Now the healing begins…

I was tempted to give this post a provocative title. People who know me offline, know that I often say shocking things. It’s a habit that people tend to either love or hate. Some people think my penchant for being shocking and gross is hilarious. Others disdain it and consider it a tasteless, vulgar habit. Personally, I think it’s more of my form of rebellion. I was encouraged to be classy and ladylike when I was growing up, although looking back on it, I didn’t have that many examples to follow. So here I am…

Last night, as I was eagerly waiting for Joe Biden’s inauguration, I ran across an article posted by Rachel Maddow, a journalist whose wit has really enchanted me over the past couple of years. The article was about “draining the swamp”– as in, Trump rolling back one of his very first policies from 2017. You see, when he was first installed as 45, Trump made a big deal out of a policy that would forbid “executive branch employees from lobbying any agency where they had served for five years after leaving office.” The order also instituted a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government.

But then, in the wee hours of the morning– 1:07am, to be exact– Trump reversed that order. So now, people who are newly disenfranchised thanks to Biden’s inauguration can go for those lobbying jobs to their hearts’ content.

I don’t really care too much about that particular policy. It’s not something that affects me personally, except to point out, yet again, that Trump doesn’t honor his promises. That’s not a new or earth shattering revelation, though. What inspired me was the image of “draining the swamp”. It made me think of a painful, infected, inflamed, oozing sore. So I left this comment on Rachel Maddow’s page.


I actually know of what I write. Back in 1996, when I was about halfway through my Peace Corps service, I got a very painful abscess under my arm. It was probably because I got a cut shaving under there. It was the first of quite a few somewhat serious skin infections I suffered from June 1996 until May 1998. I had cellulitis diagnosed three times, but if I’m honest, I probably had it at least five times. Twice, I didn’t go to the doctor for treatment because I didn’t have the money to go and it was located in an embarrassing place (right over my butt crack).

I’m pretty certain I somehow picked up a staph aureus germ while I was abroad. I’d get an infection. It would fester and swell, then burst and heal. Then I’d get another one. Fortunately, I didn’t get sick in either of the cases in which I didn’t see a doctor. But then one day, my luck ran out, and I finally did get an infection that made me really ill, to the point at which I had to go to the emergency room in Gloucester, Virginia. It was on my stomach. I watched as it went from being the size of a 50 cent piece to the size of my hand. I developed a high fever and was in extreme pain. It was probably the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.

I remember going to the hospital in hysterical tears. I cried as I showed the nurse the infection, which was hot, red, and burning with pain. I remember her shaking her head and saying, “Oh my God. That’s got to hurt.” Not long after that, I was hooked up to an IV, getting very powerful antibiotics. When the bag was empty, I felt so much better. My fever went down. The chills stopped. The pain grew much duller. As the days passed, the infection completely cleared, and I was as good as new… at least until the next time I got cellulitis.

Cellulitis causes a really nasty, painful, dangerous infection. It forms deep in the skin and causes searing pain, high fevers, inflammation, and swelling. When it clears, it drains thick, brown, foul smelling, oily pus, that is really messy, sticky, and disgusting and leaves an empty pocket beneath the skin. Sometimes it’s bad enough that you have to be hospitalized to get over it. The second time I got it, I had it on my face. I looked like the Elephant Man, and my doctor wanted to admit me to the hospital. He was worried that my eyesight or even my life could be in danger from the infection. Fortunately, I got better without being hospitalized, but I was left with a scar on my cheek.

I got treated three times before I finally stopped getting those serious infections. The first two times, I had to take very powerful, expensive antibiotics that gave me yeast infections. But the third time, the infection wasn’t so bad and I got well quicker. It was the last time I ever got cellulitis, and I finally went on to recover for good. I remember during that time, I also finally addressed the depression and anxiety that had plagued me for years. It was the start of a much better life for me. I started to heal.

Yesterday’s inauguration reminds me a little bit of that serious infection, and finally getting the cure. I don’t tend to watch inaugurations. In the past, they didn’t interest me. Like a lot of people, I was pretty complacent about politics. I always had the feeling that the “new boss” was the same as the “old boss”. I guess if there’s one thing good that came out of Trump’s presidency, it’s that he jarred a lot of people like me out of complacency.

I teared up watching Joe Biden becoming our 46th president. It’s not because I am particularly enthusiastic about him. I have never followed his career and I don’t think he would have been my choice for a candidate. But I have to say that listening to him speak yesterday was a real pleasure. I felt kind of like I did after I got those powerful antibiotics that started to clear the infection that made me so sick. I felt like maybe healing was possible, even if we have to go through some unpleasant and expensive treatments to get there.

Of course, I’ve already lost some friends. Some of my relatives don’t speak to me anymore because I’m not a Trump fan. This morning, I lost an old friend because I expressed basic empathy for Mike Pence, even though I certainly don’t agree with his politics and would never vote for him. But if Mike Pence hadn’t done his duty and stayed faithful to his oath to support and defend the Constitution, yesterday might not have happened. If he had gone along with Trump’s wishes and given in to the threats of the Proud Boys and QAnon, where would we be today? Maybe yesterday still would have happened, but it would have been much harder to pull off. So I am grateful to Mr. Pence for doing his duty, even if I disagree with his political views.

Well worth watching.

Dr. Ramani, in the above video, makes a lot of sense… although perhaps some people think that by recognizing humanity in Pence that I’m enabling their abuser. I’m not, though. I simply recognize that Pence has spent four years trying to work with a narcissist. It doesn’t mean I excuse him for his policies or that I’m a fan of his. It means that I have some basic empathy for him and appreciation that ultimately, he didn’t follow Trump when he was under tremendous pressure to do so.

I guess losing friends and relatives is part of this process of healing. At least I know I’m not the only one, draining the festering abscess of the past few years. I know that recovery won’t be cheap or easy. But I have hope that it will finally begin, if only because we have someone in charge who is an adult with empathy. I have no delusions that the QAnon wackos and Proud Boys are vanquished. I’m sure they’re waiting in the wings, ready to strike. I’m sure Trump’s successor is being trained up and will be ready to attack when the time is right. We have to stay vigilant. But it’s nice to finally have hope.

I also know, having watched Bill deal with narcissists and having experienced dealing with them myself, that what Pence did was actually pretty brave. I know that after he refused to do Trump’s bidding and made him look like a fool to his followers, he became Trump’s mortal enemy. You can rest assured that Pence is now dead to Trump. He won’t ever be forgiven. Maybe some people think Pence deserves that treatment for signing up with Trump in the first place. But most people don’t understand that narcissists are not normal people. Pence probably thought he could change Trump or handle him. He probably thought Trump would drop out and he would take over the presidency. He was duped, like a lot of people were.

I do feel better today, even if some people don’t like me anymore. It’s not like I haven’t been through that before, though… I will survive, stronger, healthier, and maybe with a fresh battle scar or two. I know some people are sad about Biden being our new president. Some people are legitimately frightened, mainly because they’ve been misled into believing conspiracy theories. But others, like me, are very hopeful for healing, messy and painful as it might be.

Bill, family, Trump

Things are getting pretty surreal…

I’m not surprised that things are surreal… Trump is doing all he can to hold on to his power and people in his base are talking about taking extreme measures to keep him in power. And yet it’s very clear that Trump has lost the election and will be forced to leave the White House. Biden is projecting calmness and maturity and other world leaders are looking to him. News sources are showing less Trump more Biden as Trump continues to whine about non-existent fraud and refuses to cooperate with the transition. It feels a lot like breaking up with a narcissist.

To be clear, I never dated or married a narcissist. Bill did, and she employed similarly “nuclear” tactics on a much smaller scale. The damage was pretty extensive and extraordinary and the bitterness lasted for many years. It’s really only been in the last few years that things have started healing.

My husband spoke to his daughter the other night, just before we knew his dad had passed away. She wisely brought up the logistics of going to Ray’s funeral and how it won’t be possible for a lot of people who otherwise would have gone, mainly due to the raging global pandemic. This is a scenario we never could have foreseen even a year ago. I have been wondering how the inevitable funeral for Bill’s dad would happen. Now, it appears it will happen without Bill due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

Last night, Bill got an email from his daughter and she made it clear that she could now see how the explosion of her parents’ marriage had affected so many people. It didn’t have to be this way. I think younger daughter now sees more of the truth, which often happens as people grow up and their perspectives broaden.

The same is going on as Trump is forced to reckon with the realization that he has lost. I have read articles about how he’s now talking about a run in 2024. God help us! But I think it won’t happen because there are other people who want to run… people who hitched themselves to Trump’s star in a bid to further their own careers. And once Trump is cast out of power, he’s only going to find allies in true right wing nutjobs who continue to worship him despite his tantrums. This is what tends to happen to narcissistic types in the long run. They typically don’t have a pleasant end.

I am hoping the garden variety conservatives who supported Trump have had their eyes opened. I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on how “dirty” the Democrats are. I won’t argue with that point. Pretty much all politicians lie and make deals. It comes with the territory. But there are definitely degrees of depravity. I never saw Obama stoop to the levels that Trump has. I never even saw either of the Bushes doing that… or Bill Clinton. Trump is truly in a class by himself, and it’s alarming how much he has divided the people. It’s not unlike a really nasty divorce, complete with false accusations, DARVO, and gnashing of the teeth. It’s embarrassing and horrifying to watch, even from abroad.

Last night, I read a rather poignant opinion piece on CNN written by Richard L. Eldridge, a journalist whose family pretty much disowned him over his negative views of Donald Trump. I could really relate to what Mr. Eldridge wrote, especially these parts:

“Over our love-filled 50-year bond, you chose a hate-filled New York millionaire who has never spent a moment with you, cried with one of you when your dad died, hugged another of you at your mom’s funeral or otherwise cared about you.

I know his supporters, you included, see the version of Trump he claims to be. Here is who I see. A man under seemingly constant investigation while in office. A man who brags about grabbing women by their genitals. A man who — though he denies it — others say calls members of our military “losers” and “suckers.” A morally bankrupt, impeached and now lame duck President.

A man who refers to members of the press — my chosen profession for the past three decades — as “enemies of the people.” A man who mocks the disabled, who basks in the adoration of a crowd chanting his name as he engages in cruelty.”

This is what divorcing a malignant narcissist looks like. When you break up with one, they become very nasty. That’s stressful enough when it happens in a one on one relationship. It’s especially horrifying when the malignant narcissist happens to be a world leader who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. I suspect the coming days will be very scary and surreal, and I pray that people with decency and integrity do what is necessary to contain Trump and his minions before much more damage is done and we become a nation that is literally divided, much like my husband’s family was. If that happens, we most likely won’t be reuniting after fifteen years of silence.

As for my father-in-law… I really wish there was a way we could have been there for him and his wife. I am hoping the funeral can somehow be Zoomed or at least recorded for Bill. He truly adored his father, who was a man worth adoring. It’s breaking his heart that he can’t be at the funeral. At the same time, this morning he told me that he was glad he was with me instead of his ex wife, who would be making the whole thing about her and forcing Bill to calm her hysterics rather than giving him the support he needs and deserves.

I think America needs calmness, love, and support, too… It’s nice to see leaders of more sensible nations offering it to Biden in the hopes that we can all come together and live peacefully. I’m going to try not to be distracted by Trump’s tantrums or disturbed by the delusions of his base… but I can’t help but be very concerned about what’s going to happen before January.

Mary Trump talks frankly with Katie Couric about her uncle’s loss.
music, social media, videos

Someone you might know…

Last night, around dinner time, I played my latest recording for Bill. I almost always cringe when I hear my voice, because I always hear things I would like to have done differently. But Bill likes my efforts, and I knew he would especially enjoy the video I made for “Sand and Water” because it was made with footage from our trip to Ireland in 2016.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile and followed me on Blogspot may remember that November 2016 was kind of an interesting time for many reasons. It was when Trump was elected, so people were on edge about that. I remember arguing with some of my friends and relatives about Trump at that time. Eventually, a lot of those people– my loved ones– showed sides of themselves I didn’t like. I deleted a lot of them from social media. I also learned that month that our beloved beagle, Zane, had mast cell cancer. The diagnosis came right before our anniversary. Arran had also had a mast cell tumor removed, but his never really affected him. Zane had more trouble with the disease and eventually succumbed to lymphoma last year. Many dogs who have had mast cell tumors go on to get lymphoma. In 2016, he had about three years left, but I didn’t know that, and I was very stressed.

November 2016 was also when went to Ireland for our fourteenth wedding anniversary. Bill had been there before, but if I had ever been, it was during a time when I was too young to remember. That anniversary trip was our first time in Ireland together, and, for many reasons, it was a trip we had long awaited. At that time, we still thought Bill was more Irish than I am, although 23andMe and both debunked that notion. It turns out my people are apparently mostly all from Britain and Ireland, with a smidge from Germany, Norway, and possibly Switzerland, while Bill has a more “colorful” ancestry.

One night during that trip, Bill’s younger daughter turned up on Facebook as “someone [he] might know”. When he saw that friend suggestion– his own daughter, whom he had not seen, talked to, or even emailed since 2004– he got a very serious and distressed expression on his face. It was the kind of expression one gets when someone important has died. I remember demanding that he tell me what was wrong. He really looked like he was very upset. Here’s an excerpt from my old blog about that incident:

So tomorrow, we’re headed back to Dublin for a night before we go back to Germany.  I will face my dogs and my never ending housework, along with Christmas decorations and everything else that goes with my existence.  We’ve had a pretty good vacation, but as it happens whenever I venture to this part of the world, something kind of bad happened tonight.

We were about to head to the pub next door when Bill checked his Facebook.  He suddenly got this stricken look on his face.  It was serious enough that I was wondering if there had been some kind of terrible accident or our country was under terrorist attack again.  I asked him what was wrong, because I was worried maybe he’d gotten a bad email about one of the dogs or a family member had died.  He didn’t want to tell me what was wrong.  I probably should have listened to him.  But I was thinking of the dogs and my worry about Zane all week, so I pressed.

He came over and showed me his Facebook feed.  There, under the “people you may know” section, was a picture of his long lost ex daughter.  She’s apparently married now, and uses her stepfather’s name and her husband’s.  Bill looked absolutely gutted, seeing a picture of her in her white dress and veil.  Naturally, because she is Mormon and Bill no longer is, he probably wouldn’t have been able to attend her wedding even if they were still speaking.  But because Bill’s ex prompted the kids to kick him out of their lives, he’s reduced to seeing them as “people you may know” on Facebook.

When I found out Bill was upset because his daughter had shown up as “someone [he] might know”, I was incensed. I know this may sound unreasonable to those who don’t know our story, but I was genuinely pissed off. At the time, younger daughter was behaving in ways that made us think she was like her mother. I resented yet another intrusion by one of Bill’s children, who refused to have anything to do with him, yet kept “popping up” during holidays and celebrations. For instance, one year, Bill called his father at Christmas to send holiday greetings, and he heard about how younger daughter didn’t want to talk to or about him. That made him cry, and Bill’s mom and I, who were due to celebrate Christmas at my sister’s house, had to calm him down. It put a damper on the holiday spirit, that’s for sure.

These kinds of “intrusions” had happened repeatedly throughout our relationship and, by 2016, I was really fed up with it. The kids had told Bill they wouldn’t speak to him again, but yet there was younger daughter… someone Bill might know on Facebook. In fact, Bill was the first person to hold her when she came out of the womb. He fed her, financially supported her, and changed her diapers. Yes, he knew her. But, at that point in time, she wouldn’t deign to so much as say hello to him. So yes, I was pissed… because we were in Ireland, where it was so beautiful and we were celebrating surviving 14 years of this kind of treatment. I wondered why she hadn’t blocked him.

Not long after that trip, Bill and his daughter started to message each other on Facebook. Bill had left her a tentative comment on condolences she’d left for Bill’s stepmom after their dog died. That opened the door for the communications to begin. At first, they kept it very superficial and light. They slowly got reacquainted. Bill even kept it from me for awhile because he didn’t want me to get angry.

Then they started emailing. At around this time, Bill told me they were in touch. Then, they Skyped. Bill said the first time they Skyped and his daughter saw him on video, she put her hand to her mouth and gasped. He looked so much like her beloved “Pawpaw” (Bill’s dad). Personally, I think Bill looks more like his mother, another relative younger daughter didn’t know, because her mother hates Bill’s mom. Bill’s mom was cut out of her granddaughters’ lives a few years before Bill lost touch with them. Younger daughter has since reconnected with her “grandmaMAH”!

In March of this year, Bill finally saw one of his two beloved children. He had a business trip in Vegas, and I told him that I thought he should take the opportunity to visit Utah and see his daughter, even though it would extend his trip. Bill went, and they spent two solid days talking and clearing up many years of lies and misunderstandings. Bill learned some pretty awful truths about what happened during the years they were apart. He found out that his daughter is much like he is. In fact, when she opened the door, younger daughter and Bill embraced for a very long time… and the two of them shed a lot of tears as they worked to undo all of the years of damage done to their relationship.

So last night, when I was playing “Sand and Water”, which is a very moving song that I paired with video from that Ireland trip, Bill’s heart overflowed with emotion. His eyes welled up with tears and he said, “We’ve taken so many great trips and seen so many things, all of which you’ve chronicled in pictures, videos, and writing. For so long, I thought our memories would die with us… and now I know they won’t.”

I’ve often wondered how it must have felt for Bill to be separated from his children for so long. His older daughter remains estranged, although we have heard that she knows her mother has problems. Younger daughter has made it clear that she knows her mom told her many lies. She has suffered quite a bit, and I wonder if Bill’s visit didn’t cause some angst for her. As good as it was for them to reconnect, I’m sure it brought up some uncomfortable issues that, at one time, she could easily cover up with her mother’s half baked stories. She and her sister were told that Bill chose to abandon the family and that he cheated on their mother with me. None of that was true, but I’m sure it made it easier for them to accept that he wasn’t there for them. Now she knows the truth, and it’s probably caused her some distress. It’s hard to accept that one’s mother deliberately hurts people. But she’s seen and experienced it firsthand. The truth is, Bill’s ex wife treats everyone this way eventually. She’s a cruel person.

But when we were in Ireland, I still didn’t know. I didn’t know the truth, although I suspected that Bill’s children were coerced and bullied, much like Bill had been. I knew they’d been lied to, but it pissed me off that they were so ready to accept the obvious lies. I had a hard time believing that anyone could be so blind. I know better now. When people are in crisis, they don’t usually think clearly. Cognitive dissonance blurs what is painfully clear to other people. It’s also really hard to accept that the person responsible for your existence has done terrible things… and younger daughter doesn’t even know the half of what she did to Bill. But then, we don’t know the half of what Ex did to her children or their other fathers.

I remember that when we were on our way to Ireland, I told Bill I just wanted to find some peace. Ultimately, I got my wish, although it took longer than I expected. I got so angry on that trip, but I didn’t know that it would lead to reconciliation, and ultimately, the peace I sought. For so many years, I have been seething at Bill’s ex wife and their children. But now, I know more of the truth, so I finally got some peace.

Anyway… it was interesting to watch that ocean footage again. We were so lucky to find such a beautiful little cottage in rural Ireland, right by the ocean. We could watch the waves and film the beauty. I remember making the videos with my camera, wondering if I’d ever get to use them on a project. They were perfect for yesterday’s song. Maybe Bill will share it with younger daughter… although it will take some time before he can tell her everything that led up to the video. Ultimately, Facebook’s suggestion of “someone [Bill] might know” was a good one. They’re still getting to know each other better, trying to make up for many precious years of lost time.

This one made Bill cry.