Monday, April 28, 2014

One awesome line from Mulan 2

My girls are watching Mulan 2 while I work. The first Mulan movie is one of my favorites, but this movie is a weak sequal . . . BUT I just caught a line that I had missed every time before. Mulan and Shang (her love from the first movie) are escorting some princesses on a trip to meet their betrothed. Mulan and Shang start bickering and fighting over the princesses' desire to cancel the arranged marriage . . . honor versus love, yadda yadda.

It seems like Mulan and Shang are forever divided when Princess Mei says to Mulan, "You inspired us to follow our hearts, and we repay you by ruining your relationship."

Mulan responds calmly, "No, you just opened my eyes to how broken it was. I'm indebted to you."

May we all share Mulan's wisdom and accept that whatever brought about our sudden awareness of our partner's sex offense was a gift, as painful as it was. I once hated the girl who turned Jake in, but now I give silent thanks for her almost every day. She opened my eyes to how broken my relationship was and I'm indebted to her.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What does love have to do with all this?

Even after we discover betrayal, even after "the knock on the door" We still love them. And they say they need us. Most of them want us to save them, make bail, visit, put money and cigarettes on their books. Stand in line at the prison. Deal with the bills, with the neighbors, the in-laws, the kids. Deal with the courts, the social workers, the guilt over something that we didn't even know about until we were so rudely awakened by unavoidable reality. And we can't just "kiss reality and make it all go away."

We can't. We don't have the power to "fix" this. Anyway, we too are overwhelmed. We are angry. We are depressed. We wish we were dead. And we want to kill someone...almost anyone will do. We are sooo angry. So torn. We would like to believe him when he denies what he did, when he tells us to understand, says that he too was molested, when he says he is so sorry. Right before he gets ugly about how we aren't doing enough to get him out of this mess...

And we still "love" them. Some of us try to stand by our marriage vows.

But we love the person we "fell in love with" the one we thought we had married. Not the stranger  we found out he had been all along. Not the sex offender who molested our child, or a neighbor's child, or a school child entrusted to him...We don't want to know but we have to face that this person we thought we knew,  is the person who fell for the police "sting" on the internet. The person who violated our trust and his marriage vows.

And in the wrenching process of going through "all this" (for years sometimes) we eventually come out the other side different people, different women... we can't help it. All "this" changes our lives. "It" changes us. Eventually, we are not the woman he chose either.

And even if we continue to love him, even if he still looks like the person we fell in love with...well he has got to go through the pain and in the process he has got to change too. Of course it is unfair that so many people are so prejudiced at the very sound of the label Sex Offender. But we are not the sex offender. He is the one who offended. And he has to do something to change his own sexual obsessions. And there will be plenty of resources for him. He will be forced to either change or "program" and pretend he has changed.

And if he does or he does not become the person we wish he had been all along, well, life goes on. Children grow up. If our lives meet someday in the future, if once he gets through treatment, once he changes, (if we believe we can trust that he has changed, that he is safe around around our computer even) then maybe there will be hope for our relationship. In future. But not before.

In future, maybe our paths will cross (and if we had children together believe me our paths will cross eventually) but when we meet again we will have become different women, older, wiser, more self confident. Hopefully they will be different men too. Men who keep their word. Men who can be trusted. Compassionate men who took responsibility for turning around their own lives. Who aren't still blaming us because we just never did enough, never fought hard enough to save them from facing the consequences their actions set in motion.

We may want to deny he is a stranger, say we are still "in love," that marriage at least is forever, we freeze time together in visiting, (or at home "in a bottle") but we can't perform miracles. Even through the glass in visiting, even with only those extremely expensive phone calls from prison to remind us of the life we thought we had chosen, change happens. And not always equally to both and not at the same rate.

But even if we, each one, are able to change...If we find we have each done the separate work necessary to be "transformed" there is no guarantee that, since each of us has changed, will those two different people we realize we have become not have moved on? Will those two different people even still want to resume life together? Oh. we may look like the same people but are we now people still attracted to each other, who will even want to fall in love all over again? Will we even want to revive a resuscitated love?

I think it is his problem to change himself and ours to say good-by to loving the man we thought he was all along. It is a risk to let loose of our Happily Ever After dreams and get on with changing ourselves and our lives. Especially if  we still think we love them...we can hope that they are also willing to let go and risk becoming the changed men we could love. Let go of their abusive selves and risk becoming the newly compassionate man that we might consider loving again. Or maybe we will just want to be "friends" for our children's sake...if we can trust him around them. If we can trust recovery. No guarantees.

So....I loved you.    Until we meet again?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pulling back the curtain of shame

Among the many pressures that we face as the spouses/girlfriends/exes of sex offenders is that sense of being judged by others, especially in the first days after the offense becomes public knowledge. Suddenly you are put on a stage, your family's name on the front page of the paper, and you just know that you are the talk of every social circle you ever touched. You are heavy with shame . . . and yet you did nothing wrong.

I remember the fear of leaving my house and facing the community. When people looked at me, I thought I could hear their thoughts as they wondered if I was as deviant as my husband. I heard whispers whenever I walked past a group of people. I dismally expected the vast majority of people to snub me or carefully avoid me.

And some people did exactly what I expected. There were just a few that had once smiled and waved who suddenly made a beeline out of whatever place I walked into. There were also some who just seemed to not ever look my direction, as if they always missed seeing me in their midst. But I have to say that these people were in far fewer numbers than I imagined.

Strangely, a large number of people still looked me in the eye and greeted me respectfully. For a while I just assumed that anyone so polite and normal acting must have missed the news. But it kept going like that. I went to the grocery store, the bank, church, the coffee shop (where the owner didn't like me much to begin with), and they all greeted me like they either didn't know or didn't care. After a while I realized that they couldn't have missed the news for so long since it was a town of less than 1000 people - news spreads fast. They were, well, just decent. It was a surprise.

But there was something even more surprising: I gained some of my dearest friends in the middle of the storm. One in particular stands out who invited me over for a play date within days of it all coming out. I needed to vent to someone and she was willing to listen, so I took her up on the offer. In the middle of my rant, I had this awful thought that maybe I was just putting on a show for her. Maybe she was just soaking up a good story to tell her friends. I started picking my words more carefully and glazing over more sensitive bits of information. When I had run out of words, she did something I didn't expect. She told me about a member of her family who was struggling with a different problem, an addiction. My friend had experienced a lot of stress from supporting this person. I could sense a deep love, but also frustration and anger. I would never had known any of it if she hadn't told me. She maybe was risking herself by opening up to me . . . and that meant so much to me. I knew she could empathize with many of the things I was experiencing, including the social stress of being linked to a damaged person. And also the confusion of loving that damaged person.

As the months and years went by, more people revealed their dark histories and sad burdens to me that they usually kept carefully guarded. One couple told me mournfully about their incarcerated son. I learned about another couple's struggled together against an addiction. One man was hiding his sexual orientation from his family. A woman related her reunion as an adult with her father, only to learn that he just wanted her money to serve his addiction. I discovered that some seemingly upright figures were really gamblers who lost all their family's money, more than once. I heard the tales of too many women who had been abandoned by their children's fathers and had to pull it together on their own. And, of course, I heard from women and men about the abuse they had suffered as children. So many problems.

I was making connections with people, very real connections that were supportive and empathetic. I appreciated it so much . . . and yet it seemed that the world had suddenly turned dark. What had happened? Where had all these problems come from? When did everyone get so damaged? Of course, the answer was that it had always been that way, carefully concealed by everyone who was scared of the shame that would befall them. Before all of my own problems started, I was living in a fragile false reality thinking that people with real problems were rare. And then the curtain was pulled back. I "joined the club", so to speak. The most depressing club I never wanted to join.

Well, I like the curtain pulled back (and I'm not just saying that because misery loves company). Why are we supporting a false reality? Who does that serve? It's just a shame factory. Let's drop the shame and pull back the curtain. I'm not saying you should announce all your family's troubles to every passing stranger. But when you happen upon someone who is going through a similar circumstance, let them know you empathize. And when you come across someone ignorant of the real problems in life, educate them a little (politely, of course). I think if we lived life in a more genuine manner we would realize that shame is a useless thing. I think we would find that the life we are experiencing, while unique, is not so different from our neighbors. I think if people were more willing to reveal the damage they have experienced in life - those things that we hide in shame - we would be more likely to find genuine understanding from our community instead of the humiliation and banishment we expect.

If you are a woman who is experiencing the first shock of learning that your loved one is a sex offender and you are putting off that grocery trip because you fear the public shame, then I encourage you to face your fear. Wherever you need to go, go there knowing you belong there. You have the right to feed your family and access your bank accounts. I think you will find that most people will act as normal as ever. I think you will also find some who are kinder then they have ever been. I hope you don't find any unkind, but if you do, stand tall. You are the one who has seen behind the curtain. You know that this is a damaged world where good people, like you and most of the people around you, are unfairly hurt. The rude people who snub you are still looking at the curtain (heck, they wove that curtain and hung it proudly!). You don't need to bend to such blind individuals. Look at them with pity and act nice. If you do it right, you'll leave them questioning their reality a bit. Frankly, they need it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Might as well laugh as cry

I have been tasked with writing a post that is  lighter, easier.. and unfortunately sooo very unlike the REAL me.... Evie and I were just talking by e-mail. She says she is kinda busy:
"I have my lab practical today and a midterm next Monday that I've been desperately studying for. Tonight after the lab exam, I'm going to be addressing the gigantic laundry pile that has developed and I promised to make supper. I'm not balancing my life very well. If you want to post something lighter, easier, feel free. As I say that, I have no idea what that could be, ha ha. When all the dust clears and I have a moment to think straight (fingers crossed) . . ."
Like Evie, we all promise ourselves we will someday find time to take care of ourselves...(fingers crossed).

Well how does anyone find their way back to  their own special brand of funny-bone when it comes to living life after the knock on the door? (You know the knock I'm talking about? Maybe you had more of a raid than a knock . . .). See how busy we all are trying to keep things together? See Evie's e-mail above? Busy is hardly the right word for such lives as ours. Not after "the knock on the door".

Now April is Stop Child Sexual Abuse Month. It is also Stop Sexual Assault Month. Just for a start, I now raise my magic-mother scepter and hereby declare that 2014 is now officially Stop Picking on the Sex Offender's Wife Year.  Maybe we could all sign petitions and, henceforth, make it an annual observance?

But what do I know? I am an inveterate grouch. And much of the time I am just plain angry about something... nothing light and easy there... (I hate to admit it, but sometimes...I am even one of those frowning women, standing around at 2AM, complaining about weight gain by the light of an open refrigerator door.) Picture that!!

My mother, who lived through some very bad times with my father, her own resident sex offender, used to say, "Might as well laugh as cry." She also fomented (admittedly a very limited) rebellion when she said, "Tyrants make hypocrites." But oh well. And after all that, I turned around and married a man "who seemed strangely familiar". (Remember the old joke, "Wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have no luck at all"?  Well that's some of us in a nutshell.) The real tragedy is . . . I won't even go there. This is supposed to be a light and easy blog meant to cheer us all up. But if this pisses you off . . 

My suggestion is to start your own blog, write comments on Not the Life, flame me on Wind Harp Tree as a grouchy know-nothing ...Get it all out of your system before you have to wake the kids up, take them to the baby sitter (and hope against hope that the babysitter agrees to take them even though you know the baby is running a temp, not (really) just cutting more teeth.)

Get all of it out of your system before you have to go to work tomorrow morning. Before you have to lie about why you really need to take Tuesday off... to go back to court...maybe to visit the jail, maybe to see your molested kid who hates you and is in foster care now. 

Isn't it about time to learn how to keep your life in separate compartments, confined like the icons on your desktop, like invisible gateways to the separate programs where you divide your life now. (but, wait, wasn't that how your sex offender managed  to keep you in the dark  for so long?) And now here you are learning how to hard it is to keep your mouth shut, keep a smile on your face about, well, almost everything you still care about.

So keep a (hidden ) journal, Rant anonymously, Whine...( I just saw a sign that advised "Wine a little, you'll feel better.")   However, I say "Never never drink, not in front of your social worker anyway!" You know, get a little silly, watch cartoons, eat low cal popcorn with your kids, Gripe a lot, save the chocolate cake for night time raids on the by the light of the refrigerator (eaten that way even chocolate cake has fewer calories.. my friends tell me) but most of all remember...

Whether you find ways to laugh or you are forever depressed, It's your choice.  And grouch that I am, I agree with my mother, You  might just as well laugh as cry... Learn to at least Interrupt all the anger once in awhile. Laugh, Post a cartoon, Tell us the joke. You  really are in good company here.

Just Keep it Funny!

(P.S. This is Evie. Instead of doing my laundry and studying, I took the kids out to pizza, let them spend too many quarters on candy and arcade games, and then I came home to eat ice cream. I am proud of myself when I put the important things first: family time, laughter, and sleep. I advise you all do the same, no matter how painful the rest of life is. And watch Lilo and Stitch when you have the chance so that there will be at least one social worker on this planet that you love).

Friday, April 4, 2014

A friend's wedding

I went to a friend's wedding last week. The bride and groom had their ushers pass their rings throughout the audience so each guest could hold them in their hands and place a silent blessing or wish on them. When it reached me, my mind fumbled for an appropriate wish that would encompass my complicated feelings on marriage. I finally settled on this: "I hope your spouse really is the person you think they are."

It was a sad and pathetic wish, I know, but if that had been true in my marriage . . . ah, the potential for happiness and comfort! But instead, I doubt that such a marriage exists.

For the new couple, though, and for every marriage, I still make the wish with all sincerity.

What would you wish upon the rings?