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.