Monday, August 3, 2015

"I am Oswin Oswald. I fought the Daleks and I am human. Remember me."

                        "  I am Oswin Oswald. I fought the Daleks and I am human. Remember me."

     When dealing with FOO (family of origin) that is dysfunctional; any encounter can feel like you have stepped into a strange world in which you've encountered Daleks and they promptly set about their agenda of exterminating you. In real life i is not an encounter with physical harm (though sometimes) but one where your spirit gets exterminated even when you put up a good fight. And just like with the Daleks a dysfunctional FOO  will try to get at you anyway they can, whether it's "extermination" or like with Oswin Oswald- assimilation. Either way you feel like you lose pieces of yourself and have gotten mired in toxic muck. It often seems to be their intent to leave you feeling like you are no longer human. Any encounter is teeming with psychological war fare. You have to hold on to your sense of who you are which can be really difficult. When they somehow still reach through your defenses the feeling is so distressing you want to shut it out. You've engaged, you've trodden through their muck and you feel violated. They have won and made you the shameful loser in their crazy games. 
     Fighting for that sense of who you are after these encounters is hard. Oswin in Doctor Who essentially disassociated. The truth of what the Daleks did to her was too much for her. But even so she was able to hang on to her sense of humanity instead of being fully overtaken by Dalek programming. While decreasing disassociation during healing is ideal; I think Oswin is a great example of how disassociation saves those inner parts of ourselves when faced with unimaginable abuse. 

     There is no way to be a winner when engaging with dysfunctional FOO. And by dysfunction I mean abuse (types 1-3), and personality disorders or the tendencies towards them (NPD, Sociopath, Psychopath). While I advocate utilizing non violent communication even with dysfunctional and toxic FOO, I am learning that it does not matter in achieving any goal of them hearing you, being understanding or reasonable. You can say things as kindly and non confrontational as possible, be understanding yourself and get taken for a rip roaring ride on the crazy-mobile. It will make no difference in how you say things. No matter what they will still employ crazy making games, manipulation, shaming, punishment, and most of all they will always make you the problem. It will always be your fault, or that you have "done something to them". It will not matter how clearly you formulate your prepared speech in your head for calmly explaining things to them. It will not matter that you may have stayed up all night trying to make sure you had your facts straight and that you presented them in a simple logical manner. It will always be your fault, you will always be bad. Sometimes it can be really good to just tell them to stick it where the sun doesn't shine and immediately disengage. Just know that when you do stand up for yourself, whether calmly or not- it will not go over well. They will not like it when you are not being your usual cowering,-accept all the blame- self. This may cause them to push back harder and up the ante. So do stand up for yourself, just know that type of reaction is likely and not because you have done something wrong. When you feel like you have said what you needed to, I recommend disengaging. You will only accomplish standing up for yourself, not of convincing them of anything else. 

     I have learned that even when standing up for myself I have to be careful because everything I say or do- can and will be held against me. Toxic FOO especially likes to absorb information to use at a later date. They will sit on it and let it simmer until it proves helpful in attacking you later. They also might already know things from others. It's often things you have told to other friends or relatives whom you thought were safe and reliable, and Toxic FOO will find it out from them. These people are called flying monkey's. While a few might be completely ignorant of how FOO is using them- it is best to have really good boundaries with them and around what you share. I think if they have inadvertently been as silly as Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Turkey and walked right into Foxy Loxy's den even just once- I would use extreme caution in communicating with them.  

     Part of feeling completely dehumanized in an encounter with FOO is that when you engage or fight back you still feel as if you have walked a mile through muck and further still you feel like you may have been a bad person for how you communicated. It's a normal healthy person that will have doubts about how they engage with others and asking themselves whether or not they were hurtful. Toxic FOO and especially those with personality disorder issues will not be asking themselves the same questions or using the same empathy about the situation. I feel safe in saying that it is much more likely that they are only thinking about how you made them feel and how everything is your fault. They will not include themselves in that internal discourse- it is highly unlikely that they are even able to be that self reflexive or empathetic. Doing so would tear at the fabric of their universe, if they were wrong about one thing what about all the other things they tell themselves to make their world make sense? It's easy in getting caught up in thinking about these encounters in normal terms and thinking about FOO as normal and reasonable. But they are not reasonable, they will never be reasonable. Note: Despite their lack of normality I don't advocate for dehumanizing them in the same way they would with us. 

    Daleks are not reasonable. They have reasoned with themselves until they believed everything they had to say and believed it is the truth.  Toxic FOO has reasoned with themselves over and over about how things "really are". They have reasoned, and reasoned until it is clear in their minds that they are truly the victim. It is true that you can cause them a great deal of hurt. Hurting someone usually sparks empathy in a normal reasonable person. Toxic FOO's hurt is real. However it is based on perceived hurts which could be anything that goes against their wishes in some way. It is not a reasonable type of hurt because it is not self reflexive, it is only ever black and white. You hurt them and they are hurt. They don't usually stop and consider that you didn't mean the way you said something, think to ask you how you meant it, or communicate in a understanding way about their hurt feelings. It is not a reasonable hurt because they are always the victim, and have never done anything themselves to contribute to the perceived hurt. They've never hurt others, only been hurt.  They always find a way to make it big, blow it out of proportion and make it all about them. And while being normal brings about empathy pangs when you hear Toxic FOO crying over something, approaching them about it in a normal way is not possible. What happens instead is that you get sucked into wacky dialogue with them where you get blamed for everything and even forget that it's actually you who have been their victim.

   I am having to come to the sad realization that I cannot deal normally with FOO because they insist on being committed to unhealthy and toxic relationship patterns. Every time I try and be considerate and reasonable I get swept up in dialogue or encounter that lead to my demise in some way. Even though I do not want to dehumanize them- I can no longer get caught in thinking of them in terms of being normal or reasonable. They are not normal. And while I understand a great deal about them in terms of where they come from and why they might be the way they are- it changes nothing. That doesn't magically make them more reasonable or healthy. I have to take care of myself. I want to preserve my inner sense of self and not have it be relentlessly subjected to extermination.  

 I am Nora Woodhouse. I fought my FOO and I am human.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Late Summer Rituals, keeping the peace

Lughnasadh (loo-na-sa) August 1'st

     It's August first and keeping up with my intent to follow the wheel of the year calendar  I am  celebrating Lughnasadh today. I will be baking bread with my spouse; Lughnasadh is all about bread, wheat, corn. I also might try my hand at an apple pie. So far following the pagan calendar has been really nice. I appreciate marking the change of seasons and being present and thoughtful about it. It's also helped shift the pain and burden surrounding the loss of family and holiday events with them. 

     Today I found it really important to do a few small things and celebrate because of the whirlwind of recent family drama. Focusing on things like this keep my intention on creating the life I want for myself away from abuse. Trying to focus on all the powerfully good feelings helps me keep my peace. It's not easy and I have been crumbling at the seams a few times lately. But focusing on things like this can be like creating an imagined ball of white light around yourself and it makes it harder for the other crap to get it in.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

And now Grief...

                                                  Shock, Denial, Anger, and now Grief...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

When the Word is Goodbye

                                          "So the word is goodbye
                             Makes no difference how the tears are cried
                                                    It's over
                                         And my heart lives alone
                                   I can make believe you need me
                                              When it's over."

Grandparent; I'm not simply losing you, I already lost you a long time ago. I'm grieved but it feels familiar, perhaps its because I have been grieving over you for so many years. Your death will feel like the final abandonment, not the first. You've already chosen so many things over your relationship with me. You've abandoned, rejected and sometimes even completely forgotten about me. 
I was never good enough, I never fit the dream image you wanted. You wanted a quiet, good little girl who was made of sugar, spice and all things nice. You wanted me to complacently fall into line, be as kind and sweet and demure as your other grandchildren. But I wasn't a doll, I didn't contort and bend so you could artfully arrange me as you saw best. I wasn't bad, I wasn't spoiled. I was alive and full of breath and enthusiasm and I couldn't sit still and I always had to saw what I thought, sometimes without thought. I wasn't perfectly sweet all the time, but I was never rotten. I was a real girl. 

I thought I knew what you wanted, and when I cared and thought I could change your mind about me I tried to shape myself into something more pleasing. But eventually I realized that it wouldn't work, I would still be me. And I also came to see that the grandchildren I was being compared to had not grown up to be doctors, lawyers or politicians. They were not Pulitzer or Nobel peace prize winners. They went to community college or chose less glamorous degree's. But you fawned over them, all but one. The only other grandchild to suffer a fate similar to mine didn't fit the mold of their parents or yourself either. But two were deemed perfect, and they are the two I have always been compared to. They don't make any waves, cause any disturbance. They are "nice". 

In recent years though I became aware that it wasn't just their "niceness" that won them favor with you. It was because they were the children of one of your favorite golden children, and my parent (Other Parent) was the black sheep scapegoat. You treated me less as you treated them less. I know you beat the snot out of them with a broom handle once. You told them they would never amount to anything, never finish anything, never go to college. You couldn't get them to fit your ideal mold either, and you had to try and squash every rebellious spark.  I was a child of the "worthless" scapegoat and I feel that you felt nothing good could possibly come from Other Parent. I was never expected to amount to much because they weren't either. I was judged and looked down on because Other Parent was judged and looked down on. Even when they married a person who was a  Golden child in their own right they didn't please you. You only ended up adoring Vaarsuvius more than you did them. And perhaps not surprising as V is the spitting image of you right down to the constant criticism, negativity all while projecting a fantasy family image on everyone that you feel compelled to see fulfilled. It was spooky when I realized that V had made the exact same speech to me that you did to Other Parent about how they didn't even think I would go to college (or amount to anything was implied). 

I always wondered how you could pat me on the head and tell me that Other Parent loved me when I complained about their bad behavior. But now I know why. You wanted your dream family and for everything to be not only okay- but your definition of okay. And I believe that on some level you are aware of what you have done and would defend Other Parent's behavior to me because you helped create it. 

When my parents divorced you stopped coming to see me. Other Parent had asked you not to visit V, and Other child and I got lumped in. You have called me maybe three times in the last 10 years, but because I took so long to get back to you at one point in time- I was forever punished and never called again. I also believe you felt it's the Grandchild's place to respect their grandparent and therefore be the one to always call and carry the burden of staying in contact.  The only way we have stayed in touch is when I have braved calling you, and when we exchange cards and gifts for birthday's and holidays. 

I don't like calling you because I often leave our conversations feeling like a failure and a disappointment. I get lectured about my life and told you just want me to be happy. But I don't think you want me to be happy, I think you want to be happy with my life choices that you deem worthwhile. I think you always try to define my happiness by your standards, and if you can't imagine being happy in my shoes then I can't possibly be truly happy!

I also don't like calling you because you only ever want me to be the one to bend and fix family relationships. You always want me to be the responsible one, or to pretend that their is nothing wrong just for the sake of making everyone happy and not causing any problems. You don't care how badly you or your own children behave, just that I don't ever say anything about it. I'm never a victim in your eyes instead I'm always the one held accountable even if I didn't do anything but say I no longer wanted to be a doormat or because I told the truth. 

 I would like to say goodbye to you, but I am afraid to. What will be your last words to me? Will you lecture me, or make one last attempt to forcefully glue together the family? Will you tell me to reconcile with my abusive parents? Will it be all about you to the end? Or will you for even a moment see me and love me as I am. Is it possible for you to care enough for me that you can show me that you know I deserved better than how my parents have treated me? I don't believe that you dying is going to change your opinion of me. I believe that it will likely be a heartbreaking moment for me when I find that I have only confirmed things in your mind, or that I find you cannot bend at all. When were you planning on calling me  to tell me that your health has deteriorated? Do you love me or care for me enough at all to want to call me to say goodbye? I don't know that you do and I am afraid to call you and find out. 

And how do I even begin to say goodbye- we haven't ever been close because even in person you put a wall between us. You hardly know me, and it's felt like you never really wanted to. Even all the time you spent with me during my childhood I don't think you ever really saw me at all. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


      I discussed some of my personal experiences growing up as an Evangelical christian with a close friend recently. We both have come to different points in our lives in regards to faith and Christianity. However we both work to respect those differences in one another and respect the history and experiences that brought us to where we are today.
     This is not a privilege I have had with everyone. My family could tolerate at best any divergence of thought with my faith. Other Child would tolerate my questioning things but I could end up in lengthy and sometimes heated debates with them about spirituality. I think they were always willing to let me question and debate things with me because they believed they were right and could challenge me in discussion and bring me around to the truth. Why not discuss or argue when you know you can't lose?

     I have experienced that safety net and comfort zone with spirituality that comes with a sense of absolute and resolute rightness in friends, family and church. It's a really interesting how it is interpreted and used among various believers within Christianity. In Other Child's case it was used in a way that made them comfortable to engage with me even though we differed greatly in opinions and beliefs. Then there is those such as the Duggar's that use it to make themselves comfortable, and to justify their decisions. But with the Duggar beliefs there seems to be a feeling of tentativeness about their comfort safety net. Even though they believe they are right and resolute there feels like there is often fear underlying that sense of rightness.

     Other Child feels comfortable and confident taking on discourse about faith because they believe they are right, but with the Duggar's it feels like they might be unsure on some deeper level (unconscious). If they engage with others about their beliefs, especially with those who have different ones from theirs, there is a feeling of defensiveness. The communication/debate/discussion style they use is meant to defend and shut down real discussion. But why? If you are correct in your beliefs, if you have enough faith and confidence about your choice of beliefs (whether or not it's correct) why can't there be discussion and debate about those beliefs? Why dose the result of discussion feel like if they are challenged or do not end up being not 100% correct they seem to believe they will have to throw the baby out with the bathwater!? It feels like all or nothing.

    This is really frustrating when you want to engage with some believers especially if you go into the conversation respecting that they draw meaning and personal value from their faith. They should be able to separate out their own beliefs from others and be able to talk about how they have found things within the structure of Christianity that has helped them develop into a good human being, at the same time recognizing that the structure isn't perfect. They should be able to challenge other believers who's interpretations are harmful and limiting. Why does it happen instead that when those like the Duggar's have their beliefs critiqued- the response from other believers is #Not all Christians? Why do they feel that the whole structure is under attack and could dissolve because aspects of it are being critiqued?  I have experienced the response as one that blames the individual and their interpretation of Christianity instead of acknowledging that they may have interpreted it correctly and the blame lies with aspects of Christianity and its structure.

      People are quick to point out that it's not all Christians who behave like the Duggar's, that they are not representative of healthy Christianity. And while that is true in some ways- those beliefs are still connected to Christianity's core structure. And even if  it is true that it isn't "All Christians" that doesn't negate the need for discussion about the flaws within the structure or calling out those who say they are Christian but who's interpretations are destructive.

     I was able to discuss some of these thoughts with the close friend I mentioned. While I heard them agreeing that there are those like the Duggar's who's interpretations of Christianity are not Christ like; they did feel that my experience with Evangelical Christianity was an isolated case.  With their belief that my experience was isolated- it felt it somehow meant I had not developed a well rounded view of Christianity.  I took away from our conversation that they thought I have not had any normal experiences with Christianity and therefore don't understand that what I went through in regards to faith and spiritual abuse was not normal. They seemed to think that I don't know what most normal churches or Christians are like. This was hard to hear from someone I care about. Even though I know them, and that they would never intend be to be hurtful; our conversation lead to my feeling invalidated once again by the idea/response "not all Christians". The response that its not all Christians felt like my experience was not valid in their opinion; that it didn't necessitate a thoughtful discussion about elements within Christianity. Saying that it is not all Christians or that my case is isolated feels like a dismissal and a means to ignore what I'm saying. I think that response comes in part because what I have to say makes them uncomfortable.

     However if the idea that my experience is not isolated, and causes someone of Christian faith to feel uncomfortable- they need to ask themselves why? What is it about this discussion that makes them feel they need to label my experience as unique?  Shouldn't they be able to draw on a sense of confidence in their faith, and be able to engage in critical discussion without feeling threatened? Maybe this is an issue and uncomfortable because questioning faith is scary. Perhaps it is because we are so often told not to question it, and that we have to defend our faith against outside attacks. This mandate to defend actually seems to imply that the structure is incredibly vulnerable.

      I have gone to several other churches aside from the one I grew up in. I have known Christians who were not at all like the Duggar's or those from my childhood. When I had a difficult time with my first church I stood up for myself and asked to stop attending, and then to be allowed to attend another church with friends. All of these other churches were representative of the Modern Church a as a whole. Even my first church had all the trappings of modern Evangelical Christianity. It was what was hidden underneath that was flawed, and these flaws were not isolated. They were and are connected to flaws in the overall man interpreted/created structure of Christianity. And you know what? That's okay. With human interpretation and creation there are bound to be flaws! It doesn't mean that one can't believe in God while being aware of  the flawed nature of  the human condition or the sometimes flawed structures we create.

    My experience was not isolated.
Suzanne Calulu in an recent NLQ post said:
"Obviously the tabloid press still thinks that the Duggars are a one-of, instead of a lifestyle embraced by thousands of people. Glaring ignorance of what they’re reporting on.

      The Duggar's are not one of a kind, there are many others who share their beliefs. My experience within Evangelical Christianity was not one of a kind, or even something that was shocking. I know this because I am not flabbergasted when scandals and issues erupt from Evangelical or Quiverfull Christianity. I may be angry or upset but I am never surprised. I have known of far to many similar experiences to mine (individuals I know personally) as well as being aware of the collective of experiences within the spiritual abuse survivor community and NLQ.

  I am not an anomaly!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Shooting Hoops & Grilling Steak

Dear dad,

     Today is fathers day. I'm sure you know this, and I'm sure today you are surrounded by family and friends who are offering you their condolences, and support. I'm sure Other child has called you or sent you a card, maybe both. It's up to them to be the good child now, to be that image of the ever loving little kid. I'm sure today will be another marker of your victimization because of the "horrendous" accusations I have made against you. The family will no doubt be rallying around, closing ranks, and trying to self protect from these perceived "attacks". It's as if I have become alien, a foreign invader and any sense of my being related to them vanishes. Any thought or sense of connection and love disappears. The thing that would weigh against the programming that tells them to shut me out and disbelieve what I say disappears. You've shut me out too. When I came to you wanting to discuss hurtful and harmful behaviors you shut me out and dismissed me. And when worse things came to light there was no response then either. I imagine you decided to not dignify such "horrendous" accusations with a response.

    I watched Father of the Bride today, and the scene where George and Annie shoot hoops makes me cry. I used to shoot hoops with you, I was totally a daddies little girl. I used to have a special bond with you, and things that we would do that were just our things. I think I had more of a bond with you than my sibling did (other child) and certainly more than I did with my Mother. While you might be wallowing in self pity today- and shutting out the versions of yourself that are unsavory- I'm grieving  the loss of love, of being daddies little girl. I'm grieving that I didn't get to shoot hoops the night before my wedding with you. I'm grieving because you don't love me in the way I thought you did, or the ways I hoped you would. I'm grieving because instead of anyone else we know seeing me as the bubbling, laughing daddies girl, I'm seen as not having any joy, not having any sense of soul or heart. Instead of being seen as what I am- a woman with a little girl inside of her that is grieving the loss of her dad shooting hoops with her, being a friend- I am vilified.

     Our family would like to disenfranchise me from being a victim in any way, but not you. I'm not seen as deserving to be grieved or angry, but you are. I know why they do it, but it doesn't make it any less wrong. I am not undeserving of being seen as I really am, of being given the benefit of the doubt. Of the two of us my quote crime is superfluous- I am guilty of telling the truth and bringing forth choices you made during my childhood.  I'm guilty of accusing you of things- things that are actually true. How does being the accuser stack up against being the person who actually committed the crimes?  And in a situation were I to accuse you of something that was not true- what would you have you lost? What could the family really say in that regards- that would ever make accusation worse than the crime? But yet I know they think that the possibility (in their minds) of my bringing forth false accusations  is worse than the the possibility that they are true. Isn't that strange, why would they think that way? Perhaps it's because they know, or are afraid that what I am accusing you of is actually true.

     I wouldn't expect anything less from our family. If they couldn't handle my saying you could be controlling and have other issues that were hurtful, then how could they possibly handle me saying truths that are even harder to swallow? They know your controlling and can be hurtful, you frequently direct that behavior at them. But that truth hurts, because there are other truths connected to it that have to do with their relationships with each other and the nature of the family structure, and its dirty laundry. They don't want to face any of those things, they want things to be okay, to pretend everything will work out, that at the core you are a good person. The only way to keep whatever fairy tale dream they want to keep living is to keep out anything that says it might not be true- me. Yet it doesn't have to do with me as a person, it has to do with I became a mirror that they saw themselves reflected in and that was terrifying. Because if I am right and telling the truth and they accept your actions as abusive and that your should be responsible for your choices, then they have to accept that my Grandparents made choices that were hurtful. They have to face their own upbringing and for some how they have raised their own children. They have to admit to any hurt and pain they have stuffed. Perhaps the would face the dissolution of our family as they have known it if they speak out and confront each other about the hurt in their relationships. I've heard the story from one of your siblings that they observed you getting beat with a broom when you were younger- I imagine that is just the tip of the iceberg. It's so scary that the family would rather just fold in on itself and shut me out- even if they know I'm right. I think that even on a subconscious level they do think or know I'm right.

     Today is such a mix of emotions. It's too bad that you couldn't be the parent to stand up and care for me in my life.  It's sad that you would partake in just as many betrayals of parent child bond, as my Mother. I am sadly pretty sure your my only parent  who could muster up any feelings of caring for me at all. I'm sad because I was daddies little girl, and probably the only one you'll ever have. I was also probably the only kid you will have. I think it's sad that while my mother may have not liked me because I was your kid- I think you cared for me more during the times you did because I was your kid. I think you've always probably known that I was your only kid- I think that's why you tried to make things better for me when my Mother made them difficult. I think that's why you never wanted to do the same things you did for me for my sibling (Other Child). The fact that those things which were important, including being daddies little girl came at the cost of your violating and betraying our relationship and myself is heartbreaking. It's really hard to sift out the good things in the torrential damage you have done. And trying to hold on to them is even harder because it feels like excusing or dismissing your actions. It feels like saying you ever did anything good makes anything bad disappear. I know I feel that way because of how often that is used to justify parents who abuse their children, and how often it is used by our family in a similar fashion.

      I want to hang onto that image of you and I shooting hoops, and feel warm and fuzzy when I see that scene in Father of the Bride. But it's really painful. Your actions feel like they cancel out any truths; my being daddies little girl, of being loved, of doing things that we could bond over- especially shooting hoops.  I feel nostalgia and grief over something that seemed to exist, but might not have and now never will. In all your wallowing and self pity today  I doubt you will get that deep into your feelings, it's not your style. And I doubt the family will think about me in such a thoughtful way, or be grieved for me that things are the way they are. They can't spare room to open themselves up in that way.  But how much do you all really care for each other that you would keep up a facade, that you would rather be so insular and deep in your own shit than tell the truth? How is their protecting you or each other in this way loving? I don't think its love- I think it's survival mode and even narcissistic.
     So you might think you are getting love today on fathers day, but your not. Real love is more like kings daughter that told him meat needs salt, that in life if you love someone you need the truth. He rejected her in favor of her sisters over the top flattery, but eventually realized that she was the only one that actually cared. And in a really sad ironic way; my calling you on your actions and telling the truth will always be a far more loving action than all of our family gathering around you and spinning false narratives. Even if I am not sure if I could ever have you in my life again, or if I could ever sort out all my feelings- telling the truth, confronting you, and applying boundaries is still more loving an action than protecting or coddling you. Even if part of my motivation comes from the fact that you have caused devastating hurt in my life. That's still better than the motivation of self involved narcissists. Even my mother seemed to want to protect you from consequences, perhaps to save her own self in some way. But meat needs salt; Happy Fathers day I suggest you try grilling a steak without it. It's about as limp and rubbery as trying to shoot hoops with a deflated basketball.                                      

Father of the Bride

It's June, Wedding season, and today is Fathers day. The hallmark channel is marking the occasion with a couple classics, father of the bride 1-2 with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. I love both of these movies by the way- despite all the reasons I could pick them apart- they are in their own way charming and classic.
  I remember watching these as a kid and teen- because they made me laugh and because I figured it was a formative education and preparation for dealing with my own father who was unabashedly the pitchfork, shotgun, that will always be my baby girl type. I also watched all the endearing moments between father daughter and hoping that despite the craziness I could have that love and a meaningful wedding with that bond. I also hoped for the supportive normal environment from my family, that they would be excited and happy for me.

     I know it's difficult to talk about. I think that it makes people uncomfortable when I am so open about my experiences with childhood abuse issues. I think it also makes them uncomfortable with how adamant I am about my feelings regarding these experiences.  Saying that my father is an asshole and abusive brings about this deer in the headlight look that seems to read "oh my, how shocking, how horrible that she could say such things". They look at me as if my rant couldn't possibly be warranted- they fall back on our cultural ideals about parenthood and that supposedly unbreakable bond between parent and child. They fall back on the things they were told, that there was no way a mother couldn't lover her baby, that a father even if absent must have a space in his heart for his child. The fairy tale goes that no matter how far, or how long, or how many mistakes have been made, that there is love to be found in a parents heart. There is always hope for reconciliation, no wrong is ever to great for true love to conqueror.

     I used to be my Daddy's little girl. Like Annie Banks in Father of the Bride we would shoot hoops, he would take me in my radio flyer wagon to the doughnut shop every Wednesday when I was very small. He refused to see me growing up, often referring to how he could hold me in one hand when I was a baby. And yet like Annie Banks I  too grew up, but unlike me she got to keep her special father daughter bond. Mine was broken by all the behaviors that were not loving, even though they seemed to coincide with a few that were. Increasingly it seemed like I was peeling back layers of issues. I'd find one only to peel off another. Sometimes the good moments mask the horrible ones. And when you are raised with thinking your experience is normal, the horrible is dismissed. But when you wake up and realize that the balance is off, and the good moments don't in anyway justify the experience of the bad, it's like waking to a strange world, a bizarre nightmare.  You begin to horrifyingly peel back the layers as you start to ask the really difficult questions.

    True parent love didn't come through, it didn't save the day and rescue our father daughter bond. My dad didn't get to be Father of the Bride. I did try. We hadn't been speaking at the time since I had sent him a letter requesting discussion of his abusive and controlling behaviors. I didn't know that some of those were sexually abusive experiences. My memories had already been dismissed and shoved under the rug, and everything normalized. I tried to call him but only got voicemail when I got engaged. I knew he would probably be additionally upset with me because I broke tradition and my husband did not ask his permission for my hand. In his world ruled by patriarchal, male, christian tradition that was disrespectful and thwarting his authority. In my fathers world the ways things worked is daughters are under a fathers rule until they get married, and they decide if and when they can get married and sometimes to whom. It sounds really bad when you say it out loud, but the way it works it is much quieter in it's application. It's very normalized and sometime's even subtle. But it's there, that's the way things are in such families and subcultures like mine. I didn't get a call back, that would have been acknowledging me in some way. Instead I got an e-mail saying congratulations and sounds like you have found a nice young man. It was punishment for calling him out on his behaviors and not following tradition. When I finally spoke to him we discussed my letter. He said he did not respond because he did not feel that it needed responding too. That and other things is how my father got himself uninvited to my wedding.    

    The lack of understanding and the desperate need to believe in the parent child bond came from relatives who were of course horrified that my dad wouldn't be Father of the Bride. Though as with the type of responses I still receive, people aren't horrified because of the things my father has done, and how much he has damaged the father daughter bond. They are horrified because of how I am saying those things out loud, they are horrified that a child would ever say such things about their parent- because they are parents. One relative took it upon themselves to cite scripture based "truths to me" about my situation. They said that I was to honor and respect my father. Again everything was about how I was reacting, how I was drawing boundaries, and how my father and the family felt. It was never about what he had done, that didn't make them uncomfortable or upset them- my talking about it did. They didn't cite any scripture about how parents should treat their children, or acknowledge that there was even an ounce of reasonableness to what I was saying and the boundaries I was drawing. At best this particular well meaning relative noted that they knew my father "could be difficult" but he was my father and he loved me. Maybe. Maybe once upon a time he loved me, but apparently not enough. His own personal issues consumed him and that is not some fairy tale curse, that is reality.

    The Duggar family are not alone or isolated in how they see such behavior. My supposedly modern evangelical christian family saw my fathers issues as behavior issues, heart issues, spiritual issues. Not only would they similarly believe in handling such things in family or in church- they would also believe in victim immediately forgiving the behavior.  I think they would say that they are not excusing it- that they are saying that he has issues. But the manner in which they talked about these issues was in the same way you would talk about a dog having behavioral issues. It's like saying yes he peed on the rug, but he's a dog, and he still loves you. But we aren't talking about an accident, or a mistake that is at the level of peeing on a rug. In fact it's not on the level of many other behavior issues. And similar to the Duggar's family and spiritual communities beliefs about the victims needing for forgive- well meaning members of my community have horrified me with how they believe what happened is partially my responsibility. It's not as blatant as the literature from Gothard etc. that the Duggar's ascribe to- but it's still there. I was told that I had always been a sensuous child. I hope you find that statement as appalling and horrifying as I did. But there it is, the idea that the victim- even a child is partially responsible for someones decision to abuse.

     I don't know how to change the perspective that children who criticize their parents aren't just ungrateful or hateful. I don't know how to change how uncomfortable it is to hear survivors talk about abuse. I don't think that people need to hear every horrible detail, but simply saying that my father is abusive doesn't deserve the immediate assumption that I am ungrateful or hateful. Just because you might be a parent, and are horrified to think your child would ever say something like that about you, does not mean that the mistakes you are scared you have made are on the same level as the mistakes both my parents made. Those who are parents sometimes seem to look as if they feel weak in the knees when I discuss my parents in such terms. I can almost see them processing as I speak; they think about all the mistakes they have made and that they are afraid that there one beloved child could accuse them of being abusive. Most all parents, even abusive one's do not want to think of themselves as a bad parent. So when I say mine are it's almost as if they suddenly feel pity for them. They put themselves in my parents shoes because they know that they wouldn't want to be seen as a bad parent.

    You know what? I don't want to be seen as a bad child. The truth is no child wants to be accused of being bad either. But I would not be as likely to get the same pity or empathy. But I didn't grow up being dedicated to hating on my parents. I grew up wanting to be Annie Banks, I grew up wanting to believe that my fathers bad behaviors were irrational and bad in the same ways as the lovable George Banks. But I wasn't the one who robbed myself of shooting hoops the night before my wedding, and being my daddy's little girl.

    So today as you watch the hallmark specials and laugh, or if you are celebrating fathers day; and you run across a woman or a girl who shakes her head and says her father is an asshole- please try to understand. Try looking at her as George Banks would look at Annie, see the little girl, the young lady, and then the woman she is- or will be.

 Look at her realize that she grew up wanting to see her father as her hero, that she grew up with hopes and dreams even amidst abuse. She didn't grow up ungrateful or thinking her father was an asshole. It's far more likely that this is a really sad realization that she- like me slowly came to. A sad realization and understanding that she didn't break the father daughter bond- that would be easy- if its your fault you can fix it. But she didn't break the bond, and I didn't either. She like me might have had to come to the sad and heart breaking realization that our fathers are not a bumbling, yet loving George Banks.

 Try to consider that we are telling the truth, and that it would take more than a Nina Banks moment to make our fathers solemnly promise anything; including changing their behaviors or owning up to abuse.

Try to understand, because behind our words, calling our fathers an asshole- a woman or girl like me have had to realize that we won't have those special Father of the Bride moments, or any other such father daughter moments. And on top of that we are working through even more serious hurts, and trying to heal.

      It's June, Wedding Season, Fathers day, and also today is Lithia-  the Summer solstice. While Father of the Bride made me a little sad in-between all its humor, and I feel sad about fathers day- I will try to focus on the fact that Lithia is all about sunshine and things blooming. And while women and girls like me are resilient, bloom and grow, we always appreciate a little extra sunshine in the form of kindness and understanding. We don't really stop being Annie Banks, we just have had to take a different route to create the supportive family and friend structure we need.