Reminiscing vs. Ruminating

My current therapist told me today that I seem to be hung up on my past (I’m paraphrasing). It seems to me that this is an unfair accusation since, whenever I talk with her, she seems to ask about my past, or something comes up that causes me to trace things to my past for her to put it in perspective. Most of my days, however, my mind is occupied by other things, like hopes and plans and the activities that might lead to fulfilling my dreams. She’s getting a skewed perspective from our one-hour weekly sessions. This is partly her fault, because of the questions she asks and the topics she introduces. It is also my fault, because she doesn’t know me well enough yet – and who I am is born of my past so must be expressed in that context. Then, with her, I do bring up things I’m learning and doing in my present life that I realize have been subconsciously set because of my past, but which I’d like to change. Isn’t that what therapy’s for?

Today, for instance, I have been considering and researching different theories of the causes, and therefore the cures, of my various, medically diagnosed, physical maladies. I’m hoping that, if only I could heal better and quicker, I might finally be able to create a badly needed income. (The lack of income is causing stress, which is interfering with my healing, which is interfering yet more with my creating income. It is becoming a vicious cycle, so finding solutions is essential.) I am to the point of considering the spiritual/emotional/mental influence on our physical bodies, and have discovered that my long-term suppression of my voice – in a physical sense as well as spiritual – is apparently causing one of the life-threatening issues with which I’m dealing, and affecting several others. My hope was to brainstorm solutions to this issue.

As a job-seeker, it is absolutely necessary for me to present a “normal” appearance and to carefully self-censor my expressions on social media. Only in my blog am I somewhat free to express myself (though I’m avoiding politics) but, after my latest disappointment to get a job for which I was almost overly qualified and knew I could excel at doing, I’m rethinking whether this blog is even a good idea. If I give up this blog, however, then I have no self-expression anywhere in this world. According to my research this morning, this would be the worst possible situation in terms of healing my physical body. I apparently need more self-expression, not less. I also need to overcome my concern for what others (including potential employers?) think about me. I was hoping to brainstorm solutions with my therapist, but we never got that far.

My mistake, this time, was that I decided to put this particular level of exploration, which I suspect my therapist may find weird and dismiss as nonsense, into deeper context. I therefore began by establishing the mind/body/emotion/spiritual connections I perceive by expressing the origin of this thinking from my mother’s approach to dealing with apparent emotional issues in her children through changes in diets and supplements. (For a deeper explanation, see my next planned blog when it comes out and, also, “Now We’re Gummed Up”).

I was hoping to jump from this context to establishing that illness in the human body can arise not only from physical conditions but also from stress and other emotional and spiritual conditions. Basically, my mother went from physical to spiritual, but it stands to reason that, since this connection seemed true, it could also go the other way – from spiritual to physical. I meant to race through this to the particular issue I was researching today, (which, admittedly, because of what I was learning, would have required linking to the particular abuse I experienced growing up and in my marriage, so I would have been, hopefully briefly, regurgitating past events,) to the current time and things I could do now to combat the bad habits I formed, with good reason, in my past. She stopped me short by complaining that I was looking back instead of looking forward.

Since every moment of life is born from the past and leaning toward the future, as well as living in the present, I don’t see how the past and future are such strictly separate things. I also see a great benefit from drawing lessons from the past – especially when new information provides a new perspective for understanding, as it did for me this morning. I am a huge believer in learning from experience – especially bad experiences – because I believe it is a true saying that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I think, in our personal lives, we put ourselves through similar situations, over and over, until we finally learn what we need to from them. I hope one day to have a happy, mutually fulfilling marriage, so I am learning everything I can from my recent failure in marriage to avoid recreating this failure. Also, in terms of healing, if my thinking, emotions, and beliefs have caused this crippling situation, then I need to correct that by identifying what is the problem and then fixing it. I absolutely don’t want to have to keep repeating my worst experiences until I learn from them, so let me be sure I learn everything I need to from them now. My therapist, however, is worried that I’m not moving forward fast enough. She seems to think that if I just ignore everything that ever happened to me and focus on the future I want to create, alone, I’ll get there quicker.

We therefore got diverted into an entirely different discussion than the one I had hoped to have. I want healing ideas…but now I felt I had to defend the rumination required to understand what I had created in my life and why, so as to avoid creating such things in the future. It was her stated opinion that I had gotten nothing of value from any of my ruminations. I disagree. It seems to me I have learned a lot, so I started to point out recent insights into the nature of the world at large, as, for instance, that true evil does exist and that human nature is not inherently good (the image of God) but can be the opposite. I also have realized the fact that some people so self-identify with their victimization and/or self-imposed sufferings that they don’t want to let it go – to the point of feeling the need to destroy those who are trying to help them heal and be happy. It was an absolute shock to me that anyone could hate another person simply for trying to make them happy. I have also, recently, identified huge blind-spots in myself, which I doubt I will be able to fix. I must therefore find a way to work around them. I also am learning a lot about myself by reviewing who I have been, what I was trying (and failing) to achieve, and where I went wrong.

How can this be anything but helpful when it is my job, in this moment, to create a life for myself that I will love to live? How can I do that if I don’t fully understand who I am, what I need and why? I also need to know how I need to build this life, because not every way it might come into existence would be acceptable to me. It is not just that I want to live a certain way, but I want to prove to myself that I am worthy to live that way, and I need my way of life to benefit others as well. I need healthy connections with others, but at the same time, according to this morning’s revelations, I need to be less concerned with what others think about me. How do I build relationships without caring about what other’s think about me? I can understand happily rejecting those who aren’t going to accept me as I am – to a point – but I cannot reject everyone. I also can’t reject potential employers, who may demand me to conform to some image that truly isn’t me. I need the money! I could really use some help to find a way to navigate this situation.

Even as a writer who creates characters, I can’t just “POP” and have my new, hopefully improved, self fully formed and functional from nothing. I have to deal with where I’ve been, who I’ve been, what I’ve done and failed to do, and why I made the decisions I did, for better or for worse, that brought me to where I am today. This is necessary knowledge in order to build on today a future fit for me. Ignoring all of that is like an architect designing a house for a client without caring about what the client’s daily activities and needs are or what the client’s tastes might be. How can you possibly succeed in fitting a house to owners you haven’t begun to know? I’m building a future for me, so I need to know who I am.

I had barely begun broaching this topic when…oops, time is up.

Next week will, undoubtedly, bring up this issue again, however, since we didn’t properly address it this week. Neither of us had our minds changed because I didn’t express my point of view within the hour so she cannot possibly understand it, and she has already expressed her opinion, with which I disagree, but which she has not had a chance to defend in light of my objections. If either of us try to ignore this issue, we might succeed for next week, but it is guaranteed to intrude again because it is important. It is a core issue with therapy, in my opinion.

I wonder, if it would help if I begin next week’s session by pointing out the fact that, because we failed to ruminate fully in an exploration of this issue the week before, we are now doomed to repeat it.

An Exceptional Man

I got some great news yesterday. A friend of mine has met and started dating a man whom she thinks is wonderful. He might even be “The One.” I have never before seen her so happy, and it filled my heart with joy.

As she was describing this man, however, gushing about how kind, attentive, caring, etc., he seemed to be, I started to worry a bit. I have no reason to believe there is anything at all wrong with the man, whom I have never met, but I began to realize I had no reason to believe, from anything she described, that there was anything exceptionally great about him either. She liked that in months of online chatting they had moved beyond small-talk. (Personally, I don’t endure small-talk for more than an hour.) She was excited by the fact that he respected her boundaries. Isn’t that the bare minimum a normal man should do? She loved that when unexpected things happened to cause problems on their dates (car problems, traffic slowdowns, mosquitoes attacking them on an outdoor adventure) he responded with good humor instead of non-stop complaining. While this behavior is admirable, I’ve found that even a serial-complainer will stifle it on the first, few dates. It takes time to prove that this is a real, positive quality and not just an act. She loved that she could share personal things with him and not be greeted with contempt or derision. The fact that she had ever been on a date with any man who made her feel bad about her personal quirks, which I believe are a great part of her unique charm, shocked me. Such men are rude. That this man was not so horrible toward her seems to me to make him normal, not exceptional.

Here is the thing: I believe my friend is exceptional. She is beautiful – as in gorgeous. She rarely wears makeup, rarely goes to any effort at all on her hair or clothes, but she’s still remarkably lovely. When she does go to effort – look out! She is also brilliant. She is fluent in multiple languages, she has a couple degrees in sciences, a background in health and medicine, and a mind that can pierce directly to the core of any issue with astonishing clarity. On top of that, she is sweet-natured, unassuming, positive, cheerful, empathetic, and inexplicably modest. She is building her own business – two steps forward, one step back – with admirable persistence, and she is determined to be self-sufficient. She does want companionship, but she is certainly not looking for any man to support her. Her only “negative” is that she is recently divorced and a single mother of young children. I know, for some men, that is a significant turn-off, but that is their loss in this case. I believe she would be an amazing catch for anyone worthy of her. Now, however, I’m beginning to wonder if she is as aware of her value as she should be, and willing to wait for a man who will appreciate her as much as she deserves.

How badly must she have been treated in her marriage for her to believe that a man acting with normal behavior is exceptionally wonderful? I understand that, especially once a woman is married and pregnant, she will put up with a lot of behavior she shouldn’t in order to keep the marriage together for the sake of her child. I’ve been there and done that. In retrospect, I realize that my first pregnancy was the point my ex-husband turned from an apparently decent guy to an obvious a**-h*le, though he was certainly lying quite a lot before that. I spent the rest of our marriage trying to excuse inexcusable abuse and fix problems that I had not caused and had no power to change. I turned into a self-sacrificing doormat for the sake of my children, never realizing that their father was abusing them, too. It was a necessary but difficult lesson for me in the fact that true evil does exist. It was a lesson that took me far too long to learn and one that I still struggle to fully appreciate since the depth of his cruelty to his own wife and children seems too depraved to be human. Hopefully, I have now learned this lesson well enough that I will never need a refresher course. However, when I am ready to step back into the dating world, I wonder if, like my friend, I will be blown away by what should be normal behavior, since my ex was so comparatively bad. Will I become absurdly grateful for a man acting with common etiquette rather than outright rudeness? Will I be inclined to confuse basic, normal respect for “love?” Have I been so damaged by an evil man that a normal man will seem extraordinarily wonderful? Is this skewed perspective something I should watch for in myself? It may be this is a normal side-effect of abusive relationships, for which I should be on guard in my own life.

Bottom line, however, my fears for my friend are probably nothing more than my projection of my own worries for myself. They are likely nothing more than proof of the fact that, unlike her, I’m not ready yet to date. Why else would I seek out the possible negative in something that seems so overwhelmingly positive?

My friend seems smarter than I am. She got out of her bad marriage earlier. She turned her incredible intelligence into analyzing what she had done wrong and worked to fix the issues in herself that got her into that bad situation and kept her there for a while. She is now ready for real love in her life, and is in every way worthy of it. I hope she has truly found it, but I know that, even if this man isn’t “it,” she is strong and resilient. She will be fine and keep going until she does find her best partner. There is every possibility that this man is an outstanding match for her, however. I’m alarmed that she is so excited about behavior that should be minimally expected – but that doesn’t change the fact that there are, so far, no “red flags.” Her read is that he is genuine, honest, sincere in his attraction to her, respectful, emotionally available but willing to take it as slowly as she desires. She also finds him sexy and romantic in a very healthy way. He is everything she had been hoping to find in a man, and she says he seems even better than she had dared to desire. She is happy in this first flush of romance, and there is no reason to believe the love between them won’t deepen and grow continuously through time. I hope it does. In fact, I’m expecting it will! She certainly deserves the best, and her achieving it gives me hope for myself as well.

I Wish You Were Here

Dear Beloved,

I wish you were here.


I’m feeling so overwhelmingly lonely and alone right now, I could almost wish anyone were here, except I know better than that. I’ve learned, the hard way, that there are some people I could not endure in this moment. Then there are the majority of people, whom I could rise to the occasion to meet, greet, pretend cheerfulness, etc. I would listen to their problems and struggle to focus on them enough to find some way to help them, knowing that even just listening is often helpful. I might even feel better for a while, focusing on them, forgetting myself. Then they would leave, and the isolation would come flooding in again. I’m trying to learn how to live with it. It is like trying to learn how to breathe underwater. Somedays I think I manage well. Today, however…

I wish you were here. Really. There’s no one else I need or want – just you.

If you were here, I don’t even know if I would want to talk with you. I’m writing because there is no other way to reach you right now, but I wish there weren’t even the space of words between us.

If you were here, I would just run to you. I would wrap my arms around your wide, strong chest. I would bury my face in the crook between your shoulder and your neck, where I can breathe you in to refresh my soul. I would silently beg for you to fold me into you and just hold me. Hold me, please! I want the scent of you surrounding me. I want the touch of you against my skin, reassuring me that you are real, and solid, and here.

I know just the look you would give me – the confused frown – as you stand there, awkwardly, having no clue what to do with your arms, half-tempted to turn and run away. You would be staring down at the top of my head, wondering who this was pressing against you, and what had I done with the cheerful chatterbox you had expected to see. I would feel you shift your weight from foot to foot, until it finally occurred to you to hug me. Why did it take you so long?

“What’s the matter, Aylya?” you ask. Your deep, resonate bass rumbles gently into me. I feel it inside my chest, caressing my heart, soothing me.

I don’t want to answer. I don’t want you to hear the tears in my voice. I don’t want you to witness all my weaknesses, my fears. I just want to find my safe place, in your arms, where I am not so totally alone – the space where I can breathe again, until I can find my strength to return to my isolation. It’s O.K. if you talk, Beloved. I love hearing your voice! Just, please, don’t ask me anything.

That’s not fair. I know it.

“I miss you,” I force myself to say.

“I’m right here,” you answer, perplexed.

I nod, wanting to believe it. I want to feel safe with you. I want to know you won’t disappear. I want you to be real and really with me. I’m being quite unreasonable…but can I just steal this one moment, for as long as it will last?

One last breath, filled with the salt, cedar tang of your sweat and soap. One last brush of your large hand, pressing me gently between my shoulders. Your other hand reaches for my chin, wanting to lift my face so you can look into my eyes. You want a real connection with me, soul to soul. So do I. But when I look up, seeking it, daring to reveal to you my tear-stained face, you’re gone.

Beloved! Did it have to end so soon? I sweep the empty room with my gaze, struggling to draw air through the isolation. There is nothing to breathe. It is a suffocation of silence.

I wish you were here.

Fail Your Way to Success

I heard a quote by Tom Watson today which, paraphrased, said that the formula for success is to double your rate of failure.

By that measure, I think I should be wildly successful by now. I recently came through the greatest failure of my life – my marriage. I married an abusive man and stayed with him, partly because I failed to wrap my mind around how truly evil he was, but also because I believed that it was better for my children to have a father, even if I was unhappy in the marriage. In the end, it turned out he was not only abusing me, but our children as well and it would have been much better for me to leave much earlier – possibly as soon as I was pregnant with my last children (only because, if I had left any earlier, they wouldn’t have been born).

I failed by marrying him.

I failed by staying with him.

I failed by not seeing clearly what was truly happening and the harm he was doing not only to me but also to our children.

I failed by giving up my career, which I loved, at my husband’s insistence and agreeing to try to make money from home, while birthing, nursing, raising, and homeschooling 5 children single-handedly, with nothing but obstruction and discouragement from him.

I failed in all my attempts to make money from home which, now that I have clearer hindsight, I realize my husband was actively undermining.

I failed by not taking care of myself adequately and allowing my health to degenerate dangerously.

I failed by allowing myself to be almost completely isolated and trapped within our crumbling home by my husband’s insistence that we were too poor to afford gas for the car, house maintenance, or even food, clothes, or medical care for me and our children.

I failed even during the divorce by accepting a ridiculously disastrous settlement. After years of my ex-husband dragging the divorce proceedure out, his refusing to get or keep a job, his refusing to negotiate honorably with me in any way, and after he made it clear he would rather destroy me than to reach any settlement, no matter how beneficial to him, I allowed him to destroy me, just to end the hell.

Then I failed by putting myself in the power of my abusive brother, who promised to help me during my absolute destitution and illness, following my divorce, in exchange for my taking the disastrous settlement, including over $80,000.00 of high interest debt I had no knowledge was even being needlessly created by my husband in my name, so that my brother could buy our house at a bargain. As soon as my brother had the house, he reneged on his verbal agreements and became openly abusive not only to me, but also to my children. I should have seen that coming. I should have known better.

After that, I failed to find anyone to hire me for anything I could physically do, which admittedly, at that point, was not much.

I gave into the fears instilled by my new doctors, who were insisting I was on the brink of death. I took their useless medications which caused, among other devastating side-effects, deep depression and so much thick mental confusion that I could barely function at all. In that state I alienated my older children, who blamed me for the divorce and for my failure to immediately succeed without any emotional or fiscal support at all from anyone. The only thing I did right was finally ditching the doctor’s medications, essentially accepting my death sentence from them, in order to have some quality of life in my last days.

If failure is the key to success, I should be wildly successful right now.

Here’s the thing…perhaps I am. I am still struggling on all levels in the eyes of the outside world, but I am feeling healthier and happier than I have in decades – since shortly after my marriage. I feel as if my health is improving, almost daily. I am back to doing what I love – writing and preparing my books for publication. I am slowly making new friends, people I value greatly, who are kind, good, loving, supportive, positive, and also striving to help others as well as themselves. I am proud to discover I have as much to offer them as they are offering me. I am slowly building a better relationship with my younger children, even though the older ones, who no longer live with me, continue to reject me, ignorant of the changes I am experiencing. I have a vision of a wonderful, future full of love and prosperity, building a community that uplifts everyone involved, and filling the world with delight and joy. By sinking to a point where I had no one in my life who showed any care about me at all, except God, I am learning that I can trust God. I am, thereby, gaining greater courage and faith.

Each day, in every aspect of my life, I’m improving. Even when it feels like baby steps, it is progress. Just the fact that I am now celebrating hope where, for a while, there was only despair, fills my life with joy. The seed of greatness is growing deep inside me. It hasn’t sprouted so others can see it yet, but I can feel it rising toward the light. I know I’m going to be fine and, as I rise, I’ll lift everyone around me as well.

Tom Watson’s quote, no doubt, meant that one succeeds by being willing to dare to fail, since only in audaciously trying to go beyond our limits, which demands failure at first as we grow and learn, can we eventually succeed. Failure is always a stepping stone to success. Therefore, the quicker and the more you fail, the sooner you succeed.

The fact is that I did learn a lot from all my failures. I learned that I am such an inherently good, kind person that I could not conceive of evil, even while I was living with it. It is said that people cannot see the qualities in others that they lack in themselves. My ex-husband could not see love or kindness anywhere in the world, and I could not see his contempt and cruelty. I learned that I am a great wife – throwing myself wholeheartedly into marriage, with complete commitment. It was wrong to blind myself to my husband’s true nature, but I did so, believing his constant lies, in order to stay fully loving and supportive of my husband. The marriage could never have endured if I had known the truth about him. Meanwhile, under the false illusion of dire poverty he inflicted on us, I proved willing to sacrifice my own hopes, dreams, and even basic needs, for his and for my children when necessary. Of course, I know now that it was never truly necessary, and I understand that a real man of even basic quality would never have allowed my sacrifices, especially when he made none of his own. I should have realized how blatantly inequitable our conditions were. Hopefully, going forward, I will be wiser. As it was, however, I had the opportunity to prove, beyond doubt, that I have, hidden in the depths of my soul, the stuff of heroes. I lived with passion, courage, unremitting love, determination, and a cheerfulness and positivity even in the worst of situations (briefly masked by the side-effects of medications). I had the ability to find or create happiness and good in even the worst situations, to see the good in even the worst of people, and to keep striving to intensify that good for everyone around me. I was married to a man who not only failed to appreciate these qualities, but sought to destroy them, yet these qualities only grew stronger over time. Even during the effects of befuddling and depressing medications, I refused to give up. When/If I am ever matched with a good man, who will support the good in me rather than work to destroy it, and accept the boundless love and support that I have proved I’m willing to give, what glory might we achieve together? I don’t think anything wonderful would be impossible for us. I also now realize that I am capable of being wonderful on my own.

God has given me a gorgeous world, full of a multitude of beauties crowding every minute. God has given me the power to make my own dreams come true, and to help others realize their’s. God has shown me endless possibilities for ways I can turn my life to bringing out and brightening the best of God’s creation. I have only to choose which way I prefer. God has been very kind to me, including by putting me through all I have endured, because I did endure it. I strengthened. I grew. I learned. I gained deeper understanding of the heartaches of others, therefore becoming better able to ease and help them, and maybe even to help heal them. Common wisdom likes to say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” My marriage could have killed me. In a very real way, it almost did. It was like a forest fire that leaves a scene of utter desolation in its wake, but which fertilizes and clears the ground, setting the stage for amazing new growth.

My past has made me stronger, I think, not so much in making me capable of enduring more, but it showing me how much I could endure, how well I can heal from that, and even more importantly, how I can turn all my suffering to good, in a way to benefit others as well as myself. I still regret that my children were all so badly hurt – so much more than they yet realize – but if I can turn my experiences to good, then they can turn theirs to good as well. We all have that choice, and what we choose makes all the difference. All their lives I have told them, over and over, that attitude is everything. I endeavored to prove it by finding ways to keep happy and cheerful under crushing poverty, even while starving, with a failing body that could not afford medical help. Now is my chance, however, to prove the power of positive attitude properly. Hopefully my children will see and understand, so that they can choose their own health, happiness, love and prosperity for their own lives.

Thank you God for all your endless blessings!


My understanding of Karma is, admittedly, imperfect. I have not studied the concept at depth, only heard it described by various others who may not have been perfect in their understanding. In general, I understand Karma to be an impersonal force that balances all actions and energies in existence, returning good for good and evil for evil to every souce, spanning many potential lifetimes, for all of the being’s existence. Karma has no personal feelings toward anyone to mitigate its strict justice. There is no “mercy” involved. Karma does not love or hate. It simply reflects back to the source what that source puts out. If a person acts cruelly, then sometime in this lifetime or a following one, that person will experience similar cruelty in exact measure. Since most lives include times of misfortune or even tragedy, those who believe in karma believe it is always justified punishment for bad actions in this life or a prior life.

The consensus seems to be that the best one can do is accept with grace all misfortune, understanding that it is justified and will pass, and hoping that, when it does, there will be no other prior evil to atone for karmically so that one can be happy after that. Of course, none of us are perfect and even the best of us make many mistakes, so there will always be something to suffer. Therefore, the “wise” believers in karmic systems seek to escape them by “transcending” this world. Transcending is, apparently, done by disengaging as much as possible from the world in all ways. If the people describing it to me were accurate, it is essentially seeking an ultimate self-annihilation as the only means to fully escape the trap of this karmic system. In other words, the karmic system is, apparently, so horrible that it would be better to cease to exist as an entity than to continue in it.

Thank God I believe in God!

I believe in a divine creative intelligence, also known as God, who intentionally created this whole world (beyond our single planet) and all the beings within it. This God did so from love, which is His essence. He is still present, still creating and functioning in the system He designed and set in motion, and He is able to mete out justice, but also to temper it with mercy when appropriate. He works toward the ultimate good, not only of the world in general, or the people who honor Him, but also for each and every individual whom He specially made with their own purpose, in His image, with all His love for them.

God will allow bad things to happen to us for many reasons. Sometimes it might be as a punishment for our bad behavior. How else can we learn that our behavior is bad if we don’t feel the results of it? He can also test us through trials, as much or more to teach us something of ourselves, and He can use apparent misfortunes to build us and teach us, much as a sports coach builds his athletes by forcing them through difficulties and stresses. God also, more often than we may realize, blesses us with things that seem like misfortunes at first, but lead to far better good than we could have imagined. I find myself more and more often viewing my abusive marriage in this way, as I realize the strength, insight, and personal growth I gained through it. I begin to wonder if all misfortunes might not be, in some way, blessings in disguise. The only thing that misfortunes are not, is random. God is in control, working for our greater good, and we need to trust Him.

Even more than merely trusting in God, we need to do our part through our misfortunes by looking for the potential good that may arise from them. In the midst of suffering, we need to look for a benefit to our pain and a way to turn our suffering into good for others as well as ourselves. Many people have done this beautifully by creating scholarships and endowments in the name of loved ones who tragically died. MADD, Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers, was famously created by a family whose son had been killed by a drunk driver. The impulse to spare others from suffering the agony we are currently experiencing is an amazing testament to love, strength, goodness, and God. It ends up making the whole world a better place. God bless those who do this!

I wonder, however, why this impulse is so strong in Biblically based beliefs, like Judaism and Christianity, but not in karmic beliefs. Why do Jews and Christians look to turn tragedy to good, but those who follow karmic beliefs more often seek to escape the world and transcend, as if no hope for good were possible? The difference between Karma and God is that Karma lacks the intention, the love, and the mercy of God. It is strictly just – returning bad for bad but also good for good. It is an impersonal and unwavering system. As such, wouldn’t it make more sense to use that by doing more good than evil – so much so that doing good, putting forth love and kindness, becomes a habit so deeply ingrained that one can scarce avoid it? Of course we’ll make mistakes – all humans do – but if we do so much more good than evil, then we’ll get back so much more good. Isn’t that the essence of Karma? If we do more good than evil, we’ll suffer a little for the evil but enjoy a lot for the good. You can make your own future lives all happy by striving to be as good as possible whenever you can. With such direct ability to create such blissful lives, why then would anyone choose to “transcend” and escape – especially since transcendence seems so difficult? That way, the best you can hope for is to cease to exist.

In the Biblical perspective, God made us and is making us. We aren’t done yet. We’re in this world to learn and grow, and growing pains can be awful at times. Our tests and trials, necessary to become our best selves, can feel like temporary agony. We must learn to love, but all love is tinged by the imminent loss as those we love can suffer and die, even if they do not slip into harming us or betraying us. Eventually we learn the difference between true love and false love. We learn that true love never dies, that all separations are temporary, that joy is the goal of even passing through our worst sufferings, and that we are part of creating a glorious, wonderful world we can all enjoy together.

Is the problem with the karmic view, which gives us directly the power to create our happy lives by doing good, loving others, and acting with kindness, and therefore earning joy, the fact that we doubt ourselves, in whom all the control lies? Is it the lack of a God we can trust, Who is directing us and helping us, the difference that makes karmic systems seems so horrible? Or is it just the lack of mercy – that we know we will suffer for all our mistakes, no matter how innocent or well-intentioned they were? When an impersonal force makes the power wholly yours to create happiness or suffering for yourself, why is that seen as ultimately hopeless? Why is a loving and possibly merciful God the difference that makes joy in this world possible?

Without God, man is man. Although I believe mankind is tending to improve – grow kinder and more loving toward all other creatures, including other men – the fact is our history hasn’t been encouraging. Violence and cruelty have been apparently endemic. Each individual can endeavor to do better – and in a karmic system will inevitably be rewarded for that – but apparently we don’t trust ourselves to actually succeed. Better to transcend, escape this world, and ultimately self-annihilate. Without God, I guess, the world does seem bleak and hopeless.

Thank God for God.

The Mathematics of Marriage

I was raised with the saying “It takes two to make a marriage.” This seems to me a true statement. It takes two to make any relationship at all, with the sole exception of parent/infant where the baby has no responsibilities in or to the relationship and never had to agree to it. My only point of disagreement with the statement that “it takes two to make a marriage” is that so many people misuse this statement to insist, when any marriage fails, it therefore has to be the fault of BOTH participants. That doesn’t add up.

IF it takes two to make a marriage, THEN the failure of even one of the two to do his/her part is all it takes to destroy that marriage.

Marriage = (1 + 1 = 2).
(1 + 1 = 2) cannot equal (1 + 0 = 1) or (2 – 1 = 1) because 2 cannot equal 1.
Said slightly differently, since Marriage = (1 + 1 + 2), all it takes is the absense or subtraction of 1 to destroy the truth of equation and NOT make a marriage.

One person, alone, cannot make a marriage. One person, alone, cannot make any relationship, since any and every relationship is, by definition, at least two people choosing to interact and respond to each other on a regular basis. One person can pursue another, unwilling person. One person may even be able to dominate and subdue another person, imprison them, even destroy them. Those are NOT “relationships” however, even though they might have started as such. If they have reached that point, they have ceased being relationships, according to my definition. Relationships, even bad ones, require at least two people choosing to interact with each other. Ideally, they do this with the goal of building a happy, healthy co-existence with each other and/or to succeed at building a family, a business, or some other mutual goal. Even when the people involved disagree on the details of their mutual goal, or how best to achieve it, or what they hope might grow from it, as long as they keep choosing to interact with each other, they are in a relationship together.

At the point where even one of the participants decides to bow out of a relationship, that relationship, as such, is over. The reason for this decision is irrelevant. Even if the person remains physically present, if s/he is no longer willing to work with the other person, there is no longer any actual relationship between them. In the future, things might change. Until that point, the relationship doesn’t exist. At this point even a legal marriage ceases to be a relationship for all emotional purposes, even if it remains recognized by law.

It is possible that both of the partners might have made mistakes or hurt each other in a marriage. I’d suggest this is even probable, since humans are fallible and such missteps often occur. That is why forgiveness becomes so vitally important in any healthy relationship. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible for both partners to have contributed to the failure of their marriage. I’m only pointing out that this isn’t necessary.

Given the mathematics, any marriage can fail even with a fully committed partner still pouring in all the effort s/he could, perhaps all or more than should have been required to build an outstandingly successful and happy marriage with an equally committed partner. If such a partner was so striving while the other partner gave up, or possibly never participated at all, then there was no way for that marriage to succeed. The marriage’s failure isn’t the fault of the partner who continued to sincerely try longer than the other. The absent partner renders the marriage a failure despite anything and everything the loving partner can do. It takes two to make a marriage, which means it only requires one of the two to destroy it.

I hope people will come to realize this and stop telling divorcees, reeling from the destruction of all their hopes and dreams for a marriage, heartbroken and mourning all the wasted time, effort, emotions, energy, and resources they fruitlessly poured into it throughout the years, that the marriage failed at least in part because of them. The good partner, who did her/his best, doesn’t need that guilt piled on top of all the rest that they are grieving, especially since it isn’t necessarily true.

It may be that the fault of the good partner was nothing more than trusting someone who was untrustworthy, which is something trustworthy people tend to do. Knowing how dependable they, themselves, are, they naturally expect others to be as well, until that expectation is disappointed in an individual. At that point, many good people may see it as an aberration. People tend to view themselves as the standard of “normal,” so a trustworthy person believes being honorable, dependable, etc., is normal. A person who proves himself otherwise to them seems to be an exception to the rule, until enough people have done so to convince them such behavior is more common than they had realized.

It may be that the good, honest partner, who understood the importance of clear communication in any relationship, was guilty of nothing more than believing someone who was lying to them. Are they truly foolish to trust their spouse? Is it so unreasonable to expect complete honesty in a marriage, where anything short of that can only be destructive? If you are partners working together toward mutual, shared goals, of course you are going to be honest with each other, because that is a fundamental requirement for success when working together. Someone who, in such a situation, falls prey to a liar pretending to be a partner, should not be blamed for failing to see that coming.

If you try to argue, as a divorce lawyer I knew once argued with me, that the good partner should have kept perpetually alert to the possibility of being intentionally abused by the other partner, whom they “foolishly” loved and trusted, then I’ll respond that this cannot be useful to building a good marriage. Love and trust are essential and should be present in a marriage unless and until they are provably destroyed, at which point the marriage is destroyed. Doubting a good partner is potentially worse than trusting a bad one, because it can unjustly and irrevocably destroy a wonderful relationship, full of potential for you both. That loss is worse that continuing to trust a deceiver for a little longer.

When you wrongly trust a deceiver, the worst of all the losses you suffer is only what you never really had – the dream of a loving relationship. How much worse is it to lose something wonderful that was truly yours, but needlessly doubted? By constantly looking for betrayal from a loving spouse, you set yourself up to imagine it where it doesn’t exist. You have, thereby, hurt not only yourself, all your hopes and dreams, but you have also betrayed your good partner, who was depending on you to keep faithful and loving so s/he could keep faithful and loving to you. It is horrible when good people are intentionally abused by their ill-chosen partners, but, once, an abuser has succeeded in being chosen as a partner, even through deceit, the good partner must give the marriage a real chance by remaining trusting and faithful until the evidence proves, beyond a doubt, that they are being abused. In the end, it isn’t a good partner’s fault if his/her partner acted despicably and destroyed their marriage, but it would be his/her fault if s/he unjustly suspected the innocent partner. Where the good partner seems to stay too long with someone who was abusing them, especially covertly (lying, cheating, and/or stealing, while hiding his/her activities, for instance) then the good partner should be held innocent of the destruction of the marriage and even honored for staying faithful and loving until the abuser’s evil was fully proved.

If someone insists that they did their best, that the failure of their marriage wasn’t their fault at all, allow that they may very well be telling the truth. One person, alone, can be the cause of a marriage’s failure, even with an excellent partner. You might be talking to a lying or self-deluded person, so reserve some doubt, privately, until you know for sure, but you might also be talking with an honest, good partner, who doesn’t deserve blame for something that, truly, they had no way at all to remedy.

If you are inclined to suspect they are lying because, for years, you heard their partner complaining about them behind their back, stop and question why the partner was complaining to you instead of working to improve the marriage with their partner. It is possible that the complainer was being abused, but more often the truly abused partner, who is trying desperately to hold the marriage together against mounting odds, isn’t bad-talking their spouse to others outside their marriage. In cases of severe abuse, it is more often the abusive partner who is intentionally trying to turn public opinion against his/her victim, in anticipation of worsening abuse and/or prior abuses coming to light. It is also part of trying to isolate the victim, removing any source of potential help, to keep the victim under his/her control. A good partner, who is struggling to make a marriage work, rarely will malign his/her spouse to others. Abusers commonly do.

If you are the divorced or divorcing person, listening to friends and family trying to tell you that you had to be at least partly to blame for the failure of your marriage, please understand that it isn’t necessarily so. These people may be well-meaning, but they are very possibly mistaken. Unless they can tell you exactly what you did wrong, or help you discover that element yourself, they may not be worth listening to on this subject. It might be best to politely ignore them.

Advice also worth rejecting is any that insists you should ignore the past and just move on. It is harmful to you to wallow in the misery of your failed marriage and divorce forever, but those experiences hold a treasure trove of useful information for you to build your future if/when you can uncover it from beneath all the pain. Everything you go through should be turned to good in your life, especially the tragic events. There are likely important lessons embedded in those experiences which, if you do not learn them this time, may be forced on you again through even worse experiences. It is worth the time and effort to examine, at various points in your life, the failure of your marriage, to see what you can learn from it. What, if anything, could you have done differently or better? The more emotional distance you get from the event, the clearer your understanding may be, so review it a few times at different points in your life.

Where you can find your fault, if any, you have found gold. It is exactly what you need to study, to learn how to improve, in order to make better relationships in the future. Where you have the fault, there you had the power but failed to use it wisely. Identifying where you had the power makes you that much more powerful going forward, and learning how to use it better improves your chances for future joy in current and future relationships. Your faults are not the prettiest images you can find of yourself, but they are the most useful for self-improvement.

If, however, every self-review keeps assuring you that you did, to the best of your ability at the time, everything you could, and the failure really wasn’t your fault, then accept that. Try to choose a better partner next time. Please keep your heart open and eager to love. For someone worthy of you, you may be the perfect partner with whom s/he can make a truly wonderful marriage. I trust that, when you are both ready, you will find each other. For both your sakes, and for the joy for all who love you, and the inspiration of all who know you, I wish for you that great happiness.

Holding Grudges

My brother recently came to town, without telling me, and took my adult and almost adult children out to dinner with him, behind my back. He also bought them some badly needed clothes. During this visit with them he was, apparently, maligning me to my children. One of the insults he applied to me, probably the least offensive, was that I “hold grudges.” I have been puzzling over this and wondering if it is true or, even if it is, whether it is wrong for me to hold grudges in this situation.

The last time I saw my brother was shortly after my divorce was finalized. He had already broken some of his promises to me – promises on which I was completely dependent since accepting my divorce settlement, crafted by him with a lawyer he had hired. The divorce settlement trapped me in an impossible situation in which I could only survive if my brother kept his verbal promises, which he neglected to write in any contract form. I, very foolishly, trusted him. After I had fulfilled my part of our deal by signing the wholly disastrous divorce settlement which allowed my brother to buy our house and property for far below its value, in exchange for me accepting the financially crushing settlement, my brother announced that he was not going to keep some of the promises he had made in exchange. This forced me and my children to remain living in unhealthy, unsafe, sub-human conditions that he had promised to mend. Then, three months later, my brother returned to announce that he was reneging on keeping the rest of his promises as well, thereby inflicting complete disaster on us.

His method for making this announcement was by coming into our home, flying into a rage, and wrongly blaming us for something that was only due to his negligence, which was outside of our control. He commenced yelling at us, in increasing volume until he was screaming, that my children and I were “too disgusting for anyone to ever want to help!” He kept screaming this for about an hour or more, over and over, until I not only gave up trying to have a calm, adult, rational conversation with him, which had been my objective, but I also gave up defending myself and my children from his wholly unjust, ridiculous accusation. I couldn’t insert so much as a single word into our interaction, and every attempt only made him rage worse. That left me with no way to defend myself or my innocent children. The children fled the common room but could still hear their uncle raging from their bedrooms. Once he felt I was sufficiently subdued and that his destructive message had been adequately beaten into us all, he stormed out of the house.

Shortly thereafter, my sister-in-law contacted me and told me I had to talk with my brother. I refused to attempt another verbal conversation on the basis that his prior behavior had proved he had no intention of allowing me to say anything at all. Instead, I emailed a letter, identifying his behavior as abusive (in accord with numerous textbook and other authoritative psychological definitions of “abuse”) and demanding an apology. He emailed back a long letter, the gist of which was

1. His behavior was not at all abusive (based solely on his opinion).

2. My attempt to keep talking to him and to respond to every point he was making was the reason he was forced to scream at us, over and over, that we were “too disgusting for anyone to ever what to help” until he could finally get me to shut up – i.e. his behavior was all my fault.

3. He felt so good doing this to us, during and especially afterward, that he can’t imagine why we didn’t also enjoy it – with the implication that there had to be something wrong with us for not being masochistic enough to enjoy his abuse of us.

I had planned to respond to his email but, after reading that last point, decided he was too insane for any response I could make to have any positive impact. I therefore decided to have as little contact with him as possible from then on.

I was not pleased when I discovered that he was texting and meeting with my children behind my back but, as one of them is now an official adult and the other two are 17, I figured I had no way to prevent them. What I know, that my children don’t, is that my brother was physically abusive toward me during our childhood, to the point where I felt unsafe in our home. Most vivid in my memory is one scene when my mother picked us both up from middle school. I sat in the front seat and was quietly trying to work on my homework on the way home. My brother, in the back seat, suddenly reached around my seat, wrapped both his hands around my neck, and began choaking me. I begged him to stop, which made him choak me harder. I tried to pull his hands away but could not, so I dug my nails in the back of his hands. He let go with one hand, and I let him go, withdrawing my nails from that hand, hoping he would realize that I would withdraw my nails from the other one as soon as he let me go. Instead, he used his free hand to begin battering my head and neck as hard as he could, trying to force me to release his other hand so he could continue throttling me, much harder, without my interference. It was getting difficult to breathe and I was terrified he’d bash in my head or break my neck, so I began crying while trying, and failing, to shield myself with my free arm. My mother responded by yelling at me, blaming me for causing a dangerous scene and distracting her while she was driving. She insisted that my brother was only “playing” and complained that I was “overreacting.” She accused me of having no sense of play, no sense of fun or humor, and said that this was why no one would like me, love me or value me in my life. I was doomed to failure because I could not enjoy my brother strangling me. My brother had been increasingly abusive toward me, throughout our lives, but that was the moment when I finally realized that, according to my family, I had no right at all even to my own body. I had no right to defend myself. If my brother succeeded in killing me (as I was afraid, during that scene, he might do,) then not only would my mother fail to blame him, but, in fact, my brother and my parents would all blame me. My murder by my brother would seem to them to be deserved, especially if I tried to protect myself. That was the moment that it hit me fully that I was absolutely unsafe in my own home and that the only way I was going to survive was to keep my head down and be as invisible as possible until I could move out.

We grew up and lived apart, so the physical abuse ended. He continued to be emotionally abusive when we met, especially when alone with me or in the presence of my mother, but we had both been raised to believe that I deserved this treatment and that it was not abuse, so I did my best to ignore it when I couldn’t avoid him. The recent scene in our home, however, was not only emotionally abusive, but there was the clear threat of physical violence behind it, directed now not only at me, but also at my children.

My brother including my children in his abuse was a revelation to me. I had accepted from childhood that I was in some inexplicable way deficient enough to deserve abuse, but there was no way I believed that of my children! Furthermore, in my experiences during my marriage and through the counseling I received afterward, I have since come to realize not only that emotional abuse is truly abuse, but that abuse only gets worse. It NEVER gets better. In our last interaction, my brother’s emotional abuse of me and my children was, apparently, extreme. There was no possible benefit to anyone at all in convincing me and my children that we were “too disgusting for anyone to ever want to help.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was about the worst possible thing a person could be – including no possibility of every being loved, valued, hired, or cared for by anyone in any way. It was wholly and only demoralizing of us. Worse, my children all believed their uncle, without questioning what he was saying. He is the most respected authority figure in their family, it seems. My brother’s behavior in the scene he made is clearly identifiable by objective, authoritative sources as textbook “abuse.” Beyond that, however, the horrific rage with which he inflicted it, along with the history of physical abuse, left me in no doubt at all that it would quickly escalate into physical as well as emotional abuse. He was not only making it absolutely clear that he had no affection nor even the slightest respect for any of us, but that he felt fully entitled to abuse us based on our current vulnerability and dependence on him. He obviously considered himself to have bought a whole family of punching bags with a handful of promises that no one could force him to keep.

My refusing contact with him since has so far put me out of his reach (though, with my impoverishment, that could change) but my children, being willing to meet with him, makes them vulnerable to him. So now I see him grooming them toward this end. His maligning me to my children to undermine what little, if any, respect for me they may still hold, thereby encouraging them to dismiss my warnings, is another step closer to when he starts beating on them physically as well as emotionally.

Is it a “grudge” to want to protect myself and my children from someone who had been abusive, defends his abuse, expresses enjoyment in abusing others, and whom I am certain intends to acerbate his abuse of us in the future? I would say my behavior is simple common sense. I don’t consider that I am holding a grudge against venomous snakes because I don’t want them in my home and I protect myself against them in the wild. I am only acknowledging the threat they pose and avoiding it. It seems to me the same with my brother. One might say that, because of our lifelong relationship, we have more mutual obligation to each other than I would have to a cobra, but, since our lifelong relationship has included instances of him being abusive to me throughout our childhood, and has been devoid of any instance of him showing me any true kindness or respect, then is it really so different? I believe that, if my brother had acknowledged the wrongness of his behavior toward me and my children, accepted the responsibility for it, promised to change, and not revealed the fact that he enjoyed doing it so much that he could not understand why we failed to enjoy having him do it to us, then I would have given him another chance. A wise counselor might have been appalled by my decision to do so, but, for the sake of our relationship, especially since he is the only immediate family member I have left on this earth, I might have risked it. He did the opposite, however, so of course I want to avoid the obvious risk he now poses to myself and my children. Can this, therefore, be rightly termed “holding a grudge?” And, if it is “holding a grudge,” is it really wrong to do so?

Serving Others is the Key to Personal Well-Being

With a week to go to Mother’s Day, 2022, I have been presented with yet another example of how I have failed as a mother.

One of my daughters was tasked with writing a paper about what she needs for her well-being. She was left to narrow down this broad topic to a smaller thesis, then write 800 words supporting it. She turned to me for help, so I started trying to get her to think about what she needed in her life to count herself as healthy and happy. She came up with food, sleep, and entertainment. It seemed to me there was a lot missing in this list, but I thought I could work with it.

“What do you need in order to get enough food, sleep, and entertainment?” I began.

She immediately jumped to someone to give her food, the proper conditions for sleep, and things to entertain her. I stifled my disappointment because, despite my urging, so far she has never had a job. She has never earned anything for herself. People giving her things is all she knows. As sad as I was that this was her first thought, it should not have been a surprise.

“What if no one is willing or able to give you these things? How do you get them for yourself?”

Her next thought was that she would take them. Stealing, or manipulating, to get things from other people who would generally be unwilling to give to her, seemed to her a good, healthy thing to do.

I balked, horrified. I pointed out that if people only stole from each other, eventually there would be nothing left to steal. Also, by stealing and manipulating, a person destroys all potential for building love and trust, which are necessary foundations for creating healthy relationships. They also lose honor – not only from others, but also in their own eyes.

She argued that stealing and manipulating are skills, and she could feel proud of her skills in this area (which, I desperately hope, she has not yet proved). She insisted that, even if her victims no longer trusted, respected, or admired her, other thieves and liars would be impressed by her thieving and lying skills. I suspected that other thieves and liars would tend more to be threatened rather than admiring, if her skills in this area were truly good. Also, what is the point of gaining the approval of dishonest, thieving people, assuming they would even give it? These are not people you can trust or with whom you can build any kind of healthy relationships. They are not people you want to have in your life at all. Whatever you may ever gain, by any means, is subject to be taken away from you by such people. Furthermore, if you are making yourself into someone no one else, including other thieves and liars, would ever want in their lives, how can that make you happy? What have you gained?

Her answer: food, sleep, and entertainment. She insists that this is all she wants. All my talk about honor, self-respect, and healthy relationships seemed worthless to her.

I switched to a new angle. I started to talk to her about how we build healthy lives in this world – how we earn money to honestly provide for ourselves the basic necessities plus, hopefully, a bit more. It all comes down to service. We assess what we can do, look to see what others need and want, and try to establish connections between our abilities and their needs and desires so that we can best serve others. We provide goods or services that others need and want enough to be willing to pay us for them. Economy 101: we serve others.

This is the way we not only make money to meet our own needs and desires, but it also builds our characters, strengthening the skills necessary for healthy, thriving, loving relationships. Any partnership of any kind – business, friendship, romantic or familial – requires people to be constantly alert to how they can help each other. All good relationships, at their core, are people mutually serving each other. The sole exception to this might be in parental relationships, where the parents only serve their children without any reciprocity. Ideally, however, the love, respect and honor that the children develop from this initial one-way service to them, will not only be paid forward, by them someday serving their own children, but also will make them honored to be able to serve their parents as their parents age, sicken and require more help.

Acquiring the healthy habit of looking to see how we can serve others also builds in ourselves self-esteem and healthy pride. We realize a sense of value in ourselves when others value us – which happens when we prove our ability to help others. The more valuable we become to others, the more valuable we feel in ourselves. This can become an ever-increasing cycle of improvement as we, realizing that we do have direct and real value through serving others, then increase our value to others by expanding our service into teaching others how to improve their own value. The ability to mentor others increases our sense of value and pride immeasurably. It also increases our self-confidence and encourages us to take risks to increase our value in other ways we might not have considered before, perhaps by learning new skills or experimenting with new approaches to meet the needs and desires of others. Wealth, prosperity, and well-being, thereby grow. We become creators of great and increasing good in this world, not only for ourselves, but for everyone.

Serving others is the true key to building our personal well-being on every level. The fact that it also helps build well-being for others is a joyful side-effect. Ultimately, serving others is identical to serving ourselves. Through this, we benefit the entire world, as well as ourselves.

This is a lesson I have striven to teach my children every day of their lives from birth. Sadly, today, I discovered that at least one of my children wholly rejects this lesson. I cannot see any path to happiness, health, or wealth for her by refusing to accept this fundamental truth, but none of my arguments could make a dent in her insistence that serving others sounds horrible to her. I am not only frustrated, but deeply grieving.

She insists on following her father’s path in life, despite the obvious proof that it has led him to nothing but the destruction of everything good in his life and the completion of his own, self-created misery. I could find no way to save him, despite my continuous efforts throughout our marriage. I learned, the hard way, that you cannot help someone who steadfastly refuses to help himself.

All I could give to my ex-husband could never be enough for him, because he had chosen to be a taker in life rather than a creator – which is a direct result of scorning the attitude of serving others. Lacking the capacity to create for himself, he was always going to be insecure in taking what he needed from others. All resources are a zero-sum game to those who lack the ability or desire to create more but, rather, content themselves with only taking. Knowing that his resources were limited to what he could take from what others created, he could never have enough to feel secure, no matter how much he stole or lied to take, or even how much was lovingly given to him, since what is given can be withheld or withdrawn.

Sadly, I did not realize how handicapped he insisted on making himself until too late. I also failed to realize that he was so severely damaging his children by teaching them his self-destructive attitudes and undermining the healthy attitudes I was trying to teach and demonstrate. Even so, I cannot comprehend why any of our children would model themselves after him. Simple common sense should serve to make obvious the failure of his teachings, even if his entire life were not the testament to their failure that it now is. Why, then, cannot my beautiful, bright, healthy daughter, full of unlimited potential, see the clear need to avoid following her father’s path to her own destruction?

Now We’re Gummed Up

I have stooped to feeding my children unhealthy candy in an attempt to get them healthy. If you are a parent, perhaps you know what I mean – GUMMY VITAMINS. Whoever thought up this monstrosity was evil, for poisoning children with something intended to be healthy, AND brilliant, because it worked.

In my family we have a tendency to have calcium deficiencies. More specifically, we have magnesium deficiencies. Without magnesium (and vitamin D from the sun) the human body cannot properly use calcium, no matter how much you take. This means that the calcium from food or supplements gets misdirected, causing problems, and resulting in extreme side-effects beyond that. Drinking more milk only makes this situation worse because no branch of our family handles milk well. It demands yet more magnesium to digest milk (or any other element of intolerance) so whatever magnesium one has is used up too quickly and the calcium available in milk is abused in its absence.

With both me and my ex-husband, in our early adolescence, this had resulted in calcium deposits on our knees and shins. My husband’s condition, when it occurred to him, was apparently diagnosed as “benign tumors” which resulted in an operation to remove. I’m told his doctor diagnosed a calcium deficiency in my husband at the time as a cause of this problem but his parents decided the doctor, with actual degrees and certifications in the subject, had to know less than the milk commercials that advertised with the slogan “milk does a body good” in order to help them make money. As far as I know, they never changed their mind on that. They pushed milk on my children at every opportunity, alarmed that I restricted it after all my babies proved, one after another, to have intolerances to milk. My husband’s intolerance toward milk, which added to mine to affect our children, was dismissed by his parents and, therefore, by my husband himself, though he was glad not to have to share his milk with me or our kids.

In my case, my mother worked with doctors and ignored milk commercials, so I stopped drinking milk and upped my intake of magnesium. I missed a year of P.E. while my knees healed. Continuing with increased magnesium throughout adolescence, I had no more problems. My brother, when adolescence hit him, had no problem with his knees, but his behavior deteriorated rapidly and badly. He began lying, stealing, growing increasingly and scarily violent and acting completely irrational and full of rage. Our doctor did tests and diagnosed a calcium and magnesium deficiency, as well as an intolerance toward milk and peanuts, which were my brother’s main source of protein at that time since my mother was experimenting with vegetarianism. My brother absolutely refused to take the supplements my mother and the doctor agreed he needed – to the point where my parents had to physically force him. Within a week of eliminating all his food intolerances from his diet and taking his supplements – which were magnesium and calcium, balanced and spaced in a specific way, he was fine and continued the regime on his own.

My oldest son, my first born, was subject to strange growth spurts. He started off tall – around 95 percentile for height at birth – but skinny. He put on weight at a good clip for about 6 months, but gained no height, eventually dropping to below average in height. At 6 months he had a massive growth spurt which resulted in him again being around 95 percentile in height, but did not gain weight at that time. He was again tall and skinny. Then he started gaining weight but no height. Over and over this pattern played out. Our pediatrician initially freaked out during the first cycle of this and insisted I had to supplement my breast feeding with formula. When I started doing this, when my baby was around 4 months old, my happy, healthy, albeit clinging baby grew suddenly unhappy and self-harming. I would put him down to play or sleep and return to find him beating his head against a wall, for instance. The child who, before, never wanted to be anywhere except in my arms, now wouldn’t let me hold him or sooth him. Instead he got crankier and more insistent on violence, to the point where I would spend days acting like a human straight jacket to stop him from harming himself, while he screamed, kicked, bit and scratched me. I took him off the formula, breastfeeding him exclusively, and in a couple days the violence and misery disappeared and he was back to being a happy, healthy baby – albeit not gaining height. The doctor, however, more alarmed at his lack of gaining height than his crazy behavior, threatened to have him legally removed from my custody if I did not return to giving him formula, so, reluctantly, I did. This immediately brought back the violence, misery, and self-harming. I took him off the formula. Immediately the symptoms disappeared. I finally convinced my pediatrician that the formula was bad for him and the doctor agreed that a milk intolerance was likely the culprit. He wanted me to supplement with non-milk formulas but, by that time, my baby was 6 months old and we supplemented with baby food and baby vitamins instead. He was fine, except when visiting with my husband’s parents who pushed milk. He would always come home cranky and horrible and feeling sick. A day or so at home, however, taking the baby vitamins and eating properly, usually cured him. Then came adolescence when this condition hit again, full force. He again grew irrational and violent and started putting his fists through the walls, scaring me. When I insisted he take his vitamins, he adamantly refused, labeling them “drugs.” (He also fought me over his immunizations.) I got no support from my husband, sadly, but eventually managed to get my son, who already towered over me, to take his calcium and magnesium supplements by, quite literally, sitting on him until he swallowed them. He has never forgiven me for this, however his rage and violence disappeared within days of me doing this and he stopped destroying the walls of our house. He even continued taking his vitamins on his own until he was through that period. He still gave me grief over his immunizations, however, until he was over 18 and I could no longer legally force him. Then, to my shock, he rushed to take the Covid vaccine, against my advice (it was too new and insufficiently tested for me to trust and he was not in a threatened group) when it first came out.

My oldest daughter went through a phase of deep, dark depression in her adolescence. I was scared that she was suicidal. She withdrew and stopped talking to me, started wearing black all the time, and her music playlist was filled with seriously depressing songs. She wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to get her to take her vitamins, even though every single bit of food and supplement advice I had ever given her had proved absolutely true. My mother, however, bought her a calcium magnesium supplement, just for her, and she took that out of respect for her grandmother. In short order she snapped out of her funk.

Now my youngest son is deeply moody, constantly hostile, and has been directly violent toward me – hitting me and kicking me, when I try to help him or even when I pass by too closely to him, and he enjoys calling me names, including “f___ing idiot.” He was a straight A student but suddenly stopped doing any schoolwork. He got kicked out of an online class in which he was getting an A with only 5 lessons left to go before he finished the class. He had been excited by the possibility of going to college and studying to be an engineer, but, suddenly, he was pulling D’s in classes he had easily had A’s in before, including his favorite engineering class. He blamed me for that because I had been constantly encouraging him to do his homework (aka “nagging”) which, apparently, in his mind, forced him to be defiant and refuse to do his homework. He also refused to join our family in any fun event outside the home and even refused to join us in our game nights in home. When the holidays came, he spent all his money on himself, refusing to buy anyone else any gifts, and failed to thank anyone for the gifts they gave him. He bought himself bluetooth headphones, which he used to block out the rest of the family, thereby isolating himself even while he inhabited the family room with us. At his father’s house, where he has no bedroom so has to sleep in the living room, I was told that he hid in the coat closet most of the time to avoid interacting with anyone, including his older brother who was visiting on leave from the army.

I recognized the symptoms of a calcium deficiency easily, but he refused to take any vitamins from me, despite the fact that he had been on a self-improvement kick not long before, including building his body. Food stamps don’t cover vitamins, so we had run out and, suddenly, he was plummeting. I begged and borrowed enough money to get more vitamins for him, but it was too late. He was too irrational. I could not find any way to get him to take the necessary supplements. In addition, even if I had, I was forced to share custody with his abusive and negligent father, so I only had him every other week and it was certain that his father, who, like his parents, believed milk commercials over experts, would not have encouraged him to keep taking the vitamins or to eliminate foods from his diet toward which he had proved intolerant. I took away his new bluetooth headphones – mostly because I thought having a power source so close to his brain constantly could be acerbating the problem. (My husband’s father had died of a brain tumor that his surgeon was convinced was caused my his cell phone usage.) I promised to return them, however, if only he took his vitamins for a week. He also wanted me to take him for a haircut, which his father would not do, so I promised him that I would do so after he took his vitamins for a week. No punishment or bribe worked. He was adamant against vitamins. Period.

At last, in utter desperation, I bought the Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc gummy vitamins. First ingredient is glucose syrup (probably from corn syrup, which my youngest, twins, especially, have proved to have difficulty tolerating). The second ingredient is cane sugar. Essentially, these are sugar bomb candies with a touch of vitamins to make believe they are healthy. They aren’t. When I ordered them, my son scoffed at me and insisted he would NEVER take them. I was wasting my money. I almost canceled the order but, really, I was at wits end. This boy is violent to me already, unlike my oldest who only attacked the walls near my head, and I seriously believe my youngest son would have harmed me if I had tried to sit on him. In fact, I couldn’t even get near enough to him to try, or I might have dared the beating he was threatening to give me.

Just now, the gummy candies with hints of vitamins arrived. My youngest son, despite his insistence that he would NEVER take them, since I was wanting him to, was curious enough to open the bottle, sniff the candies, and even try them. He liked them so well that he agreed he would keep taking them. I hope this is so. My girls also tasted them and liked them, so this bottle of 90 tablets, taken three at a time for a single serving per day, is not going to last long between my three youngest children. Worse, it does not supply enough calcium or magnesium for our need, but because it also includes zinc and vitamin D3, one cannot take more than advised. Still, it is better than nothing…I hope.

I’m frustrated that it has come to this. I’m also thankful that this is available since, really, without it, I had no other options left. I only hope and pray it helps.

Stripping Bare in Public

Earlier this week I learned that my insurance covered psychological counseling. I had discovered the value of counseling at the beginning of my divorce, when I sought out a counselor through church who offered her services for free. She was extremely helpful to me, but I felt guilty continuing to claim her time and attention when I had nothing with which to pay, so I ceased my visits and worked on my own to followed the excellent advice she had given me.

Now I am seriously worried about my children, several of whom are displaying various “cries for help” while, simultaneously, rejecting my attempts to help them and treating me with varying degrees of contempt to overt hostility. Now that I see how my abusive upbringing led me, unconsciously, to choose and stay trapped in an abusive marriage, I can see how my children are set up to follow the same, unhappy path. I want to save them from that. I want them in individual counseling and us all in family counseling together. Both counseling types my children unanimously refuse to do. I thought if I led the way, by seeking personal counseling, which I believe would benefit me, assuming I can find a good counselor, my children might grow more receptive to the idea.

My initial contact with the counseling offered through my insurance was discouraging. I had a zoom conference with a supposedly trained counselor so she could evaluate my needs and assign my case to another counselor. This conference only lasted an hour, much of which was taken up with reviewing my forms and her asking me open-ended questions which I, apparently, failed to answer in the way she expected, causing me frustration. Knowing time was short, I spoke quickly, struggling to condense my complex concerns, and the extensive reasoning behind them, into the short answers she was seeking. I am a very open and emotionally expressive person, by conscious choice. When I talked about my fears, I let my anxiety show. When I talked about my guilt about having failed and continuing to fail my kids, my sincere tears fell. When she chided me for not answering her poorly phrased questions the way she wanted, I forced a self-deprecating smile and apologized.

Toward the end of this hour, she told me that she had diagnosed me as a manic-depressive with PTSD. This swift and incorrect diagnosis, based on what my study of psychology informed me to be insufficient data, shocked me. I did not finish my degree in psychology, switching to something far less practical, unfortunately, but I don’t believe it is possible to diagnose manic depression in less than an hour of constantly interrupted conversation. Manic depression is a pattern established over time characterized by massive mood-swings, typically independent of external stimuli. I have periods of depression, always for excellent reasons. I do not have the typical manic periods and, generally, my moods are constant and within normal bounds. I am stressed, again for excellent reasons, which is NOT the same as manic. She would not explain why she had reached her diagnosis, but she seemed sure of it. This severely shook my confidence in her.

She gave me breathing and grounding exercises to try when feeling stressed, and suggested I keep a journal. I thanked her for the exercises and directed her to this blog, which functions as my journal. She dismissed it with a wave of her hand, insisting that my journal needs to be private. I assured her that, with as few visitors as I get to my blog, it essentially was private. I would have liked to explain why private journals fail to work for me, but she had lost patience with me and, anyway, the interview was over. She promised to try to find a suitable counselor for me though, if she is focusing on one specializing in manic depression, the counselor may not meet my needs. I can only hope the counselor this woman chooses will be far better trained than she was.

I have tried to keep private journals in the past, and always lost interest in them quickly. I am a trained writer. I view writing as a form of communication, which means that I am always writing TO someone, forming my writing to, hopefully, keep my imagined audience interested, entertained, and, somehow, benefited. Much of my writing ends up being for myself, in the sense that I don’t think it worth keeping and throw it away. All writing to myself falls in this category, since I know, without doubt, I won’t ever bother to read it again. It therefore not only fails to serve anyone else, but also fails to serve me and becomes a pointless waste of my time. Only when writing to one or more others does my writing take on any meaning for me. It is the only condition under which I will persevere in writing at all.

I understand the concern that, when writing to others, I will fail to be fully honest. Most people, of course, wish to project the best version of themselves to others – some even to the point of misrepresenting who they really are. The assumption is that this will be my tendency as well. I reject that as a valid concern in my case.

I was, among other things, an actress before I was married. One of the things I learned from acting is that one does not succeed by going on stage and playing a false character. Acting only works when it is a real expression of a true, human soul. Actors may hide behind the illusion that the parts they play are not really them, but if their characters connect with an audience enough to move them, then the fact is it is their true soul connecting. Actor’s strip their souls naked, becoming intensely vulnerable, imagining themselves (and whatever backstory is necessary) in the parts they play, revealing their joys, sorrows, fears, dreams… Anyone who cannot do that, cannot truly act. They may play a caricature of a person – which may entertain to some degree – but which will never be great acting.

Writing fiction is, for me, more distancing, as I intentionally create characters as different as possible from myself. However, in the end, many of my characters are still expressions of facets of myself and/or whom I might have been under different circumstances. The Bible tells us that we are all made in the image of God. I am not God, of course, but I am a creator, in my fiction writing, creating characters who, in one way or another, end up being in my image, however varied they are. Only my nonfiction writing, relaying information in as objective a way as possible, is impersonal. However, a blog like this is me, stripped bare, holding myself up for the world to see as clearly as I can render myself. I do this knowing that, for too many, this makes me a target.

I have always been attacked simply for being me, from as early as I can remember. Everything I did was deemed a failure and used as proof that I was, essentially, unlovable. All honors and accolades I ever earned were dismissed as worthless. I had a choice in how to respond to this. I could give up or keep striving for approval. I chose the latter since I saw no point to the former. Giving up only sealed my failure. Continuing to strive allowed me to continue to hope for improvement. Note, this was not a single choice, but one made over and over as my failures kept mounting and my hope of success, acceptance, love, etc., grew dimmer or, at moments, seemed to perish. All I knew was that when/if I gave up, all hope was gone indeed. I knew I could not live with that.

Another choice I had to make was whether I should hide myself, to protect myself, or reveal myself fully. This was a more difficult choice. When people hate you, they either avoid you or hurt you. Family, who cannot avoid you, hurt you worst of all. I do not like being hurt. Hiding myself would seem the more rational choice, therefore, but I looked down that path and realized it led to hopelessness. What I wanted, more than anything, was to be loved. I could pretend to be whatever the people around me deemed lovable (although my brief attempt to do so failed miserably) but I quickly realized that, even if I could succeed in this, it would not be me being loved, but only the false image I was projecting. What was the point in that? I wanted to be loved. I was willing to improve what I could about myself to become worthy of love, but not to pretend I was someone else. If the true me was unlovable, as my family insisted, then so be it. Through showing myself honestly, I could, at least, still, hope to find someone in the world who would appreciate me, eventually. If I hid myself and played a part – one that would be unsustainable for long – that hope was lost and my life would be come a pointless lie leading to desperation. So, yes, showing myself, warts and all, is a terrifying risk – leading to and, hopefully, through pain. Hiding myself, however, is a worse risk that traps me forever. It may prevent present pain, but it leads only to true, deep isolation, loneliness, and it sacrifices all hope of ever being truly loved.

My entire life has been one of living in hopes of a brighter future. Without that hope, there is nothing left. Pursuing that hope requires me braving the slings and arrows of a cruel world, filled with hateful, destructive people. I walk through the shower of missiles pelting me and painful blows from every side, looking for the people who are NOT trying to hurt me and hoping to find people who may even be kind enough to help me or who may be worthy of my help. This manner of living takes tremendous courage and strength. Yes, I do falter sometimes. I face the despair, cry it out, then pick myself up and carry on, because this is my only chance to achieve what I need. It is my only hope, and I refuse to give it up.

So I write this blog, as honestly as I can, to readers who can respect the courage and strength my life requires. I write to other optimists who are not sunny because life is good, but stay positive and hopeful, even through the worst of it, knowing that this is the only way to persevere. I write with as absolute honesty as I can, so that others who may be in similar circumstances will understand you are not alone. I write to encourage you, as well as myself. We can do this. We MUST do this – not only for ourselves, not only for each other, but for the world, because I believe the world truly needs the strength and courage this kind of honesty requires. My exposed heart has been battered, bruised, torn, shattered over and over into a million pieces which I have reassembled, every time, with enduring hope. It overflows with limitless love – enough to fill the entire world. Maybe I will only ever give love and never receive it, except from God, but I live in the hope that there are others who will appreciate and reciprocate all that I offer. I may never know who you are, but if I can help you, even in passing, even unknown to me, my life has value and purpose. I write to you, for you, and my hope of your existence sustains me.