, get away, get better, to make her stand and to walk away from the monsters.  I wish that Mister Rogers could reach through the screen and give her a hug, or that I could instead.  I've read about Mr. Rogers' life, and I know that this feeling of love and safety is what he was intending to pass on to children.  And he did pass that on to me.

As sad as it is that my frame of reference means that one of the kindest people I knew in my formative years was a television character, I'm also so happy to have had even those bread crumbs of kindness, gentle acceptance, love.

I held onto them over the years, you see.  I used them to find my way home.  I pass them on every day, to my daughters, to other people in my life - adults and children alike.  Mister Rogers said,
"The greatest gift you give is the gift of your honest self."

And that is one of the greatest lessons of my life, despite the monstrous efforts of the vile abusers of my NFOO.  I am my honest self, which just so happens to be a pretty decent self after all.
I bet you would like to have a neighbor just like me.
Mister Rogers gets more credit for my goodness, my kindness, my generosity, my compassion, my empathy and my love of my neighbors than anyone else from my childhood.   He's certainly more deserving.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Overcoming Trauma

I'm a pattern seeker.  I always have been.  My brain has always been wired for puzzles, and they've consequently always been fun and relatively easy for me.  My upbringing fine-tuned my ability to pick up clues to patterns as well, creating that intuitive sense that all survivors of abuse and trauma seem to develop on some level, just in order to see the crazy train bearing down the tracks at us.  Seeing patterns intuitively is partly based in the ability to anticipate, I think, which is also grounded in sensitive observation skills.

In a childhood world where a slammed door means something far, far greater (and often more ominous,) than a gusting wind, we learn to pick up supersonic behavioral clues and subtle hints about the direction of the atmosphere.  I see how this has translated into my adult life; I'm always on the hunt for answers, usually before a question has even been posed.  In moderation, this serves me well, as I can often see a pattern - whether of data or behavior - forming long before my peers or colleagues see it.

Lately, I've noticed a pattern in the conversations that I'm having with the people around me - from my daughters to my bosses, from newcomers to my alcoholism recovery support groups to the distant coworker that I recently sat next to on the plane, from friends of friends to co-workers grabbing a coffee in the break room.  Everyone's asking me this on some level,

"What's the secret to overcoming trauma?"

Dalai Lama, Yoda-type I ain't.
But I know a little something about how to move on from pain.

So here it is, straight from me to you, the best trick I know to overcome trauma...

It takes ACTION.

Unfortunately, the first action that anyone has to take in order to overcome trauma, I believe, is to face the trauma.  I'm not a big fan of pop-psych ways to do this.  I believe that I would bodily harm anyone who tried to wrap me in a warm and fuzzy blanket to simulate the womb.  I don't think that setting the stage to re-live a trauma is necessary, but it does have to be remembered, acknowledged, brought forth into the light.

It's ugly, it's painful, it's shameful, it's embarrassing and it goes against our very natures, but I believe that this action of exposure has to happen.  How, after all, can one overcome something that is fuzzy around the edges?  How can I overcome fear if I'm not entirely sure what it is that I'm afraid of.

I used to think that I was afraid of the dark.
It was a vague, faceless, anonymous fear.
I looked at it and I thought about it and I wrote down specifics and I touched it and I danced with it and I examined it and analyzed it.
Guess what?  I'm not afraid of the dark.
I'm afraid of the abuse that happened to me in the dark.
What's the antidote to that fear?  Well, there's a whole list of ways that I can keep myself safe from that very specific fear, starting (and often ending too,) with this:  don't allow the people who abused me in the dark into my life, house or head.  And if that doesn't work?  Turn on a night-light, know my surroundings and the people in it, have a plan (turning on the light in the room I'm entering before I turn off the light in the room I just left,) and a contingency plan (flashlight on the nightstand,) and I could go on and on and on.

I can take action to at best banish, at worst delay that fear.  Either way, I'm progressing - taking action.

I used to spend a lot of time reading self-help books.  Some of them were pretty good, especially the ones that made me stop my ingrained thought cycle and attempt to re-think it.  I can't honestly say that I learned anything I didn't already know, but the process of attempting to seek self-improvement DID get me out of my own thinking long enough to look at myself and my behavior from a different angle.  And that is an action.

Maybe I don't know how to act or react.  Maybe my training as an abused child and as a scapegoat prevented me from learning how to handle myself, sure.  Survivors of trauma often don't know how they should move on, we just know that we don't want the pain that we've already had anymore. But I always have a baseline, and that ground zero is this: I know definitively how NOT to act.  I know what causes pain to others and to myself, so I know what I don't want.

Holding on to that negative has been a crux of action that I've returned to over and over again; "Well, I won't do that," has been the jumping off point for me so many times of trying... well, anything BUT that.  I've gone full pendulum swing to the opposite ends of the earth before in an attempt to get my emotional bearings in the world post-abuser, and I've tried everything on the spectrum in between.  Sometimes it's worked and sometimes not, but I've learned more and more about how to act and react appropriately (and non-abusively,) every single time.   So that, too, has been action.

So I've taken the actions to identify the trauma, I've taken the action to rethink the trauma and how it affects my life today, and I've taken the action to determine how I will avoid the trauma in the future and how I will act differently.  Doing this over and over and over again has helped me to face, overcome and move on from trauma.

Lastly, and this is my favorite action, I make it a point to attempt to do something good every single day.  I find at least one moment each and every day in which I can take some action that pleases me, or that I can enjoy, or that makes me smile or laugh - often this involves kindness and humor to another living soul.  This is an annuity based action.  I get a moment of pleasure today, AND I've just set myself up for success down the road.  Six months from now, when I have that moment of relived trauma that pops up out of nowhere and attempts to side-swipe me, I will also have a well of good moments to draw from to counterbalance that painful memory.  I create good future memories every day partly so that I will have them in the future when I need them -but mostly because it feels good to do good.

When the memory of NM telling me that I'm the most selfish person on the face of the planet surfaces and attempts to derail me, I'm going to remember, too, that I just gave a homeless veteran every single cash money bill in my wallet, and that when he looked at me like he was going to cry and said, "How can I repay you?" my honest, authentic and sincere answer to him was, "You already have sir, thank you for your service."  Is that the action of a selfish person?  I think not.  But it is action.

These are all great tools, and I can honestly say that these principles are some of the main reasons that I'm still ambulatory and have made it through so much trauma with my sanity - relatively - intact.

But the greatest action I've taken and that I continue to take in order to overcome trauma is this:
I stay the fuck away from the people and places that cause me trauma in the first place.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Praise From Caesar

I received a formal accolade at work today; a written statement of appreciation for my skills and effort accompanied by some financial recompense.  The praise came from a high level and was echoed by several other layers of management as well as my peers.  I actually have five (yes, count them; five) bosses, and this honor was wholeheartedly endorsed by all of them.  For all of them to agree on anything is a minor miracle; for all of them to agree on something that effects the bottom line is damn near unthinkable.  So, it was somewhat unexpected and I was a bit taken aback by my pleased reaction.  In my opinion, I haven't done anything above and beyond the call of my position; I've only tried to consistently do the best I can with what I have, or to find a way to make what I have better or easier to work with.

Of course, I didn't turn away from it or send it back.  I accepted both the compliments and addition to my income with - hopefully - grace and gratitude, and celebration.  It's nice to be recognized, nice to be compensated and oh so nice to be appreciated.

In thinking it over this evening, it brings to mind the very human need for validation.  I believe that all people need - at different times in life and to varying degrees, sure - for the human mirrors surrounding us to reflect back to us that we are ___________ (good, kind, worthy, cared for, important, loved, beautiful, smart, pick your needed adjective.)  Maturity and experience teach us to self-validate whenever possible, but we're social animals and it is still necessary to have someone(s) in our life to fill in that necessary care where we are unable to do so.

This is the opposite of what I was taught by my Nparents and siblings in my childhood 'family.'  I was taught that no matter what I did, how hard I tried, how much I sacrificed, I would NEVER be good enough.  I was forced to learn by action and speech that my role was to strive for an endless and amorphous goal that was completely within the control of cruel masters who would quickly yank it from within my grasp should I ever come within reaching distance.

An example: I was a perfect student in school.  Every report card that I ever brought home was A's from top to bottom, until my second year high school, when the Clan finally broke me.  For eleven years, though, academic and behavior marks were always the highest possible grades and there was always a nice comment from my teachers to go along with my excellent marks.  I actually skipped a grade, too.  Remember, all this was happening while my family moved so often that I didn't attend the same school two years in a row until I was in high school (and by then it was much too late.)  I was taught - as I think most ACoNs are in some form - that it was my job to be perfect, and I did my damnest to be so.

But... (isn't there always at least one?)
I distinctly remember bringing home one of those practically-perfect-in-every-way report cards and showing it to the Nparents.  They told me I'd done a good job and that they were very proud.  (And they were; not so much of me but of having a piece of paper that they could hold up to the world if necessary and proclaim, "See!  How could we be bad parents or scary monsters when we've produced this!")  It was a great moment for me; I'd finally succeeded in being good!  I didn't expect or need any further compensation.  Being GOOD, finally, was a great feeling.

Until they paid NSis and GCYB for their grades.  Right in front of me. Right in front of me.  I received nothing for my straight A's.  But NSis and GCYB were paid for each A they'd received (something like a dollar) and half that for each B they'd received.  My reward?  I was told that they weren't going to pay me for my straight A's because - a direct quote here as I remember it vividly, "A's are easy for you.  They had to work for their A's and B's."

I remember thinking, "So how am I supposed to do better?  Am I supposed to pretend to be stupid so that A's will seem hard?  How can I do better than perfect high scores?"  How cripplingly sad.  I could write about so many other examples of this mistreatment, but I'm sure you get the drift.  It was always like this.  What does the sadist do if the donkey's neck grows long enough to reach the carrot?  Get a longer stick, of course.

So I spent a lot of my life looking for praise and validation from sources that enjoyed twisting the rules of reality in order to deny me that basic human need.

I'm thinking about the flipside of that perpetual lose-lose tonight.

At some point in my process of getting away from the fucktards who raised me and growing into my own skin, I have learned how to stop seeking praise from those who won't give it or who would use it to hurt me.  I have stopped living or dying by the opinion of the crowd and I have learned how to - mostly, I'm no saint - do the right thing for the sake of the thing's rightness.

I get up every day and I do my best, in my work just as I do in my life, because I am satisfied by the internal knowledge that I've done what I can to be ethical, to stay right-sized, to help those around me, to participate, to contribute, to create goodness.  A large part of my motivation to just be a good damn person every day comes from my desire to NOT be like the members of the NFOO.  A bigger part of my motivation to seek and spread joy is just its own self-fulfilling prophecy.  I'm out of the hell I was kept in for so long, I'm alive, I can breathe the air and it smells sweet - why not enjoy it?

Receiving praise was wonderful, and I'll take it.  I'll enjoy it.  I'll savor it.
But I don't need it anymore.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bullies Are Talking Turds

My youngest DD has been having a tough time, and it's resulted in some ongoing stomach issues due to stress.  She has a life-long auto-immune disease that is controlled through her diet and excludes a major food group, so that makes her different from her peers.  She's sensitive enough physically that she cannot eat out - anywhere- safely, which is a tough nut for a teen girl.  So many social events revolve around fast food and/or coffee-like drinks, and when it comes to those mighty bastions of American grubbery, she's -quite simply- shit out of luck.  She sometimes ends up feeling unique (a dirty word for girls between the ages of about 11 and 17ish, if they're lucky.)

DD is a tough, scrappy, take-no-crapola kind of young lady.  She was abused in much the same way that I was, though thankfully to a lesser extent, by members of the Crazymaker Clan, which is something that I didn't know until years after NC.  We've worked through a lot of it, and we still work through it every day.  I've been super proud of her for being so willing to tackle the abuse and the residual effects head-on, and she's made great progress, not least of which is that she is absolutely willing to defend herself.

Part of her significant progress has been that she is a relative rarity for a 15 year old girl: she knows exactly who she is and exactly what that means and she is steadfast in her determination to remain herself regardless of external pressures.  This is an absolute joy to me as a mother, that she is so fiercely aware and independent.  It's amazing to see your children develop their own character.  I'm constantly amazed by the depth that both the DD's possess, and I'm fascinated by their choices, their physical and emotional autonomy.  If they weren't my daughters, I'd meet them as strangers and want to know more about them.  They're just that cool.  Unfortunately, high school is a whole mess of crabs in a pot of boiling water, and that mob of crabs doesn't like to let any of the more independent ones escape unscathed.

And... youngest DD started high school last fall.  Oy.  I'm sorry if you're one of them, I mean no offense, but I can't imagine what kind of experience anyone could have in high school that would make them reminisce fondly for those 'glory days.'  I've yet to meet any well-adjusted and balanced adult who actually enjoyed the hell that is high school.  High school sucks ass, especially when you're a bottom of the barrel first year freshman swimming in a sea of more seasoned than you sharks.

She's had some trouble adjusting and it's begun to manifest physically in her stomach aches, so we trooped off to the family doctor today to get it checked out.  I'm a master of controlling my control-ables, so though I had a suspicion that the tummy problems were stress-induced and that stress was largely related to the not-so-happyfuntimes experience of high school, I needed to check off the list of physical concerns in order to exclude them.  So, that done, we got down to brass tacks and had a frank conversation about the causes and results of the issues.

Poor kids: a recovered ACoN and alkie for a mom means that we always get it down to a conversation about the causes and results at some point.  Sometimes I'm sure they'd like it if I just blew a problem off or yelled about it and grounded them for a week.  Alas, that's not how I'm built.

It was a good convo, though, especially after DD got real and started talking about some of the bullying that she's been subject to and how it's weighing on her.

It's funny, we hear talk about bullying all the time.  It's a bad word in our society.  Bullying is bad.  Bullying will not be tolerated.  We have a zero tolerance for bullying.  But what I've noticed is that it's a very narrow scope of definition that we're willing to accept when we talk about bullying.

We have no problem pointing to the oversized 10 year old boy who's pulling cute little Janie's blonde ponytail on the playground and saying, "Yes!  He's a BULLY!"  And then we send him to the principal's office to pay for that.  Maybe sign him up for a sensitivity course or have him wash some walls.

We watch The Breakfast Club and just can't believe that anyone didn't stand up and say "Stop it!" when those butt-cheeks met the duct tape.  "He's a bully!" we say.

We read about Queen Bees and everyone immediately knows who the bullies are, and we want to point at them and scream, "Bully!"  Maybe do a little capital letter B embroidering on somebody's new Hollister shirt.

We want to point out that No means No and that our private places are private and that strangers are dangerous and that yelling "fire!" will get you faster action than screaming "rape!" and we want so desperately to believe that these coloring-book safety tips will protect our children from the world.

But their peers?  How does one protect a child from the asshole sitting next to her in Math who makes snide comments to the rest of the teens in the class about her breast size?  He didn't touch her, after all, he didn't call her a racial epithet and he wasn't even directly speaking to her .  What's punishable there?

How does one protect a child from the little twit who makes it a point to invite an entire established circle of friends to a party but excludes her?  And then talks about said shindig at length and within intentional earshot?  It's not as if a police report can be filed for Willful Exclusion from a Private Social Function with Aggravated Flaunting.

I think (hope) that schools for younger kids have a little bit more control and say.  It seems to be addressed more and more at younger ages.  (Even then, though, I have doubts about the way it's handled - I can't tell you how many times I've heard a parent/teacher/counselor of a child say, "Bullies are hurting inside and that's why they're acting this way toward you."  As if that matters?  I mean, seriously, who gives a fuck?  Serial killers are traumatized too, am I supposed to accept that they have a low self esteem and it's really not about me if I run into one of those?  Maybe ask them if they want to talk about it before they sharpen the knife?)

In high school, though, which is an overcrowded and understaffed sinking cruise ship with a bad case of e. coli and no radar signal if I've ever seen one, this type of verbal/emotional bullying is de rigeur and so low on the list of administrative priorities as to not exist.  Somebody's getting knocked up in the parking lot, breaking into a locker, smuggling in a joint.  Those are the things the alleged people in charge at the alleged institute of learning are allegedly dealing with.  That and attendance as it directly relates to funding.  So, no help there.  The attitude is generally, "Let us know when blood gets drawn."

It's all so familiar; all the triangulating, rank forming, gaslighting, passive-aggressiveness, crazymaking.  Every time I hear about this shite, I just can't help but compare it to the NFOO.  What is the NFOO really?  A gang of adolescent hoodlums.  A bunch of limp-dicked power grubbing bullies getting off on their little game of Who Can Be the Meanest.

So, DD and I talked about it.  And we came back around to what we always come back around to when dealing with idiots and assholes.  You Browncoats out there, this is for you, "Are we caring about this?"

I mean, seriously, let's just lay this out.  A bully is a POS.  A bully is someone not smart enough to find their own happiness.  A bully is a person who can't process well enough to connect with the world around them.  A bully is someone who's too stupid to know how to entertain themselves.  A bully is a person who's not likable enough to have people like them for anything other than the vicarious jerk-off high of making someone else look bad.  A bully is too ineffectual to do anything of value on their own, so they choose to tear down the accomplishments of others instead.

Basically, a bully has the attractiveness of turd on a sidewalk.

So, again, regarding what a bully has to say, "Are we caring about this?"  Honestly, caring is too strong a word.  Are we even listening to a word that comes out of a turd's mouth?   Even if it can talk, it's still just a turd.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

You know what I do when I see a turd on a sidewalk?  Nothing.  I don't touch it, I don't talk to it, I don't ask it how it feels or if it's lashing out at me because it's hurting inside, I don't wonder why it's a turd or who caused it to be a turd on the sidewalk.  I get away from it, glad I didn't step in it.  It's a turd.  It's beneath me.

So, we have a new phrase in the Casa de Vanci.  Bullies are talking turds.  DD tells me that she's going to be picturing a very large, very stinky (and hopefully soon to be left behind to lie for eternity on their sidewalk) talking turd if she has one of these encounters again.

Kind of takes away their power, now, doesn't it?

We laughed and laughed and talked for hours about how she can get herself re-centered and all of the good things/people/activities/love she has in her life, and she's going to be fine.  Eventually, once she's herself again, I might even have to have a little pity for the bullies, cause DD's a firecracker; her powder just got wet for a minute.  Eventually, somebody's going to lose a finger.

Nah, I'll never feel sorry for bullies.  I know who they grow up to be.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Being Present is a Form of Happiness

I go through phases of intense interest in and observation of the people around me.  These days, it's a deviation from normal action for me.  Typically, no matter the group I'm in, I am the de facto greeter, rememberer of names, conversation starter and overall general participater.  I wouldn't say that I seek the spotlight, and I'm not a compulsive joiner, but I've worked very hard for a long time to be able to enjoy whatever the present moment that I'm living in happens to be, and I'm interested in being a part of those moments.  In business meetings, as a result of that desire for sincerity and authenticity, when everyone else is Chest Puffing or doing the Big Boy and Girl Dance of Uber-Professional Talk, I'm often the only person asking questions of others like, "How's your family?  Your daughter must be in junior high school by now, right?  How's that going?"  In other words, I talk about life, and that always lightens the mood.

But lately I've been in a more subdued mood, probably because I'm still very physically tired and because it's February.  Gawd, I hate this month.  Gray, cold, holidays spent, taxes almost due, let's just hope that Spring gets here before June, February.  DH calls it my Speculative Mood; I have a tendency to isolate a feeling, thought, pattern of behavior and just track it, watch it, ponder it.  I learn a lot about people through this process.

I was recently at a meeting with a large group of coworkers, both those that I share office space with and several from other parts of my geographical region.  There is a young lady from another office who is, er, um, well, she's rather off-putting.  She's difficult to talk to.  She gives very little in conversation; her primary contributions seem to involve making sure that all listening understand that she's, of course, right and oh so very smart.  About everything.  It's not malicious, it's more of a low self-esteem projection that comes off as, okay, well, maybe more than a little bitchy.  A conversation with her can feel like a midnight stroll through a sanctimony-ridden land-mine field.

Having survived a lifetime in the B-I-N-G-O spinning ball of twisted conversation and pretentious aggrandizing that was my NFOO, I just shake it off.  She's not central to my continued existence - not my boss, in other words - and I have only the most tenuous of ties to her, so I just let her be right when I find myself in conversation with her, which I noticed at this last outing was quite often.  She chose at several different venues to seek out a seat next to me.  When she gets all Sister Mary Francis on the soapbox, I just listen until I'm bored and then I make a joke.  Most of the serious wanna-be professor types don't particularly care for my blase take on life in general, and tend to gravitate away from me rather quickly.  To which I say, Coolsville Daddio, you go on over there and extol the virtues of contract negotiations and quality assurance systems and I'll be over here enjoying my tea and taking mental bets against myself about which of the coworkers is going to try to hit on the waitress.  But this girl still seeks me out, after four years of contact in which I've maintained my same attitude, which when concerning business often can be summed up with a shoulder shrug and a, "Well-what-are-you-gonna-do-that's-life." or "Well-they-keep-paying-me-so-I-keep-showing-up."  That one really stumps the suits and the ladder climbers.

So, later on, I had a conversation with one of my coworkers whom I actually consider a good friend and she, too, had noticed the way that Ms. Difficult follows me around.  "I just don't understand why she likes me so much," I said.  "I'm not particularly nice to her, but she seems to really want to be around me, I don't get it."  This caused my friend to laugh, which threw me for a loop.  "What's so funny?" I asked.

To which she replied, "Vanci, everybody likes you.  You're the only one that everybody likes.  You're like everybody's best friend.  You're the only one who cares about everybody else.  You're the only real person in the room!"  Huh.

So let me get this straight.  Everybody else is acting?  I'm the only one capable of or willing to be real, to be present?  How sad!  All I can think is that there is so much, so much of value, going on in every moment - I feel like I learn something from every single interaction that I have with individuals or the world at large.  How can anyone not be interested in that?

I think that it's a gift to be able to live in the moment, to be present.  I know that I have a lot more fun at those meetings than anyone else does.  Apparently that's because I'm the only one really there!

I spent so much of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood afraid, just terrified of what horror was lurking around the next corner.  I was always planning, and drawing up alternate plans, and making contingency plans.  Hypervigilance is a fear based, trauma induced defense mechanism, and that's where I lived for so long, just trying to keep everything under wraps, the hatches battened down, the details routinely organized, everything and everyone under control.

I don't have to do that anymore, and there's such freedom for me in just being able to - forgive the overused phrase - stop and smell the roses.  I'm so grateful that I can just be present in my life these days.

So, a Vanci-ku for you, in honor of the joy of living in the moment:

Fears of the future
Rob you of today's moments
Why steal from yourself?


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Only Way Out is Through the Center

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." On Pain - Kahlil Gibran

It's been just over six years since what I think of as Vanci's Last Stand.  You can read about that here, if you'd like.  I've been thinking that I should do a post to commemorate the passage of another year of NC, but the reality is that the only tangible difference in my feelings about the NFOO now as compared to a year ago is that I have a far greater level of indifference to their existence than I've ever had before.  In regard to my real (and quite wonderful) every day life, I've written about it all year long, and can only say that my overall feeling about the last year is that I am one lucky and grateful lady.

Much of my peace is attributable to the fact that I've got one more year of distance from the Crazymaker Clan under my belt, and that is a good thing, no, it's a great thing.  Maybe even in the All Time Top Five List of Best Things.  There's really not much to say beyond that.

But I've been thinking back to those crazy and painful times of six years ago, and I've been trying to ask and answer of myself some of the questions that I hear newly distanced, LC'd and NC'd peeps asking about how to make it through those rough and tumble, earth shaking, business end of the barrel times.  I've been trying to do what I do best, which is basically to boil a complex issue down into a simplified reduction, examine the facts that hold true and then develop a formula.  It's my process, and one that's served me well, both when I lived every day in survival mode and when I was starting to heal and now that I'm...well, I think the only way to describe where I am now is to say that I am content.

I spend very little time these days thinking about the members of the Clan, if I spend any at all.  I carry my scars and they are certainly reminders of all the negative feelings and horrible memories and terrors that I've survived, sure.  But they are also reminders of the fact that I broke those chains and won't be passing the bad juju down the line.  I live every day in the midst of so many reminders of the good, calm, loving, helpful, graceful, classy, joyful relationships and people and life that I have now, and if I charted a graph that showed my happiness in relation to the length of time I have NC, well, I'm sure that the trend would look like a dot-com stock's value in the early nineties.  Up, up and away.

I remember, though, what it felt like in Early No Contact.  It felt so awful, so wrong to be separated from my 'family.'  I was so tortured, so guilty for creating that heretofore unknown silence, for breaking something that I knew was wrong but that I'd been taught my whole life to accept as right.  I would have done almost anything to make things better, different, even the way that they used to be.  If you've read this blog at all, you'll know that every single person in my family of origin was abusive toward me in some degree.  The things that I've written about here - which are the tip of the iceberg, dearies, just a smidge of the reality of the abuse that I was dealt by the fuckers - are so horrific that they could be the plot-lines of a serial killer-hunting drama on television.  They're the types of things that people see or read about and think, "Surely this can't really happen in the real world."  Horror, pure and simple.

But in Early NC, I was still loathe to see it for what it was, to see them for the monsters that they really are.  I still held out hope that I could somehow, some way, if I was good enough or smart enough or worked hard enough or expressed myself more clearly or drew different boundaries or drank less or changed the way that I reacted or asked different questions, that I could find a way to repair my relationship with the Clan.  I didn't want to even contemplate NC forever in the early days; it would have been too much for my fragile world to take.  I felt like I would just shatter like a woman made of glass.  Thin glass.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I think of that now and I'd like to deny it.  I'd like to say that woke up one day and I was strong, that I was instantly okay, that I always knew what to do or how to act or react, but the truth is that it was a process of "the breaking of the shell of my understanding."  There's truth in the idea that a thing, once known, cannot be unknown.  As soon as I allowed myself to SEE the truth behind the false perceptions of the NFOO, I couldn't UNSEE that truth.  I didn't really want to accept it, but I couldn't unlearn it, I couldn't unknow and I couldn't avoid finding a way to deal with it.  Living every day with the pain of this process of knowing wasn't an option, so I had to find a way to move forward.

So I had to go through it.

Some days I put my head down and I charged through it angry.  I think of bulls in a run when I think of those days: incited to a near murderous anger and then unleashed in a narrow corridor to chase down a crowd of tormentors.  Some days I was like that, and those were the good days.

Most days I was lost, sad, unfocused and seriously fucking depressed.  In retrospect, it's all fine and good to say that I don't miss them in my life, and it's true beyond true that these days it's a ludicrous concept to me to even think about missing them.  I miss them these days about as much as I'd miss a hot poker to the eye.  But then, Early NC, I missed them like crazy. They had been my constants, you see?  No matter how fucked up they were, no matter how abusive they were, no matter how much of my life, my family of choice, my very soul I'd had to sacrifice to the altar of the Crazymaker Clan, they had been MY CLAN.  And then they weren't anymore, and that was a loss.

Loss is loss, and all loss leaves a void.  It hurt to cut off contact with them, it hurt like hell.

But, there's a reason that we recovering alkies talk about working a program and staying sober One Day at a Time and it's this: we understand that the only way to get the time to stack up is to do one of them at a time, moment to moment.  And that's what got me through the loss; doing just one more day upon one more day.

Eventually, I promise, the days got easier to do.  And that's when I decided to look into it further, to go beyond just accepting it and to start to try to figure out what the hell it really was, what it had really been in the first place and how it had changed.

Once I started to dig into core issues, I began to see a clearer picture of what, exactly, it was that I had lost.  The space and time that I created by just staying away and putting one day on top of another wasn't my plan, no, but it was instrumental in getting me clear enough from the leashes and muzzles of the NFOO to help me to see them (and to see me,) in the cold, clear light of reality.

That's when it started to get better.  That's when the FOG began to lift for me.  That's when I began to allow my defenses - so carefully constructed to block out a lifetime of abuse - to work for me instead of against me.  That's when I began to look at myself and really see who I was, to understand that I was broken because they'd broken me, but also that I was not beyond repair.

And that's when I began to understand that the loss that I felt, the grief that I was living with every day, was about my mourning the loss of something that never really existed in the first place.  And that's when I started to get better.

I've been NC long enough now to have experienced several distinct validations of the correctness of my choices to get away from the NFOO and to stay away.  I broke the shell of my understanding long enough ago that the pain that I felt initially and residually is largely non-existent now.  Bleeding wounds became scabs and then turned into scars, which serve to remind me that I survived and that I don't want to go back, so I won't.

I had to break that shell and go through the pain of it in order to form a new understanding, one that is without manipulation or lies.

So I guess that I will let this stand as my celebration of six years: the trend in my happiness and that of my family of choice has never, not once, faltered from us getting better the farther and the longer we stay away from the Crazymakers.

So breaking that shell and going through that pain has only ever been worth it.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Keystone Concepts

I've been focusing heavily on staying in the moment lately, on simplifying my often distracted mind, on streamlining my hectic schedule and allowing myself a less frantic pace.  It's working and I'm starting to feel better, if not physically as much as I'd like, at least I'm finding ways to stop demanding so much from myself emotionally.  I have a lot of tools for accomplishing this, thankfully.

One of the allowances I've made in my quest to calm my mind and heart (and hope that my body will just take a fucking clue already,) has been to indulge my Inner Documentary Junkie.  We don't have television here in the house of Vanci, you see, because A) it rots your brain, B) from what I've seen of television in the last fifteen years, either I've gotten really really smart or the rest of the planet has gotten progressively stoopid-er and C) our area is rural enough that we don't have any free television channels available and I'm too cheap to pay someone to beam into my home and ask my if my teeth are white enough or if I'd like to lose weight without trying.  So, no television channels, but of course we watch movies and we play video games and the like.  I'm not a Luddite, I'd just honestly rather read a novel if I find that I have excess time in my life.

What we do have in my little town, though, is a killer library.  And that library has a fairly extensive movie/tv series selection.  So, I've been checking out documentaries lately and DH and the DD's have indulged me by letting me watch them in the family room in the evenings - sometimes the series are good enough that one or two of the family members get interested, too!

I recently finished a rather poorly done - but still fascinating, to me at least - series on the 'secrets' of ancient architecture.  I'm happy to report that I now know far more than I will ever be required to know about the difference between doric, ionic and corinthian columns.  So I've got that going for me.

One of the so-called secrets that fascinated me the most, though, transcended cultural boundaries and seemed to show up in all of the ancient civilizations discussed were these enormous stone archways that stood for millenia over huge spans and at towering heights.  There, apparently, always has been debate about how these wide curved spans were constructed by people with marked lacks of technological advancement: how does a society with no firm grasp of potential uses of wheels manage to heft a series of two-ton blocks into the air in a graceful, flowing curve so masterfully that they'll stay in their place for, theoretically, ever?

It's all about the keystone - the load bearing, specifically shaped, precisely fitted wedge at the top of the span that, once inserted, holds everything together.  I'm not a geologist and geometry wasn't ever my thing, but my lack of technical understanding hasn't stopped my absolute respect for this concept of the one key piece that determines the fate of the rest of the structure.

So I'm thinking about my own personal keystone concepts.  I've survived an awful lot of really terrible events and people in my life, and I'm grateful for that.  I've learned from these experiences, and I'm even more grateful for that.  What I've mostly learned is that I wasn't always able to prevent the Big Bads from happening (and I'm sure I won't be able to sometimes in the present or the future, too,) but that I can pick up certain invaluable tools every time I make it through, and I get to keep those tools.

Those tools have become my go to's, no matter the situation, the ideas, concepts, learning that I can come back to and understand that yes, THIS, THIS is what works, THIS is the TRUTH.  I hold that little collection of Truths near and dear to my heart: that I am lovable, that I didn't/don't deserve for bad things or people to happen to me, that love is strength, etc.  But I've been wondering what the crux Truth is, if there is a single identifiable piece of Truth that holds all of the others to their shape.  The baseline, the square one, the universal Truth.  What's the keystone?

I think it's this:
I exist as a human bean, and that alone grants me the right to decency.

The right to decency isn't about entitlement.  I don't deserve anything more than you or anything more than I'm willing to work to attain and keep or give away.  Being in the line up, after all, does not guarantee one the right to a home run.  It doesn't even guarantee the right to a swing, necessarily.  But it does guarantee me the right to show up and to take a shake at it if the opportunity presents itself.

It seems to me that the people who've tried to hurt me have really, at the core of their behavior, been trying to take away my right to exist.  Through fear, lies, manipulations, violence, abusers have tried to convince me that I deserved less than the breath I inhale and exhale, or that I should be ashamed for taking that air.

Every time I've come back around to understanding that I didn't have to take abuse, my strength has come from my eventual understanding that I have a right to decency: which simply means to me that I have a right NOT to be hurt, or to choose to walk away from hurt.

It's sad to me when I hear people say, in response to an action of distance taken by one being abused from an abuser,
 "But she's your mother/sister/friend/teacher/father/uncle/brother/pastor/lover/husband/wife etc..." as a means of implying that, yes, this behavior is unacceptable, but some tie that you have with the person treating you inappropriately requires you to ignore the abuse.

As if abuse can be lessened or somehow condoned based upon the title or DNA similarity of the abuser and victim.  This quantification is a protection of the abuser to the detriment of the one being abused, and that's a societal sickness that's, unfortunately, socially acceptable.  But it's not a Truth.

The Truth to me, the Keystone of Truth I suppose, is that it doesn't matter who wants to hurt me nearly as much as it matters that I have a right not to be hurt.

I'm a human bean and I have the right to exist and be treated decently.
So are you and you do too.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Leaving Isolation Behind

Isolation of the victim is one of the primary tools of all abusers.
Whether an abuser is of the pathologically personality disordered or the garden variety asshole vein, the removal of their chosen victim's external support will always rank high on the abuser's to-do list.  In the middle of a fire, a person with an exit plan behaves in an entirely different manner than a person who believes that they are hopelessly trapped.

In this respect, the goal of an abuser is to force their victim to be cut-off from outside help, or if that is not possible to force the victim to at least believe that if there is a way out, it's unreachable or undeserved.

When I was a child, I was held hostage as a member of the NFOO, both physically and emotionally.  The NParents couldn't hold up the shiny-happy mask that covered their absolute insanity for very long, so our family packed up and moved every single year.  Sometimes we'd make it for 18 months or so, but that was a stretch.  In retrospect, I think of them as locusts: show up, suck the life out every available resource, move on and leave the land dead.  In having any tenuous roots and branches of relationships to other people that I was able to establish as a little one yanked out every year - literally, I did not go to the same school two years in a row until my freshman and sophomore years of high school - I was being groomed to believe that the only people I was allowed to have long term relationships with were NM, ENF, NSis and GCYB.  Functionally, they were the only people in my childhood world.  And that meant that I had no way out.

There were no teachers who were able to know me well enough to step in, no counselors who knew me long enough to detect a pattern, no mothers or fathers of friends who heard or saw changes in my affect and worried about it.  No one was allowed to know me long enough to fight for me.  Any perceptive adult in my life who might have picked up on eccentricities, (if they caught me in a rare moment when I stepped out of line and peeked out from behind the iron mask of the Clan at all,) would have had to chase down the moving van to inquire after my well-being.  What a lonely, sad, isolated childhood that was.  It taught me that the few relationships that I did have - with the NFOO - were something very precious indeed and that I must preserve them at all costs.  Which is just what the NParents needed to keep me hauling on that party line.

Later in life, I discovered that I had difficulty maintaining relationships with outside parties for more than a couple of years.  I had trouble staying in the same job for more than a couple of years.  Small wonder, eh?

Even when they were no longer able to physically separate me from external parties, the Crazymakers still held sway over my relationships with others.  My friends became their friends, and then they'd drive in their wedges at every available opportunity.  When DH and I tried to establish our own holiday traditions, we were being selfish and cruel, so they showed up at our house anyway, uninvited, and stayed for dinner.  Shit, I'm 95% certain that NSis slept with my first husband the night before our wedding.

No wonder, I discovered that I had a hard time trusting people.  That I had a polite conversational voice that I'd use with people and that was it, I never would allow any truth to pass my lips that wasn't about the weather.  That when I hit it off with someone from 'outside,' I threw up walls to make sure that they wouldn't get any closer to me.  I felt toxic.  I gave up on ever having any close girlfriends at all.  I shut down. I stopped sharing myself with people at all.  I hid a lot.  I just knew that there was something wrong with me; that I just couldn't be a good friend.  I'd tell myself that a potential relationship wasn't worth the effort.  I only figured out later that what I'd really believed was that I wasn't worth the effort.

I was NC with the Crazymakers for a good while - I think about a year and half - before I began to let anyone in past the gate of politeness and into my real life, and even then I was more careful than Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits, which is to say verwy, verwy.  I spent entire relationships waiting to find out that I was being used, again, that I was fucking it up, again, that I didn't deserve a friend, again.  Some of those relationships made it through that painful and constant vetting process.  Some didn't.  For a long time I felt like I'd failed in those relationships that didn't spark or flamed out.  It just didn't occur to me at the time that I didn't HAVE to make it work.  After all, weren't my choices thus: take what you can get for as long as it's there, but don't get too attached, because it'll be taken away at any moment - or - don't get attached in the first place and pretend to be okay alone (or better yet, "Vanci, remember that your 'family' are the ONLY ones who will always be here for you.")

The Crazymakers even tried to destroy some of my fledgling relationships after I'd gone NC.  How crazy is that?  I refused to talk to them, but they sought out people with whom the N's had never had a relationship prior for the specific purpose of destroying new relationships that I had with those people by cornering those new friends of mine and listing of litanies of the Sins of Vanci.  Gawd, can you even imagine what some of those poor souls thought?  No wonder they mostly ran for the hills.

I kept trying to bring new people into my life, though, by conscientiously and carefully reminding myself  to leave one or two doors to my soul open - just a crack - because I didn't want to be alone in the world anymore.  And because the longer I stayed away from the Narcs and their legion of psycho-pets, the more I became aware of the fact that isolation from the external world was one of the ways in which they'd kept me under the Clan thumb.  Slowly, painfully, awkwardly... I made friends.

I found people with whom I shared similar interests - like sobriety, hardy har har.  As I got better, I found that people approached me with invitations - not just to Drink Wine and Buy Pricey Kitchen Stuff parties, either - but real, genuine, Hey We Think You Might Like This Movie Too kinds of outings.  Apparently, I'm a lot of fun to be around.  Who knew?

It was, for a very long time, uncomfortable to be vulnerable enough to get to know people and to let them get to know me too.  Uncomfortable is a mild word for it; it was often excruciating.  I discovered that I visit the bathrooms in public places quite often as a means to have a moment of composure alone.  And somewhere, somehow, I became okay with that, accepting it as just another of my many, many quirks.

Because as hard as they tried to keep me alone and without ties to those around me, without support from people whose goal is not to hurt me, I know their secret now and I have for awhile.

They don't know how to form meaningful relationships with anyone; they only know how to use and be used, hurt and be hurt.  They can't fucking stand it that I am absolutely surrounded by people who love me and whom I love back, because that's something that they will never, ever have for real.  The closest they ever came was when they had me all scapegoated and slavishly in their service, and that's never going to happen again.

My oldest DD is turning 17 within the next couple of weeks, and what she's decided to do for her birthday is to go to a nearby town with a group of her girlfriends for an outing.  She's known some of these girls since kindergarten, and she's close with a couple of the girls' moms, which is something that I am entirely grateful for.  The more people she has that love her in her life, the better off she is, in my opinion.  She said to me, "You don't mind that I won't be spending my whole birthday with you, do you?"

To which I laughed and smiled and told her that I love her but that spending your 17th birthday with your life-long girlfriends is the healthiest thing in the world.  Youngest DD had her 15th birthday a few weeks ago, and our house was filled with seven 14-15 year old girls, some of which have been friends since kindergarten as well.  I cooked for them and cleaned up after them and other than that, I stayed out of their way and let them have their night, which they took full advantage of until they crashed out at four in the morning.

Man, it's fucking awesome to see my girls living in that sea of friends, held up by the joy of their relationships that have nothing whatsoever to do with me.  Cycle: broken.


Thursday, January 3, 2013


I have some things to lay out on the virtual table with you, my friends.
Pull up a chair and let's have tea together while I whine a little bit.  Just a little bit, I promise.

I've been sporadic at best with posts, reading and comments lately, and I've been working to identify some of the reasons for that.  I'd like to share what I've learned, not becuase I feel I owe an explanation so much as that I feel I'm identifying with some ACoN commonalities here that others might also feel.

First off, and I'm bringing this up for a specific reason, I'm sick.  I posted last May, I think, about my stinkin' Graves Disease, and I'm been concientiously working with my doctor and endo to get my thyroid hormones under control since then.  The problem is that - so far - it's not working very well.  I have days where my levels are so high that I feel like I'm on speed and my energy burns out by the time I eat lunch and I have to take a nap in the freekin' break room like a much older than 35 year old person, followed by days where my levels are so low that it feels like a gargantuan effort to haul my ass out of bed after sleeping for a solid 8-9 hours. 

It'll get better, I know this, and I'm not talking about it here because I'm looking for sympathy.  Better people than me have had far worse problems than this. But I need to say it out loud for one reason only: in the taloned grip of the Crazymaker Clan, I was never allowed to be sick, even if I was.  I was also, therefore, never allowed to take care of myself in order to get better. I was always expected to gut it out, just move on, walk it off.  If I didn't shake off an illness and hide it, I learned that I would be made to pay for the attention it took to get me well, most often by constant humiliation for - potentially - ever after.

So, I've been making a concerted effort to give myself the permission I need to take care of myself.  When I am tired, I go to sleep, even when I would really, really, really, like to post something here or take a look at your blogs.  I miss you, and I feel out of the loop a bit, but I'm consoling myself with the thought that I am learning to obey my body's needs and unlearning a lifetime of external instruction to deny myself.

Second, I am reasonably sure that at least one member of the Crazymaker Clan has found my blog.  Although I'm not particularly interested in their input (rimshot, please,) I did need to spend some time making sure that I have properly analyzed and understood my reaction to this potential.  Now that I'm out of the grip of the gaslighting manipulators, I have learned that my gut reaction is often the right reaction to a stressor, and that I only revert to my Scapgoat training of Ye Olde Life when I overthink a situation.  My gut reaction to a potential breach by the NFOO is this: Fuck you, I'm telling the truth, read it if you want or better yet, shove it up your ass so far you choke on it.

But, I needed to sit with that for awhile and make sure that my gut is on the right track, that I'm not going to hurt anyone I care about with that reaction and that I haven't overlooked anything.  Honestly, after some time, the only thing that I can say has changed is that I feel more and more strongly that I'd like to get rid of the pseudonym.  DH and I are in the opening stages of negotiations on this as it would affect him too.  We'll see.  Other than that, though, I think if I have anything to say directly to the Narcs or their minions, it is this suggestion, to quote the late, great, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., that, "They can take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. They can take a flying fuck at the moooooon!"

Third, I'm still seriously disturbed by the Major Kerfuffle (go ahead, salute, you know you want to,) that took place because of a couple of Narcs in ACoN clothing around here.  I've read and read and re-read a lot of what went down with all that when I have had time and energy to do so, because I'm still trying to figure out exactly why it pissed me off so badly, why it bothered me so much.  I mean, of course betrayal and deceit create bad feelings, but I am not particularly thin-skinned.  So, I wanted to make sure that I hadn't done anything that I  needed to make amends for, because this sour feeling in my tummy that's still hanging around when I think about the whole thing hasn't happened to me very often before, at least not since I got sober, and it's often associated with my own bad behavior.

I can't think of anyone who I maliciously attacked, but if I did, please, be friends and let me know.  I certainly used some strong words and drew some firm bounaries, I'm aware of that, but I didn't attempt to impeach anyone's character inappropriately.  I'm not entirely sure where the acid still floating around from the attention-seeking double-speakers will pop up next, but I do know that it well, just as soon as those involved run out of fresh meat and come trolling back looking for a new supply.  I'd like to make sure I'm on an even keel before I have to whip out that harpoon again.

Last, I haven't been enjoying my tone lately.  I think that this is in direct relation to how crappy I've been feeling.  I'm hoping that it will improve with more consistent levels of energy and feeling better in the future, but of late I've been under the weather enough that it's made my writing under the weather as well.  As much as I'm a fan of Truth, and wouldn't ever hide mine from you, I'm also a fan of trying to share the message above the mess, and I've felt like a mess lately.  That mess has been big enough to peek through and in some cases saturate what I'm trying to say, and I don't want to hand you that.  It's not your rock, see?  So I'm working to feel well and hoping that wellness is what I can convey again soon without having to work so hard.

There's nothing wrong with talking about the mess, talking about the problem without the answers, please don't think I'm saying that.  I just don't like the dark paths that I end up on when that's what I have to offer.  I feel stuck in a loop when that's where I am.  It's my Boo'Ya Moon, I guess.  I'll get out of it, I'm confident, fuck, look at all the other shit I've survived: this is nothing.  But feeling well isn't happening as quickly as I'd like, and that brings me back to my first point... So.

I came to this place in the great wide cyber world because I felt like I had survived a very specific set of circumstances that I wanted to talk about and hear about.  I was not expecting to find the wonderful people that I have met here, I wasn't looking for a community or a wealth of knowledge.  I just wanted someone to understand when I needed to say that I scan the obituaries every day looking for certain names and that I am disappointed when they're not there.  I wanted someone to understand that all mommies aren't kind and that all daddies don't protect and sometimes sisters and brothers use you as a human shield and expect you to thank them for it. 

I've found all that, and so much more on these blogs and boards, and I'm absolutely, completely 110% grateful for that.  I think about all of you every single day and I send out pixie dust and happy thoughts to you every chance I get.  If I'm absent a little more than I'd like, please know that it has nothing to do with you and that I and my real world loved ones are all fine.  Where we are not, we are getting better, and that's enough.