Sunday, May 18, 2014

Police Reports and Court Transcripts: A Twist on Truth

After two years of being denied access to the police reports generated by my ex-husband's case, they were finally released to me.  Within two days of receiving the police reports, I also received the court transcripts from his bench trial and sentencing.  So I've "enjoyed" some interesting reading these past few days.  My conclusion?  It is all a twist on truth.

I've certainly learned some things I did not know about the man I spent over three decades married to.  I've learned, contrary to what he consistently told me, that his interest in children was sexual and that it began long before I met him.  I've learned that either he or his "therapist" lied, one under oath, about who knew what when.  I've learned that in police lingo, holding a gun to someone's head after breaking down their door constitutes an "invitation to talk."  I've learned more about the extent that law enforcement is legally allowed to go to ferret out child pornographers.  And most importantly, I've learned that truth is relevant only when it furthers whatever cause one is championing.

My ex's cause from day one of our relationship was himself--curing or controlling his hidden compulsion and using me to do that, all the while professing deep love and commitment to me and to our marriage.  He championed his cause through deception, manipulation, projection and blame.  He twisted truth until he could no longer distinguish between the truth and a lie.  He continues to live in this twisted world of distortion, self-deception and denial.

Law enforcement's cause was first noble (eradicating child pornography) but then not-so-noble (catching a big fish and using that for political gain).  It seems to me that when the media attention began to wane, they quickly made a plea deal, overlooking prior evidence of aggravating behavior.  In the final analysis, they wanted to win--it did not matter whether truth or justice prevailed.

Character witnesses testified on my ex's behalf and painted him as a kind-hearted, good man.   Unfortunately for them, the defense attorney banned them from the courtroom when the prosecution's witnesses were testifying.  So the only version of the "truth" that his friends knew was what he provided to them.  Consequently, unless they invest in the court transcripts, their view of his crimes and the prosecution is twisted--they do not know the truth.

The defense attorney tried his best to portray him as a harmless, elderly, sick man, citing a heart condition that was successfully and permanently treated over twenty years ago.  According to his argument, the defendant made a huge mistake that really, in the grander scheme of things, only hurt himself.  But then, I guess we pay defense attorneys to lie--unless their client is truly innocent, they have to shade the truth to defend them adequately.  Isn't that the way the system operates and don't we expect that.

In a system that appears to place great importance and value on truth-telling, truth-twisting seems a bit too commonplace.  Witnesses swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and yet the whole system seems to thrive on only certain truths being relevant.  Attorneys argue over what can and cannot be entered into evidence and key decisions on charges and plea deals are made in light of political expediency rather than on what is true.  Everyone seems to operate in CYA mode and many of us are left scratching our heads, wondering what happened to justice and truth?  And, more importantly, can we really trust that our children are safer because the police are cracking down on child pornographers when the system that prosecutes and sentences them is so convoluted and twisted?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is not a happy day for many women.  Women struggling with pregnancy loss, infertility or those who hear the ticking of their biological clock with no possibility for a meaningful relationship on the horizon, struggle.  If our mothers are no longer around, it can be a difficult day or if our mothers were so wounded that they were unable to adequately parent us, it can be challenging.  I confess to struggling with this day for over three decades for a number of reasons.

My expectations of how I should be treated on "my" day were rarely met.  I expected my ex-husband to expend the same amount of effort for me that I did to make his day meaningful.  He rarely met those expectations.  And to be fair, my expectations were probably unrealistic.  The expectations created by the media hype surrounding this day has also been problematic for me.  My real life rarely matched the rose-colored Hallmark version of mothering or of how Mother's Day should be celebrated.

"Good Enough" Mothering

At this stage of my life and in light of the trauma of finding out that the man I was married to is a pedophile, I have spent a lot of time in reflection and introspection.  There are many things I regret about the way I did life as a married woman and the way I parented my children.  One of the phrases that always jumps out at me when reading the S-Anon literature is that we "often neglected our children" due to living with an individual struggling with sexual addiction or compulsions.  I always thought I was a good mom, and still believe that I was, in many ways.  But one of the more grueling aspects of recovery is realizing that I did neglect my children emotionally in order to cope with that knot n the pit of my stomach that I now recognize was my ex's undiagnosed pedophilia.

I spent so much time trying to create and maintain the "perfect" home and life and to keep things running smoothly that I did not have time or patience for my children's emotional needs.  I rarely just sat on the floor and played with them--there was too much to do.  I was operating out of a vow that I made as a young woman after my profound betrayal.  That vow was that I would be such a good wife that he would never "stray" again.  If I was a good enough wife, he would be happy and not give into temptation and no child would ever again be hurt by his hands.  But in the process of trying to be a "good enough" wife, I was not the mother to my children that I had hoped I would be.  This is my regret.

In psychological literature, there is the concept of the "good enough" mother.  Simply put, it holds that if a child receives enough nurture and love from his mother on a fairly consistent basis, he will have the resiliency to overcome any deficiencies in mothering he may have experienced.  The good enough mother is not perfect but the parenting she provides is sufficient enough to instill within her child the confidence and esteem needed to overcome her mistakes and shortfalls.  I would venture to say that most women feel they were or are not "good enough" mothers on Mother's Day, which is a tragedy.

Mothering My Inner Child

My days of active parenting of my children are over but I still have a child who needs my attention and love.  My inner child has been growing but still has lots of insecurities, fears and needs.  I am the only mother she has and she is depending on me to care for her tender soul.  I have been an absent and neglectful mother to this child for many decades and she knows it.  But I will renew my pledge to be a "good enough" mother to her on Mother's Day.  She will teach me to play and I will teach her to feel secure and loved.  She will move me out of my head and into my heart and I will hold her when she is lonely, afraid, or sad.  Together we will rediscover the joys of dancing in the rain, running barefoot through the grass and just sitting quietly to watch a hummingbird at the feeder.
Sculpture by Josep Sanchez Carrasco

Someone has said that it is in the gaze of love between a mother and her nursing baby that we first learn the concept of relationship.  We spend our entire life trying to regain that connection and that gaze.  We look for the gaze of love and connection in so many wrong places, which leads to all sorts of painful consequences.  I love this picture of a sculpture by Jose Sanchez Carrasco because it illustrates the gaze of love that a woman and her child share even before the child is born.  And it also serve to remind me that I have the power to grant my own child within the love and connection she is crying for.

Honoring Myself as a Mother and a Child

 Whether we want it to or not, Mother's Day is here.  For some of us, it will be a good day; for others, we will struggle to get through it.  We may be surprised or we may be disappointed; our children may honor us or forget about the day altogether.  Regardless of what my kids do, however, I plan on honoring myself.  I was a good enough mother and I am profoundly proud of my three amazing kids.  They have navigated the rough waters of the past two years with remarkable grace, strength and fortitude--I must have done something right!  I will honor the job I did with them, forgiving myself for my failures.  And I will honor my inner child and the new relationship I am forging as her mother.  I may even "allow" her to buy me some flowers for our garden because it is a day to celebrate--maybe not in in the Hallmark kind of way but to celebrate nonetheless.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Just Three Inches: The Bondage of Family Roles

The practice of binding young girls' feet to prevent them from growing was commonplace in China until early in the 20th century.  Small feet were considered beautiful and were a prerequisite for finding a wealthy husband.  The ideal length for an adult woman's foot was just three inches.  My granddaughter's feet were just a bit smaller than that at her birth.  Just three inches!  Can you imagine an adult woman's foot the size of this line?

The process of foot binding was harsh and painful and often necessitated breaking the bones in the feet and curling the toes under the sole of the foot.  Ouch!  My feet hurt just thinking about it.  Think of the restrictions this practice placed on a woman's ability to walk or a child's freedom to run and play.  Thank goodness the practice has died out in China!

And yet, there exists within any organization or system, practices that can be just as restrictive and just as harmful as Chinese foot binding.  I'm not talking about the outlandish things women of the 21st century do to make themselves more beautiful.  That's a topic for another article.  Rather, I am referring to those inflexible rules and rigid roles that all organizations have to some extent, including families.

In my family of origin, I was the "Good Child" and the "Caretaker," so of course I married a man who needed caring for.  Recovery has required that I take a long, hard look at not just my marriage but those messages that I received as a child and how they have influenced my choices over the years.  The "Good Child" doesn't make waves, earns good grades and goes from accomplishment to accomplishment.  She is often a leader and yet is quite serious and seldom plays.  She is adult-like, extra mature and seems to have it all together.  She is helpful and successful but internally she is scared, guilty, lonely and bound by shame.  As the caretaker, she takes on the responsibility for the emotional well-being of the family.  You couldn't paint a more accurate picture of me if you tried.

I've known since I was barely two that I was "Mommy's little helper" and was, as my therapist quipped, a "Step-stool child."  My childhood was spent on a step-stool--a stool that enabled me to reach the sink which was too high for me so I could wash dishes, or the cabinet where the cereal bowls were for my baby sister's breakfast.  I was the child who learned how to quiet a colicky baby while my mom prepared dinner and to diaper an infant before I was eight.  I have been the secret-keeper, the counselor and the parentified child.  And when I attempt to step out of those prescribed roles, the "system" fights back because it wants things to stay the same; it craves homeostasis.

But keeping things the same is done at the expense of the well-being and growth of the individuals within the system.  Much like the bound foot, the expected roles restrict growth and inhibit full flourishing of one's human potential.  Stepping out of the roles that bind us and flexing our individuality and growth is essential for recovery and personal transformation.  I can no longer be the caretaker, secret-keeper or the good child if I want to truly recover and become the person I was meant to be.  As I attempt to make these changes, the "system" pushes back, cajoling, shaming or trying to threaten me to "change back" to the familiar role.  My choice is either to allow the system to win or to continue to unbind myself regardless of the consequences to the system.

The cultural "system" in China insisted on a standard of beauty for a woman that was hurtful but the practice
thrived for centuries because systems demand constancy and homeostasis.  Many women with bound feet died when the Communists came to power because they were unable to work as hard as individuals without bound feet, so their food rations were reduced.  There are still elderly women in China, however, whose feet are just three inches long.  If it were possible in adulthood to reverse the process that began in childhood, imagine the joy and freedom these women could experience--the sheer delight of unimpeded movement. 

Fortunately, the human spirit is far more resilient than bound feet.  The broken and stunted bones of self can be reset and will grow again, once the restricting roles are removed.  The sole of our being doesn't have to remain stunted at just three inches, the potential for growth and transformation is unlimited when we are unbound.  So, I'm stretching my arches and wiggling my toes--freedom feels so good.  I think I'm gonna skip or dance around the garden of my growing selfhood.