Tag Archive: Gaslighting

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!

Petrified

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.

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Petrified

 

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.

Falling

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…


Outspoken

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

Yes.

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

~ Liesl Dineen 2014


Sympathy

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

July 11

Eggshells and Angel Wings

Aside from the births of miracles,
Aside from those moments of pure joy
That you believe will last, somehow, forever in your heart,
Aside from the times when you know you are loved,
There is epiphany.
The clearest moment of my life was this.
I sat describing to Gina my therapist and savior
A moment of anger, pure in its fury and to my point,
Justified.
And I began to explain the whys,
And I talked about the rights I had,
The right to this anger I had felt bile-burning my throat.
But she stopped me then, gently.
I expected her to tell me I was wrong, I suppose.
I’d always been wrong for being angry.
But instead she asked me a question
So powerful and poignant that I was changed
Forever.
What, she asked, calm and centered, lips upturned just a touch,
What if…
What if you were just angry, without any reason at all?
Would that be okay?
And it felt like being slapped by sunbeams.
It felt like being swallowed by God,
Like a pair of angel wings erupted from my back
And I could fly to places I’d never even dreamed about
(and I dreamed about a lot).
And she waited while this happened,
So calm sitting there while everything I’d ever been
Was scrubbed under this waterfall of bliss.
She knew it was a moment for silent watching.
She knew she’d given me a key.
And when I finally landed back there in that room,
On the couch with the pillow I kept so often on my lap,
Sitting across from her tilted head and upturned mouth,
I may have hollered and whooped.
And I know I said something coherent,
Something like “Well, that would be okay, wouldn’t it.”
Something like “Oh my God. I never thought about it this way.”
And then “I’m allowed to be angry, I’m allowed to feel, just because I am!”
And the truth of these things lifted me back into the air
Just a little, at first,
Just enough to float back into my old house and my old life
As if I wasn’t something entirely new quite yet.

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

July 5

Born again

Fingers curl in long embrace
Consuming all in range
Leaving only ash and ember
Taking lifeblood in exchange

I was a moth enraptured
Abiding by your flame
Until it swallowed all I’d been
Until I lost my name

But like a phoenix, something new
Arose from old moth’s place
A conflagration all my own
That wouldn’t give you chase

I spread my wings and took some steps
Then leapt with all my soul
So thank you dear for burning me
You’ve helped to make me whole

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

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