Tag Archive: Gaslighting

Never Met-a-Four, They’re All Tens

That sunlit day,

when she was crowned

Miss Information

and paraded

as a matter of fact

through the streets

and on your television

did you wonder at her lies,

seductively kissed

from those gorgeous red

and unnaturally plump lips,

or were you too busy

wondering about wandering

across her hips instead?

The smell of lies

It’s not like when somebody microwaves fish at the office or when you open that plastic-ware that’s been in the fridge for five months. This is a smell that sneaks up on you, more like when there’s just a touch of mold in the blankets you left overnight in the washing machine before shoving them in the dryer anyway. It’s subtle, but once you smell it, you can’t un-smell it, and if you’re anything like me, it will drive you bonkers until you do something about it.

While I have a strong sense of smell (my husband might say overdeveloped), it took me long years to learn to smell lies. I’m a trusting soul in a sometimes-terrible world. I used to believe that things were my fault because I was told they were. It fit my distorted self-image fairly well to take the blame, but there were times when even I smelled the proverbial rat, when I knew that I’d done nothing wrong, and the confusion set in because shame told me it was all me, but my nose said wait. Something isn’t quite right here. I smell a lie. And I’m getting better with practice.

Now to the country at large. I taught my children that advertising was a way to manipulate them into buying things they didn’t need. That television in general existed to deliver those ads. Yes, there’s amazing art there, and I’m a huge fan of shows like Game of Thrones and Doctor Who so of course I watch anyway, but I do try for ad-free, knowing that “they” are already charging me for that. So manipulation by TV is nothing new to my olfactory senses. The news, like all television, has always sensationalized to some extent. But I think we can all agree that some of it stinks a lot more than it once did.

In this country, we live with 24/7 news – access to instant angst – and we pay for the pleasure. We pay for the ads, we pay for the streaming, we pay in the loss of health that living with constant stress inevitably brings, and we pay for the vodka or cake (or vodka and cake) that we use to cope with that stress at times. We also pay in the loss of whatever olfactory sense we may have for truth vs lies. Anyone old enough to remember the invention of the word “spin” may get this. While we have some incredible journalists, the people controlling the flow of information are corporations whose sworn goals are profits, not truth. Censorship is back room stuff, behind the scenes. People on “both sides” are fed this fast-food diet of fear, terror really, and blame of otherness, and some odd sense of superiority because we, we’re all told, are the only ones getting the Real Truth.

But let’s face it, sometimes we have to dig through layers of innuendo and flash to get to it, that Real Truth. And sometimes it’s not there at all unless we change the channel. Sometimes the “news” is run by hate groups, sometimes just greed, always targeted with analytics to get to you and your type. We argue over which is real (how easy it is to just yell “fake news” in a crowded theater) and create false equivalencies whenever it suits our world view. Whatever flavor of “truth” we want, we tune in, soak it up, and spit it out on Twitter as absolute fact. Only, many of us can smell the smelly lies as soon as we see them, and wonder why everyone can’t.

It’s perhaps ironic then that because of the lies, because of years and years of them, we’ve been faced with a lot of hard truths in 2017. We are not united states, or even united neighborhoods. Hate is coursing through our (sometimes former) friends and through our discourse. And it’s catching. I’ve caught it and held it, fed it with fear and fury and the helplessness of being forced to watch the people and things I love under attack by forces I can’t begin to control. But I still believe in the power of truth, and the people trying to tell it. It’s out there and we can sniff it out. That means calling out our own “side” sometimes, and standing up for others that do the same when the well-defended vitriol bounces back their way.

Look, I have a point of view about what’s going on. I know how I feel. I stand where I stand, and yes sometimes I let emotions rule over logic, or at least what’s presented as logic. I do not want my country to isolate itself, to turn its back even further on the people I was told we were here to look after. I want my melting pot back, and the belief – not yet true – that we are all equal under the law and in our hearts. But the truth is hate has always been here, and injustice rules the day, quite literally. And at this point, it’s my job, and quite frankly yours too, to point out the lies when you can stand the blow-back, to second-guess what seems too perfect a fit to our pre-conceived ideas of how things are before we post or publish them*, and to always use your nose.

Also, get some rest, take a walk outside, pet an animal, hug someone. There’s truth in that for sure.

* Like I did before adding a false claim above about a news network I detest. Yep, looked that sucker up and Snopes said nah, that’s not how it happened. Delete. Breathe. Keep sniffing.This problem is going to last for a very long time.

The giant corkscrew of life

corkscrewSometimes you just get sick of all the little lies that it takes to be around other people, all the I’m doing fine stuff, all the it’s for the best stuff. Sometimes you just remember, in what seems like an out-of-the-blue moment, that you’re pissed off. Sure maybe you’ve worked on all the mindfulness and the breathing, and the waking up and being grateful to be alive stuff. But suddenly all that seems so far off…

I’ve been a marvel at that stuff, let me tell you. I threw myself into it, learned, grew, learned more. Sure I messed up, but I could feel the progress, and people could see it. Can still see it I suppose. So I guess I was thinking I was maybe heading to the finish line you know? I’ve been to that amazing place, the one I want to just stay in for the rest of my life. That place where I’m at peace with what’s been done, at peace with my child being a stranger who somehow believes I’m worth hating, or trying to hate anyway. The place where I know she doesn’t hate me, I know, I really know. The place where I can see her father’s point of view on life and know that this, all of this, is just a symptom of the terrible hurts he’s lived with for his entire life time.

It’s really a lovely place. Only somehow I slipped out of it. I did. Maybe more like fell actually. I’m really shaking mad deep down, like war paint mad. But It will fade, I’ll get through it again, I always do, and it always gets easier. I just didn’t expect to feel the same crappy way I have so many times just as strongly after doing all that damn work and forgiving, all that breathing. And right now I can’t breathe, and I want to scream, and rip and tear, and shake the world. So naturally, that came up in counseling, heh. And I was told of course it’s natural to go through this whole cycle over and over, it’s like a corkscrew, she said. But it was unclear if I’ll eventually be able to open the wine. It seems to me that’s the point of all the work though, right? One great thing – I’m lucky enough to be reunited with my son, after a few terrible years. We’re both still healing and figuring out who we are, but we have lots of love, so that’s a great start.

Still I keep twisting my way through this angry place and I know I don’t want to stay here. I’ve seen way too many people who never get out of it, and they are dying inside. I’ve tried to pull some of them along as I corkscrewed off into better ways of coping. And even now I don’t want to join my voice to their furious chorus. I don’t want to wring my hands and go all outraged victim either. Screw that. Well, corkscrew it anyway I hope. I know the victim, and she hates me. I’m just collateral damage compared to that. I’m not that angry anymore about all I’ve lost. I mean, bullshit, of course I am, but that’s just one of those dull aches I carry under my skin, you can tell it by the dead spots like the rest of my scars.

But I am dead furious at what’s been done to her. No child should ever have to explain to one parent where the other one got the money for the new TV, or keep notes of mistakes in a journal, or lie like a trapped animal. She was well and truly trapped. I hope she’s feeling freer now. That’s all I had left to offer I guess, letting her go without calling in lawyers and screaming about *my* rights. I do have them, those rights. I’m custodial parent in the last signed legal anything. And that’s worth exactly nothing unless I decide to actually put on the war paint (spoiler alert, that won’t happen, because why make more pain, really, when there’s been so much). Oh but the way she left, no words, no confrontation, just a lie about getting help, working together, all of us for her, and then poof. Somehow everyone just made it clear she wasn’t coming back, wasn’t getting help. Somehow I just knew. Still, I didn’t think it would be two and a half years and counting… I mean, I’d been warned, but I never really believed it would go that far. Even she told me it was war. I’m just thick. Add that to the journals.

Ah, some sadness is coming back in, that’s progress. Maybe I’ll wake up less pissed tomorrow and I can get back to the kind of healing I actually enjoy. This kind sucks. But, apparently, it’s necessary. Because I guess we’re all screwed, really. We find ourselves back in the dark hallways we swore we’d never revisit. We gain back the weight, or re-lose the temper, or get afraid of elevators, or revisit the rape all over again. Yeah, cliche though it is, we handle stuff when we’re ready. I’m apparently ready to throw myself at this a bit harder this time, and maybe make even more of a mess. I’m apparently ready to talk about it more, to write about it more. I really really hope this will help me make it to that wine someday.

Watering the weeds

my gorgeous gardenia

My friend Mollie called this the world’s tiniest gardenia. But I planted it, and it sure looks huge to me!

People that know me know that I’m what you could call a “recovering doormat.” They also know that I’ve had to work very hard at getting and staying emotionally stable while learning that it’s okay to feel stuff. I spent most of my life thinking I needed a reason, an excuse, and allowing other people (let’s just call them bullies) to tell me my feelings were wrong. I thought I was crazy for even having them.

It hurts me that… No, you’re wrong. Here’s why.

I want to tell you I’m mad… No, you have no right to be mad.

Well, you get the picture. I have stuff buried all over in this blog and poetry place about my mid-life epiphany that I’m allowed to have feelings even if they have no reason whatsoever. And so are you, by the way! So now, these days, when people try to tell me I’m wrong, I actually notice it, think about it, see it for what it is (bullying and control) and then I say to myself, Self, move on. This isn’t someone who will respect you, nurture you, or even make you smile. It’s harder when it’s a relative, but life is short, and my time really is precious to me.

I spend a lot of that time lately weeding the garden. It’s not only healthy for me to be outside moving, but the results are a beautiful space full of balance and color. The weeds I toss into a heap, and that heap goes into a container, and that goes away to wherever the city takes yard waste, with my blessing. Sometimes when I’m rushed I only have time to just water everything, and when I’m watering weeds, I think about life. Yes, I think about life all the time, it’s just this happens to be about weeds. Watering weeds feels wrong to me. All that energy going to something that is trying to take over my lovely space. Energy that could go to my flowers and plants, or the veggies my husband John is growing.

That’s what it’s like trying to fix things with someone who can’t respect your feelings. Sometimes, you just need to put the hose away and stop trying to make flowers out of weeds. Yank them out and toss them in the pile. Then, look at the space you’re creating, smell the flowers, and enjoy the hell out of caring for what you love. My garden is thriving, it’s really my first year feeling this crazy passion for it, and I can’t seem to stop working on it. The birds come and eat at our restaurant and frolic in the bath, and the dogs roll in the grass, and I look around with my husband and I say, Look at what we’ve created here! It’s the same in my heart. I’m not into blooming where I’m planted, but I do love taking charge of my garden. Happy Spring!


Day 29: For today’s prompt, write a what nobody knows poem. It’s easy to write a poem about what everybody already knows, though it may be difficult to write an interesting poem about such things. Still, use today’s prompt to explore things people may not know–secret stories, locations, and so on.




Pretending reluctance, he takes hammer to marble

Chisels his truth of her into a glorious fiend

Then presents it to the audience, looking down

In a triumph of sorrow, a fait accompli


They gasp or sigh in horror or sympathy

Understanding at once his demons and pain

And longing instinctively to protect his poor soul

So perfect is his statue, his tragedy in stone


But deep inside the effigy she stands crumbling

Suffocating from cold distortion and deceit

Shattered solid by his brutal force of will

And aching only to belong again to her own skin


~ Liesl Dineen 2015

My memories, the truth is out there

Day 20: two prompts, use my __, the __ in the title/theme and write only things you know.

My memories, the truth is out there

This I know through memories
and old poems:
everything got worse for me
when I realized I was sane.

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

Permanent ink

IMG_2409I just wrote this statement about parental alienation, and it snapped me awake more than I expected it to: “It’s not enough to win, they want to erase us entirely and brush us off the paper with their fingers.”

Being ignored has always been a trigger for me. Little sister blah blah blah. But seriously, it was how I was controlled in my first marriage, whenever what I said was disagreeable. Don’t like what I’m saying? Look away, walk away, never speak of it again. Really want to hurt me? Yawn while doing all of the above. Roll your eyes.

When I walked away, I walked into a world where I existed, unique and amazing. I came into being. I fell in love! And then the eraser came down and started scratching me out.

Parental alienation is the act of wiping a parent of the face of his or her child’s planet. Memories are rewritten in shadows, new rules created. Doubt and fear are tools. “Is she spying on you?” “Will she try to kidnap you?” “Are you safe with him?” “He’s trying to replace me with a new wife/mommy.” Never mind that the now-horrible parent has been there virtually forever for the child. Never mind that the child will never be balanced from the damage this causes. Never mind. Let’s pretend mom is invisible, crazy, not worthy of love and respect. Let’s ignore her and get on with life, just you and me kid. Let’s twist everything she says and does into threatening dark shapes on the wall. This isn’t about something a normal mind can grasp. It’s honestly incomprehensible. And yet it’s my reality.

But here’s the thing. I’m NOT invisible. I still exist, unique and amazing! I’m done hiding and pretending I have ANYTHING to be ashamed of. Of course I’ve screwed things up, of COURSE. But no, not that badly. Not anywhere near that badly. Children of abuse still don’t disconnect entirely from their parents, in fact they often push and fight for connection. Children who are alienated do disconnect, and also from their other relatives on that side. They switch into a mode of hate, not just distance. They wipe out half of their entire being for the satisfaction of someone needier. It’s heartbreaking, and more so for the children than the parents. There really is no winner here. Just pain and therapy bills and uncertainty.

I’m a step-mother now to two wonderful kids. I’ve annoyed them at times reminding them to call their mother. I’ll annoy them more I’m sure. We need to know our parents whenever possible, where we come from, where we fit. I’d never wish this lost feeling on any child or adult. Yes, of course in cases of abuse it’s different, but this is not about abuse. Please try to keep an open mind when someone tells you they haven’t seen their children in ages – there’s so much shame in this, it’s a huge act of courage to even speak the words. I want to change that, I’m working on how, but I don’t know yet.

What I do know is that I’m not written in pencil that can be erased. I’m not invisible, I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll never give up on my children.

To my lost child, and the one found again: I was not just there when you were born, I was your home. You will always be a part of me, and I am a part of you. I will be here until the day I die, ready to accept you, hug you, listen to you no matter what. Unconditional love is yours already, and will never ever run low. All of the hopes and wishes I had from before you were born are always with you. I wish so much happiness for you. I love you forever. In permanent ink.

November Poem-a-Day: Day 25

For today’s prompt, you have two options:

  1. Write a love poem.
  2. Write an anti-love poem.


You stripped my angel wings
(the ones you gave to me)
And pushed me from the tower
(the one you kept me in)
And told the world your story
(the one renouncing me)
While I worried about my landing
(the one that never came)

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

July 25

This one is meant to be read fast and out loud, like in a poetry slam style…


I wish I had known back when I had amnesty
That no matter what, a broken heart beats a broken family
But reality is anxiously speaking up and reminding me
That tragedies and casualties will always end up finding me

And it’s better to stand up for meaning in this place
Than smother with some sick narcissist’s gaslight in my face
And even though there’s steps I made I wish I could retrace
I’m embracing what I’m given while I mourn what was misplaced

Now every day begins with the serenity prayer
Because that’s all I can control, I’m getting wiser now I swear
Some days I know I’m lucky if all I do is breathe some air
It isn’t fair but there it is, I won’t give in to despair

And now I’m in control of all the things I can modify
Oh it may not be much but I am willing to simplify
I am occupied, preoccupied with trying to optimize
Because my only other choice is sit and passively fossilize

I hope you understand this doesn’t mean I’m not broken
I am damaged and I’m bleeding like my heart is split open
Still I’m hoping that you notice I am living in full motion
I’m devoted to my life and I will live it outspoken

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

July 13


When all self-doubt
is put to rest,
she faces herself
and finally says Yes.

~ Liesl Dineen 2014


Your words of sympathy dear
Eased the pain far too much
I didn’t even notice once
The feel of your blade in my back

Until I stumbled there
And finally felt my insides
Becoming fluid on the ground
Until familiar fingerprints took shape

Your words of pity dear
Reached my ears as you declared
How sad my story was, poor me
To anyone offering the time of day

Until I turned to the sunshine
And finally felt my insides
Becoming solid and lifting me up
Until I recognized myself again

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

%d bloggers like this: