family, healthcare, music, musings, religion

Redemption…

This morning, my guitar lesson on Fender Play consisted of learning “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. For some reason, I had the hardest time getting the opening riff right. I could do it if I focused on it and played slowly, but it took a couple of times. I also found it easier on my acoustic guitar over the Acoustasonic, which was a lot more expensive, but somewhat harder for me to play decently.

Once I got past the opening riff, which isn’t that complicated, but requires concentration and focus until muscle memory kicks in, the rest of it wasn’t too hard. The chords are pretty easy, although there is one spot that requires muting, which is still kind of tricky for me. But, I bet when I venture downstairs, Bill will congratulate me, because I think he could easily guess what I was playing. I always consider it a win when he recognizes the more recognizable songs.

A nice cover of this classic… I love the Playing for Change series.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about redemption. I’ve even written about it a few times. I tend to be in favor of redemption for most people, although there are a few exceptions. For instance, I tend to be less redemptive toward people who have hurt me or someone I love. I wish I could be more high-minded about some of these things… but, alas, when you prick me, I bleed.

The weird thing is, I think I am more forgiving toward criminals than I am people who are just assholes I know personally. Like… I would probably have more compassion for someone on death row than my husband’s former wife. That seems kind of backwards, until you get to know the type of person my husband is, the type of person I am, and the egregiously bad things that have happened to him and his family since he invited Ex into his life. And yet, Ex is still walking around, free as a bird, and only too happy to exploit those who are closest to her.

I often have a lot of forbearance toward the mentally ill. I’m pretty certain that Ex is mentally ill. I know she’s been hospitalized a couple of times for her issues, and I know that she’s had medical/physical issues that have caused her to be hospitalized, although I suspect some of those were purposely done for attention. I know she had a terrible childhood, and was abused horrifically by people she should have been able to trust. The people who should have loved her, treated her so badly that she passes along that bad stuff to others, who might love her more if she weren’t such a toxic person.

Why is it that I have some empathy for people that make the news because they went “viral”, but not for Ex, or other people who have crossed me personally? Maybe it’s because I have my own abuse issues. Mine are not as bad as Ex’s by a long shot. My parents conceived me and stayed married, and I was exposed to a loving family– albeit an extremely religious and quite politically conservative one. I don’t know many of my mom’s relatives, because she had such a small family and her parents died when I was very young. But my dad came from a large, loving, very southern family. They were close-knit, even though they were also pretty dysfunctional.

This week, I found out that the wife of one of my cousins suffered a very severe setback after having a hysterectomy. She experienced vomiting, severe headaches, and other troubling symptoms that led my cousin to take her to the emergency department of their nearest hospital. It was there that my cousin’s wife’s two brain tumors were discovered.

Making the situation worse is the fact that this cousin’s mother (my aunt) died of a primary brain tumor, back in 1995. His father and older sister also died of cancer. And now, it appears that his wife has a primary cancer somewhere that has caused metastasis to her brain. There was a lot of swelling around the tumors, which the doctor estimated had existed for a few months. And since there were two of them, the doctor says that they are the result of metastatic activity. Usually, with a primary tumor that originates in the brain, there’s just one. Metastatic brain tumors are a lot more common than primary tumors are.

A couple of days ago, my cousin’s wife had surgery to remove one of the tumors. She came through the surgery fine, and pathology will determine how to treat the other tumor. Everyone was delighted to hear that she was able to Facetime with family after the procedure was done. Still, the tumors’ existence was a devastating shock to everyone.

I found out about this situation because my aunt sent out an email to the entire family, asking for prayers. I am not a very religious person, but I don’t mind sparing positive vibes and good thoughts to my friends and family. I did send my cousin a note of support. He’s a nice man, even though we are very different in terms of religion and politics. I appreciate that he’s willing to accept me for who I am, rather than trying to bend me to his way of thinking, like some of my other cousins have done.

Before she went into the hospital, members of their immediate family– my cousin, his daughters, baby granddaughter, and their significant others, gathered around in t-shirts they had made. They held up signs of support for my cousin’s wife, who was smiling in her wheelchair. She’s still a very beautiful woman, and although I’m not close to her, I have always liked her. I admire how close she is with her daughters. She and my cousin just celebrated 37 years of marriage.

It occurred to me that if I had a brain tumor, it’s likely Bill would be taking care of me alone. Even if I were in the United States, I’m not very close to my immediate family. My sisters are much older and spread out around the country. We have never been the type to wear matching t-shirts or study the Bible together. In fact, I rarely talk to my sisters beyond birthday greetings and the odd private message from one of them.

I’m not sure I’d want my family wearing matching t-shirts if I had to go into the hospital… I doubt I’d want pictures, either, although maybe loved ones would. I don’t know how many loved ones I really have, though. Like I said, I’m not that close to my family anymore. Physically, I’m distant, and emotionally, I am, too.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be one of those people who hangs around for a long time. I could be wrong… in fact, I kind of hope I am. But I doubt there will ever be a need for people to rally prayers for me. Even if they did, it would seem uncomfortable and strange to me. Some people might say that because of my lack of a need for “redemption”, I might not be heading north when the time comes for me to depart this life. In fact, I have a feeling some of my family members might even think that about me. I don’t feel like I belong with them anymore.

I look at Ex and see all of the damage she’s wrought, not just to herself and her immediate family, but also to so many other people. I see her spreading lies and promoting a facade, and I don’t feel like she’s worthy of redemption. I’d sooner wish for a convict to be redeemed than my husband’s former wife. That’s probably because she seems to get away with a lot.

I think it may also be because I watch a lot of Snapped, and Ex reminds me of so many of the women that are on that show. To my knowledge she hasn’t killed anyone yet, but Bill told me, more than once, that she had said she should kill him… usually when she thought he was sleeping. And now, I see her using people, just like she always does, for her own personal gain, and not being held accountable for it at all. Every time I try not to care about her, I get dragged back into the mire by something else she does.

Ex is probably the kind of person who would make matching t-shirts for her family and hold up signs, in a show of solidarity… but that’s all it would be. A big show. I don’t think my relatives are putting on a show. I know they love and care for each other deeply, and I admire that… although I don’t feel all that comfortable with it myself. They’re really into church. I am really NOT into church, except the less intense, more secular/social version of it. Ex used to be into Mormonism, but apparently only goes now when she needs something.

I often look at some of my family members and wonder how we ended up related. I seem to have taken after my mom’s side of the family, except for my tendency to be outspoken, funny, and musical. My dad’s family is a lot of fun… but they pray a lot. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve never really felt that kind of spirit myself. I feel a different kind of spirit, I guess.

I know I’m a hypocrite, because I don’t think I’ll ever see Ex as worthy of redemption. I know I should. Bill’s daughter, who has really suffered due to Ex, has outwardly said she tries to be forgiving and understanding. That’s her mom, of course, but she has suffered more because of Ex than I ever will or could. Even Bill has basic forgiveness for Ex… but when it comes to her, my heart stays pretty hard. I am sorry she was abused, and I have basic empathy for the bad things that put her at a disadvantage when she was young. But she never seems to learn from her mistakes and do any serious work toward being a better person. She was hospitalized for mental health issues, yet she still exploits anyone close to her, and she still makes terrible decisions that she puts huge pressure on other people to have to live with. Her decisions often lead to disasters, yet people still do what she says and allow her to enslave them. I don’t understand it at all, and it’s distressing to watch from the sidelines.

Anyway… I’m glad I learned “Redemption Song” today. I still need to practice it a lot, but once I get it down, it’ll be a good chestnut. I could probably have it pretty well wired in a few days if I work at it. I’m glad for that, but learning that song also gave me food for thought before I wrote today’s fresh post. Before my lesson, I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what to write about and was considering taking a one day sabbatical.

In unrelated news… our robotic lawnmower isn’t working properly. Bill spent a couple of hours re-laying the boundary wire in our back yard, because the robot keeps giving us fault loop errors. Now, I’m wondering if the power supply is malfunctioning. I kind of wish I’d just bought a regular mower a couple of years ago, but I have to admit I like the robot and I hate mowing. Hopefully, we can figure it out soon, so I won’t have to keep using the weed whacker to cut the grass.

Today’s featured photo is one of some horses that escaped their pasture and ran through a village… Bill and I looked at renting a house near where they were. It doesn’t have much to do with the post. I just think it’s a cool photo and I don’t feel like finding something more appropriate.

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Ex, family, LDS, mental health

Finally hearing each other…

This morning, Bill told me that his daughter sent him a long email. It was mostly about how her little daughter is doing with some physical therapy she needs. She also had tubes put in her ears, which has made it a lot easier for her to hear. The baby is now a lot less temperamental. In fact, Bill’s daughter said she had an insightful moment when she realized her daughter was basically hearing her clearly for the first time. It was probably a stunning experience for her.

I continue to be amazed, watching Bill reconnect with his daughter. For so long, we had the impression that she hated him. But once they started talking to each other, it was clear that the bond they had years ago was still there. Then they started comparing notes about what it was like to deal with Bill’s ex wife.

I know a lot of people, over the years, have gotten the idea that I’m just a bitter second wife. I guess I can’t blame people for having that impression. All most people get of our story is what I write, and I write with a bias. But, when two people who have had similar experiences with a narcissist get together and compare notes, it soon becomes a lot clearer what the problem is and who the culprit is. I may write with a bias, but what I write is based in truth, at least as I see it. And I do try to be fair as much as possible and, in fact, have even managed to change my mind about some things.

I used to feel compelled to write a lot about Ex. I saw her as someone who got away with terrible things against good people. I don’t feel compelled to write about her very much now. Because now I see that she isn’t getting away with anything, really. Sooner or later, the truth always emerges. I knew it eventually would in this case, too.

I’ve also found that the animosity I had toward Mormonism has also dissipated somewhat. I no longer feel nearly as angry at the church as I used to, mainly because the church helped fix this situation. Good people in the church helped Bill’s daughter leave a terrible situation. While I think she could have found help from many other sources, the Mormons were there for her. She’s comfortable with the religion. I don’t agree with a lot of the church’s beliefs or practices, but I have respect for the fact that church members did some good for Bill’s daughter. And I laugh a bit, since it was Ex that introduced the church to Bill’s kids in the first place, and used it as a means of alienating them from him. Now, that plan has backfired, as many of her harebrained plans eventually do.

Younger daughter has turned out to be a very kind, insightful, and unusually empathetic person. I didn’t see these tendencies in her when she was younger, but I guess she must have had them. And, of course, I was never allowed to get close to her anyway. The image that was projected to us was one that made her look a lot like her mother. But she’s not like her at all. I’m sure what we saw was carefully crafted to discourage others from throwing her a life ring out of the situation she was in.

When she and Bill visited earlier this year, they talked for hours. They compared experiences. She wanted to know about some painful things… although she doesn’t even know the half of what happened. But even as she was asking about those things, she recognized that talking about them might be painful for Bill. She even realized that he was a victim of domestic violence, which really impresses me. And she has said outright that she wants to avoid continuing the cycle of destruction and abuse.

Switching gears here… it just occurred to me that our new dog, Noyzi, could almost be a metaphor for what Bill has experienced with his daughter. Here he is, this very sweet dog born on the streets of Kosovo, a country where dogs aren’t necessarily adored like they are in Germany and the United States. When we first got Noyzi, he was so afraid of everything. He didn’t understand anything at all. He bumped into glass doors, because he’d never seen them before. He shied away from Bill and me, and didn’t want to eat or walk on a leash. In fact, his first day here, he didn’t want to come inside.

As time passed, he started to get used to life with us. It took him no time to realize that being in a house is a good thing. He quickly claimed his bed, as well as a spot by the loveseat, where I usually sit to do my jigsaw puzzles. He loves trying different foods and always accepts them gratefully and politely. He’s still terrified of Bill, but he makes progress every day.

It’s not unlike watching Bill rekindle his relationship with his daughter. It started very tentatively and has developed into something beautiful. And there’s new progress every day. It won’t be long until those old fears will be replaced by good memories and love. It’s so rewarding to work with him. Likewise, it’s so rewarding to see Bill and his daughter heal their relationship.

I watch a lot of videos about narcissism on YouTube. I’ve found several good channels. I like the ones in which the tone taken is one of empathy and kindness, even though I will admit my basic instinct is anger. Narcissistic people and others with character disorders are typically very abusive people who lack empathy. It’s hard to maintain empathy for people who have none, but I think it’s important to try. Otherwise, we aren’t much better than they are.

I have been feeling somewhat more peaceful lately. I haven’t forgotten anything, but I’m a lot less angry. When I see things evolving the way they always eventually do, it makes me feel better. The truth always comes out eventually. It may take years, but eventually, the jig will be up. And while I don’t take pleasure in seeing people suffer, I do think that bad behavior has to be addressed somehow.

Narcissists hate to lose. Just watch Donald Trump’s behavior as he’s being forced to reconcile the fact that he is about to be kicked out of power. But inevitably, they lose. Inevitably, their behavior causes them to be kicked to the curb. I find as I get older, I’m quicker at spotting them and have less patience for tolerating them. I think younger daughter is going to be even less tolerant at a much younger age. I applaud her for that.

Just as Bill’s granddaughter is finally hearing her mom clearly, Bill and his daughter are hearing each other, too. They’re learning new things, comparing notes, trusting and growing. And Noyzi is hearing kindness and love, and is learning to trust and grow. These are really good things. So that’s my positive post for today. Now, to get on with some music.

P.S. The featured photo has nothing to do with this post, but everything to do with how I’m about to start feeling.

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Ex

And I thank you…

This morning, I’m listening to vintage Bonnie Raitt. In my enormous CD collection, most of which is in storage in Texas, I own a copy of Bonnie’s 1979 album, The Glow. I was 7 years old in 1979 and didn’t become acquainted with Bonnie’s genius until I was a lot older. She really got popular when I was in college with songs like “Nick of Time” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. But thanks to my work at the campus radio station, I became familiar with her “greatest hits” compilation, Classics. That’s where I got an inkling of what a versatile artist she is. I discovered that I appreciated her bluesy stuff even more than her pop hits. I became a fan. So one day, when I saw The Glow on sale at my favorite CD shop, I bought it.

That album had Bonnie’s funky cover of the song, “I Thank You”, a number that has been done by many, many different artists, from Sam & Dave to ZZ Top. I was most familiar with ZZ Top’s version of the song, but I recognized it when Bonnie sang it. I had that song in mind this morning as I sat down to write this post. But as I was looking for a good video, I stumbled across another song by Bonnie called “Thank You”. It appeared on her 1971 self-titled album. After listening to the lyrics, I decided that it was a more appropriate choice for this post. “I Thank You” has romantic overtones, but “Thank You” is just about pure love and gratitude. And that’s what today’s post is about.

Sittin’ here thinking, baby, about you
I’m wonderin’ how I ever got through my life without you
Days passed me by and left my life somewhere behind
Games I was trying left me old before my time
You came into my life almost like you knew
The time was running out I came running home with you
You taught me how to love you
You helped me to believe
You could even love me
I was all you’d ever need
Sometimes when you’re sleepin’
I wonder if its true
I’m afraid they’ll come and take away this precious dream with you
Then you wake and hold me and love me through the night
Then I’ll know that somehow everything will be alright
Thank you baby, for giving me my life
I love you honey, you’ve given me my life
Thank you baby, for giving me my life

Bill came home last night. He was exhausted after many hours of travel that started Monday morning. He boarded a plane in Salt Lake City and flew to Las Vegas. After hanging out in the airport all day, he got on another flight from Vegas to London. That took eleven or twelve hours. Then finally, on Tuesday evening, he boarded another flight from London to Frankfurt. How he was still conscious last night, I’ll never know. I’m glad he took a taxi home.

Arran was delighted to see him. All week, he’s been waiting for his favorite person to come home. There were a couple of nights at about five o’clock, he’d patiently wait in the foyer for Bill. He was disappointed when Bill didn’t show up. When Bill finally walked through the door at about eleven o’clock last night, Arran joyfully ran down the steps to welcome him home. I was delighted to see Bill, too. We enjoyed a long hug and he cried a little. He’s been crying a lot over the past few days.

A few weeks ago, when Bill told me he had to go to Vegas on business, I suggested that he try to go see his younger daughter. They’ve been Skyping for the past three years, but Saturday morning was the first time he’d seen her in the flesh since 2004. I hate it when he goes on TDYs, especially when they’re in a different time zone. I definitely didn’t want to extend Bill’s time away, but I figured it was a great opportunity for him to finally see his daughter in person. It’s not so hard to reach Utah from Nevada.

Bill’s daughter had initially wanted us all to meet up for a holiday visit, but I knew that they needed to have some time together alone, because they had a lot to talk about… stuff that doesn’t involve me. I also thought it would be better if they did it on a regular day, rather than a holiday. Holidays often prompt high expectations that are rarely met. I didn’t want a holiday to be ruined if their meeting didn’t go well. Also, I wasn’t in Bill’s life for the first six years of younger daughter’s life, and though I’ve heard a whole lot of stories from Bill’s perspective, I didn’t know anything about younger daughter’s. I’ve also never met Ex in person, so I have a limited perspective of what she’s really like. What I know about her is reason enough to stay clear of her. Bill and his daughter needed to be able to clear the air without interference from anyone else. Younger daughter’s husband was great about that. He took care of the kids so that Bill and his daughter could bond.

Bill described the meeting. He knocked on the door and she opened it… and they hugged for a really long time. He said it felt like a little girl who was missing her daddy… and there was no awkwardness. As he was describing their first looks at each other, I was reminded of the day I met Bill for the first time. The circumstances were eerily similar. We’d been chatting online for about 18 months. He came to the city where I was studying– again, on business. Knocked on the door. I opened the door and after reaffirming that I was indeed a woman, he gave me a warm, secure hug. (Hey, it was the early days of the Internet and we’d only exchanged a couple of pictures…)

Last night, Bill gave me a thank you note that his daughter wrote to me. It was just two lines. She thanked me for being so good to her dad and added that she could see that he’s happy. And she wrote that she knew I’d helped him. After I read it, I was deeply moved. Then I remembered that Bill gave me a thank you note after our first date. She’s definitely his kid. She’s kind, thoughtful, and extremely empathetic… rare and precious qualities that she shares with her dad.

I remember in May 2001, when we met in person for the first time, Bill and I enjoyed a couple of dates. He stayed in a hotel room and we went out to dinner one night, then had a picnic the next day. In those days, Bill was really broke and couldn’t afford to wine and dine me. He was also a practicing Mormon, but didn’t mind that I wasn’t and wouldn’t be. We drove around Columbia, South Carolina and I showed him where I worked and where I attended classes. At the end of our visit, he handed me the thank you note and said, “It’s going to be so hard to go back to typing on the computer.”

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about him. I was very inexperienced with men and up to my ass in academics. Over time, it became obvious that I was in love with him. Then he moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to an assignment at the Pentagon. It was about a month before 9/11. Labor Day weekend that year, I invited Bill to come down to Natural Bridge, Virginia. He came down– again, stayed in a hotel– and we visited beautiful Goshen Pass and he met my grandmother, then 95 years old. When he left to go back to work at the Pentagon, Granny advised me to marry him. Then, a week later, 9/11 happened… and Bill was there for it. After that, we decided we needed to tell people we were together. We were engaged a few months later.

When Bill told his ex wife he was going to propose to me, she said, “Well, I guess now I can tell my boyfriend we can get married. He’s asked three times.” Two months later, she was remarried. Two months after that, she was pregnant, and doing her best to break Bill’s ties with his children. Ex also told her kids that Bill had cheated on her with me… even though she had moved her boyfriend into the house that Bill was paying for… and she and Bill were still married. As time went on, the girls became more and more alienated. For a few years, Bill’s ex stepson spoke to him, but that turned out to be more about money than anything else. We worried that the girls would be like their brother– although in fairness to him, he seems to have matured and turned his life around. Maybe someday he’ll reconnect, too.

We really thought the kids would never speak to him again. Younger daughter, especially, was hateful… or, at least seemed to be hateful. After awhile, I got tired of hoping for what seemed to be an impossible happy ending, and I hardened. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that Bill would reunite with his daughters, and I gave up on the idea. I got angry when younger daughter inadvertently intruded during our much anticipated 14th wedding anniversary celebration in Ireland. Bill had checked Facebook, and she turned up as a “person he might know”. I will never forget the look of shock and grief on his face when he saw his daughter listed as “someone he might know”. I really resented it, because the last we’d heard from her, was basically a Mormon version of “fuck you”. It was, yet again, another intrusion during a special event from people who supposedly hated Bill. I knew he didn’t deserve their hatred and disrespect, and I refused to tolerate it. I just wanted them all to go away, once and for all, and leave us alone.

A few months later, Bill’s dad and stepmother lost their dog to old age. Younger daughter expressed condolences on Facebook. Bill tentatively greeted her. They started chatting and emailing. I was suspicious at first. I worried that she’d be like her mother. All indications before then were that she was like her. We’d already been through so much pain… and Bill had agonized so much for so many years. I simply wanted it to end.

Last night, I told Bill that life with his ex wife must be like an especially sick version of Three’s Company, where everyone operates on the basis of a misunderstanding. She spins everything, triangulates, and makes it impossible for anyone to compare notes and know what’s really going on. It may seem cold of me, but I got to the point at which I just didn’t want to play the game anymore. I have my own baggage stemming from my upbringing, and this was a lot to deal with. So I just gave up hope of connecting with Bill’s daughters out of self-preservation. It was easier for me, since I was never allowed to have a relationship with them.

Fortunately, I was wrong about younger daughter. Turns out, she’s Bill’s kid through and through. She eventually realized that her mother is toxic and, at age 18, was more than ready to move out of her mother’s house. She noticed how many times her mother and grandmother had married… and how utterly screwed up their lives were. And, with surprising courage and resilience, and a lot of help from Mormons, younger daughter moved to Utah and started college. She arrived there with nothing, because Ex would not make it easy for her. In fact… it was much like it was for Bill in 1999, when he and his ex wife split. He left with the clothes on his back. So it was for younger daughter. And, like it was for Bill, she felt a lot better once she was out of that environment, even though she had no money or help from her parents.

Bill discovered that younger daughter had wanted to reconnect with him for years, but she was terrified that he would reject her. Likewise, Bill had been reading younger daughter’s blog and wanted to comment, but was afraid he’d be blocked. Indeed, Ex apparently found out Bill was reading and shut the blog down for awhile. Ex was afraid Bill would try to “steal” his daughters from her. Ex thinks of her children as possessions that can be “stolen”, rather than their own people. She had a similar reaction when younger daughter met her husband. She tried very hard to break them up. This is what happens to anyone in Ex’s sphere. She has to control everything.

I password protected my initial reactions to what Bill discovered during his visit because as visceral and raw as some of my posts have been about this situation, I was even angrier about things that came to light over the weekend. And, because I now have great respect for younger daughter, I didn’t want those very personal and profane words out in the open where her mother could read them. I know she’s read my blogs. I don’t really care if she knows that I think she’s a massive cunt. That’s a given. But I don’t feel that way about younger daughter… and also, I didn’t want to field commentary from those who don’t know the situation and want to blame this whole thing on me. I’ll admit, I’m not always likable and I am far from perfect, but this situation is entirely on Ex. I’ll take ownership of things that are my fault. I have only met Bill’s daughters once, and though I have kept my distance, I have never discouraged him from seeing or talking to them. That’s not my place.

I don’t know Bill’s daughters. I wanted to know them, but they were very convincing when they sent letters disowning him. We had a feeling the letters he received in 2006 were coached, but they were coupled with the way the girls behaved the last time Bill saw them in person. During that visit in 2004, younger daughter would barely look at Bill, let alone speak to him. So we believed her when she wrote that she didn’t care about him and that she preferred her stepfather– her “everyday daddy”– to be her dad. It’s now very clear that the whole thing was bullshit entirely orchestrated by her paranoid and selfish mother.

Bill came home emotionally and physically exhausted… but I think, overall, his visit to Utah was life changing. I’m glad I encouraged him to visit his child… and meet his adorable grandchildren. His grandson looks a lot like him. And… I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about everything, but when Bill handed me that two sentence thank you note from his daughter, it was as if the last seventeen years of pain regarding their situation just melted away. It’s amazing how little it takes to forgive someone when you know they are sincere. I know younger daughter is sincere. It makes me feel so good to know that Bill has passed on his goodness to another generation.

I was so wrong about younger daughter. I’m really glad I was. I hope now we can get to know each other. And now that I know a little bit more about the whole situation– including that of older daughter’s– I have a lot more empathy and respect for them.

I know some people have felt I was overly harsh regarding this situation. I know I was. But you have to understand the person we were up against. I have never met anyone as cruel, destructive, selfish, and ultimately stupid, as Bill’s ex wife is. We simply didn’t know if her daughters were going to be like her, or if they were going to be like their real father. I’m relieved to know that Bill imprinted them more than we knew… and despite what Ex has said, they never forgot him. And, for that, I am thankful. I’m glad we stuck it out and Bill trusted his daughter more than I did. But that’s only natural, because he knows them and I don’t. Maybe someday, we can change that.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that today is Ex’s birthday. I’m glad this year, her daughter gave herself a present by finally seeing her dad.

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Ex, Memes

Loving “unconditionally”… is it really possible?

My good friend Audra shared this post yesterday. It made me stop and ponder.

I know why she shared it…

I know why Audra shared that post. It’s easy to see why. If you’ve ever had dealings with a narcissist or otherwise personality disordered person, you may come away from the experience completely shellshocked. A lot of people have trouble recovering from abusive relationships. What makes recovery especially difficult is that abusers never acknowledge the trauma they inflict on their victims. They lack empathy. Completely selfish and callous, abusive people act as if the people in their lives are totally expendable. If you’ve fallen prey to an abuser, you have no doubt felt unvalued and ignored. That’s not a nice feeling.

Many people, in the wake of an abusive relationship, resolve to be smarter and tougher. Some of them look at the patterns of behavior that led them into the abuser’s clutches in the first place. Sometimes they share well-meaning memes like the one above, which on the surface, seem to make sense. However, since I am a bit of a word nerd, I have issues with the adverb, “unconditionally”.

According to dictionary.com, the word “unconditionally” means absolute, and without limitations. A person who does something unconditionally, does it with unwavering devotion, no matter what. It sounds good, doesn’t it? However, since absolutely no one is perfect, I don’t think it’s possible for most people to truly love unconditionally. Everyone has a red line, and that is not a bad thing. The closest a person might come is perhaps in a parent/child relationship, but even parent/child relationships can be fractured when one person does something egregiously awful.

Let me put it this way. Let’s say you have a dear friend from childhood. You know each other extremely well and you think you love your friend “unconditionally”. This means that you love him or her regardless of anything he or she says or does. You think there is no limit to your love. This person can do no wrong. You assume that friend has those same feelings for you.

Then, one day, you come home and find your good friend standing next to your dead dog, smiling. You can see the dog suffered before its demise. Your friend, who has never done anything like this before, looks jubilant and asks you if you’d like to have lunch. You react with shock.

“What the hell happened here?” you ask, completely aghast.

Your friend, whom you love unconditionally, says that he or she suddenly got the urge to torture and kill your dog. Knowing you love them unconditionally and will forgive them no matter what, he or she grabbed a shovel and bashed the dog’s brains in just before you came home from work. Then, as you stood there in shock, your friend gleefully described the dog’s prolonged suffering as it slowly died. Ten minutes prior to finding the bloody scene, you thought you loved your friend “unconditionally”. Can you say with certainty you’d still feel that way after your friend’s sudden act of violence, even if it was the first time it happened? What if your friend was later diagnosed with a mental disorder. Would that make what he or she did more acceptable?

What if the situation were reversed? What if you had someone loving you unconditionally and you really messed up somehow. It could even be by accident. What if you had a major lapse in judgment that resulted in severe injury or even death? What if you accidentally killed their parent or child? Would you really expect the other person to keep loving you without measure or conditions?

“Loving unconditionally” sounds like a nice idea. I just don’t think it’s possible or even healthy for the vast majority of people, even the most accepting and loving ones. My husband, Bill, is truly one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving people I have ever met. But even he has his limits. He tried to love his ex wife without condition. She did not return that love. I don’t know why. She might not have been capable of loving him. But it seems to me that requiring someone to love unconditionally, which was one thing she did try to require of Bill, means that she must be willing to do the same. She couldn’t do it. In retrospect, neither could he. When she repeatedly debased and humiliated Bill, he began to withdraw from the relationship. Loving her “unconditionally” would have required him to keep adoring her, despite the abuse. As a person with a healthy sense of self-preservation, he couldn’t continue the relationship. I, for one, am delighted that he couldn’t stay with his ex wife.

Even non-abusive people have different ideas as to what loving “unconditionally” means. Moreover, if you expect to be loved “unconditionally”, then you must also love that way. Ask yourself if it’s possible for you to truly love unconditionally, no matter what. I think if you really consider what that means, you’ll find that you can’t, and probably really shouldn’t do it, although many people might come close to loving their parents or children “unconditionally”.

Sometimes dogs can love unconditionally. They don’t care what you’ve said or done. That’s why they make such good therapists. Dogs, and other pets, don’t judge. They don’t have a concept of judgment and they don’t have egos that get in the way. It’s much easier for a dog to forgive and forget than a person. But actually, come to think of it, not even all dogs can love unconditionally. A really abused dog will remember that abuse and not trust. But they’re probably better at unconditional love than most humans are.

Is it really possible to “love unconditionally”? I don’t think so. I think I’d change that meme to one that says, in essence, don’t waste your time on people who don’t value you. It’s not as catchy, but I think it works better.

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