Tag Archive: Parental Alienation

A different way

My counselor told me I’m doing things a different way. It was the best thing she could have said in that moment, where I was calling myself a coward or a doormat or whatever. Rewriting my oft-rewritten history. Being incredibly unkind to myself.

And she’s right. The path I’ve chosen can sometimes feel like giving up, and when I look back I cruelly decide I haven’t grown at all and I’m still just letting bullies kick me without standing up for myself. No, no bullies ever actually kicked me, ouch. It’s a metaphor – stick with me here.

When my son was little, he started taking a school bus for the first time, and reported to us, his parents, that he was being picked on by some kid on the bus. Simultaneously, his father and I responded with advice.

“Tell the driver. Try to talk it out.” I said, believing in a system that has really never worked in recorded history except in pamphlets.

“Hit him as hard as you can!” said the father of our already far-too-interested-in-violence 5 year old.

And here folks, you can see the deep cracks between parenting styles that exist regardless of divorce, but of course would become much wider in that inevitability. And while I realize that the short answer, hitting back, would likely be more effective than my own sad little peaceful entry, I just can’t bring myself to call it right.

Over the last 8 or 9 years, I’ve been called crazy by that man, and by my children. I’ve been called abusive. I’ve been kept from my children and lied about, hated and ignored. And you’d think that with all my heart I would be ready to fight back, to hit him as hard as I can. But that’s not me, and knowing this in my heart has been a gift and a curse beyond anything I ever expected to know on this planet. Sometimes I see it as weakness, and I call myself names like pathetic. Sometimes I need the people who know me best to snap me out of it. Sometimes those people tell me to hit him as hard as I can. Nobody likes to see a loved one getting bullied, it’s a natural reaction.

But, and maybe it’s from all that Sesame Street I watched, all that Mr. Rogers, I just know where it goes when you meet ugliness with ugliness. You become ugly. It grabs hold of you and spreads across your skin and eventually into your heart, and you become a different and harder thing. I don’t want to be that thing. I choose not to, again and again. This isn’t weakness, friends. It’s actually incredible strength. It’s character, and it’s solid, not a quivering thing like I sometimes believe. I’m not quivering, and I never have. I mean, sobbing sometimes, which makes me shaky, but no, no quivering.

And so because I haven’t fought back, I’ve allowed myself to “lose” the last thing I was holding onto from the recent post-divorce part of my past, the house I bought to raise my children in through high school. True, my last child is still in high school, but I haven’t seen her since she was in, what, mid-7th grade? It’s not likely she will return to me before she’s done. And really, I’m mostly okay with losing this house. We made so many compromises, my new husband and I, when we bought it – a few short months before our wedding date. We bought enough bedrooms for all our kids, in a school district that would be the least trouble for my children’s father to get to. A lot of bad moments happened in this house, the struggles with alienation, and the loss after, the fighting we did when we had no idea what was really happening to us all. But so many great things have happened here too. We fell back into love in the quiet, began gardening, making the space our own inside and out. We began to foster homeless dogs, and threw parties, and built the fire pit of my dreams – simple, like camping. And we set stuff on fire!

And now, we’re ready to move on, looking ahead in spite of the low blows we’ve been dealt again and again. There is no real loss here, just regaining who we are, who I am at my core. I am doing things a different way, the same different way that has seen me through all of the tragedy a life of 50 years will bring, and all of the wonder too. I am proud as hell of myself, my strength, and my husband too. We are excited about the future, and the amazing new fire pit we will build, the gardens, the warmth of our crazy life together.

No, make no mistake, this isn’t a gift, it’s not a blessing in disguise. WE are what make the good that comes from ugly things. We are the blessing, and we aren’t in disguise. We’re right here beside you, the people who choose every single day to make the best of things, to act in kindness, mindful of the lives around them. To do things a different way. This way works. I hope you try it.

Oh, and, um, wanna buy a house? It’s got a magical fire pit out back…

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NaNoWriMo, Incoming!

NaNoWriMo badgeHere’s the thing about the truth. We think we know, but we don’t really have a clue what it is. We can only do our best, groping in the dark with what little light our perceptions can cast, naming the shadows we make and claiming them as our story. In the beginnings of great loss, the shadows are strong and terrifying, and of course we cast ourselves as the hero of the piece. It’s us against the villains. But if you sit there long enough in what you thought was your story, looking around, letting your eyes adjust, you start to see things you didn’t notice before. The shadows adjust themselves to accommodate your clearer vision. If you’re curious, you start to see places where you made assumptions, or maybe took some shortcuts. You start to see the grey areas. Eventually, you see your own shadow, and you have to face the truth you see, the one that’s closer to the real truth, hopefully. And maybe you even learn to understand the villains too.

I’m learning to hold myself accountable for my shadow, while not blaming myself for having one. We all have shadows after all. So, I have to say to myself, after all this time, after all the blaming and the shame and the honest vows of innocence: “Hey self! Welcome to the human race. You messed up. You fell on your face, but you’re okay. Let’s get you cleaned up.” What, were you expecting a bunch of self-loathing? I went there for a while I suppose. But really, what would I tell someone else who was suffering? Don’t I deserve the same acceptance and forgiveness I’d give to you? Of course I do! Of course I do. We all do.

And now, I think I’m ready to tell the story that is my truth. Because my heart is open, my mind is open, and I’ve forgiven myself and others for the pain we’ve caused, the damage done. It doesn’t mean things are better, they aren’t, in a situational sense. But I am. And I’m ready now, in time for NaNoWriMo, that glorious, torturous month of writing 50,000 words. I’m ready to write about my life as an alienated parent, keeping the goal of helping other people in my heart, and with the idea of casting light on our shadows. And hopefully mixing some joy with sorrow, some hope with loss. I’m starting a book, called (for now) “Mom, redacted.” It’s non-fiction, memoir I suppose it’s called. I know, I know, it’s not a novel, but they’ve changed the rules at NaNoWriMo to accept rebels, and even if they hadn’t, I’d move into this project because it’s time.

As usual with this crazy month, I won’t see much of my friends, but I am already building in a little time, because of that whole needing other people thing. I expect to cry a lot, but in a good way mostly. I expect to make up as many excuses as I need to for avoiding phone calls and requests. I expect not to update this blog much (hell it’s been a month anyway!), but you never know. Please know that I’d really love your support. But if you want to tell me I shouldn’t, or it’s a terrible idea, or any other nay-saying stuff, just shh. I’m doing it. I just am. Happy almost-November.

Sandpaper letters

alphabet

Sandpaper letters

 

Do you remember learning the alphabet?

Tracing your tender fingers along the fine-grain sandpaper

carefully glued to the squares of black and white poster board that

I’d cut by hand the best I could, and good enough; I knew some tricks.

 

I copied the letters from a Montessori book because I wanted

to make them just like the school; the one we left behind

with our friends and your favorite Chuck E Cheese

for the hell-heat of Texas, just in time for everything to fall apart.

 

I gave them away, the letters, and yes there were numbers, too,

when you were reading well, when it was well past time.

But my fingers recall the dedication, and the knuckle skin lost in the quest

for no sharp edges, convinced your love of language was at stake.

 

Yes it was overkill; I often mourn my perfectionist’s lost time, but I’m

different now, and even with aching knuckles I can still trace the sharp edges

of my mistakes and the confidence I wore like skin that I would always

be there when you needed me to smooth your edges too.

 

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

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.

No perfect word

image

There is no perfect word
For the way smoke curls
And froths and spirals
At the beginning of things
Before the fire catches
Before the certainty of burning
As we watch wide-eyed and hoping

There is no perfect word
For the waiting I am faced with
Or how I feel my breath catch
When my mind tells me stories
About how any minute now
You will return to my life
Needing me desperately once more

~ Liesl Dineen
Day 3.

Gah!

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I lie all the time. I tell people I’m fine. Dandy. I mean, sure, there are some hard times, but you just gotta breathe. Go with the flow. I seem so wise, right? I mean, even *I* believe that I’ve got it together sometimes.

Well, that is until my tooth hurts so much I can’t chew, or let any water flow to that entire side of my mouth, and the dentist, who I took two weeks to call, says well dear, you’re cracking your molar from clenching your jaw shut all the time, that’s very bad. And then I get fit for a night guard, and told to use it during the day too when I can, because this isn’t just a night thing, hasn’t been for a while now. And the dentist, who FINALLY pronounces my name right by the way(!), says wait, your kids are all out of the house, what do *you* have to be stressed about.

And so I lie again, and say absolutely nothing that I know of should be stressing me out, I can’t understand it myself (which wasn’t really a lie, because I’m just dumb sometimes). And I go home and my own guts start to try to kill me with (ahem) very unpredictable and unpleasant behaviors. So I wait another few days, miss a day of work, and finally get my butt to therapy, where truth happens in spite of my best damn efforts.

Headaches, jaw clenching, gut issues, messed up shoulders and neck. Hmm, what do we have here? Well, it might just be stress. Let’s look deeper, shall we?

Oh my, the stress isn’t just simply daily stuff getting to me, it’s me trying to hold back anything, no, everything unpleasant, which works fine for a little while until the stuff all builds up and I’m trying to dam the whole ocean, which is really a terrible idea as it turns out. Scratch the surface of the dam and I start to leak, and please pass the tissues and just hold on tight because this might take a while. And I’m drowning in sorrow which is NOT depression (phew, for now), but still sort of just, well, awful. And it’s all this close to Mother’s Day when strangers ask about your kids, and friends ask about your kids, and why is this stupid holiday a thing anyway?!

I miss my kids, all of them. But mostly, I miss my girl, because I can’t even say hi to her and get a hi back. And I miss the promises life made to me when I pushed and pulled her out into the world, the ones that said I’d have a hard time with this one, she’s stubborn, and I was excited to suffer the future because I could raise her in love, and it was an adventure and I was up to it. I was, and I am. I was ready for the work. I wasn’t ready to lose the chance, and I’m lying whenever I say I’m fine about it. I’m not fine. But I’m okay. Or I will be okay. Or I’m lying again.

Either way, doctor’s orders, I’m working on a self-care regimen. My go-to method of coping is to not cope. I don’t know how to focus on myself for very long, and it makes me all weird and self-conscious. I don’t know if I should be around people or alone. I don’t know if I should write, read, or just watch re-runs. I don’t want to get a pedicure and I don’t think it will help, but oh I really do need a decent haircut. And some clothes that fit this stress-fed body. But but but I don’t know how to start. Also, where the hell did I put my night guard?

Clouds

Day 17: Swing poem

swing


Clouds

 

When I close my eyes I see her

Right in front of me

She’s moving fast forward

Legs aimed for the high clouds

Piercing them with the determination

That she brought with her at her birth

Every trip backward is gorged in purpose

As she gathers herself tighter

And prepares to hit the sun this time

I wonder now if she still sees

Every trip backward as another chance

I wonder if she ever takes the time

To just remember the back and forths

And feel the air on her face

Filling her with confidence and joy

Or has she forgotten that girl

Lost in the trappings of fifteen

And too busy now for clouds

 

~ 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.

Daydream confessions

Day 13: confession poem/ riddle poem

Daydream confessions

 

I’ve choked the life out of you twice
And three times I have drowned you
I’ve loaded your towel up with lice
And had venomous snakes surround you

I’ve put arsenic in your English tea
And run over you with a milk truck
I’ve stung your eye with one swift bee
And pushed so you were side-struck

I’m regretting all I haven’t done
To end your foul oppression
But you sit safe, your battle won
While I settle for confession

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

Spilt Milk

Day 12: damage poem

Spilt milk

 

You tell yourselves
Not to cry over spilt milk
But the simple truth is that
The milk is gone now
And you are left with a thirst
For something unattainable
And a mess going sour on the floor

~Liesl Dineen 2015

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