Waiting for Goodman

The other day, Dana and I were with our friend Stacy at lunch. Stacy asked me if I wanted a recommendation for a therapist (she’s a pastor, has the hookups). Dana, without missing a beat, says, “is that going to be ok with you? She’s not Jewish. Stacy stood there and looked confused while Dana explained that when I pick out new therapists, I go through my insurance booklet and circle all the names that sound like New York Jews. My last therapist was a guy out in the burbs of Portland- it took me 20 minutes to get to his office- and yet nothing could dissuade me. He was the guy. I would drive 20 minutes for Howard Rosenbaum, who will always have my respect because he called my sweet Dana a “Portland Pioneering SuperJew.”

Dana’s Jewish ethnically. It’s a long story. She’ll tell you.

“Oh, but she IS Jewish!” Stacy said. HA! Bet you didn’t think of that one, DANA! My Methodist pastor friend ALSO knows Jewish therapists….

…and that is how I came to be, sitting here with my laptop and coffee, waiting for Goodman. She’s supposed to call at 9:00 to schedule my new patient appointment. It’s only 6:46.

Moving to Australia

It was on June 9th of 2013 that I all of the sudden and without warning moved to Australia… well, not exactly. Metaphorically, with dingos and kangaroos running through my mind. It was mentally walking through the center of the earth to come out on the other side and finding out the toilets really do flush backwards (to us). It was a surreal moment, this upending of my planet earth, and still hasn’t stopped feeling exhilarating and creepy.

June 9th, 2013 is contained in three words for me.

June 9th, 2013 is the day the gaslighting stopped working.

It stopped working for me that the story written for me was that I’d had a cute crush on her growing up, and that I never really grew out of it. Sure, it was weird, but what are ya gonna do?

It stopped working for me that my role in the relationship was failure, because obviously I was failing. If I wasn’t falling short as a human being, then she wouldn’t have to push me away.

If I had a problem with her behavior, she had no issue with inviting me over to talk- as long as it could be somehow re-spun by the end of the conversation that she is completely blameless… and I am ridiculous for even bringing it up.

It didn’t work for me, because I kept wondering why I was willing to try so hard when my batting average was always zero. I kept at it for two reasons. The first is that someday I was bound to get *something* right, and the second is that I really believed everything was all my fault. Really.

It was June 9th, 2013 that I was yanked my my bellybutton and dragged through the mantle, quickly and with force. It wasn’t all my fault. She said so with three little words. They started the downward decline into mental instability, because they created the moment that the color drained out of my face and I could no longer ignore everything that happened. I was not going to let her get away with blaming me for everything that’s been wrong with our relationship for the last 24 years because they are her words, not mine. She owned the game. She owned it.

Three words.

I. Befriended. You.

The Phone Call

When I saw it was her number, I didn’t want to pick up. However, I knew that she read my blog, and it was my responsibility to take care of the people taking care of me. But I still had that knot of fear in my stomach knowing that when I said “hello,” the conversation would change my life.

It was my mother.

She asked me if I remembered when I was little my parents asking me if we should press charges against her. At the time, of course I was shocked and horrified. I wasn’t being physically abused, so of course there was nothing to press charges *for.* Plus, I wasn’t going to let anyone come within a hundred feet of her, anyway, because to harm her on my watch was… unwise. This is the trap I’ve been caught in my whole life, except for the first 12 years. It is the idea that so many people thought I was being molested, and because it never happened physically, her abuse wasn’t real. It didn’t occur to me that having my feelings rewired so that I was programmed to think of her needs before anyone else’s, including my own, was abuse in and of itself. For children, it’s black or it’s white. The answer to “are you being abused?” was always no because no penetration had ever taken place. Does that make sense?

My mom asked me what took me so long to figure it out. I told her that it didn’t take me very long at all, but that it screwed me when my abuser became a preacher’s wife, because then I felt like I had to protect both of them. AND I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY I WOULD HAVE WANTED TO PROTECT A PASTOR BEYOND ALL MEASURE. When my abuser married a minister, it carried the dynamics from my first family all the way to Oregon. It was living in a fish bowl growing up, and deciding to switch to a bigger tank.

My reaction to their marriage became to constantly stuff and deny everything that happened, because that’s what had gotten me through the last 20 years… didn’t make sense to change now… I realized yesterday morning that I wasn’t ignorant of the situation. I was willfully trying to keep it from bubbling up because I didn’t want to ruin any of us, least of all me, which was a step in the right direction because normally I am quite the little martyr with no self-esteem or preservation.

And now it makes me angry, because the pastor I swore to myself to protect constantly thought of me as the annoying little puppy that wouldn’t go away. That I hadn’t acknowledged my childhood crush on my abuser and couldn’t let it go. That I was stuck in some sort of time warp and couldn’t “age up.” It was horribly abusive considering I never told her what my real role in her life was. My real role was to keep her church members from ever finding out how bad her rage issues really were. I couldn’t help it. I could lead them as to where to find the problem, but I could not speak outright; to do so was to betray 20 years of family secrets. Writing this today is not about airing them, it is about acknowledging that I am not the weak, meek person she thinks I am. I literally tried to save her fucking career because I was so wired that way. My truth is that I could have ended her career in a half second. All I would have had to do is tell someone at the Conference level that I was doing the bulletins for Sunday morning worship when she exploded at me and started screaming because one of the pages hadn’t turned out right. I thought we were alone, so I took it and went home feeling excoriated. We were not alone- another church member heard the whole thing and came to me the next day kicking herself that she hadn’t called the police.

Called the police.

Called the police.

I still choke on those words sometimes.

I just want to put it out there, in black and white, that I am not late to the party. I’m not stupid. I took their fucking abuse because it meant no one else needed to. It sickens me that when I lay out my emotions, the general response I get is “why didn’t you tell anyone earlier?”

Because I couldn’t, you fucking jackass. I just couldn’t. You have no idea. I didn’t tell anyone anything until I was emotionally bleeding out. My mom says I need to find something else to write about. I said, “I can’t. It’s all I can think about. It’s what comes to me when my eyes close.” An old friend who’s known me since I was 17 suggested going to treatment for PTSD, to try and get those memories rewired so that when I think about them, they’re just memories. They’re not literally happening over and over. I think it’s a really good idea, so there’s my next step. It’s time to admit that it’s going to take more than just prayer to really get rid of the shame and fear I live with.

Because that much fear and shame isn’t really living.