Narcissism II

Here’s the rub; this whole narcissism bit was born out of my personal research, which I was doing to identify patterns I had been exposed to and cultivated in the past. I went through codependency and empathy because that shoe fit. I had nailed down my “deficiencies.” However, I wanted to understand all the confusion I felt about my past relationships. Why it has been so difficult for me to unplug myself from it because I get it, “it’s crazy.” I stumbled upon gaslighting, and that broke me into the chewy center of the tootsie pop.

In my past relationships, I literally have felt as though I was going crazy. I was continually stating my boundaries, needs, pains, and the lack and hurt I was feeling caused by their behavior, caused by a person who claimed to love me. (I often speak of Jerry because he is a massive component (8 years). My most significant and most prolonged cluster fuck to date, but believe it or not, he wasn’t the only one; hence “their.”) So gaslighting. I started researching gaslighting. Which led me to Dr. Ramani, a licensed psychologist with a Ph. D. She specializes in personality disorders. She has an insane amount of FREE content on Youtube about, you guessed it, narcissism. I went faaaaaar down that rabbit hole, and it shed so much light and provided me, for the first time ever in my life, clarity about these relationships and my participation in them. She also has a book (foreshadow???) titled, “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving A Relationship With A Narcissist” and it magnified my clarity – it focused it.

I have said, and maybe it’s shitty of me because fill in the blank I want this information to be accessible so that it can help someone. Maybe in a fucked up way, I am trying to save my old self, (like you can do that?), but I wish I could’ve saved myself time, anguish. Learning that unplugging yourself from a narcissistic relationship is not the same as just breaking up with someone was validating. The entanglement. The giant knot. Unpacking all the “abuse” and downright fuckedness of the whole situation was not as simple and as pragmatic as you may judge it. Anyone thinking, beyond myself, “enough time has gone by” “you’ve moved on and your married” or “why” clearly has the benefit of never experiencing a narcissistic relationship. 

I fully accept responsibility for my participation in all of it. Still, I had no awareness of what was happening. I was trying to love someone incapable of showing up the same way for me. I was dumb. Blind. Living in a fantasy, that I created. I wanted what I wanted because I had invested. Because every time I had enough and was going to leave (in some cases, I did leave), I was PROMISED time and again that “things would be different” and “I will change, please don’t go – I love you so much.” And that’s all I wanted. Change in behavior and to be loved by the person I loved so very much. I didn’t want the cheating, the lying the chronic “sorry’s” that only served to manipulate and bide time. I whole heartily misunderstood and I didn’t learn after repeated failures to deliver on their behalf. I was comforted by the devil I knew, the predictability of chaos, and the hopes that he would change. I was wrong. I had unreasonable expectations given the nature of the person I was involved with.

So, heavy, right? We also have an election coming up. In my opinion, it is fundamentally important to educate yourself on the issues that are in front of us, and part of that is behavior. Being able to spot and identify grandiosity, lack of empathy, gaslighting, carelessness, manipulation, etc. may provide more clarity (as if the state of affairs isn’t clear enough), but hey, The Social Dilemma, right?

And perhaps you don’t have an intimate relationship with a narcissist, or you never have. However, maybe you have someone in your family, or a boss, a friend, who leaves you feeling a bit like shit? Perhaps through research and identification, you’ll possess clarity, and thus the ability to move through it; however, best suits you.

Make no mistake, narcissism is prevalent; “Narcissism is an epidemic, and no one is free from its effects. Much like any epidemic, whether or not you get the illness, you are affected. If you aren’t a narcissist, then you may be under the spell of someone who is a pathological narcissist, and it is taking a toll on your life. Increasingly, we are emptying the connection, respect, and empathy out of one of the most important and healthy of human experiences and turning it into branding, showmanship, and posturing.” Of course, this is a quote from Dr. Ramani (duh!).

As usual, please share and feel free to reach out!

All love. 

Ashley

Narcissism

Low key flexing my killer PowerPoint skills. 

This week and next, I’ll be diving into narcissism! Ironic, eh?
I feel pulled to discuss this right now for multiple reasons, both personal and otherwise.

I won’t be sharing a book on Thursday; instead, I’ll be doing another post continuing the examination of narcissism. In this particular post, I have pulled information directly from the DSM-5. I intentionally did this because I am not a psychologist and because science overrides my general knowledge on the topic. It’s essential to believe and pull from science. Am I right?

Y’all know I am a big fan of trying to understand human behavior. I believe that understanding and being able to identify these characteristics is massively important. It helps us navigate our social relationships and has the potential to decrease our suffering.

I have suffered because I did not understand this personality disorder. I had STRONG beliefs that I could influence this personality type to, in my personal experience, be more empathetic and loving. Of course, that belief stems from my own issues, which I will dive into – shit, that’s all I ever dive into.

For those who can identify these traits within their intimate relationship partner, I will be posting resources on October 1st (you can also DM me, and I can get them for you). The most significant misunderstanding about being in a narcissistic relationship is, if the abuse of narcissism were physically visible, it would be one of the most devastating depictions of a physical assault.

So here we go, narcissism. 

All love.
Ashley

8-21-2020 Post

 

So, for those who don’t know – I am obsessed with Dr. Ramani. Ever since I found her (thank you YouTube) she has provided me so much clarity concerning my past relationships. 

Recently, I watched one of her Youtube videos (link in bio) where she discussed personalization vs. taking it personally. She tackles all things narcissism, however, I found it helpful for other relationships in my life too. 

The work I have been doing as of late is working with my inner child. 

Growing up, there were 3 different careers I wanted to pursue and my dad told me they all sucked (literally) and since my dad, in my eyes, was the career master I personified all my ideas as dumb. He loved me, he was smarter than me so I listened to his advice. Here I am 35, no career. Being a lawyer (are douchebags), psychologist (too heavy), or fashion designer (dumb because no bachelor’s degree) don’t seem so dumb now. 

Recently, I was talking to my dad about going back to school and he told me to imagine what my career would do to me. He said, “You can’t just check-in and out of that. You’ll have to look at these people in their eyes and listen to horrible stories.” Since I know myself better than I did at 17, I feel confident in the path which honors my strengths as a person. So I was capable of not personifying what he said.  Instead, I was able to put myself in his shoes to examine the root of what he was communicating, he was worried about me; that it would affect me negatively and as a parent that is the last thing you want for you kid. He’s trying to protect me.  

Our upbringings provide us with varying degrees of tools. Some of us have an electric saw some of us have a butter knife. Again to varying degrees, some of us make do with what we’ve been given, while others try to upgrade our tools to make life easier. And it’s super important to remember this. 

He was raised in a volatile alcoholic family – minimizing meant you went unseen and therefore unscathed. It meant safety. His tools are the tools his parents gave him and their tools were non-existent. 

Suffice it to say, do you – follow your heart and every other cliche in this realm. Personification can get you stuck, unable to heal, move forward, feeling unworthy, and full of self-doubt. Even if the intention is good.

We can’t undo the past – the bell has been rung, but it has given me clarity – I wasn’t dumb. My dad just couldn’t say what he felt and instead, he said it the best way he could. And I was 17 and didn’t possess the awareness and the voice I do now to articulate how it made me feel. 

I have been paralyzed in making a bad career decision because of self-doubt created this exact scenario. But who knows, not dead yet. 

Sweet Creatures – Part IV

Sweet Creatures – Part IV

We excitedly texted about meeting up again for another lunch. We both got caught up. Even exchanged Joe Dirt gifs. I felt like I had my friend back. Felt oddly validated when he texted,  “I kinda hate how much I enjoy your company.” Our hearts and heads had been closed off from each other for years, so it was nice to just be calmly next to one another. I was feeling good about seeing Jerry and he was feeling good about seeing me, “I’m still trying to process it but it feels good for sure.” We we’re getting in touch with our old selves, the good part – like the high part. It felt good to be seen through the lens of someone who has known me. Like the me from 17, the me that was worth loving by him, the me before I occupied all my current roles. It felt good to reconnect and be one with an old friend. An old enemy. An old me.  

[Now this is where I say to the drama reader, who is missing the fucking point of this story: 

I DO NOT WANT TO GET BACK TOGETHER WITH JERRY. 

My heart struggles and I’m trying to learn and grow. I’m not fucking stupid.]

::::

It was important to see our individual growth. See things had gotten better for both of us. See that both of us had changed, for the better. 

Then I got a text from Jerry:

WHY!?!?!

The only question I had, and still have, is why? Why did I get this text? Why did he text me? I could’ve been left out of this and had no fucking clue. The story could’ve been, I saw him and things went well and that’s it. But, the universe has a way of showing you exactly what you need to see. I needed to see this. Desperately. 

My family was headed to Chuck E Cheese. This text message came through while my husband was putting our daughter in her car seat. As I read it, my heart sank. I felt sadness and concern for Jerry; par for the course. Neither my husband nor I were surprised his girlfriend found out. That’s how lies work. And, I will say, in the YEARS Jerry has been lying, he definitely hasn’t gotten any better about it. More notably the lying has continued.  I read the continuing incoming stream of text messages to my husband as he drove. I continued to respond to Jerry and my husband even helped me reply to him. However, replying and helping soon turned into frustration.

Being the ill intentioned asshole that I am, I responded to his text with:

Jerry didn’t want help. Jerry needed to throw blame and bad feelings onto me so he didn’t have to be in it alone. So Jerry didn’t have to take responsibility. Jerry did not / cannot take responsibility for his actions, his choices. It’s always been Jerry’s biggest blind spot and I have one hundred percent enabled him in this behavior. I have constantly tried to save him from his self made suffering, instead of trying to understand where the suffering even comes from. He doesn’t like dealing with uncomfortable shit and uncomfortable shit is my norm. So easy peasy for me. Even though we had time, distance, growth from one another, he still needed me to play the same role I played for him for eight years, his sponge. I, as a massive sensitive empath and feeler, often over personify my responsibility to another negating my own emotions, value, and boundaries. I suck at boundaries and struggle with codependency. My biggest hurdle. Since Jerry is the exact opposite, it is yet another way in which our emotional dysfunctions serve one another.

Over the years, I’ve weeded people out who treat the empath trait as a fucking cesspool; typically narcissists. I’ve also spent years working on my lack of boundaries and codependency. So this is why the narcissistic gaslighting “this is why I never wanted to meet up” part of his text was instantly irritating. He was not responsible. I held no gun to his head. He made a choice. He made lots of choices, like the one not to tell his girlfriend he was going to meet up with me, that he was texting me, that he was emailing me, that we planned on meeting up again the day after she found our emails blah blah blah. When Jerry met me for our initial meeting, he chose the place. When he arrived, after our greeting, he said, “What would you have done if I didn’t show up? Would you have driven to my work?” Digress, I know where he works because it’s the same job he’s had since we were together. I said, “No. I would’ve sat here had a beer and gone home.”  

He chose to show up. 

But, fuck isn’t easier to not take responsibility for things going to shit for you? Isn’t it easier to not be transparent? Isn’t it easier to be the victim? Painting me as the “bad guy with bad intentions” serves both him and his girlfriend. Off shooting blame means you don’t have to deal with your own shit. The shit that makes you lie. The shit that makes you think he won’t lie again. It’s false reassurance for everyone who plays the game. Until the next lie comes around. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. Exactly there.

You see, to me, even then the solution was clear. She wasn’t going anywhere. Even in the slight chance she did, she would be back. I’m guilty of the same. And you know what? He knew it. That’s why during this time, he’s texting me! Why isn’t he tending to what he’s so fearful of losing? Why isn’t he trying to repair? Explain? If he really thinks he going to lose her? If he really cares?

::::

People choose to stay in these relationships because on some level they serve. Whether it’s on an emotional, mental, or physical level. It’s up to the players to decide. “Normal people” will have difficultly understanding how someone can stay in a “shitty” relationship, but it’s super simple – dysfunction attracts dysfunction. To be dysfunctional you have to be unconscious, lack self-awareness, and be rooted in suffering. Awakening from your unconsciousness and identifying your dysfunction takes a shit ton of work. You have to possess clarity amongst many other things, and it’s not easy work. It took me, getting hit in the face by an ex for me to determine that if I didn’t want to continue the dysfunction, I had to stop blaming others for the miserable circumstances I found my self in (he’s also in prison now – that’s for another story). I fell in love with the people I chose. I had to choose differently. And luckily, I did. One of the most enormous epiphanies I have had in my adult life, which I want to share, is that we create our reality. Even if you just feel like a participant in someone else’s reality, you are co-creating that reality for yourself. If you don’t like how shit is going in your life, you have to change it. No one else is going to change for you or change it for you. The willingness we have to forfeit our power is insane. We think we can’t unfuck ourselves when we are the only ones who can. On it’s highest level suffering and dysfunction serve to teach the individual. Most us of find ourselves in “shitty” relationships in our first real relationships, often in our early twenties. We literally our coming out of our childhood ingrained with the downloaded emotions and beliefs of our parents and exploding with our first real sense of freedom to choose. The hope is with every relationship, you unlearn patterns that don’t serve the greater good. For example, if lying was the way you got around in your family, you will learn in a relationship lying has real consequences. The comedian Taylor Tomlinson has a great analogy regarding this growth, “You have to work on yourself in your twenties because if you don’t you’ll turn thirty and all the shitty parts of your personality will solidify and that’ll just be who you are now. Your twenties are your chance to fish trash out of the lake before it freezes over.” 

So, when you are not conscious and self-aware, you may find yourself in an unhealthy  functioning relationship and there are going to be various power plays happening.  Fighting, for example, can feel like earnestly trying. It can feel like a concerted effort in mending, growing, and holding on even when you have an inkling you should walk away. However, when we become conscious, we ask ourselves why we need/want someone to be something for you, to you? What is it that you are missing as an individual – which you require and expect someone else to fulfill for you? I am asking this of myself also. Just so we’re clear. Ram Dass has so eloquently said, “I have a choice of either trying to change the world to adhere to my model, or to let go of my model to be with the world.”  I guess it’s all context, right? What are you fighting for? What is it rooted in? Fear? Expectation? Validation? Forgiveness, even? Going deeper then we must beg the question, how much do we identify with what our needs are and what are they rooted in? On the other side of the same fighting coin, difficult conversations breed growth. However, fighting character flaws (lying, cheating, narcissism, etc.) is dumb because those don’t change because you think they should. Instead, if you find yourself trying to fight a character flaw, it should simply serve to draw attention to what’s happening may be out of alignment for you. Even with a heavily flawed individual, your attraction to them says and has to do more with you than the flawed individual.

Going deeper: Most dysfunction usually finds an origin in trauma. Most of this being childhood trauma. “The addiction to chaos begins in childhood when connection comes through shared states of chaos.” Environments of chaos look different for each individual. Whether you weren’t seen, minimized, abused, your reality was denied, and many other examples. While it is painful and difficult to address our various traumas, it is part of the work of being human. Acknowledging and dealing with our shit. However, if we don’t take personal responsibility and seek self-awareness and growth we will unconsciously perpetuate the cycle by doing as we were shown by those who parented us. So, when you get into chaos as an adult, it feels familiar, normal and most importantly manageable. So, we don’t break the cycle. We cannot even see the cycle. We just become apart of it and then perpetuate it; especially when children become involved. Although I was deeply and unconsciously in that cycle when I was with Jerry, I by the grace of God, had the foresight to know there was no way in good conscience I could be responsible for perpetuating the chaos by bringing a child into this chaos, this suffering we co-created. It was irresponsible. Morning after pills were a savior, multiple times, while in my relationship with Jerry. #plannedparenthood

Fucking Bowling League

HE’S AT HIS FUCKING BOWLING LEAGUE. HE’S AT HIS FUCKING BOWLING LEAGUE. HE’S A FUCKING IDIOT.

Listen, I love getting drunk and throwing balls in clown shoes just as much as the next nerd, but seriously, what a fucking idiot. I mean, seriously?!

I absolutely LOVE this text because it says and is EVERYTHING! Since I am much better at reading comprehension than a certain *cough cough* “Jerry” (whose name has been changed to keep him anonymous – until he outed himself on his personal Facebook – uh, thank you for the PR) let’s comprehend. Jerry’s chick is pissed because he saw me and while she is apparently leaving him “packing her things”, he is texting me. He is too busy at his bowling league to go to her and more importantly, his dogs, “I don’t know if she left, but she is taking my fucking dogs.” 

That poor, poor girl. Fuck. 

I love it. I love it because this is exactly what I needed to see. See that he treats her the same fucking way he treated me. There has been no change. He is the same. By this projection, if I had still been with him, this is where I’d be. In her shoes. My old shitty ass shoes. 

Priorities, baby. 

I understood it. The lying. It’s always what I’ve hated the most about Jerry. Anyone really. However, an injustice is not being done to the person who chooses to stay with a known liar. It’s a choice and it’s part of the Jerry package. 

I hope he racked up some strikes. Fucking bowling league.

Also, if you’re curious about my reply about him lying – hypocritical, right? Jerry owed this to me. To our previous eight-year relationship in which we got engaged. When our relationship ended, although it constantly being brought back to life, it was abrupt and there was no real conversation that happened to close it up. It just ended. And honestly, when we met up, he baaaaaarely showed up. He didn’t even say sorry. Not for a single fucking thing. He couldn’t emotionally or mentally meet me halfway, par for the course. Apologizing isn’t a matter of agreeing on our sacred value to each other, it’s a matter of moral fucking principle. You were a dick, say fucking sorry. Fuck, someone says “sorry” to you, maybe say “sorry” back. Just for fun. To see how it feels. 

“It isn’t love when another person cannot give you the space to live your own life.” – Deepak Chopra

Me. I am finally the other woman. 

Listen, Jerry did some weird stuff. I’m sure I did too, but I didn’t put on the song I wrote to propose to my ex while she’s sitting in a seat normally occupied by uh, your “girlfriend”, nor did I comment on his ass or talk about how far my seats go back (uh um) in my dented 1999 middle-aged mom car.

Straight up – all good with no car payments.

He took that call from his girlfriend while I was in the car and straight ful- blown lied to her about where he was, at his dad’s in Ontario, while driving on the 5 freeway. Offered up his weed pen to me. He legit made a mockery of his relationship with this girl in front of the worst person to do that in front of, me. I will say, his ability to be aloof really served me. Frankly, I am, for the first time ever, so grateful for that trait, but that’s because it benefited me. I don’t know her, but I feel for her. Maybe I am wrong in that? Maybe she’s different from me and this is all okay with her? I’ve been there though, and it really fucked me up. 

I did dress nice! I wore a black dress. If you know me, I live in black so that’s not like zhuzhed up. But you bet your ass I didn’t go looking like mister potato head. Which is arguably who I look like 60% of the time – even when I try not too. I did eat off his plate and pop a zit on him too.

She thinks we fucked.” 

Listen sister, I don’t know who he has you convinced that I am, but I am not about to fuck my ex fiancé, who fucked himself more than he ever fucked me, jizzed all over my carpet (yeah, I’m still bringing that up – its INSANE!), in a 1999 mom car with no tint. I have integrity and a dope ass husband.

She’ll never have to worry about me. Not then and not now. The last time was in winter 2012. I have it on my calendar – celebrate every year. I have done the dance with Jerry and I know it like the back of my hand. Last time we hung out, was fall of 2012 and I was petrified of Jerry. I had never seen him more clearly. When I was with Jerry, I was never in a darker place. Never. Self-harm. Crying all the time, alone. I had some beautiful sweet creatures pass my way during that time. Without them, I would’ve been toast. 

Also, it sucked settling. I love Jerry, he knows, I always have. But that’s what was the worst. I always loved him more than he was capable of loving me back. More than he was capable of loving himself and if you know him all he talks about is himself. He just constantly wanted to implode his life – our life. He wanted validation from other chicks. Shit, validation from anyone his poor self-esteem was in the shitter. He wanted to not be who he is. So me being a constant mirror of himself, he needed to push me away to push himself away and honestly, I fucking get it and that’s why I still love him. Dealing with your shit is really fucking difficult work and that’s even after doing the most difficult part which is acknowledging that reflection and growth are necessary pains. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jerry was he was a great place to hide from my shit. He was so heavy that he received all the focus. I avoided dealing with my trauma (and accumulated a lot more) because I unconsciously hid behind his for years. Which is how you find yourself talking about and dealing with something from years ago in your present.

Advice corner: DO NOT SETTLE

Just because Jerry couldn’t reciprocate in a way that felt meaningful that didn’t mean that I had to give up being loved the way I deserve to; because it’s what I can give in return, ya know? Or give up using my voice to share something that happened to me, involved me because someone doesn’t like the way it makes them look – never mind it’s who they are. 

It’s nice not to feel hurt everyday. Nice to not have to pretend anymore. Nice not to fear love.  It’s nice to feel a positive change. Instead of being drained everyday. 

Commence with the draining:

“refrain from contact”

“LTD”

“of course you’d say that”

Your contacting ME.  

The “exile myself” bit is standard in our emo ways, 2003-2008 were impactful years for him and I; I mean, look here I am talking about all this shit. The buff out bit and the foolio were Jerry’s trademarks at keeping distance. Quite different than the usual “bunny” or “bub” nicknames once bestowed upon me.

Fact is, Jerry is Jerry, and he’s going to do what he does best and that’s him. Jerry broke my heart about a billion times and never said sorry. I went back. He went back. We loved each other very much, but in very different ways which left a lot to be desired. Jerry proposed. Asked my parents even. I got a ring and I got scared. Jerry provided and took care of us. I always supported whatever he was doing – I sold his fucking merch for like five of the bands he was in. Jerry encouraged my writing which is rather ironic now since he hates it and me. I forgave him even when I hated him for hurting me. He wrote me songs. Jerry moved back from Hawaii right after I came to visit him. I went to visit him. Jerry opened my doors, held my hand, kissed my lips and all of it combined gave me all the hope in the world to believe and hold on, that things would get better that we’d work it all out and it would end the way I hoped, together. But I was never in control to get us where I wanted.

Now, I am grateful this hot mess imploded. It needed to. This is by far the most unhealthy portion of my entire life sometimes I wish it wasn’t real. I mean this whole story originated with me trying to say sorry and trying to be his friend so, I guess it’s my fault. 

::::

In 2011, I was in college getting my English degree. A professor assigned us Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein. The book ended up having a huge impact on me. At the time, Jerry and I spoke regularly, despite being broken up, and I spoke with Jerry about the story and how much I enjoyed it. The next time we spoke he told me that he had gotten a new tattoo on his right upper thigh. Maybe it’s the left? He sent me a picture – it was a portrait of Frankenstein’s monster. He said he got it for me – to remind him of me. He hadn’t read the book. I was bummed because he got the tattoo I wanted before I could afford to get it – got it now baby. #twinsies 

To me, and what I shared with Jerry, the book is a story about a man who tries to play God. Control the uncontrollable, if you will. The story begins with Victor Frankenstein fleeing from a monster – an apparition. Frankenstein finds himself aboard a ship. While on this ship, he tells his story. As a young man, Frankenstein is a seeker of knowledge, particularly natural sciences. While studying, he begins experimentation with creating life from death – reanimating a dead body. He tried multiple times and fails several times and his work begins to take a massive toll on him, “I might in process of time (although I now find it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.” Frankenstein goes digging in graves and focuses all his years of study on bringing something back to life which should be dead because that is the natural order. Going against the natural order he is able to create the monster. Yet, the monster doesn’t serve him the way he intended because once the monster is alive, Frankenstein freaks the fuck out and emotionally bails on the monster so the monster leaves. In retaliation of the rejection the monster faces, from his creator, the monster kills Frankenstein’s younger brother. The monster’s final request is that Frankenstein create him a mate or he will destroy Frankenstein. Frankenstein agrees to make him a mate. In a fit of anger and guilt, Frankenstein destroys the half-finished mate for the monster in front of the monster. Enraged the monster threatens Frankenstein that he will be back for him; more specifically his future wife. And sure enough, the monster kills the one person Frankenstein loves the most; his wife. A chase ensues between the monster and Victor; predicated on revenge. Victor refuses to give up; knowing he will likely die “as no thinking person would risk their life for something like this unless it was really self serving.” Frankenstein dies. The monster realizes that his own death will serve to relieve the pain he has endured since he was given life and he disappears. 

“Victor experiences the two basic meanings of the word responsibility. He creates the monster (he causes it to exist), and therefore he has at least some responsibility for what the monster goes on to do. As the creature’s maker, Victor also has both a duty to others to keep them safe from his creation and, Mary [Shelley] seems to be saying, a duty to his creation to ensure that his existence is worthwhile. A sense of responsibility can be experienced by anyone who pours time into a project, even if that project does not result in a new life form. The reader is left to wonder whether the story could have unfolded differently if Victor were to have behaved more responsibly.”

We all understand what responsibility means, but more specifically is the concept of moral responsibility. Moral responsibility refers to the determination that a person deserves praise or blame for an outcome or state of affairs. With determined rational human beings, we can assume moral responsibility. At a bare minimum, common decency. 

What is our responsibility to the things that we create, the relationships we create, how we leave things and people? Whether in conscious or unconscious creation or resuscitation of our creation we are responsible. We can not run away or hide from it.

The final letter in the book, the monster alludes to Milton’s Paradise Lost by saying:

“But it is even so, the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”

No ones hands are clean.

Citations

Johnston, Josephine. “Traumatic Responsibility · Frankenbook.”

 Frankenbook, PubPub, 30 Apr. 2018, 

http://www.frankenbook.org/pub/traumatic-responsibility/release/3.

Sweet Creatures – Part III

We decided to meet up the next day, Friday, for lunch. He drove out towards my house, which was welcome since I had driven out the day before; although it was the start of Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles. He told me he could meet from 12 – 3pm. We planned to meet at a restaurant near my house, but the traffic was so bad for him and I was running late. So we met at a local brewery and naturally grabbed a couple of beers and Jerry had some lunch. I was running too high to eat, but I fucking DRANK. Luckily, a sweet creature had driven and dropped me off. He was, again, nothing but kind to me, even offered me half his burger. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say I hold onto things, so for this meeting, I brought some visual nostalgia. A timeline of who we were; everything leading us up to the present moment, sitting in each other’s company looking back at this timeline as spectators. Some of the pictures were torn into pieces, yet we were able to indulge in each other’s company. We were able to find likeness in one another, something I thought we’d for sure lost. We bantered, pervy dick and fart jokes (a welcome norm) and shared our interests; it was like an “on the previous episode” synopsis of the past seven years. I paid and suggested we go to another brewery. He happily accepted. However, since I didn’t have my car, he had to drive us. Talk about a time warp. Granted, I had never been in that particular car, however that small space occupied so many tells of familiarity. He opened my door, something he always ALWAYS did. Things like the now weed pen (as opposed to the joint or pipe) laying in the center console. His ability to drive well, even if his hands aren’t on the wheel. The music. He, in the driver’s seat. Me, in his passenger seat.

We landed in Burbank at another brewery and had another beer. The whole experience of hanging out together was like a dream for me. Everything that I had idealized about our encounter was met and more. I mean, in a real sense it was everything that I hoped for. And not just for this particular meeting, it was how I wished everything could’ve been, how it should’ve been. An outsider watching us would think were friends (for those of you, who knew us together, there were many occasions that you wouldn’t identify us as friends). It was satisfying and a good ending point, for me. A place of peace, closure, and resolution.

As our time came to an end, I was going to grab an Uber, but he offered to drive me home. 

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A piece of information I need to share with you, ya you, from what I have been told by other people, my brother, and Jerry, Jerry’s girlfriend does not like me. I do know she reads my stories and has liked one, (thank you social media, and analytics). The idea of Jerry and I getting together, not her favorite. So, Jerry didn’t tell her.

I knew she didn’t know. Having been in her position numerous times in the past some may see my knowing she didn’t know and doing nothing about it as a betrayal to what I hate; lying. What I will say is that in my home, my life, I do not lie. I can only manage my home, not anyone else’s. If I am justifying, call it that. 

I am not here to say anyone is bad, good or worse. I made my choices and Jerry made his.

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On the fifteen-minute car ride to my house, he took a call from his girlfriend. In the first 5 seconds of the 30-second call, there was instantly tension. She asked, “why he wasn’t answering her calls.” He said, “I didn’t hear it ring”. I am going to reach here and say, this isn’t the first conversation of theirs that has begun this way. I am basing this off the emotionally reactive tone I overheard; the fact that I had started many calls to Jerry just like this and that tone didn’t just develop overnight. It came after doubt. Fear. I sensed she was 100% on to him. With my left hand, I gripped his right forearm during the call. I could hear and sense his reactive tension rise. He told her he was “on his way to his dad’s house,” said “I love you” and that was that. Once he hung up, I said, “Don’t be so reactive, it’s a red flag.”

I knew nothing salacious was happening between Jerry and I. However, I have been her. More times than, like her, I am probably unaware of. I felt sad for her, but I know she on some level has experienced a reason to not trust him before. So, whether she acknowledges it or not, it is her choice to stay and participate. It’s the same choice I made for eight years. The choice to downplay, and more importantly, let someone else downplay my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. I was meant to feel crazy and/or stupid. To doubt myself. Truth was, maybe in his eyes I was/am crazy? I lost/gave up my power in blind love to know what was right and best for me. My truth.

When I was dating Jerry, I came up with a saying I’d recite to myself. I’ll share it: “If I, think Jerry is such a piece of shit because he lies and I can’t trust him, but I stay with him, who is the bigger piece of shit? The one who I think is a piece of shit or the one who stays with the piece of shit?”  

When you think someone else is the problem, look at yourself first. The solution you are seeking never lies within another person. Everyone is on their own path, at their own pace, if you don’t like it, remove yourself from the shared path. 

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Just as soon as everything was on the upswing, hanging out and enjoying each other, I bore witness to a reality that had been the down swing of our relationship. The duality of the highs and the lows, that kept me in love and in hate. I thought maybe over the years he’s changed, like character changed. Here I was in the passenger seat, Jerry driving and bearing witness to this, was a first for me. It was uncomfortably familiar.

Now, I am going out on a strong and sturdy limb. What are the chances that the girlfriend knows about this phone call? Me writing about this, with names changed, her choosing to read this, makes me a life ruiner because he until this day, has probably withheld this information from her. Although, in all honestly, I don’t know why it would or should make a difference to her? 

Now, obviously I am not sharing verbatim or doing a live play by play. I am telling a story. The pieces I share are not to “out” Jerry. I share the chosen pieces because they illuminated something I needed to see. Even if it was for the millionth time. I needed to see/hear the phone call, to know, that, sadly, his character hasn’t changed. That if I were to have married him, not cheated (not justifying my shitty behavior), I would be living the same fucking life. I’d be miserable. Brokenhearted. I would be in love and in hate. 

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Once we exited the freeway, he put on a song he said: “was a jam”. That jam happened to be the song he wrote and used to propose to me with. He wrote a song, a great song, called “Ashley’s Song” which he recorded. When he proposed to me, he played it for me on his guitar on our brown “leather” Ikea couch while in our apartment in Monrovia. I haven’t listened to this song since he played it for me the night he proposed. 

The night he proposed to me, I thought “about damn time”  with glee, but felt fear; which I was not expecting. It suddenly became clear to the 24-year-old me, that being lawfully tied to this emotionally divided relationship was something that brought more fear than joy. Even after we were engaged, things didn’t get better or easier. Things just became more clear. When I moved for school, he was on board until it wasn’t fitting his goals. He sets up the dating profile (I find it by researching our computer), we both cry on the floor in our second bedroom and he tells me “I don’t think I can ever make you happy”, he gets lingerie pictures sent to his phone from the “lesbian” (I find those by checking his phone), and on a visit to our hometown, I cheat on him (for the first time ever) and he breaks up with me. Red flags and fear, baby.

In listening to that song, my song, my proposal song with my former fiancé my feelings now, weren’t of sadness of losing Jerry, to be honest, I don’t think I ever had him, it was sadbecause hearing that song, looking back at all of this, I genuinely feel sad and bad for our two characters. I know that it ends and that’s okay; it was supposed to. But we sure did beat the shit out of that relationship and that makes me feel sad. It’s sad that things couldn’t be different, that things will never be different.

When we parked, I told him that listening to the song, “made me feel sad” for which he said, “sorry.” 

I would embed it or give you all a link to listen to this song, but in keeping anonymity I won’t do that. However, here is the chorus:

“Ashley, please take this ring
I’m asking for your hand in marriage
I got the blessing from your parents
Just say “yes” and spend eternity
With me and ill sing you to bed
Keep you clothed ill keep you feed
Will always keep a roof over your head

I will guard you as if your life were mine”

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Sweet Creatures – Part I

Through the wave of postpartum hormones and the loss of an old identity my brain forced me to reconcile old baggage as I transitioned into a new chapter of my life. Rinse the sin. I contemplated the type of human example I wanted to be to this innocent life whom I haphazardly brought into the world. I wanted to identify as someone who represented and abided by my core beliefs. Since I am an extremely relational person, step one for me – a basic core belief of mine, simply stated in kindergarten lingo, is to treat people how you want to be treated.

In the first 16 months after my daughter was born I struggled so badly, that I can’t even conjure up the words to express it. I have no words to describe how difficult it has been for me to adapt and change; to find acceptance. 

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Bryan and I had been married for a few years and we were enjoying life. I got pregnant.

This became my motive in making amends.

I have been so fortunate to love deeply a handful of times. Some deeper than others. But still, my relational life has been full of love and disappointment. Yet, when I look to my past, my feelings regarding my actions are littered with guilt, shame and sadness. A longing to fix the unfixable. I loved deeply, but didn’t always act with love. I blame myself for not knowing myself better and making wiser decisions. I made decisions that were blind and rooted in fear. I blame myself because I should’ve known better.

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During this self-flagellation, is when I began to feel the pull to make contact with my relational foul-ups of the past. I had all this guilt I put on myself about the way I treated others – ones that I loved – that I needed to step up and take personal responsibility for my fuck ups. I needed to dig myself out of the hole that I put myself in. I needed to address the effect I had on the ones that I loved. I needed to find personal peace and acceptance and forgiveness.

I was experiencing invasive uncontrollable thoughts and feelings for months. Trying to sort them out and make sense of them was agonizing. My ex, Jerry was the person who came up all the time. Not in a romantic way, but he just kept coming into my thoughts randomly. I’d wake up thinking about him, he’d pop in my head during the day and by night, I had been pushing out the thoughts about him all day that after I’d fall asleep I’d dream about him and then start the cycle all over again. I was conscious of my thoughts, but I could not control them. It became so invasive that his name started to escape my lips more regularly. It was awful, consuming and I needed it to stop. I am married and have a child and I have so much shit on my plate, it didn’t make sense why all of this was coming up. I talked to friends at length (god bless you all) trying to sort this out and make sense of it. What were my options? What could I do to address this and fix it? Stop it. My friends suggested I try writing a letter, first, to see if that would help. It didn’t. I drank. Wrote. Got rid of everything. Prayed. Read books. Used crystals. Meditated. Exercised. Nothing made the incessant thoughts stop.

So at the end of my exhausted rope I decided I was going to reach out to him to see if we could meet up and talk.

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For those of you concerned about my husband: I am so beyond grateful and lucky that I have a supportive husband. I communicated, honestly, every step of the way. So, there was no freak out or any jealousy. I was able to walk my individual journey as I needed to, without projected fear from my husband. Lord knows, I had plenty of my own fear. He supported me and told me “to do whatever I needed to do to be happy.”

(Side Note: Marry this person. The one who walks alongside you. You are a couple, but you are still forever you).

So here we are. Amends.

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Past As Present

I am here again
Reality fades out of focus
The past and present begin to blend
I am ruminating in the memory of what we had
The memory of what I wish we never had
Our lives could have been different
If we would have tried
But we remained the same

Burning scars unto one another with our words
Drowning in our actions
Forgetting all the hope
Forgetting all the promises
That were made to one another
Wrapped up in each other’s words
Tangled in our selfish love
On the verge of forever
But couldn’t mend broken hearts for the better

All your lies and confusion
Simply appeasing my delusion
Until I finally surrendered
A coward when finally it was too much
I escaped a life
So hurt, so unloved
The pain and suffering
Was too much

A new life now
Void of our existence
Do you ponder the memories
“Summer nights under the stars”
Wondering the same as me?

I am filled with regret
For hurting the one I had loved most
I was simply trying to love you
Yet for eight years I wasn’t allowed too close
Too close to see the cause of all your pain and sadness
The fault of all the madness

The pain I caused to you
Was merely a reflection of me
Which took time and distance to see

Please forgive me for the ruins I left behind
In the shadows of the darkness, I have yet to find
Please forgive me for the loss of innocence that made us blind
And keep us held hostage like the ties that bind
I am sorry I wasn’t there for you when things got bad
We were at once, the best friends we had ever had
I am sorry I didn’t have the courage to acknowledge my weakness
Instead, I claimed victory and reveled in your weakness

I am sorry

I hope for you a life filled with promise and peace
I hope for you a love that grows with you
Accepting you for all your imperfections
While relishing and delighting in your restless wonder
One who refuses to surrender
When you push her too far
Knowing she must self-sacrifice
To push you closer to who you truly are

Time has past
Past is time

You are a stranger to me now
Yet, inside of you dwells the heart I once loved so deeply
Inside of me are memories that have yet to fade
They burn in low slow light day by day
From a distance, I will send you my love
And hope that someday “you’ll forgive
Because I know you’ll never forget”

The time for amends is lost
Now there is only room for regret