Month: May 2013

Jeff Dunn’s “Playing God with Tornadoes,” and trying to hold to faith when filled with doubt

I have written in Existential Crisis and Despair: Loss of God and Friendship and Trying to explain the wreck of my faith to a worried husband, how my faith has been sorely tested, unlike ever before, in the aftermath of the loss of my “best friend”-turned-Judas.

In Jeff Dunn’s Playing God with Tornadoes, I read:

In the BBC production of Shadowlands—the story of C.S. Lewis and his wife—Lewis (known as “Jack” to his friends) is coming out of the church where his wife’s funeral had just finished. The parish priest is walking with him and says,

“Faith, Jack. It is faith that sustains us in times like these.”

“No, Harry,” says Lewis. “This is all one big mess, and that is all there is to it.”

For the people in Moore, Monday’s tornado doesn’t come with a gift-wrapped explanation. It is one big mess, and that’s all there is to it.

That is about the only way to describe things that otherwise make no sense. We seek to understand things that are incomprehensible when we really need to trust our God. For people like Piper and Robertson to try and reduce God to an explanation that will fit in a sound bite or a tweet is idiocy.

My friend Vic is no theologian. But he knows the God of life and death, and knows that Jesus, the creator of all things including tornadoes, holds all in his hands. Vic didn’t go to find an explanation; he went to find someone who needed help.

This was written about the Moore tornado and other tremendous tragedies.  You can also apply it to emotionally devastating events in your life.

I haven’t read Job since college, when I read it after breakups as well as for class.  But the lesson is the same as in the above quote: Being betrayed by my spiritual mentor, discovering his violence (also here and here) and the criminal charges against him for choking his child, is one big mess.

I just don’t understand it, how this could happen as the response to my prayer for a friend.  But I’m told to trust God anyway…..


On Fearing Lawsuits When Writing Memoirs About Abuse

I suppose the threat of a lawsuit, which I got in Now I’m Being Stalked, had to happen eventually.  I’ve always feared such a thing because not only do I write memoir (see my College Memoirs), including stories of the good and bad times (including abuse), but I also adapt real life into my fiction.

But I read Writer’s Digest for many years (until it seemed everything I’d already read kept being rehashed), and followed its guidelines for avoiding libel suits.

But as writers, we must not let this keep us from telling our truth.  I continued telling my truth, but that lawsuit never materialized.

Now that the materials it was threatened over, have been published for at least a year, it seems the threat is over.

Also, my stalkers never said which “facts” were supposedly “false.”  I have examined the materials many times, and find nothing whatsoever that is false.  All I find is truth and opinion, neither of which are actionable.

I occasionally follow interesting Google searches which led readers to my blog.  (I see them in my stats, and can click on them.)

Today, one such search was “can i write a memoir about abuse defamation,” which had led to my post Articles about abuse memoirs and abuse blogs: why we need to write them.

Clicking on the search link led me to Peering at Privacy in Creative Nonfiction by Kaylene Johnson.  She writes many reassuring words, such as:

The influences of mass media and Freudian psychology have popularized biographies and memoirs and, for better or worse, opened the doors to a cavalcade of talk shows and tell-all celebrity.

Smith explains that “the more private our lives become, the more self-conscious, the more we attempt to define ourselves apart from tradition or communal expectations, the more we turn to memoir, biography, or celebrity tabloid to offer possibility.

When we read biographies, we search for a friend, a mentor, a kindred spirit, and ultimately for ourselves. What can we learn from his experience that will confirm, challenge, or enhance our own?”

One might even argue that the current modus operandi in media and publishing leans toward anything goes; the juicier and more sordid the detail the better. However, the freedom to discuss the most private experiences in a public forum has also given voice to the formerly silent and disenfranchised.

There is power in truth; and the freedom to tell the truth gives rise to transformation and change. It is precisely this power that authors of creative nonfiction tap into when they decide to write their stories. What to reveal and what to leave unspoken becomes, then, a decision of conscience.

…..In the end, Molly Peacock encourages writers to write first, to write honestly, and to worry about the risks later. “It’s best to go forward with your own truths and then go forward with your negotiations,” she advises. “The legal issues and the psychological trespass issues should be left to later when the work is done.”

She claims that authors write memoirs in order to figure things out, and that the writing itself is a genuine process of discovery. To self-censor over worries about privacy issues is to limit the possibilities of discovery. “Say whatever it is in you to say. You can decide later what to publish… you will endlessly be coping with obstacles if you don’t.”

…..Although libel laws are set and enforced by various state laws, authors cannot be sued for statements of opinion. Neither can they be sued for telling the truth.

However, the MLA notes “Belief in the truth of an offending statement is different from the ability to prove the truth of such a statement.” In other words, writers should research and make sure their facts are accurate.

And finally, “actual malice” must be proven for a libel suit to be successful. Publication had to be made “with the knowledge that the material was false or with reckless disregard of the truth.”

The bottom line is that responsible research and honorable intentions are usually enough to keep authors and publishers out of legal hot water. Truth is considered a complete defense and the more tangible the evidence of truth (public records, etc.) the better.

……Fear of legal entanglement and concerns over the trespass on another’s privacy can cripple a writer’s ability to get at the heart of the story she is trying to tell.

That is not to say that these issues are not legitimate concerns. However, if the work is honest and the writer is truthful, she has little to fear.

Perhaps the most important question to ask in the process of writing is whether or not the disclosure of private thoughts, events, conversations, and anecdotes will serve the work at hand.

……Connie May Fowler said she started writing her memoir, When Katie Wakes, as a tribute to her dog, yet the story graphically describes the horrors of domestic violence.

“I went into it innocently, not knowing how hard it would be. I wasn’t ready to write it, but in an odd way that helped contribute to its rawness,” she said. “Writing the book helped me get to a new point in my life. From here on my art and work will be artistically bolder.”

A creative nonfiction writing exercise at a Spalding MFA in Writing residency proved how wrenching the writing of personal narrative can be.

MFA students of all genres were asked to write a personal response to a public event such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Voices shook, hands trembled, and tears flowed as seasoned writers shared their writing in small groups. No one anticipated the emotional cost of this exercise or the “down time” some students needed afterward to recover.

The risk of crossing boundaries is not just limited to trespassing on another’s privacy: the ultimate challenge may lie in breaking through our reluctance to move into the tender and vulnerable places of our own lives.

As writers we must be willing to take those risks, not for journalistic reasons of the truth as fact, but for the sake of shaping the work into an art that transcends the circumstances about which we are writing.

Writing hard truths with candor and compassion legitimizes and validates not only one’s personal experience but, when artfully done, offers a passageway to universal truths that can illuminate and liberate.

Seasoned authors such as Terry Tempest Williams, Molly Peacock, Connie May Fowler, Rodger Kamenetz, and Thomas Lynch all had to tackle privacy issues when writing their memoirs and essays.

Theirs were not the questions of “amateurs” but the legitimate concerns of writers everywhere.

It turns out that permission to write about these hard truths is more easily gained than one might imagine-so long as truth, compassion, and empathy are braided throughout the work.

All authors agreed that writing is often a process of painful discovery. However, the movement toward greater honesty-writing about hard truths in the light of compassion-will serve the work by creating a room for the reader that is alive with presences.

In other words, we must tell our truth without fear of reprisal, if we want our work to be honest, if we want it to mean something.


Reblog: A Writer’s Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy

Here is a good article from Writer’s Digest:

A Writer’s Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy

From what I see here, it looks like all my i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, legally.  There’s also the fact that my stalkers’ threats never turned into anything: Here it is a year later.  But it’s always good to get confirmation from an authority such as Writer’s Digest.

Also see:

Frequently Expressed Fears About Publishing a Memoir


Progress Report on Inching Along with Healing Over Cluster B Abuse

I spent Sunday with an old college friend, the one whom I told about Richard and Tracy‘s abuses of their children, and who begged me to report them to CPS.

I updated her on what had happened in the past year since I saw her last.  I recall her being a Psych major; she told me Richard sounded like a psychopath, that Richard and Tracy reading my blog all the time is creepy, that she couldn’t figure out why they would want to. 

I told her about Richard screwing up the forum of a friend of six years, and she said it sounds like he has some issues.  Since she’s known me all these years, she said, “You tend to attract these stalker-types.”

Todd put out a call on his forum the other day to go back to an old browser-based game (Cyber Nations), where you run your own nation, and to start an alliance based on the forum.

I hesitated because Richard and Tracy used to spend a lot of time on that game, until it went down for a while, and for all I know, could still be there.

But I would be with Todd and the rest of the forum, who have supported and believed me during this time.  I don’t know if Richard, Tracy, or the Creep who sexually harassed me, are still there.

But Todd tells me I can avoid game drama simply by avoiding the game forums.  For me it would be a chance to do three things:

  1. Though I hadn’t played this game before, I have played another one like it with Richard.  This would help me put new memories into this genre of online games, ones that don’t involve Richard.
  2. Fight my fear of Richard and Tracy by not letting the dread of their possible presence keep me from things I want to do.
  3. Support Todd’s wish to play a game with the forum.

Also, today I tackled a piece of equipment at the gym which scares me.  When I last tried it last summer, it turned out to be far too heavy for my abilities at the time.  It looks scary, and the thought of trying it again has been daunting.  But today, I tried it again.  Now I’m finally strong enough to do it!

Not only do I want to reverse the trend of weight gain as I age, a trend which continued despite my walking/exercise biking since 1996–but I want to feel strong enough to hold my own if Tracy ever comes after me.

(Or Richard, since I know he’s crazy enough to do it, after he came close to assaulting/possibly killing the woman who evicted him.  Even Todd called him unstable.)

One reason for my fear of Tracy since I met her physically in 2007, is her huge size, towering over and far heavier than petite me.  When she gets angry, it’s even worse, as her size combines with her abusiveness.

But if I keep getting stronger by lifting weights, and improving endurance through cardio, I should eventually feel strong enough to defend myself if needs be.

The physical confidence could also extend into emotional confidence to fight off Tracy and Richard’s psychological mind-games and ability to cause emotional trauma.

As the Fonz once said on Happy Days, you can win a fight without throwing a punch if people believe you are a force to be reckoned with.  (Not an exact quote; I don’t feel like chasing it down.)


Triggered by Tonight’s Breaking Amish: Kim raging at Sabrina: Reminder of Cluster B Rages

As I watched the last few scenes of tonight’s episode of Breaking Amish (yes, I do watch some lurid reality TV), I got triggered:

Jeremiah and his girlfriend Kym stayed with Sabrina for a while; Jeremiah and Sabrina have history from their time on the show; it’s over now; Kym came afterwards; Kym is insanely jealous; Sabrina is naive; Sabrina has a boyfriend; all the former cast members have now gone down to Florida and rented a house together.

Jeremiah had told Sabrina that he broke up with Kym.  Sabrina did not go to Kym, Kym went to her on tonight’s show, and began railing on her: cussing, accusations, telling her to stay away from Jeremiah, etc. etc.

Sabrina kept saying she doesn’t want Jeremiah.  Sabrina is a sensitive sort; another cast member, who soon went to stick up for her, noted that Sabrina does not know how to stand up for herself.  Sabrina began crying, and Kym called her a baby.

ARGH!  I can’t STAND women like this Kym (at least as she’s portrayed on the show)!  She’s just like Tracy–I can see it right off.  She thinks her opinion is absolutely correct and she has the right to say anything she wants to you and you deserve to hear it, even though Sabrina was gracious enough to let them stay at her house for a while.

I can also tell that Jeremiah is a narcissist, based on everything I’ve seen on the show so far, and it’s entirely likely that he manipulated Sabrina into a kind of psychological “spell.”

Like Tracy, Kym is much larger and more intimidating.  Like me, Sabrina is much smaller and more of a shrinking violet against such a raging machine.  Like me, Sabrina at first tried to calm her down, but finally began striking back verbally.

It was so familiar that I got triggered and the tears returned.  It made me want to hug Sabrina and reassure her that she’s not the only one who’s been through this.  It made me want to share my own story with her of having a shrew living in one’s own house and making life miserable.

It made me wonder if the triggers will ever stop.

It was a troubling ending to an otherwise good day, which led to troubling dreams.  I had spent the day with an old college friend, the one whom I told about Richard and Tracy’s abuses of their children, and who begged me to report them to CPS.

I updated her on what had happened in the past year since I saw her last.  I recall her being a Psych major; she told me Richard sounded like a psychopath, that Richard and Tracy reading my blog all the time is creepy, that she couldn’t figure out why they would want to.  I told her about Richard screwing up the forum of a friend of six years, and she said it sounds like he has some issues.  Since she’s known me all these years, she said, “You tend to attract these stalker-types.”




Reblog: Toxic Friendships: When is a friend more trouble than he or she is worth?

Toxic Friendships: When is a friend more trouble than he or she is worth?

Some quotes:

The meaning of a friend has been meditated upon by many people, including Aristotle.

A friend is typically defined as those persons with whom you have a bond of mutual affection that excludes sexual relations and family.

This bond however can be just as strong and complex as the ones we have with romantic partners and family. We support their ups and downs, accept their differences, and keep them around even when they behave badly.

But, when does a friend become more trouble than he or she is worth? Aristotle says when the friend becomes depraved:

The dissolution of friendship is warranted when one part has become depraved, since he has changed from being the person who was the object of friendship. Aristotle- Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle himself must have struggled with giving a friend or two their walking papers. Today, friendship experts call these depraved, troublesome friendships toxic. It is not only justifiable to end such friendships, they say, but vital to your welfare.

…..Give yourself permission to move away from a friendship that is hurting you. Remember, even the great philosopher Aristotle gives you the okay to end friendships that take away from you. Some friendships are not meant to last forever.

If you decide it is time to let the friendship go, appreciate what you have learned about people and about yourself through the friendship.

Just because it may be time to let go of the friendship doesn’t mean you have to tear up the history you shared with the person. After all, this is your history.

Some people join us on our journey for a time to teach us about something valuable to our living, no matter how painful the lesson may be. You can find a way to part graciously, if you try.

Extroverts bullying introverts; also, Letting go of Richard because he could not accept me as an introvert

Occasionally, I’ll find a search term in my blog stats which interests me, and go look it up myself.  (These are the terms people type into search engines, which bring them to my blog.)  Tonight, such a search term led me to this page:

Me: Extrovert.  She: Introvert.  Can this relationship survive?  Should it?

The title is self-explanatory.  In reading the question and the responses from introverts, I recognized myself in the girlfriend and the other introverts.

The writer’s feelings about her introversion, reminded me of all those irritating comments I get from extroverts: Why don’t you talk?  You’re so quiet!  Smile!  And, of course, the “helpful” advice on how to change myself and be more outgoing.

Or criticisms that I’m “not lively enough,” that my quietness/shyness is a character flaw that I must work to overcome, or else I’m “in my shell” or being stubborn or not pushing myself enough.

Or the manager at work who treated my shyness as a discipline problem, saying that others were “afraid” to talk to me because I was quiet, directing me to push myself, make more small talk, etc.  (I felt vindicated later on when the president of the company complained that people were spending far too much time socializing and needed to talk about work during work hours.)

Then, of course, my favorite, Richard telling me one night that maybe my friends get tired of me not wanting to leave my “comfort zone,” even though he did not know my friends, never met my friends, never spoke to my friends, and had no reason to think this.

The comments in the AskMetaFilter article reminded me of the early days of my relationship with my husband:

When we were first dating, my extroverted husband would take me to SCA events, but then run off and do who knows what, without telling me where he was going or for how long.

I’d spend quite a bit of time either standing around alone, or with people I barely knew, and feeling miserable, or looking all over for him.  I felt abandoned, bored, awkward.

He’d want to go there early in the day and stay for hours; I got drained, overstimulated.  I began to hate SCA events; this is why I stopped going for a long time, thinking it was the SCA itself which did not appeal to me.

The same thing happened once at a wedding dinner: After we finished eating, he just got up and left.  He went to chat with friends, but didn’t say where he was going or invite me along.

So I sat there at the table, with a stranger, and neither of us spoke; I felt miserable, abandoned, bored.  It wasn’t about him chatting with friends, but about me feeling abandoned.

Over time we worked things out as he discovered how I felt to be left alone among strangers, that I enjoyed SCA events much more if I was with him, that I wanted to be sociable but could only stand an event for a few hours.

The comments reminded me of my ex Phil, who during/after the breakup accused me of being a “party pooper,” told me other people considered me one because I am quiet, shy, and (allegedly) did not want to go dancing with him (even though we went to several dances, and even though I didn’t recall him ever asking me to go to a club before the night I had a concussion).

He twisted it into a character flaw and a good reason to break up with me, because my ideas of fun were different from his!

It is so very reassuring to read through these comments, and through various other blogs and articles I’ve found about introversion over the past several years, and find that I’m okay the way I am.  That it is not at all a “character flaw” to be introverted/shy.

For a while I thought it was selective mutism, but when I read about selective mutism, it seems more like extroverts pathologizing the more extreme introverts, and trying to “fix” them because they must be “wrong” and “unhappy” the way they are.  I read that “selective mutism” is not generally caused by abuse, and that it can run in families.  So…Couldn’t it just be extreme introversion?

This comment put words to one main reason why I could not be forced into friendship with Tracy, into jumping her hoops to please her:

You seem to be unwilling to let her be her. If she’s not comfy around your friends after six months, bitching to MeFi won’t change that. And neither will confronting her about it.

Now she’ll sit there quietly thinking “these are the friends I have to be OK with” the entire time. Sounds miserable to me, I’d stop seeing your friends ASAP if you told me that. –Brian Puccio, Comment

I’ve written about this in various other posts, and here (20,000-word version) and here (summary + option to read full story), so I don’t want to rehash it all.

But the above AskMetaFilter link reassured me that my husband and I made the right decision when we ended the “friendship” with Richard and Tracy.  Because they were extroverts who:

  1. showed zero empathy to my introversion, so much so that even my husband noted it
  2. would not accept me as I was
  3. insisted I was “making excuses” and needed to “push myself”
  4. insisted on pushing, guilting and punishing me into becoming extroverted, even accused me of being a “victim” by not becoming extroverted–but when I said “STOP trying to change me” said “I’m not trying to change you” and got petulant and said I needed to get over my hurt feelings before talking to him again
  5. even went so far as to go into narcissistic rages with cussing and fury and punishments and blame and physical intimidation and threats because I could not become the extrovert Tracy wanted me to be–so everything I did, even though Tracy was okay with other friends doing them, I was not “supposed” to do, (even after I was specifically told that I could do them)
  6. accused me of “false facts” and called me crazy for writing about all these things and calling them bullies, even though there is nothing “false” or “defamatory” about the truth

Because of all these things, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my husband and I did the right thing in severing all relations with them.  Not just romantic partners, but friends, especially best friends, need to accept you the way you are.  If they can’t, then they don’t belong in your life.

I read through the comments in the AskMetaFilter article, and recognize so much of what Richard and Tracy did, and the things I tried to explain to them, that I see that no, what I wrote is indeed what happened, nothing “false” about it.  Tracy tried to force me to change to be an extrovert to please her, I resisted because at my age I knew it was impossible, so she punished and bullied me in various overt and covert ways.

Commenters in the AskMetaFilter article suggested ways to steer the introvert into conversations rather than leaving them to fend for themselves; Richard basically left me to fend for myself, with plenty of criticisms but no actual help at the times when I was around Tracy, and trying to force and guilt me into things I did not feel comfortable with, such as hugging Tracy.

Because Richard went along with her instead of actually listening to me and realizing that introverts cannot “push themselves” into being extroverts, that we’re not “making excuses,” that our quiet and introverted behaviors are not character flaws or deliberate attempts to annoy Tracy, that we need to be accepted as we are–

–He was not a good friend at all.  I think the more I accept and realize that he was not a good friend, the more I will let go of the false dream of him as my “best” friend.

I contrast it with how my husband has responded to my explanations of the introverted brain and how social situations tax me.  It is a huge difference.


Reblog: “Do Sociopaths and Narcissists Have Rules?”

This blog post from A Cry for Justice is also a reblog of a post by Sister Renee Pitelli.  From the post and comments by Sr. Pitelli, it is all right for anyone to post this list.

It reminds me of dealing with Tracy–especially #24, which is what Todd and I both saw happen as Richard would yell at and treat his own friends like pariahs if Tracy didn’t like something they did:

The list of rules that the sociopath/narcissist expects his /her target to live by…

  1. I can say anything I like. You are not allowed to say anything unless you are sure it will not offend me. (Hint: Praise/compliments).
  2. I can do anything I want. You are not allowed to do anything unless you are sure I will like it.
  3. You must call me regularly to see how I am and give me attention. I never have to call you, unless I need something.
  4. You have to respect me. I do not have to respect you. And I don’t.
  5. I am allowed to lie about you. You are not allowed to tell the truth about me.
  6. I am allowed to lie about you, to make you look bad. You MUST lie about me, to make me look GOOD.
  7. I am the only one allowed to get angry. You are not allowed to get angry.
  8. I am the only one allowed to have “hurt feelings.” You are not allowed to have hurt feelings.
  9. I am the only one allowed to feel “insulted.” You are not allowed to feel insulted.
  10. I can falsely accuse you of doing things you never did, and you are not allowed to make a liar out of me by defending yourself.
  11. You are not allowed to expose me and reveal the things I really DID do. You must cover up what I do and say and keep it a secret.
  12. You are never allowed to complain. That’s MY job.
  13. You are never allowed to confront me. I’m the only one who is allowed to confront anybody.
  14. I can make faces at you, scowl, roll my eyes, and sneer, but you’d better not look at me “funny,” or even smile at me.
  15. I can stop speaking to you, but you are not allowed to stop speaking to me.
  16. I can disown you, but you do not have the right to walk away from me.
  17. When I’m ready to un-disown you, you have to take me back and start talking to me again, with no further discussion of whatever caused our “rift.” You have no choice in the matter. I am the only one who has a choice.
  18. I can “vent” to other people about you, but you must suffer in silence.
  19. I can tell everybody the things you “did to” me, but you are not allowed to tell anybody the things I did to you.
  20. You are not allowed to have any opinion that differs from mine.
  21. You must agree with everything I say, but I am allowed to criticize and degrade the things you say.
  22. I have no sense of humor when it comes to me. You must take me very seriously, but I am allowed to mock you and even laugh in your face.
  23. If you don’t know why I’m mad, you better figure it out, because I’m not going to tell you.
  24. If another person upsets me, you’d BETTER take my side and confront and shun them. If another person upsets YOU, good for them. You deserve it.
  25. I know everything, you know nothing.
  26. You are weak and inferior. I am a superior being, and you must always acknowledge that and never forget your place.
  27. You have no freedom to even think independently. I have all the freedom.
  28. Your job is to take care of my needs and feelings. You are not allowed to have needs or feelings. If you do, then take care of them yourself and don’t expect anything from me.
  29. You have no rights. I have all the rights.
  30. You are here to do for me, I am not here to do for you. You are only here for my convenience. When you are no longer useful or become too much trouble, I will kick you to the curb. Until I want something from you again.