Author Archives: essenceofzanzibar

Kicking Off Gluten Free Month

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Kicking Off Gluten Free Month

Today we began “Gluten Free Month” at mi casa. It’s nothing dramatically new for me; I’ve been largely wheat-free for a couple of years now, excepting breading on chicken nuggets (yum!) and the hidden wheat in some other products.

This time, though, I’m taking the whole family with me on the journey. The idea started a few years ago when I noticed a red rash on my daughter’s arms and back. It just never seemed to go away. The pediatrician wasn’t at all worried about it, but I could not bring myself to equate “persistent red bumps” with “healthy skin.”

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So I started thinking about it, and I realized I needed to give her a full month to “detox” the wheat out of her system and see how she reacted. She didn’t want to. She flat out didn’t want to know that wheat might be hurting her because she loves all things wheat. She told me she would rather not know and that the bumps really didn’t bother her, so why should they bother me? Typical teenager.

So I sweetened the deal. “If you do a month without wheat, a gluten free month, I will pay for the acting camp you want to go to.”

Signed, sealed, and delivered. I had a convert.

Now I just needed to get the other two family members on board.

My other daughter was very much of the “What’s in it for me?” mindset. I don’t blame her. Her sister was getting $150 worth of fun for one month of change. I got her to agree to do it with us, but I still need to come up with a reward for solidarity.

My husband looked at me, looked down at the table, looked at me, and said, “Okay.” But behind his eyes, his thoughts were racing. I knew better than to ask in front of the girls. After they’d gone off to get dressed, he said, “Ok, I’ll be gluten free at home, but you know I love bread. I’m not promising to stick to this while I’m at work.”

That, I assured him, would be fine. All I needed was solidarity in front of the kids. He’s a grown-up. He can make his own decisions. I just didn’t want to have the food around the house that would be tempting to a wheat-starving teenager.

Then came the de-wheat-ifying the pantry and refrigerator. We pretty much had a wheat bonanza this past week, trying to eat up and get rid of all the wheat foods. The biggest culprits were crackers, Pop Tarts, pasta, Girl Scout cookies, and breakfast cereal. I took anything unopened and packed it away out of sight. I tried to share all of the opened items among friends and family. Yesterday, I dumped everything open on the table and told the teenagers to eat anything they wanted from that pile. I know that gorging on wheat the day before will make it take longer to get it out of her system, but it was also a symbolic “going away” party. It showed her what items are going to be literally off the table for the next month and allowed her to satiate any last desire to eat them.

Yesterday, we went to wander through Wal-Mart, an infrequent shopping trip for us, and I snagged a box of Hungry Jack gluten free “funfetti” pancake mix, on the premise that it would be easier to get teenager buy-in to this month if I did go a little out of my way to replace familiar products with alternative versions.

When the kids were ready for breakfast today, they thought this stuff smelled AMAZING. They were actually excited to try it. Now, for those of you cooking it for the first time, it’s going to need a little finessing. It doesn’t cook as quickly through the middle as the pancakes you’re used to making from wheat flour mixes. However, it does cook quickly on each side, so you need to reduce your heat and cook longer to get it cooked all the way through.

The taste was good, the texture was a little grainy, but overall, it was a win. My husband even remarked that when he was done with his test pancake, he went searching for the second (nonexistant) pancake and was disappointed when there weren’t any more.

We played board games and relaxed until lunch time (it was a lazy Saturday, after all), and then I opened up the new-to-me George Foreman Grill my friend had sent my way. I had some chicken that needed to be used up, so onto the grill it went.

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Then came the “Oh, crap!” moment when I realized I hadn’t made any vegetables, and the chicken was nearly done. Off to the refrigerator I went, quickly picking out the ones my kids would likely eat raw: shredded carrots and sliced cucumbers. I then called on one of my kids to whip up some minute rice while I was otherwise occupied cranking open a can of green beans. Minute Rice had become their favorite guilty pleasure. Again, easing into the month was my goal. So this is what I presented to the teenager to eat for lunch: Prefectly grilled chicken breast, green beans, shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, and a bowl of rice.

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How’d it go over? Yep, you guessed it. Teenage outrage. “WHY did you have to give me so much FOOD?” And, “I can’t eat this much CHICKEN!” I love teenager logic.

If it had been chicken nuggets, she could’ve devoured an entire plate full.

If it had been 700 calories in cheese pizza from Costco, there would be no problem.

But a meal weighing in at around 300 calories, rather well balanced in its macronutrients AND vitamins? Oh, that’s too much.

Anyhow, it eventually got eaten. She didn’t die from an overdose of vegetables.

My husband was awesome when he went to the store today to get some things he needed; he picked up a loaf of gluten-free bread that looked appealing to him.

Tonight, my teen will have her first self-control trial. She got invited over to a friend’s house to go swimming right around dinner time. I let the friend know that she was going gluten-free, and I told her we would send some food with to make it easier on everyone.

Day 1 is almost in the books. Everyone is grudgingly on board.

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Soothing the Monster

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As soon as I got in the car this morning, my anxiety monster shifted to my chest and poured itself over my sternum, changing into a cold, dull weight.

I reached up and pressed my warm palm into my chest, hoping pressure and heat would soothe it, help it release its tentacles from my lungs.

It felt like it was working… until I took my hand away.

Cold, it clung tighter, twining itself around, so I quickly put my hand back. I kneaded my chest with my fingertips, trying to release the tension.

Once at work, I tried to hide my anxiety, walking quickly to stow my lunch and get my day started. The little tasks helped, but it was still there, pressing, gripping. I wanted to tell someone, but I didn’t want to sound like I was whining. I just wanted someone I trusted to know I was having an attack, but I chickened out at the last minute.

Walking down the hall, the back of my ribs ached, just like I’d gotten punched in the kidneys. Each breath was torture.

All I felt was despair. Would I have to endure this all day just to get my job done? Was today another day I’d have to leave and burn a sick day?

And then, miraculously, the anxiety monster shrank and softened and crept back up to my shoulder when I saw a friend and coworker who wanted to collaborate on today’s activity.

The pain was gone. I could breathe. Nothing was pressing on my chest. I was a little fatigued from the attack, but I was able to get my day started and get through the first few trials with no hassles and no recurrence… yet.

My Anxiety Monster

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There’s this little ball of fluff, soft as sheep’s wool, a wisp of fur with sleepy eyes. It rides lightly on my shoulder, quietly watching, absorbing the world around it. It’s small, nearly weightless, but I feel it in the tenseness of my shoulders, the tendons in my neck. It’s riding there.

And then, for no good reason at all, it crawls around to my chest and sits, gently at first, gradually solidifying. It’s no longer soft and cuddly. It’s a rock, slightly pressing into my sternum, increasing its pressure down, down, down, now a solid weight on my chest.

I’m afraid to breathe deeply because I don’t want to feel its weight. I take shallow breaths so I don’t disturb it. Each lung-filling breath expands its reach, like pressing it into a pancake over my ribs, a rock-heavy pancake. Then each breath needs to be bigger and bigger just to push it up, just to give my lungs room to get air. So, if I don’t breathe deeply, I don’t feel it expand.

It stays there, pressing down. Big or small, it’s there, pushing against my chest.

The worst part is when it transforms again, growing long, spidery arms that envelop my chest, that grip with razor-sharp pain along my ribs, that seek a way in, ready to squeeze and puncture my beating heart. Now, in fear, my heart is racing, my face is flushed, my skin is overly sensitive, my palms are sweating, and I don’t feel as though any breath actually gives me oxygen; it’s all being squeezed out of me.

The anxiety monster, once a little harmless bit of fluff, is now a hard-shelled crab-like spider with gnashing knives for teeth, ripping, shredding, rending my chest, compressing my lungs, killing me, killing me.

And no one can see it. No one else can feel it.

They tell me to take deep breaths (Ha!).

They tell me to visualize something peaceful.

They tell me to use a catch-phrase.

They want me to appease it, to calm it, to shrink the anxiety monster back down, to stroke it and soothe it until it climbs back up to sit quiescent on my shoulder.

I know they’re right, but all I want to do is shoot it dead. I want to kill it so it doesn’t come back. I don’t want this invisible fiend to dictate my days.

But I listen. I take slow, easy, deep breaths and ignore the claws.

I visualize a painting with the tree of life and push away the picture of the gloating monster on my chest.

I tell myself, “Through God, all things are possible,” instead of listening to the monster’s chuckle.

Slowly, slowly, slowly.

It shrinks. It draws back its claws. It softens.

Finally, it leaves my chest.

It snuggles on my shoulder, curls up against my neck, and sleepily watches the world.

And I am left with the aftermath. I am left with a body worn out from the physical fight. My cheeks are still warm; my fingers are still frozen. I am exhausted by the mental gymnastics. I am sickened by the lingering throb in my chest.

I warm my hands on a cup of coffee.

I breathe, experimenting, looking to see if it’s painless yet.

I give myself a little pat on the back for having survived it once again.

The Capacity of Hurt

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It’s amazing how I can still be hurt.

The bizarre thing is that I can take the hits. I can take someone not liking me, someone being ugly to me.

Bring my kids into it? Yeah, it’s a whole ‘nother ballpark.

So I thought I was pretty immune to being hurt by the ex. Really, I just am numb toward him.

It’s just that I feel hurt when I realize he does nothing to meet the needs of the children – my children. Well, perhaps “nothing” is too strong. But it’s when I think about what  would do for my children and I build any expectation for what they should be getting from him, I open myself up to being hurt.

It’s stupid.

I know it’s stupid.

I still do it.

I think I would have gotten a second job to be able to send child support and gifts. I would have stayed in touch, writing letters or emails as well as calling. I would have pursued a relationship with my children if I were separated from them. I would send them stickers and books and cards and Skyped and done everything I could to be present in their lives if I were living in another state.

Basically, I would fight for my children.

And seeing that they are just not that important to their own biological father hurts me.

What has he done?

  • He sent a couple letters.
  • He sent a few emails.
  • He sent a couple of birthday presents.
  • He sent a couple of Christmas presents.
  • He said he wanted to call on Christmas last year.
  • He sent the paperwork for the girls to get their passports.
  • He flew in for his mother’s birthday party and saw the girls three times over the weekend.
  • His paycheck gets docked automatically for about 1/4 of the child support he owes each month.

So, it’s not as though he’s truly done nothing; it’s that he doesn’t do enough.

I need to let go of expectation. I need to free myself from thinking about his actions as any reflection of my own value system. I need to pray. I need to continue to facilitate any reasonable interaction the girls want to have with him. And I need to put this all out of my mind and focus on the good things in my life. It’s just hard to keep it out of your mind when the time rolls around to inform him about medical support reimbursements that he owes. So I need to just quickly do it and then put it out of my mind again. Like a colonoscopy.

What kind of a man?

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I now have the answer.

It’s been the question (other than my favorite: What was he thinking?) that everyone’s asked me over the past two years.

What kind of a man abandons his wife and children?

And now I have the answer: a coward.

I didn’t know this, know this, deep down in a visceral way until I saw him this weekend.

I had been dreading this visit for almost two months. He had moved out of the state, he had stopped all communication except occasional responses to my emails, and he hadn’t visited for 13 months. But then his mother had to go and have an 80th birthday. And want a big party. With all her kids. And grandkids. And she asked me, specifically, in person, to be there.

I didn’t want to go. I don’t like any of his family. I don’t particularly like his mother. But part of me really wants to be a “nice” person. “Nice” people show up when they are invited, bring food and a gift, are pleasant, and stay an appropriate amount of time. Part of me really, really didn’t want to be nice.

So I started by emailing Robert to ask if he was going to be there.

And that’s when the typical shitstorm hit.

Why? Would you let me take the girls?

Um. No.

Not only no, but hell no.

You see, he disappeared on me, abandoned me and two little girls under the age of ten, didn’t write, call, or try to contact us. Took his money and ran with no warning. You think I’d let him have access to those same two little girls without me being there, watching like a hawk?

But, if you are a rational-minded person, you would deduce that I asked because I was interested in arranging visitation on the chance that he would make an effort to be at his mother’s milestone event.

Turns out, he wasn’t planning on being there at all. Not until I rattled his cage by asking him if he was going.

But he couldn’t straight-up tell me that. Instead, he answered with questions, went on a tirade, call me names, and was yellling in email. Yeah, that’s the way to score points with the mother of your children.

Anyhow, push came to shove, and he finally decided to buy tickets and fly down. In his emails (he only ever emails, by the way), he expressed that he wanted to spend as much time as possible with the girls, and that he would be in town through Tuesday. I let him know that taking so long to tell me his plans meant that I’d already made some plans – it was Halloween weekend, after all – and so we could swing the birthday party and maybe lunch on Sunday. After that, we’d play it by ear.

The birthday party rolls around. On the way there, I tell the girls that Robert will be there. I had saved that tidbit of information so that they didn’t build anything up in their heads about seeing him again. I let them know that I had contacted him a few weeks previously to find outif he’d be there so that they could see them. My older daughter took that with a nod. My younger daughter put two and two together and said, “Is he the one you were emailing who made you so mad and sent you mean emails?”

Oops.

“I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to know about that.”

“It’s okay, Mommy. I’m glad I know.”

I set down some ground rules: You can say whatever you want. You can ask whatever you want. You get to choose the level of interaction you are comfortable with. You are in control of you. You must remain within five feet of me so that I can overhear conversations and simply know what was said. (I had to put in that last one because Robert takes the truth and twists it to his ends, bless his little sociopathic heart.)

We got there, and it went smoothly. I didn’t even feel the least bit violent toward him. I realized that I could avoid almost all need to have conversation by the simple expedient of not making eye contact with anyone but my kids and my husband, my wonderful husband who went with me to support me seeing this enclave of lunatics. As we left, I confirmed a lunch with Robert the following day.

We show up at the McDonald’s at the appointed time, and the same ground rules are in effect. Lunch proceeds smoothly, and the girls run off to get ice cream, and then play in the play area. My husband goes to supervise.

Robert and I sit there across the table from each other, me cocked back, relaxed, staring into his face.

And he can’t make eye contact.

All his bravado, all his bluster, gone.

And he cannot bring himself to hold any real conversation with me.

And he gets up and leaves to go watch the girls in the play area.

And it hits me: he is a coward.

Here he has this one perfect chance, this one quiet moment that he can say anything, and he slinks off. He chickens out and runs away.

Now it also struck me listening to the girls try to talk to him that he had no idea how to really talk to the girls any more. He was so wrapped up in his own sociopathic self that he missed all the verbal cues the girls were giving him, all the conversational bait that they were proffering to try to get him to show a genuine interest in their lives. He just glossed over the things that they were sharing, the things that were profoundly important to them there, that day. And instead, he talked about his “invention,” an aluminum fire fighting suit that is just another of his crazy crackpot ideas. Last year it was flying cars and jet packs. And he talked to them about getting to spend the night in hotels in Las Vegas because the rental truck company he works for flies him out to drive the trucks back to Utah. But did he ask about anything my girls were trying to get him interested in?

For that matter, did he offer to buy them ice cream? Did he offer to buy them lunch? Did he bring them anything? Any token? Any trinket? Anything?

No.

We met again for dinner Monday night, an hour drive for me, Fifteen minutes for him. I picked the place; I wanted to go somewhere I’d never want to go again, and this place was pretty close to my husband’s brother’s house, so it was more convenient to ask him to come since my husband was out of town on business.

Again, things went smoothly. The girls were entertained by their nephew, and Robert was entertained by my brother-in-law. And it was fine. Fine until Robert started talking about the new math curriculum in schools and had the temerity to say that was why he was no longer teaching. My bullshit meter fell off the wall, screaming a bloody death. I don’t remember exaclty how I reacted. I just know that I ended by saying, “I get about a hundred million points just now for not saying anything.” And I was gratified to see the look in Robert’s eyes. The look like I’d just shown him a ghost, punched him in the gut, and yanked the rug out from underneath him. Because the truth of the matter is he was no longer teaching because he walked away from his jobs, all of his teaching jobs, the moment he was expected to work hard to actually teach. Well, except for the teaching job he lost because he was ticketed for drug paraphrenalia possession. I at least did not call him out in front of my kids for being a dirty, rotten liar.

Before that, he dropped the bombshell that he wasn’t going to be available Tuesday after all. I guess seeing his kids three times was enough for him. I guess that made up for thirteen months of absence in his world. Because the rotten thing is that they knew, they knew, that he was in town, not leaving until Wednesday. That if he wanted to make it a priority to see them, I would have brought them. And he pulled out. A coward and a cheapskate liar.

So, what kind of a man abandons his children? A coward. A yellow-bellied coward with fear in his eyes and lies in his teeth.

Responding to a Sociopath

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Ever heard the phrase like oil and water? Oil and water never really mix. Oh, sure, they can be shaken up into such tiny globules that they look completely and wholly integrated with each other, but, given time, they separate out into visible splotches. Given enough time, one rests on top of the other, separate and apart.

It’s the same with a sociopath and reality. When a sociopath puts on the charm and shakes things up, it can appear that person has completely integrated with reality; they looked really well blended. But over time? Over time you see how the sociopath pulls away from reality, separates into occupying another space.

The best part is that they can do this on their own. So long as you don’t feed the belief that they are truly present in reality, you will begin to see how their stories contradict themselves, how they write their own reality to be some kind of oily mimic of the truth. Sure, they might still be able to incorporate some aspects of the truth – the best liars always do. If they’re truly good, they can make you question the truth, make you still see the blend when it’s just a sham.

They start with something to get you fired up, to make you not really look at things rationally, to respond emotionally.

Then they play into your emotions, telling you how unfair life is, how misunderstood they are, implying that you drove them to their own particular sociopathy.

Then they might compliment you, make you feel as though there is some validity to what they’re saying, because, hey, who doesn’t want to believe a compliment – especially when it’s true?

And then they slam you again with insinuations, dancing surefootedly around the truth so that they cannot be accused of outright lying.

If they want something out of you, this is when they strike.

This is when they make a demand or request, hoping you might rise up to the bait, responding to all the little emotional jabs and slights they’ve so skillfully used over the course of communicating with you.

By this point, you are an emotional wreck. You are averse to any contact with them, but they’ve drawn you in. Perhaps it was a need to defend the truth, perhaps to defend your own ego, perhaps because you were stung and want to get something back.

You won’t win this.

The only way to win is to know that no matter what you say, it won’t make a difference. That the only reason you would respond is to document the truth, but not to convince the other person of it.

The only way I’ve found to get some satisfaction out of it all is to respond as briefly and factually as possible. If there’s no outright question asked, leave the insinuations alone. The shorter your response to their impassioned tirade, the better. There is no prize here for verbal sparring. The best you can hope for is documentation in a calm, rational tone. They win when you give in to the temptation to put in a dig, however justified. Unless you just need to document that you’ve negated a comment, they win when you deign to acknowledge an insinuation or accusation. Demands? Unless they’ve specifically asked that you respond to their request, the best way to frustrate a sociopath is to ignore. They feed off the drama and confrontation and manipulation and control. They will get all of that if you give in.

If you have no legal ties to them, block them. Don’t respond.

If you are court-ordered to have some contact with them, keep it on topic, civil, unemotional, and back yourself up with documentation. Dates, times, quotations – any data you have. This is not to convince them. It’ll never happen. Their version of the truth is so skewed it’s a Gordian knot. This is to support you. This is your ballast against the waves of oily lies splashing at you.

Lastly, sit on it.

Give yourself all the release of responding to the sociopath on some kind of media that you cannot accidentally send. Write everything you’re thinking, acknowledge all of your emotions.

Then sit on it.

Go through it with a fine tooth editorial comb and extract the nits of emotion, the wordiness of your response, any indication that you care. Take the moral high ground. Keep it short, factual, and civil. And at the end, wish them well.

That’ll bug the ever-loving shit out of them.

Discouraged

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I weighed in this week, and I am disappointed with myself and discouraged. I was up a pound. I know in the grand scheme of things that a pound isn’t the end of the world, but I just am angry with myself that I didn’t do better. I just didn’t keep up with what I knew I should be doing. Now I can tell myself little white lies to protect my ego, but the reality is that I just didn’t adhere to a plan strictly enough to see any positive progress. I can tell myself that it’s stress or something, but the truth is still there: I didn’t keep myself from snacking at night, and I sure as hell went on a binge after the funeral.

But it just depresses me to think that I have so little will power on a lasting basis that I can make the significant changes I want in my life.

So what will do it? What will galvanize me into making the changes I want to see?

I just don’t know.

Perhaps this week’s disappointment will do it. Maybe the fact that I backslid will convince me to be more diligent.

The problem is that, for me, it’s an every single day commitment. If I do go off track, it takes me so long to get back on target.

And I keep second-guessing myself: What if I went to the gym more? What if I didn’t eat that extra protein bar? What if I did different exercises? What if I had eaten something different for lunch? Drunk more water? Drunk less coffee? Not used butter? Not eaten onions? Gotten more sleep? Gotten less sleep but been more physically active? Stressed less?

Well, back to square one.

Restart.

Get on track with the Slim4Ever plan. Drink more water. Do something every morning and evening. Do a little work out throughout the day.

I’ll keep you posted as to how that works and how much will power I have.

The Power in Forgiveness and Gratitude

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So my mom died.

And there was a funeral.

And I was dreading it.

Not because I couldn’t say goodbye to my mom. She’d been declining for years, had many health problems, and had one last round in the hospital and been released to hospice care. I’d been to see her and said my goodbyes. We parted on good terms.

No, I was dreading it because of who would be in attendance. Namely, my dysfunctional family.

So there’s my dad. He has Parkinson’s, disowned me, seated me with several thousand dollars in bills, and then asked me to take him back into my life to care for him.

Then there’s my sister. Well, half-sister. She disappeared nine years ago and hasn’t made any attempt to stay in contact with me. She got disowned, too, but she’s a pathological liar, morbidly obese to the tune of about 350 pounds, bisexual drug addict who introduced me to marijuana when I was in grade school, and is 17 years older than I am.

And my brother. Well, half-brother. He stays out of touch. He lives in California. He had been silent on Facebook and then started posting conspiracy, right-wing, bigoted, inflammatory spam all over his feed. When I saw my ex had recently friended him, I un-friended him. There was nothing worth seeing.

And lastly my two full brothers. The older, who had always used my parents as a personal cash cow, who had ruined their credit by failing to pay for his car that was in their name, who had worked to move my parents out of the nursing home I’d put them in – behind my back and with no notice to the nursing home, also a bisexual drug addict incapable of keeping a job who had moved to, what? Ohio? Iowa? some random state and finally gotten a job managing a pool supply store. The one closest in age to me had largely been a screen, hiding any facts from me, actively lying to me, and generally pretending that he wasn’t hurting anyone. Yeah, he was the one who finally got saddled with “taking care of my parents.” Such as that was. I have it on authority from the nurses that he had so rarely been to see them at the most recent nursing home move that they didn’t know what he looked like.

Oh, and then the family *I* divorced. My ex-mother-in-law and my ex-sister-in-law, i.e. my daughters’ other grandmother and my daughters’ aunt.

What’s remarkable in all this drama is that, the way it played out with my blood family, there was a detente.  We nodded at each other, and they kept their distance so that I didn’t have to use the sympathy pineapple to bash in the sides of their heads, which was my plan if they tried to hug me. (They give domineering bear hugs. Wet, domineering bear hugs. Crushing, wet, trapping hugs.)

So, they didn’t try to hug me. I didn’t draw blood in the church with my pineapple.

The part that surprised me was the interaction with my ex-mother-in-law. Everything was done. Everything was over. We’d gotten through the viewing. I’d gone and welcomed them and even let them hug me. We’d progressed through the service. I’d gone to bury my mom at the gravesite in the bitterly cold rain. We’d returned to the church reception. We’d made it through to the time when people should have been leaving.

And she attacked.

“So, aren’t you going to introduce me?” she demanded, walking up to me and Fiance-Man.

So I did.

And then she did it.

“I’m her mother-in-law. I’ll always be her mother-in-law.” Those actual words came out of her mouth when I introduced the woman to my fiance.

And I’d had enough.

“Point of order,” I said, choosing to fight this battle. “No, you’re not. I divorced your son. I am no longer married to him. You are not my mother-in-law. You are my children’s grandmother, but you ceased to be my mother-in-law when the I divorced your son.”

And she had the audacity to try to contradict me.

And I think I tore her a new one about the way her son acted and treated the girls and me before some very kindly-meaning friends worked to herd me away from her.

I was so angry at the time, but I needed to be shepherded away because she never would have been the first to back down. I was so livid at being “handled” that I made Fiance-Man upset by implying that I “didn’t need him.” No, I just didn’t need to feel “handled.” Looking back, I know now I needed it. There was no other way out of that forsaken conversation.

And so I apologized and admitted I was wrong.

And I stewed a few days and then called my ex-mother-in-law and apologized for essentially holding her son’s behavior as something she could have any responsibility for. However, really truly thinking about it now, I basically was just trying to get her to see that the REASON I was DIVORCED was BECAUSE of her son’s behavior. And when you’re divorced and moving on, you cut some ties quite legally. But I called her and apologized… and MOVED ON. I was able to let go of that horrible experience, let go of some of the hold that horrific memory has on me.

And then this morning I wrote thank-you notes to the ladies at the church who had done all the things to make my mother’s service a lovely event, a celebration of life, a true memorial of her vitality. It felt so good to express all the gratitude in my heart. It was the only other time I truly cried.

Reasoning with a Sociopath

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I realized my main problem in trying to communicate with my ex, with trying to figure out what to say to him that will actually begin the healing process, that will allow us to work together as a functional team to ensure the best for my daughters.

He’s a sociopath.

a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial,often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” – http://dictionary.reference.com/

What’s a sociopath?  This definition by Sue Fitzmaurice is very tangible:

  • “Charming
  • Delusional
  • Never Wrong
  • No Empathy
  • Plays the Victim
  • LIES & CHEATS
  • Twists Your Words
  • Has to Win
  • “Gas-Lights”

And so there IS no reasoning with him. There is no point in trying to lay out facts or expect him to act like a rational human being. Because he isn’t. He’s a sociopath.

Now that I can put this into words, I hope this will help the healing process. I hope this will help me let go. I’ve been holding on to conversations in my head, just things I wanted to tell him, but it’s no use. The mechanism for him to understand simply isn’t there.

The interesting thing in the above definitions is that neither of them mention ego-centrism. Because that’s the other thing I’ve noticed. It’s all about him, even when he says it’s about the kids or me. I don’t think it was always this way. I think there genuinely was a time when I was in a functional relationship. But that broke, crumbled, and disintegrated.

All I need to really remember is that there is no reasoning with a sociopath. I will think I am getting something out of a conversation that just isn’t there. All I can do is document, stay factual and polite, and follow the letter of the law.

I need to let go.

Let go of the emotional attachment to seeing his attempts to communicate.

Let go of the reactions when I actually read what he’s written or listen to what he says.

Let go of ever thinking that I can express to him in a meaningful way how much hurt he caused my daughters.

Let go of bitterness.

Let go of thinking that I could coach him how to have a relationship with my daughters.

Let go of thinking of him as their dad. He isn’t. He relinquished that title when he left without word the second time.

Let go of worrying at all about what his mother thinks or does or is. She is my girls’ grandmother, so I will continue to facilitate their relationship, but I just need to let go of caring about it. I don’t own that relationship, either.

An Open Letter to My Ex

Standard

Dear Failure as a Father,

No, it’s not my fault.

I didn’t take my car keys and my wallet and my phone and drive you off 1248 miles to Utah, walking away from my job, my kids, and my spouse.

I didn’t

  • ignore texts, Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls
  • ignore voice messages from my daughters
  • fail to contact my children even after the police notified me that I was the subject of a missing persons report
  • take off with my paycheck and fail to pay the bills to help my two little girls
  • withhold any contact information from my daughters
  • go for weeks without even attempting to initiate contact with my daughters

I didn’t

  • completely change my profile on Facebook, creating a new name for myself and trying to have a porn star lifestyle
  • fail to communicate with my two little girls for months
  • default and fail to appear in court for the proceedings for my divorce to have any say in the support of or access to my children
  • ignore any child support mandated by the courts
  • limit Christmas for my daughters to a greeting card and a magazine subscription – from a new nickname they’d never heard of before

I didn’t

  • limit my birthday gift to my oldest daughter to $20 cash and a card
  • fail to appear in court for my final divorce proceedings
  • completely and wholly default in the matter of my divorce, including any say in access to my children

I didn’t

  • neglect to try to see my children in March when I was back in the state
  • go for months without trying to communicate to my daughters
  • fail to try to negotiate a time to see my children in June when I was back in the state
  • limit my younger daughter’s birthday gift to a greeting card and a $25 gift card
  • again fail to contact my children for months

I didn’t

  • give excuses about why I couldn’t provide child support when I finally got a job
  • oh, and whine about it on Facebook
  • provide even more excuses why I couldn’t pay anything to help when my younger daughter had to go into braces
  • fail to bring anything for my daughters when I finally saw them in October, nearly a year after I’d left
  • fail to purchase anything for my girls at McDonald’s when I “went out to lunch” with them
  • take stalker-esque photos of my daughters and my ex instead of asking them to be in a photograph
  • tell my children that I was inventing a flying car and a flying suit and a flying bicycle
  • start the most psycho email barrage ever, accusing my ex of neglecting the children
  • email old neighbors, asking them to go behind my ex’s back to email me
  • fail to attempt to communicate directly with my children before acting like a sociopath

I didn’t

  • tell my children I’d write to them every week, only to have it peter off to an occasional email
  • fail to provide a working phone number to my children for 14 months
  • write emails that do not focus on my daughters but instead on me
  • fail to respond to what my daughters write to me
  • write to my children that I’m now developing suits for firefighters
  • send my older daughter a birthday message on the wrong day
  • cop out of sending my daughter a birthday present by asking her to tell me what she didn’t get – not even up front asking “What would you like for your birthday?” but “What didn’t you get that you wanted?”
  • record and send a video that had sound quality so poor my daughter couldn’t understand what I was saying – oh, and have it saved sideways, too
  • blame my ex for sharing the birthday message the day it was sent

Therefore, I fail to see how any of the quagmire you’ve created can legitimately be placed on my shoulders.

You walked away.

You continued to walk away.

You failed to treat the girls and me with respect.

And yet it is my fault? Yet you blame me for it all? You take no responsibility for any of the hurt or pain or hardship; you fail even to acknowledge that your leaving caused turmoil. Instead, in all things, you place the blame squarely on my shoulders.

Fine.

Because I got the better end of the deal.

I got the kids.

I don’t accept responsibility for your actions, but I claim full responsibility for my daughters. I am their parent. I am their guide, their role model, their influence.

I am their MOM.