Guilt, Broken People & Stolen Childhoods

I was reading an article on Quora about a woman who discovered the past of an odd uncle she barely knew.  In going over his belongings after his passing, the family discovered his hidden past.  He had been a victim of  sexual abuse by a priest.  The why of the idiosyncrasies and oddities of this relative came to light.  Her putting the pieces together after going through his stuff was a feat in of itself.   She says about his life:  “It was a lousy life filled with sadness, failure, misplaced loyalty, an inability to nurture relationships. ” The person writing felt guilty even though she had not even been born at the time all the abuse transpired and obviously had nothing to do with it.  Why is it, abuse makes the victim feel guilt when the guilt is not theirs?  Sometimes this carries over to others who care about us. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around, isn’t it?  Please understand, I am not a therapist.  My observations are that of a former victim.

Guilt.  It is a sad burden to carry, why does it torture us?  I can’t imagine her why.  Perhaps, because of their shared DNA, she felt compelled to shoulder some of his pain? I can’t say because I just don’t know.

Some people can overcome the trauma of abuse even if not forgotten. Some cannot. I can only imagine the suppressed anger and guilt, he must have kept inside all those years which stymied his growth, kept him from successful relationships and contributed to his reclusive later life.  One never knows what was in the mind of this person.

What many people don’t know is how much guilt is shouldered by victims and how that guilt affects all facets of their life. Guilt?  Yes, guilt. 

I have been doing my three pages every morning as my assignment and as I study the book, The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  My assignment in Chapter Three is to describe my childhood room and what it was I liked best about it and what my favorite things were.  I had none.  NONE!  No memories. I could not describe my room! After stretching my memories a while, I could only remember a bunkbed that we kids would roll off the top of and that’s it!  Did the room have windows? Were there other beds?  I don’t remember anything other than my dad sneaking into the room at night to single me out for his perversity.  I’ve always wondered, where were my siblings? I couldn’t say.  I couldn’t sleep tonight, mourning the loss of innocence, the loss of not having a fond memory, no special toy or anything.  My loss. The earliest images I have of a bedroom, were later as a teen and not of my room, but my brothers and his model airplanes suspended from the ceiling. I have been searching my brain for a memory, but obviously I blocked it out.  All of it.  It’s no wonder my only fond memories as a child were being outdoors, far away from the house.

I’m not a therapist and I can only speak from experience, but a victim always wonders what it is about them that abusers seek out.  What did they do to “invite” the abuse?  Did they do it intentionally or is there an invisible brand on their forehead that tells others they are easy targets?  Do they trigger something in certain personalities that draws the perpetrators?

Victims experience so many false starts in life others cannot understand. Their self talk tells them they are not worthy.  Even when things start to look up and success looks like it’s coming their way, they inadvertently do something to self sabotage.  It is not the same for everyone and it doesn’t just relate to sexual abuse.  Like the uncle above, a life of constant fails seem to follow them.

They can be accusatory and suspicious.  But, it all stems from their own guilty feelings.

I had an attorney tell me once, while I was going through my divorce and in regards to my ex-husband’s philandering and infidelity, he said “you can’t put guilt unless guilt is there”.  I now think back on that statement and wonder if perhaps that wasn’t just to make me feel better but a narrow and prejudicial view of his own?  

Let me back track a bit here.  His comment was in response to me telling him that my husband, who was a constant cheater, blamed me for his affairs, saying I always made him feel guilty, as if to excuse his cheating.  I couldn’t understand it at the time, but the issue between us was obviously more complex than any of us knew.

Knowing what I know now and years after the fact, there were several dynamics going on.  We were both broken and because we were broken, and neither of us knew to what extent, we couldn’t help each other.

His background:  I don’t know his early, early years, but I do know his father was a womanizing alcoholic and was gone a lot.  He died the year we were married of cirrhosis of the liver.  The ex was a middle child, with an older sister and younger brother.  His mother was a nurse and worked hard to provide for her family.  She was obviously depressed because one day she shot herself.  She was found by his younger brother. That young man suffered tremendous trauma and died at a fairly early age of drugs and alcohol.

I recall later telling my then husband,  “You’re just like your father who you’ve always hated”.  Even though he admitted it was true, did my saying it aloud reinforce his own lack or self talk of not being worthy? I don’t know.

I wonder if for some, like myself, guilt comes from not doing something or the inability to notice that others might need help and perhaps fall short of helping them?

It is my belief that broken people can’t help broken people, yet we tend to gravitate to one another.  I truly believe that.  Not because they don’t want to but because they just don’t know how.  They’ve not had the template of what a successful relationship looks like to go by.  So, guess what?  I felt guilty.  I really didn’t have the tools to help him. This person married several times since and once before me and each time, he created circumstances that obligated all the women in his life to leave or give up on him.  He is now living a loveless life with no one. He even pushes our children away from him.

I also always wondered how much is genetics.  I think genetics plays a part in our temperament to receive and counter information.  Perhaps its a conditioning from the womb, environmental absorption pre-birth? Theory.

Perhaps not though. My father beat mother, he beat us, but there was no way in hell I’d let anyone do that to me. When the ex raised his hand to me one time, I stood straight up, my 5’2″ to his 6’1″ and looked him straight in the eyes with my finger pointed at him and said, “Don’t you dare!”  He backed down immediately. The memory of that day still makes me chuckle.  He apologized.  It apparently wasn’t in his DNA to be a hitter.  Yet, he sabotaged every relationship he ever had and drove people out of his life.  Sad.

For some time, I felt guilt and a sense of obligation to not give up trying, despite the fact I did take him back three times.  Since that marriage and before this one and after the last one, I had extensive therapy and realized I was in no position to have helped him.  At the time, I was too broken. It took a while to learn and realize that.

When my sister died and after her diagnosis, I shared with all of you the burden of guilt I felt that fortunately has lifted since. I just couldn’t shake it for a long while.  The guilt of not having been around to help her and/or recognize her illness.  At some point, we have to let people make their own decisions.  We cannot force them to see the doctor, which I tried to convince her to do.  The guilt is not mine.  Resentment?  Yes.  I miss her and I am angry she left me too soon, but I will not feel guilty.  I believe her choice was intentional and the consequences of that choice was realized long ago.

I think of myself as broken china mended with gold. Each crack makes me more valuable.

I am okay, but then… maybe not yet, but I will be.

PS

Let me counter what I said earlier on about broken people not being able to help broken people… the truth is many therapists are former broken people, so I think broken people may be able to help other broken people once they’ve been fixed .  I could be wrong.

Guilt and shame prevents growth. I’m digging deep and though I may not have many years left, I intend to clear out the junk and live wholly.

Like I said, I AM NOT A THERAPIST  and this is not therapy.  I’m only sharing this because I’ve had to come to terms with a few things in the last few months and I can tell with this new workbook, I will be delving deep and as I grow, I’m sharing. I hope you don’t mind.  It’s MY therapy.

 

I still wonder what my room may have looked like.

Brain Dead

I don’t know about you, but of late, I feel brain dead. I’ve not written anything of note in so long, I’m not sure I even know how to write anymore.

I’ve been in and out of love and heartbreak so many times, with the same person, mind you and at the age of 75 that can be extremely taxing.

I invested in two “mining” sites for Bitcoin and have yet to actually realize any income. Bitcoin is very hard, in case no one has ever told you. Not buying it, that’s easy. It’s transferring back into cash. There’s private keys and upfront fees and penalties and interests and… and stuff. At times I just want to give up. Then, I learn that Bitcoin is lost all the time because people give up and “lost” bitcoin goes to other Bitcoin holders. So I’ve read and so I continue in my efforts.

,I don’t know if I’ve been taken for a ride and perhaps that’s all it’s been, but it seems that just as I’ve paid in my fees, other fees show up and I never see any money, so here I sit, looking at two separate accounts with a total supposed value of nearly $200K, wondering if I’ve made a mistake and should I quit?

I don’t know why, but it’s far more difficult than I imagined.

Then, I fell in love with someone online. Is he real or just a scammer? Well, he hasn’t asked for any money, so who knows? Only time will tell. Maybe he just scams hearts and makes people like me feel valued? I haven’t decided on that either. I didn’t know I could feel this intense about anyone. From almost the get go, we seemed to be on the same wavelength and it felt pretty doggone nice. I don’t recall having ever felt this way about anyone. Ever.

For those of you coming in late to the drama I call my life, I’ve been married three times. The first marriage was a shotgun wedding due to the fact that I’d been date raped and ended up pregnant. Because the young man had a prestigious occupation, he didn’t want to lose his job for his less than honorable behavior, so he took responsibility. Shotgun, because when I refused his proposal, he went to mother and they ganged up on me. How do you hide a pregnancy? It was a different time then.

My second marriage was an act of rebellion and pride. My young suitor was 10 years younger, a virgin and his parents despised me. The more they fought us, the more we fought them. I wasn’t too bright in those days. Marriage three was a result of the #1 and #2 failures plus guilt. He was 13 years younger. I liked him very much. He was my friend and confidant and both of us married on the rebound figuring we got along fine, so why not? Guilt came in to play because we were sleeping together and that wasn’t the “example” we wanted to set for my children. Big mistake. So many things went wrong after that.

As you all may know, I lost my sister last year and not surprisingly, I’ve been quite numb about it. I hadn’t had my full on cry until recently. There have been moments where I thought the dam would break and it was always in the midst of another trauma, like a divorce, my brother having a stroke, or me plateauing on my quest for thinness. (see below) Disappointingly, I’ve been stuck 10 pounds shy of my intended goal. It’s only 10 pounds and I can’t seem to get there. Oh well.

What has kept me sane during this time is walking and taking pictures. I averaged about 3-4 miles a day, up until recently, that is. The hurdles keep coming.

I had intended to walk 75 miles for my 75th birthday. That didn’t pan out, as it would have taken a full two days and I think it was a bit much. Instead, I revised it to 75km, which would have been approximately 30 miles? I managed 15 miles instead, but I’m proud of that as I was carrying a heavy backpack which I hadn’t considered would change the dynamic of my stride and stamina. You may remember I did the sky diving thing, but I had a partner for support on that one. Each year I challenge myself with something new. I skipped last year, as did most people.

I had originally thought to do a K-pop video, but somehow gyrating in front of a camera wasn’t my thing even though I’m quite capable of doing the moves. At least some of them. Part of my reason for changing my mind on that had to do with me seeing an old Italian woman on TikTok doing a self video of herself, gyrating, half naked, in front of the camera. Some people dissed her of course, but many applauded her as well and even though I admired her gutsiness, I didn’t want that image of me pervading the internet, so I opted out of that choice. No, no, no! Not for me. I’m far too vain to subject myself to that.

So, I’m back to writing.

I’ve cycled in so many ways the past year and I’m not even sure I like the new me. I’m still on this journey of self discovery. Who would’ve thunk it at my age? I guess, wishful thinking and regret can come at any age.

I think and wonder if being alone all the time hasn’t played a big part in what I’ve been going through. Was it a byproduct of Covid? I don’t know. Maybe it was a combination of things. Seeing my sister give up on life and knowing how she never realized any of her dreams before she died, depressed me. And, there, go but I. I stayed in a marriage, I’d contemplated leaving almost constantly and instead continued settling because it was the road of least resistance. I mean he’s a “good guy” and we never fought. I realized it was because I didn’t care enough to fight. Sad. Doing anything else would require considerable effort. I guess I was lazy? Plus, there was always something else going on that took priority. I didn’t have time for my wants and happiness, so they took a backseat.

I have, my whole life accepted and paid the price of my choices or lack thereof. When I say accepted, I mean, I fell into doing what was acceptable and to please others. Like I said, I had a rebellious moment or two along the way, but I would always give into what others dictated for me. I dawned on me this past year, how often I’ve put my life on hold for others, so they could be fulfilled and I began to wonder, what about me?

A part of me feels guilty to want new or better, something others may not feel I should. I sort of feel that way about the guy I love, but damn it, I’m putting my life on hold again!

Then there’s the supposed money sitting in Bitcoin heaven… or is it hell? Is the reason, I’ve not seen anything because I don’t “deserve” it or is there a higher power telling me I shouldn’t? I’ve lived with a lot of God guilt in my time, but as one person told me, you can’t put guilt if guilt is not there. Raised to feel guilty when I don’t need to is a hard habit to break. I know God wants good things for us, so that’s not it.

I think in part I’ve had so many years of indoctrination that I psychologically resist having things go right for me. I’m not supposed to “want” or desire for anything more than what I have.

So I’m brain dead. Numb.

I’ve lost my direction and don’t know what to do about it, so I pray. But… I kinda forgot how to I guess, because I’ve not gotten an answer yet.

Or maybe, the fact that I’ve not succeeded in those quests is my answer? See?

There I go again. I’m the queen of self sabotage. GUILT! ARGH

35 pounds thinner and very tan.

Accusations Are Flying.

Good grief!

Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, Roy Moore, Conyers, Matt Lauer and the list, now up to 34, keeps growing etc. etc.

Let’s see now…  Did it start with, or was it further back than Bill Cosby being hung out to dry?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not validating or minimizing misconduct if it is indeed true and many may be. Neither am I giving credence to hype.

As more and more people “come out” with accusations and pseudo righteous indignation the more incredulous it becomes.  Some may be true, some not.

Consider Clinton.

Really, didn’t the public turning a blind eye to our “bad boy” president, not endorse this behavior? Because… at the time, not many people cared one whit when Bill Clinton did “his thing” in the White House, even though it is now currently being revisited. Perhaps it is about time.

It was those who stood behind him and rallied for him that bear the blame.  It was the proverbial you that gave men in general, permission to say and license to do what they do or have done.  If the president can do it, why can’t I? Come on now people, take responsibility for your part in this!!!

So to blatantly and unequivocally accept it all, how can you? Unless you were there and I’m sure you weren’t then how can you put so much credibility behind these accusations?  What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

THEN AND NOW

What the public fails to consider, is that social norms since forty years ago has changed dramatically.  Certain conduct or dialogue then is repulsive today, yet it was not uncommon and women had little recourse for it and men were expected (more by other men) to behave badly.  I’ve seen women do it too,  cajoling them and leaving some men with the idea of open invites, but I’ve also seen men take sincere friendliness the wrong way.  (like where in the hell did they get the wrong idea?)  I’ve seen women plot to snare men. ( Monica Lewinski holding on to her tainted skirt? Get real. Don’t you find that suspect?)

Many of the men that have crossed my path over the years have said and done things I thought totally inappropriate at times. I was an attractive model and flight attendant and I heard just about everything. I met famous and not so famous people and I can’t even begin to recall how often I was hit on, leveraging sex and/or seen men behaving badly, which was too often, but can I attach a name to all of them? No! True, I hated it, but I moved on, it’s what we did in those days. It was not a reflection of me or the sum of them and I went on with my life. It was how things were.

Quite frankly, I personally cannot remember with any detail who or what someone may have said that was out of bounds. I take that back. I encountered several that did  but only two that stand out.  One, was a coworker, a pilot (I don’t even remember his name however) who rudely grabbed me.  The other case was of a woman on one of my flights who deliberately groped me in an inappropriate manner, does that count? I refrained from creating a scene because I was totally embarrassed. I stayed clear of her for the remainder of the flight as she smirked at me lewdly and I was relieved when she was gone. It was quite disconcerting on many levels. Was she a lesbian or did she think I was?  What did I do that made her think it was okay?  Haven’t we all asked that?

How many women have grabbed a guy between his legs, rubbed up against him, flaunted her cleavage suggestively or kissed an earlobe teasing a man, not to mention giving him the “come hither” look (that’s what it was called in the olden days) and how many men found this uncomfortable or a violation of their space?  Will these men please come forward?

Does it excuse bad behavior? Certainly not!   In my day, it was always up to me to set the boundaries and my choice to nip it in the bud. As a girl, I was not given guidelines as to what was appropriate or inappropriate behavior and some times I let things fly, not knowing what I should have done or stupefied that I hadn’t reacted indignantly, but that was more out of embarrassment.  Many young men were less so taught and I think that in part is why some are stating their apologies rather than denying their guilt. Now don’t be fooled, the more that do it, the more suspect they become. Some of those can be genuine but it could also be a sham… like “Ooops!, I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar!”  “I was a bad boy, I admit it, now get over it”

I recall too, that men targeted certain women.  If she looked like a “good girl”, they left her alone.  I remember specifically the “Coffee, Tea or Me” cracks, thanks to the Helen Gurly Brown book that came out during that period. It brought a great deal of uncalled for comments for flight attendants.  Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for this exposure if not simply to raise public awareness that any untoward conduct is unacceptable.

TEACH 

It was only an insightful parent that could/would teach these guys otherwise, which was rare then, and then to have it undone by their peers who influence them otherwise.  It is only recently that a progressive mother, who did not appreciate being treated like trash (and some men who had the foresight to see it as demeaning), began teaching their sons and daughters a little more about respect for self and others. It’s up to us.

In fact, for men of past generations, it was encouraged for them to be cads. It was a sign of their virility, their manliness. Even more so if you were in a position of power. It came with the job and everyone knew it, so why act so surprised?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be indignant, but everyone knows this has been going on since time immemorial.

PEOPLE CHANGE

Also, consider this. I’m not the same person I was forty or fifty years ago. I don’t know about you, but I did some pretty stupid things in the 60’s. To hold me accountable for these is ludicrous because although I may have known I did stupid things, I certainly couldn’t tell you what they all were, nor do I want to,  much less be reminded of them.  (That’s why I’d never consider running for politics. I’m sure there’s been a toe or two I may have stepped on in my past and… that was not forgotten by someone and bound to bite me in my present.) Frowny face here.

If they really did it and they are recent infractions then yes, by golly, hang them from the rafters. They should be held accountable.

But… Consider this:

If we are so quick to be judge and jury to everyone that is accused then what about our own sins?  Are we the same person today we were ten, twenty, thirty or even forty years ago?  How many of us do NOT have regrets?  How many of us took those and resolved to do better, right?

To say they are not better today than yesterday is to say there is no hope for the countless of people in prison waiting for a parole or who will some day be released. What about the prisoner who reforms whether by accepting Christ or by whatever means and becomes a new person?

Yet, even they have advocates who campaign for them to be given a chance. Doesn’t everyone deserve that?

FEEDING OUR MINDS

There’s also the issue of what we are feeding our brains.  Look at the shows on TV, books, movies and media we follow,  that are being produced because it’s what people absolutely love.  They are sexual, conniving and violent and suddenly the same people that love these are incensed?  I see a double standard that was and is still, only different. (It’s no wonder I like Hallmark, but even they hug now and then.)

If nothing else this is bringing the issue to the fore.  Granted, it is terrifying to some men altogether.  A gentle pat on the shoulders or back will no longer be tolerated or looked at the same way or so I’ve heard said. My husband was sad because he was hesitant and afraid to hug our great grand daughter because of all that’s been going on.  Will an accidental brush be considered deliberate?  Who hasn’t grabbed someone accidentally thinking they had their spouse or partner?  To what degree are people going to take this?

I greet people with a hug and sometimes a peck on the cheek. I like hugs. Are my associates going to be afraid to hug me now?  Is everything going to be suspect?

I just bet the people in Europe, who tend to be touchy-feely, are having a field day with this. Those Americans, what will they think up next?

Awareness and change is the key NOT overreaction. Think and be considerate of others.

It boils down to the old adage “Do unto others as you would have done to you”.