Spiritual Direction

Well, I survived Thanksgiving. It was mostly great, with my awesome in laws but dear lord the amount of sanctimommy (and sanctidaddy) reached an all time high. Lets just say that 1) my inlaws think carseats are optional fancy things, so I automatically take their “advice” with a heaping dose of salt and 2) my husband is teaching me the art of one-liners that charitably shut people up.

Blurgh… Apparently parents need to put on a strong armor of “do not give a flying crap” to make it gracefully through the holidays.

Ah well, a blessed Advent to all! Also, Happy Saint Nicholas day tomorrow. Celebrate by giving alms or some chocolate candies and tell stories about how jolly old Saint Nick punched a heretic in the face.

Yes. You can read about that here-> Saint Nicholas Center granted, he was sorry he had lost his temper but this is a great way to show that while the Saints were in Earth they were works in progress like the rest of us.

Which leads me to the point of my post. I’ve got to get a spiritual director. They are hard to find, especially for an oddball like me. I haven’t been searching as well as I should. I’m very afraid of rejection. I also do not want to talk about some things except with a priest.

First, I need to find an orthodox priest. In my area that’s a challenge. When I find that priest, he has to have time, which is also a challenge.

Second, I need to speak with a priest who isn’t shy about the devil, visions, demons, angels and other supernatural things. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences in my life (and no, I’m not mentally ill and have never even smoked pot) that need to be addressed. If what I have experienced is real, and not my imagination, then I need to have the Church helping me along. 2000+ years is greater than a measly 26.

Third, I have to find a priest that is comfortable talking about abusive situations, and marriage (my marriage is not abusive, but my parents were abusive).

That seems a tall order, but I don’t feel comfortable dealing with the spiritual side of things with anyone other than a priest, or maybe a Sister. Often when I’ve gone to confession priests have told me I should seek out counseling…but while therapy has been good they just don’t know how to deal with the spiritual side of my issues. Even if I could find one that is Christian, let alone Catholic, there would still be difficulties that go beyond theological differences.

Seriously, therapists, you need to murder your glitter pooping unicorns. I’ve had so many basically boil their philosophy down to “just lay flatter and be a better doormat for your parents” so I can hope everything will magically get better. I had one therapist who actually told me that cutting off my parents might be psychologically healthy, and she admitted it is rare she ever recommends something like that.

Besides, I’m kind of…over therapy for the most part. Therapy from what I have seen is a lot of self reflection, with added wisdom from a third party. It’s a great thing but at the moment I don’t feel it to be necessary, especially since my spiritual concerns have never been welcomed or understood in a therapy setting.

Ever try explaining to an atheistic/secular therapist what receiving the Eucharist is like? It’s probably all very bizarre to them. I once explained to a Christian Reformed therapist the reason I got so worked up over a liturgical issue. First I had to explain what I meant by liturgy, then I had to explain John 6, then I had to tie it all together with the behavior of some person I knew…it got complicated fast. It would be nice to talk spirituality with someone who could correct me if I’m wrong and have the authority to do so.

So all you followers out there, if you aren’t spam bloggers, have you ever tried spiritual direction? Did it go well? Was it hard to find a director? In short, share your experience in the comments.

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So I broke up with my parents

First, a recipe!

Tacos from the Heart

Needed:
1 dead cow
Skills in butchering animals for food (serial killers need not apply)
1 cow heart from said dead cow.

Boil the heart slowly over a few hours, in water and salt. Beef heart is big, so you might need to cut it to fit in the pan. Let it cool, make sure it’s tender, and cut off the excess fat. Then cut it into long, thin strips.

Heat up some oil in a pan and throw in onion and garlic to taste. Then throw in some cut hot chiles. And salt. Salt is good. Throw in more onions if you love them like I do. Let it all simmer.

Serve with your favorite non store bought salsa, beans, and tortillas. (Corn tortillas, or even flour ones but avoid the nasty wheat tortillas. Them’s nasty.)

Now, on to the break up. I find it highly ironic that my first big break up was with my parents. My only boyfriend is now married to me, and by the grace of God our marriage is doing well so far. So my first big break up is not a boyfriend, or even a fiancé, but my parents.

Oh sure, I’ve told old “friends” to hit the road before. But that is less a break up and more because of our ages and maturity levels. It was mostly mutual, except in the case of a genuine stalker I had that took YEARS to remove from my life.

In any case, this is awkward. Who breaks up with their parents? I might even try writing a book about it, because it feels that weird.

So a few nights ago, after taking a long break from the crazy people I call my parents, we met at a local restaurant. My husband went with me for support. Right away, as soon as I let them know what was up, they tried to attack me by getting through to my husband. Classy.

There was a lot of gas lighting. Gas lighting is when one person flat out denies, minimizes, or ignores the experience of another for the purposes of getting the other under control and questioning their own memories, experiences, or even sanity. In their case, my parents claimed not to remember anything that I said. When I pressed, they said I must have an incorrect memory. Because I am a human blood hound for lies and half truths, I kept pressing relentlessly until my mom blamed her conveniently faulty memory in anti-depressants.

I looked at my father, and asked him “So what is YOUR excuse?”

“Stress”, he replied. He didn’t even acknowledge that I called my mother out on her excuse, and his.

What followed was nothing that interesting, just lots of implying that I was the crazy one, conveniently recovered memories that were very sharp concerning my perceived faults, and finally dwindled down into telling me that I was a terrible person, wrong, that this was all “bullshit”, and that I was being “vindictive”.

In short it went about as crappy as I thought it would. I did come into the break up meeting offering an olive branch. What it boiled down to was either they acknowledge the past, take responsibility, and apologize, or I no longer have contact with them. What was more important- their pride and emotional self preservation or their relationship with their daughter?

As always, the former won over the latter. The closest I got was a “sorry for whatever the hell we did, but we don’t remember”.

Here is the reason apologies are important. Many people would say I should just accept that my parents are who they are and that I should lie flatter so they can happily keep walking over me. I would say those people are ignorant. An apology doesn’t fix hurt feelings, or heal broken pasts. What it does, is show that the person making the apology is aware of how they have failed. If you can see where you have failed, you can avoid doing the same failure again. It also shows that if you don’t avoid that failure, then you are responsible enough to continue taking responsibility. An apology is humility which is a necessary ingredient for friendship.

That is why apologies are important, especially in cases of abuse.

I’ve already forgiven my parents, but reconciliation is not possible. In their minds I’m “vindictive”, crazy, and “punishing” them. They aren’t mature enough to examine the reasons why their daughter is so ready to leave them in the past. Forgiving them I can do, but the power of reconciliation is out of my hands. I can be willing (reluctantly, but I could try) except that it isn’t possible on their end.

If I were to try reconciliation with these people who still see me as their bad little scapegoat, reconciliation would not happen. Instead, I’d be volunteering for abuse, sadness, anger, frustration all on my part. Instead of being a victim I’d be volunteering.

Their pride and egos are far more important to them than making a real, healthy relationship with me. I am not willing to teach my own daughter that that sort of unhealthy dynamic is acceptable.

They want me to come back and be a better doormat. I want them to be the parents they never were.

So I broke up with them.

Space, A Peaceful Frontier

As I recover from surgery, I am finding myself with a lot of time to sit and blog.

My husband just has to be the voice of reason and forbids me to pick up the baby carrier and stroller and baby all at once. Harrumph so what if its been less than a week since surgery? I feel fine!

Who cares what the doctors say, right? Haha…blogging it is.

During my hellish stay in the hospital where it was one disappointment after another, including a family wide cold and an utterly miserable hungry baby, I had some realization time. I wouldn’t characterize it as “thinking time” since most of the time I was only actively thinking about throwing my iv out the window and getting out of my hospital cell…room. It was definitely a realization time.

My husband, ever the unicorn, mentioned calling my parents so someone could bring us some supplies. Why not his family I’m not entirely sure why. They live closer to the hospital. However that is not important. What’s important is that at the mere mention of my parents barging in I went into a panic attack.

Erratic breathing, tears, hopelessness, an urge to escape…everything just flipped a lid inside of me at the thought of them coming in, because I already knew what they were going to do. There would be a guilt trip for not mentioning the surgery,my baby would be “taken care of” out of my sight, I would be made responsible to care for my mother and her feelings, it would all be a disaster. I’d be vulnerable with monsters.

Thankfully my husband didn’t make that call. I’ve been on a time out from them for a few weeks, almost 2 months.
I thought it would be enough but clearly they are still in my head. I dwell on the call and two texts sent by my mom. She’s trying to lure me with stuff and claims not to know why I am not accepting her calls.

She knows why, unless my Dad said absolutely nothing which given his history is unlikely. She still doesn’t understand that stuff means nothing to me.

Right now, I just want to be surrounded by love. No judgement, no false sense of responsibility and guilt, no boundary stomping, no passive aggressive remarks.

So the result of my time out is the realization that I need more time out. At this point, I need to confront them my selves, and then just not contact them for a while. However long I need before I can figure out what normal is, and if I feel normal enough.

This is going to be rough on my husband. He grew up with a huge extended family that all seem to get along for the most part. His culture places a high value on family loyalty, especially to one’s parents. It’s one of the reasons I love my husband.

He told me that its going to seem odd not seeing them for Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter. “Perhaps,” I replied “but now we can make our own family traditions. I’m excited by that, and now we can have a breather from all the unpleasant parts.”

I’m not looking forward to the chat I will have with both of my parents. I am bringing my husband, not because this truly involves him but because I am afraid of being physically attacked. I am already planning logistics- where to park so that I can’t be blocked from the road, who will babysit, to make sure my battery is charged on my phone, an on and on.

I am looking forward to avoiding gossip, digs at my style of clothing or hair, subtle racism against my husband, passive aggressive put downs about every conceivable subject, or attempts to save me from Catholicism. I’m also looking forward to missing the aunt who sexually harasses my husband, the aunt who offers her supposedly professional therapy services, the uncle who thinks my husband is a thief based solely on the fact that he’s got skin color, another uncle who’s been in jail because the mental hospital has no room, another aunt that is certifiably crazier than my mother, and so many more others.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to making new friends and getting to know my in-laws better, to bringing myself closer to God and my husband.

I want to start some new traditions. What about haunted corn mazes? What about finding a parish where we can do a posada instead of hiding our insecurities with a mountain of expensive junk?Why not elotes on thanksgiving with a smaller turkey and some good wine?

I’m breaking off from my past to draw closer to something newer and better. And when I finally feel secure, then I will see if a relationship with my parents is feasible.

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Adios, vesicula!

I promise to post a favorite recipe of mine next week.

After a hellish stay for a week in the hospital I am finally home. I went in thinking my superhero would be done in a day. I rushed there, grabbing enough for two days because I thought that was the longest I would have to be there. After all, that is what I was told.

Hospitals lie.

Nope first I had to have a test that involved shoving a tube down my throat to see if a gallstone was down there. There was one, and it was minuscule, but it couldn’t be left to wander around and cause complications.

So the next day I had an ercp, which got the stone out. Yay! Now I can go home, right? Now I can have the surgery? Sure! It will be right in a couple of hours!

Actually no not today but tomorrow. Day 3. Okay, fine. So I wait and I wait and I wait. I’m allowed to take a shower, finally. (3days of no showering) The surgery keeps getting pushed back. First morning, then 2 o’clock, then whatever time in the afternoon. Eventually I have to hunt down the nurse. The surgery has been pushed back another day.

During this entire time I am hooked up to an iv. I am basically naked. I’m dirty, stinky, and pissed. I also have a tiny baby who is running low on diapers and I am breast feeding- baby will not take a bottle so she screams during the pump and dump sessions (I learned later that those are not needed in most cases.) I also can’t hold her because my iv was put in the crook of my arm so awkwardly that I have to have it at a weird angle or it will pop out. I also didn’t get to eat anything other than chicken broth and jello and that was restricted too. Thank God my husband was there.

On day 3 I was allowed to eat. I even had a menu! But the line was busy, would close within the hour. and i had learned by now that you should never be patient and wait for anything at a hospital. So I went to the cafeteria and prayed id find something to keep my milk up an not cause a gallbladder attack. Stale pita bread and processed chicken with salad didn’t kill me so yay.I was so depressed and angry I lost hope. I cried almost every night. Nobody would give me an answer to my questions. When they did it was a vague non-answer or even a complete ignoring that I had even said anything.

On day 4 I packed my stuff. Surgery or no surgery i couldn’t take it anymore.i was no longer the cheery, talkative woman who went in. I didn’t ask the nurses for anything; I responded to their questions with less than a handful of words. Eventually the IV popped out, thank God, and was finally put where I had said it would work. (Nobody believed me before, because apparently you need to be an RN to remember where IV’s have worked well in the past.) While I was waiting to hear that my surgery had been pushed back, I just laid in bed. I was sick of going out in a robe that afforded no modesty and an IV that screamed “sick!”.

During my stay we couldn’t leave for diapers, so the baby got diaper rash. Eventually a kind nurse procured some for us- a size too big but they worked. We also came down with nasty colds. We couldn’t sleep due to having someone in our room all the time. If it wasn’t a nurse it was an assistant, if not an assistant someone to clean, if not someone to clean then a doctor.

By the way, doctors…go update what you thought you knew about breast feeding. I no longer trust any of you on that subject at all.

Things I learned…

1. Caloric intake DOES affect breast feeding. My milk took a huge dip. The doctors said it wouldn’t. Bullshit. I lost 10 pounds due to not being able to eat. My baby was incredibly fussy due to lower milk.

2. Unless there are some very unusual drugs being used for anesthesia, it IS safe to breast feed. If you want to be safe pump and dump for four hours only.

3. If the hospital says anything about how long things should take, take it with a grain of salt. There could be mishaps, emergencies, etc and you shouldn’t allow yourself to hope for anything. You WILL be disappointed. Plan accordingly.

4. My husband rocks. Words can’t express how grateful I am that he took care of me and baby as best he could.

Things doctors and nurses should know:

1. Sticking an iv in the crook of a mother’s arm essentially cripples her. Making it so that she can’t hold her baby, change diapers, breast feed without help, or even put on that ugly gown on her own is emotionally traumatizing especially when she came in for a problem in her abdomen. Take some time to stick the IV somewhere where she won’t be disabled and kept from doing the one thing she should be able to do-care for her child. You don’t need to care about mothers and babies but if you want an easier patient to work with, try it out.

2. Medicines stay in the breast milk for a very short time. Do some UPDATED research and find out that its RARE to have to pump and dump for 24 hours. Maybe you’re just trying to CYA legally, but screw the lawyers.

3. Realize that asking a mother to essentially starve a baby for 24 hours is traumatizing to mother, child, and her husband. Don’t act as if introducing a bottle is easy. It’s not. Some babies NEVER accept the bottle no matter how much you try. I was trying for weeks before my surgery, even before I knew I had gallbladder issues.

4. Don’t expect a mother to have a good milk supply when she hasn’t eaten any significant calories in four days. If the mother is starving so will the baby. And guess what? Some babies REJECT formula!

5. Warn people that while yes, the surgery itself can have the patient out on the same day, the surgery might not happen the day the patient is admitted. Don’t give false hope so that the patient plans for a day or two when its really going to be a week.

6. When you say you are going to send someone to interpret to the husband, actually do it. Consistently. I thought that was a given…

7. Don’t try to imply that a mother is somehow irresponsible for not bottle feeding her baby on a regular basis. That is one of those areas where you aren’t supposed to be showing your opinions. And they are nothing more than opinions, no matter what degree, if any, you may have.

I’m also changing peds after this. Not only do I hope and pray to never go back to the hospital (except for births and then may I stay as short as possible) but I also learned that when its 1am and my baby is literally starving and screaming the best advice I can hope for is “if it looks like there is a problem go to the emergency room” and “of course she will accept a bottle!”.

No, my baby won’t accept a bottle. Especially while screaming. And the emergency room doctors were the ones who were even more clueless about breast feeding than most.

So about 10 hours after surgery I broke the 24 hour pump and dump rule after doing my own research, since I was getting no answers from anybody.. AND NOTHING HAPPENED!

She ate, she slept, she breathed normally, and was only clingy due to having been separated for so long. In short she is back to normal.

Happy as I am to have that gallbladder out, and grateful as I am that we found help at the last second…I officially hate hospitals now. I appreciate all the hard work the hospital staff do (I’m in awe of a lot of it, actually) but I never want to be in that position again.

Also is it too much to ask hospitals to come up with gowns that don’t sap dignity?

Honor Thy Father and Mother

Children of abusive parents have it hard. They will struggle their entire lives because of what was done to them and the neglect they suffered. They will forever wonder what’s normal in a family, what’s acceptable behavior. They will constantly doubt themselves and their own history, because they’ve been gaslighted believing that what happened didn’t happen. Learning how to relate to others, how to handle conflict, criticism, praise- is difficult. Some abused kids never acknowledge their abuse, and either become abusers or enablers of abusers. The shame of being an adult child of abusive parents is heavy. That adult always wonders how much to tell, to whom they can tell it, and fears how much blame they will have to take for their own abuse.

I should know. I am an adult who grew up abused.

Some misconceptions about abuse:

1) it must happen every day.
2) It must be physical or sexual.
3) it must be severe enough to leave visible marks.

A common misconception is that emotional abuse doesn’t count. I think that the emotional aspect of abuse is the worst. Physical abuse doesn’t need to happen every day for it to “count”. Because it is so easy to get caught for physical abuse, physical abuse is used irregularly- but the mind games are what takes things to a sick new level. I was only hit by a belt once- but it was used as a threat so effectively that I hid every single belt in the house, and deliberately made myself forget where they were.

I grew up terrified. I was the scapegoat, so I was blamed for everything no matter how illogical. If something broke while I was using it, doubtless it was because I was deliberately avoiding work, or being rebellious. I was constantly told I was a spoiled brat, that I was ugly, smelly, incapable, annoying, stupid. Almost every compliment was followed by an insult. Compliments said in front of my mom would be punished later, often with her screaming “you think you’re so good/smart/etc don’t you!” I always knew that trouble would brew if I painted my nails or dressed nicely. It would start out slow, with just being called lazy. Then a steady stream of criticism would begin, and it was designed to make me want to fight back. When I did, it would lead to a screaming match, and that’s when it would come out that I must have been horribly lazy or selfish to have wanted to look nice. If I didn’t fight back, the criticism would still lead to screaming about my supposed laziness. My mom still tries to pull this off.

Society is big on the idea of honoring one’s parents. But what about those parents in which the adult child finds nothing honorable? The Bible also says to not provoke your children to wrath. Jesus, in another of those moments that shows he was not a soft hippie, says that its better for adults that lead children to sin to have a one ton millstone tied to their neck and have them thrown into the sea. Do some research on drowning. It’s an excruciating way to die.

Having abusive parents makes a child less likely to trust God. If the dynamic is like my family dynamic, the abusive parent makes you believe God is a vindictive, capricious person who will be kind one moment and cruel the next. The parent who enables the abuser and doesn’t stop what the child can’t hope to escape, however, teaches that God is impotent, so you have to do for yourself what nobody else will do. After so long, I am finally learning to trust God. Some days I don’t trust him still, but luckily he has patience and understands even when I don’t. I finally learned that after having a screaming fit where I was so angry, I asked why he made me so ugly that my parents hate me. I finally said what I have felt all 26 years of my life, and I finally realized how absurd and messed up it is that I believe that.

I don’t know how to honor my parents. I am no longer a child, so obedience is no longer necessary. So what is honor? Does it mean keeping quiet about my own suffering, keeping my abuse a big secret? Does it mean continuing to interact with people who I do not trust, who turn the blame on me for my abuse, or pretend as if it never happened, or as if I were exaggerating?

What am I supposed to say to my new family, the family of my husband? I haven’t had anyone from my family over to help since my beautiful girl was born. (Thank God!)I’ve been told all my life that no one would believe me. I’ve been told all my life by my family and by society that if I dare let the truth out then I will just be dragging my family through the mud and therefore I will come out looking like the villain.

I don’t know how to honor my parents right now. I don’t know what honor in this sense actually is since I was never honored myself. All I can think to do is to minimize the damage- I will not allow them more opportunities to mistreat me, or my family. I will not allow them to provoke me to wrath. I will keep them at arms length, or further, like they are dangerous. Because they are dangerous.

Honor thy father and mother is a good commandment, and like most of the commandments it has a flip side- parents are to honor their children as well. Many people believe that the Commandments and laws of the Church are there to control people and make their lives miserable. The truth is the Commandments and laws are closer to observations than regulations. Those who don’t honor their children, who abuse them and make them scared and suspicious of the world around them, will not get the benefits of a commandment about honor. Love God above all else…or else you will find something else to worship that will fail you regularly. Love your neighbor…or you will end up hating him and isolating yourself. Do not murder…or you will never be able to escape the consequences if your actions. Don’t lust after someone else’s husband or wife, because you will be degrading your own relationships in the process.

I think the reason Jesus was so serious about those who would harm children is because the commandment about honoring parents (and children) is the one commandment where the effects harm the innocent much more than the sinner. My parents will have to suffer a lackluster, distant relationship (if even that). A formerly abused person gets to suffer from the emotional scars, gets to have to fight to love freely and trust others, gets to relive the abuse, and when the parent dies gets to suffer knowing that a part of them is relieved while the other part is tremendously guilty.

Honor. Treat your children with love and kindness, or they will suffer for your sin for the rest of their lives.