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You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When Yo Go

So I’m back, I’ve been having a fun summer after a spring filled with life lessons. That will be discussed in more depth (way much more) at another time when everything isn’t so convoluted.  Today’s song, by Bob Dylan, is so spot on that it is just mind boggling. A little backstory is in order though. Through the spring I dated a man whom I really fell for. It always seems that I fall really hard when I least expect it. Perhaps it’s because I’m more relaxed not worrying about what will happen or more likely, I think it’s that when I don’t feel vested at first it’s much easier to go with the flow.

R and I met through a dating site, of course, I’m just not going to meet anyone in my real life being a single parent with a young child. Things started very slowly. He kept looking at my profile, a lot, and I kept wondering why. I would view his back hoping that he’d get the hint that I was interested and finally he did. His timing was perfect, something had just ended in my world in sort of a weird way with someone i really liked but in reality, there were some nagging doubts as to whether I really wanted to take it to the next level. Luckily, that guy made the decision for me and it was really the right one for both of us.

Back to R, we had what I consider a pretty big age difference at this stage of the game, He is fifteen years older which could work out, but all i kept thinking was how my child’s life would be having a much much older man in her life. I couldn’t get past the fact that in ten years I would be a (hopefully) vibrant woman in her mid-fifties and he would be in his early seventies. Having been raised by older parents. I knew what that was like and well, I had always wished for parents with more vitality.  R knew it too and would remind me that I was younger than what he was looking for. But we decided to go with the flow and things were progressing. I met his kids, the most dependent young adults I had ever seen, but nice enough and there was genuine love in that family, so who I am to judge. His teenaged daughter really liked me and I told him it was because she could see how happy I made him and he agreed. R’s marriage ended when his wife of 25 years was unfaithful and that really scarred him. I don’t care what is going on at home, in my book you remain faithful in a marriage and if you find that you can’t, you leave with dignity on both parts.  R had even admitted he needed me which I know was one of the hardest things for him. I felt great and thought we might be falling in love in a healthy way.  However, his doubts that he may not be good for me kept surfacing. That put me in the position of feeling like I had to convince him otherwise. There were times he treated me like a bit of a child, but I chalked it up to the age difference. The thing I liked the most was the fact that I felt comfortable being myself with him and I had surrendered myself into the cosmic flow. Not by keeping myself from getting attached, which I’m learning is a pattern with me. I am discovering that it’s easy to just go with the flow and be mellow if I don’t feel like I have anything to lose. Wrong lesson, it’s not about detachment, it’s about healthy and loving attachment. For some reason it seemed easy with R. I felt that I had the room and security to make mistakes and with that acceptance I was able to give him permission to make his own mistakes and still be able to forgive, learn and move on. Honestly, I felt so balanced with him, like I was able to view things rationally without having to convince myself of things. I just figured things are just the way they seem and that was a good thing. Scratch that, it was a great thing. And viewing our relationship through the lens of well-being made the age issue seem much less important.

I’m not sure what happened that started the slide down the slippery slope. I could say it was my fear, but really my fears turned out to be true so it’s really confusing. I had taken down my profile after about a month of dating. I think we pretty much became exclusive quickly, I don’t like dating more than one person, but if the other person does, it usually doesn’t bother me at first. I figure that if the guy thinks he’s going to have more fun with someone else, then in all probability so will I. And a lot of men need the feeling of freedom in the beginning and although I may not always like it, I’m cool with it and pretty patient. I told R that I took my profile down from the two sites I was on. He seemed genuinely pleased, but I didn’t force the issue with him. He was with me a lot, very open and communicative and very affectionate. So it all seemed good.  Time goes on and his profile is still up and at this point he’s referring to me as his girlfriend. That is when the annoyance began. i told him that I can’t be his girlfriend if he still has a profile up on a dating site and since we are always together and it’s assumed we are a couple that I really didn’t understand what more he was looking for. He kept reassuring me he wasn’t looking but if you’re on a dating site  and you’re and ethical person, you are broadcasting your availability. Also, I realize that relationships seem to work much better when both people are on the same page in terms of seriousness. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to be the person who is willing to pull back and be patient until the other person wants to take the next step. Well, one morning I finally told him bluntly that having his profile up was really bothering me. Although I was afraid to admit it, I was feeling as if I wasn’t what he was looking for and although we weren’t anywhere near making the decision that I was the one, it seemed like he may have already decided that I probably wasn’t and that stung, big time. We got into it a bit and I told him that if he needed his up, then I would put mine back up as well. That seemed entirely fair to me , not tit for tat, exactly, well, maybe just a little bit. Later on the sites I noticed his profiles were gone. I took mine down without mentioning it. I was very happy at the outcome. A few days later, I got an automatically generated email from another site we had both been on. I had forgotten I had even had a profile there and logged in to disable it entirely, what was the point. Well, while on the site I remembered that he had mentioned he had an account there so I looked for it. And of course there it was with him being logged on at the at very moment. My heart sank, not really at the fact that he was still looking even though he had promised that he wasn’t, it was more due to the fact that he specifically mentioned the two sites we had talked about and left out the one we hadn’t when he said his profiles were down. To this day I know he doesn’t understand that my hurt wasn’t from him looking, it was the deceitfulness and the purposefulness of which sites he took down. I felt it was deceitful and that he knew the spirit of what I meant and went out of his way to be “technically” correct. i don’t know about you, but when someone has to use technicalities to prove that they’re right, well. it sort of means that they know their intent was wrong. The most important question I ask myself when I find myself at an impasse with someone is whether I’ d prefer to be right or to be good? I’m finding that I sleep better at night when I choose good. I recently read an interview with a Buddhist monk who put that dilemma in perspective. It was how to live compassionately without being exploited. The gist of it was that we have every right to set boundaries with compassion and not to have that compassion be exploited. That teaching came into play in such a short time after, I was on the train and someone came through the car panhandling for “money to get home.” He claimed he was only a few dollars short and just got out of the hospital, blah blah blah. At first I thought how sad that he had to do that but at the same time I recognized him, his voice and his story from a few months back. However that time I gave him the money and the other people on the car looked at me like I was the biggest sucker. This time, although I still felt badly for him, mostly that he had to resort to this, I remembered that compassion doesn’t mean being taken advantage of.

Well, R and I decided we would be open to dating others and let’s take it from there. Well. i went out with another guy, was transparent about it and surprise, surprise, he didn’t like it. He actually became angry and told me that the difference was that I went out with someone while he was still only looking. He said he hadn’t been writing to anyone, but I saw some emails, he would glance at them right in front of me. We ended up breaking up, it really is the best thing. Although I missed him at first, I didn’t miss him in the way that I ever once considered getting back together. I suppose I just knew we weren’t going to last all along. But that’s not to say i didn’t feel badly about feeling inadequate to him and basically just so insecure that it was unsettling.

But I got over it quickly and went out with a couple of other people, but no one I really cared if I saw them again. Until N. N is great, hopefully I’ll still be able to talk bout him in the present tense. You see, although I got over R easily, i didn’t get over the emotions that came with dating him. And of course that reared its ugly head with N. Things started out fantastic, you know the long phone calls which seem so natural, the wanting to know everything that the person did that day,, etc. etc. We met for our date, had such a great time, just super fun, super relaxed and although a first date, we both knew we’d be dating. I even had asked someone to take a picture of us on our date, I didn’t tell him but I wanted to preserve it for potential posterity. Frankly, I felt like a schoolgirl with him. I was really excited about him and felt really comfortable. He was going on vacation with his son the next week and at first i was bummed and considered seeing who else was around while he was gone. But the more I thought about it, I realized I just didn’t want to to date anyone else at this point. And I waited and he was mature enough to even share his fear that I would meet someone else while he was gone. We’ve seen each other a few times since he’s been back. everything was smooth. And then I shared with him parts of my childhood, and if you’ve read earlier posts, it wasn’t a walk in the park. But it was cool, it felt natural but I also felt a bit exposed and vulnerable.

So just a couple of days after meeting N, my membership on the site was up for renewal. I really didn’t see the point of paying for something I wasn’t going to use, I figured I’d be taking my profile down shortly anyway if things progressed, so I cancelled it and told N. To my delight he said he was going to take his down too. I was hoping he didn’t feel pressured, because for me it was a practical decision at that early point. But we both did and I was totally psyched. A few days later I got an email from someone on the site and I was confused since I shouldn’t have been visible. i went on to investigate and of course had to search for N’s profile to reassure myself. Of course that didn’t happen since it was still up and he had been active every recently. I was kind of crushed because I was looking at the situation through the lens of what had just happened with R. i couldn’t believe this was happening and more than being angry with him I was wondering what inside me was exercising such poor judgement. I was honest with him and told him that if he wanted to keep his profile up it’s cool but we need to be on the same page about it. I really thought he had been lying, I was sad, but when he explained what happened, and I like him enough to take the time to really hear what he said, it made sense. We were cool and handled it rather beautifully, no cross words, no accusations, just trying to get to a place of understanding and we did. I was really happy about that and we even talked about how rather smoothly we negotiated that situation.

And then of course I couldn’t let go of the feeling of doubt. I was scared partly because once I met N, I realized how much I had been hurt by R. Although I was able to give up R, the person, I was unable to give up R, the emotional memory. It’s funny how I try to practice letting go. When something really unpleasant happens part of my comfort comes from the fact that the moment when I felt like I was being punched in the gut is already gone and I can and need to move forward. So although I knew that pain and embarrassment I felt finding out that R wasn’t aboveboard was over, it seems that now the remnants of that still lingered without me realizing it. I was insecure because I guess I stressed out and twisted it around in my head and started to listen to the voice that comes from a place of fear. I listened to my insecurity and even convinced myself that I wouldn’t have been upset with R if he had been honest with me. I now realize that although true on some level, I’m not a robot and I still wouldn’t have been happy. But I’d be damned if I was going to let that happen again. And so I snooped. I found his profile on the same site I had found R’s hidden profile on. I really didn’t think I was going to find it but I did and of course I was hurt. Again i got an perfectly reasonable explanation and he even said he shouldn’t have had it up there and he took it down. I felt awful. He didn’t do anything wrong and even if he did, I looked at it like fruit of the poisoned tree. And again it came down to the right or good question, even though there was nothing about my behavior that was right or good. But i hope that he finds it understandable. He knows the basic overview of the R story, not with a lot of details. I owned my behavior, I apologized, i made no excuses and told him I hope that we can look at it as a bump and move on from here. He’s such a great guy that he said that he thinks we can. I hope we can because I messed up in such a way that I am embarrassed and I ended up hurting myself.

So again I find myself in the constant struggle between attachment and non-attachment, between the internal and the external. When I let go of R, I forgot to let go what I had internalized from him. I took the suffering I felt from him externally to become suffering I felt by myself, within me. I forgot that once I let go of him I needed to let go of the pain associated with him. Instead of choosing to walk away with a fond memory of someone I had briefly liked and cared about I left with the insecurity and self doubt that came with our demise.  Why is that? We all have a choice as to what we’re going to take as our lesson. Rather than think about how beautiful, gracious and kind he thought I was instead I chose to think about the negative feelings and lay them in an innocent party’s lap. I was so afraid of being blindsided that I was doing whatever I could to prevent that. when something hits me that I didn’t see coming I get so upset and i just wasn’t going to let that happen again. I think also I’m in the throes of the beginning of the relationship that I suppose I just wanted to find out what his faults were2. I don’t really know right now.  the only thing I don know is how much I regret snooping and basically looking like a psycho.

So I’ve learned that although I have to surrender control of this self created situation, I do know now how unnecessary all this is. I can’t even imagine how confused N must be and also how hurt that i questioned his integrity when he hasn’t shown me any sort of behavior that deserved that. When exercising, we’ve all heard about muscle memory. The heart is a muscle and I think I forgot that it retains it’s own memory as well, sometimes showing up as an involuntary movement. And this time it did and I hope I didn’t create a self fulfilling prophecy of how he is going to hurt me. Because if he does, in actuality this time I single-handedly hurt myself. And that totally sucks. But if I’m going to learn anything from this mess I’ve made is to keep going, don’t do it again, and most importantly when I prepare for the worst that may happen in the future I can miss the best that is happening in the present.

So today’s songwriting thanks goes to Bob Dylan (well i give thanks for Bob Dylan pretty much everyday). But I think the song, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, sums up how good I feel with N but still looking toward the day when he may not be around. What  waste of energy. He doesn’t have to pay for the shortcomings of others. But in a real, responsible adult life, we do have to pay for the shortcomings of ourselves. And that my friend is what balance is all about. And sometimes it just isn’t pleasant but it is always necessary.

“Situations have ended sad

Relationships have all been bad

Mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud

But there’s no way I can compare

All those scenes to this affair

You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.”


Enlightenment (Don’t Know What it Is)

I’ve been flirting with Buddhism lately. Mostly as a way to learn to let go of the past and to stop struggling against change which brings suffering. It’s been a hard and difficult road. In a way, it is so liberating to realize that what’s done is done. But the difficulty comes with realizing that letting go of past hurts and behaviors also leaves me vulnerable. And vulnerability is not my strong suit at all. It all comes down to trust which I really have a mixed up notion of. To me, trust is not thinking that someone will have my back, instead in my view I see it as knowing I’ll be okay when I do inevitably get hurt. I actually didn’t realize that what I feel and trust are not the same thing until recently.

So back to Buddhism. I’ve taken up yoga at the most special studio I’ve ever been to. Going there is like receiving a big hug from the cosmos. As soon as I go in, I feel the peace begin to wash over me. The focus is to be in the moment and let go. It’s working.

At the studio, there is a lovely boutique. However, when I am browsing all their trinkets, I find myself feeling weird, since I shouldn’t be trying to find fulfillment from material objects. It just seems contradictory to what I’ve just experience in my session. A few months ago, I saw a Buddha charm necklace, attached to it was a card that said to wear it to remind yourself to just let go. Bingo, that’s what I had been looking for. My summer was filled with frustration at various events in my life. Even while I was in the midst of them, I knew that I was contributing by following the same patterns that have gotten me to this point. Problem was I just couldn’t let go and just experience what was unfolding. So I bought the Buddha charm. I couldn’t wait to put it on. I was thinking that I found my peace.

I wore that Buddha all the time. I think I became dependent on it, which was not the point. Every little stress I would absentmindedly stroke the charm, comforted by the feelings of disengagement. In a way I was using it as an escape. Rather than deal with whatever emotion was swirling around my head, I just put it away and decided it didn’t matter. Everything’s temporary and if it’s all an illusion, what’s the point anyway. One morning, I went to put on my Buddha crutch after my shower and the clasp was broken. I was crestfallen. What was I going to do without my Buddha? Suddenly, I realized that I was so dependent on my Buddha that I was entirely missing the point. I had just become attached to an inanimate object and instead of embracing what was unfolding, I used it as an excuse to disengage myself from my emotions. That hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that there were two lessons I needed to learn: as much as we don’t want to believe it, everything is temporary. But not in the way I had been viewing it. I was afraid of being abandoned, which has been a recurring theme in my life. I took non-attachment to mean being tough, not being vulnerable and not letting anyone really in. The other lesson was that if I depended on the material world to satisfy me, I’ll never have true fulfillment. Wow, the Buddha really gave me a lesson. Although somewhat saddened by the necklace breaking, I felt a great sense of relief.

The next time I went to the studio, I asked if they had another charm and of course they didn’t. I interpreted that to mean that not only did I need to learn to let it go, I needed to learn to do it myself, without the props. Sort of  like not replacing one addiction with another. I looked at the other charms and bought a different one, a goddess I think, to remind me of the goddess within. I brought it home and looked at it repeatedly. Something was off, I didn’t feel like I needed to be reminded of my inner goddess. Probably because I don’t feel like a goddess and I really don’t want to. I want most of all to feel like a normal, loving human being. And I want someone to recognize that. I want a real connection with someone, and although that doesn’t come easily to anyone, I feel like my sense of self-protection always gets in the way. Anyway, I exchanged the goddess for karma, which came with a card that read “How people act is their karma, how you react is yours.”  Profound right? That helped me get back to the real me. The me who isn’t going to let other people’s actions change the decent person I am deep down in side.

So I wore the karma for a while. One day at the studio, lo and behold, I saw another Buddha charm! I was psyched to see it, but in a way I didn’t feel like I needed it in the totally dependent sense that I had previously. And I felt that that meant I was ready for the path of the Buddha. I brought it home and wasn’t as excited to wear it, I actually didn’t put it on for a few days which surprised me. I thought I was really ready for it because I didn’t need it. Then I started wearing it, I just liked the feeling. One night I fell asleep with it on and of course, it broke again. I was puzzled since the karma necklace never broke, but the Buddha always did. what was my lesson? I’m still not sure, but I think it is that letting go means really letting go. No crutches, no props and just being complete enough to accept what is happening. Nothing is permanent, obviously not my Buddha charm, and since nothing is permanent, there is no point in struggling against the change. It’s inevitable and if I struggle against it, that’s where the suffering starts. I need to accept my life as it is, to take responsibility for my contributions to how situations play out. And to just accept the outcome and consequences of these actions. And to be so insulated against hurt is just going to cause me more pain.

So thank you Buddha. I’ve heard that you can’t look for the Buddha, it will find you. And I’m starting to get that. Non-attachment isn’t non-engagement. I had the two confused and although I didn’t isolate myself physically, emotionally I really had. Now it’s time to trust, to feel and to truly experience.

So thanks to Van Morrisson for the song Enlightenment and to all that is helping me on my journey, both the good and the bad. And who’s to say what is good and what is bad anyway? When I’m in the thick of something and the result is unknown, it’s easy to see things as one or the other, rather than the fact that they just are.

“‘I’m in the here and now, and I’m meditating

And I’m still suffering that’s my problem

Enlightenment don’t know what it is

“Enlightenment says the world is nothing Nothing but a dream,

everything’s an illusion And nothing is real
Good or bad, baby You can change it anyway you want

You can rearrange it Enlightenment, don’t know what it is”


Scarlet Begonias

I met someone a few months ago through an on-line dating site, DF. The whole experience for me has been so weird, I guess it is for a lot of people in my situation. Having left the dating world before the internet took it over, it’s been a tough world to navigate. Especially since I have gotten very skittish every time someone has paid attention to me. I sort of freak out and play it all out in my head. But the other side of that is that I automatically have put up some armor to protect myself and in a way to protect others from me.

Except for one person. I know it sounds like I fell really hard, but in actuality I don’t think I did. I’m not even sure if I could have fallen for him down the line. But who’s to say. The best part is that I wasn’t afraid to if that was going to happen. This person, DF, somehow really got in my head. But in a way neither of us expected. He was just one of those people who got through and they are not so common right now. One other person has managed to  do this in the last few years. He was another friend of mine, H. We went to high school together and weren’t even really acquaintances back then. The casual” hi ” in the hallway. Fast forward several years and we made contact through my high school website and somehow found some common interests through politics and music. Those two things seemed to cement our friendship as adults. About a year ago, H had a Christmas party, one that I attended with my husband and daughter. It was so fun, I saw people I hadn’t seen since high school and I just had a great time. H and I were getting closer, as friends, but in the middle of the party he started talking to me about my marriage and how it was failing and the fact that I was holding on to something that just wasn’t working. I’ll never forget one specific moment, H flat-out said “Don’t you deserve to be happy?” What a simple statement, yet it rocked me to my core. I felt like the room faded away when he said that.   I couldn’t breathe and felt like there was a spotlight on us. (Unfortunately, his fiancee saw the whole thing and decided something was going on between us. There’s way more to this story that I’ll share another time.) I knew he was right and that I was on the crux of either staying and sacrificing myself or leaving and trying to make my way toward a fulfilling life. I don’t know why he got through since many of my friends felt the same way but sometimes that one little voice manages to make its way through. .

Fast forward to the present and DF. We had a few things going against us: distance, he lived in NYC and that was a bit impractical for our situations. I’m a single mom, with all my time taken up by my daughter. He was a cool, single, unencumbered  NYC guy who wanted to go out all the time and I think have a girlfriend who was available. It was so difficult for me since I was so attracted to him and knowing that he was still looking and I wasn’t looking, hurt. Not because I thought this was the end-all, be-all, just that I was happy with him and didn’t feel the need to look anywhere else. But the thing that changed was  that I wasn’t angry or jealous. Part of me didn’t want him to meet anyone else, but a bigger part of me couldn’t root against his happiness. That was my first inkling that this guy was different. I was able to put his interests first and felt like we could have been true friends.

Another big part of this was that I was so afraid I would get hurt. Not intentionally mind you, but that feeling of rejection, whether or not it’s personal. I just had the feeling that we weren’t going to end up together but I wanted to see where this could go. We were open and honest. He told me when he had a problem with me, ie., I talked too much and he was right. He also pointed out to me that I tend to become very solitary while he’ll go out,  just to go out. That is the one that hit me like a ton of bricks. We were still talking about the dating site and he observed that I needed to get out and take more chances. Strange because if any other guy I was dating and liked had told me to go out with more people, I would have been so offended but with DF I wasn’t. I knew that he was saying this only because he cared about me as a person. No ulterior motive, not a passive-aggressive way to get rid of me or hurt my feelings. I felt like I was dealing with an adult but more than that, a friend. What a lovely feeling that was.

Of course, he moved to another state this week. He told me that he was broke. My first reaction was one of relief. I was relieved that we wouldn’t  eventually be uncomfortable with the financial inequity in our situations.  I was also so convinced I would eventually get hurt, this way I was relieved that it was ending in a way that I wouldn’t. Turns out when I told him of my fears,  he said “You don’t know that” and that is true and I didn’t see that until then. When we saw each other last week, he told me his reason for leaving was two-fold. One was that nothing was happening  for him in NY in terms of his career, he’s a writer. But the other part is that one of his childhood friends  is gravely ill and his family needs DF’s help. Well that just shattered everything I had been thinking about him. My admiration for him to do this just grew. And then I realized something. I realized that what was happening wasn’t about me and my growth and allowing someone in, it was about DF and where he needs to be. All along I’m sitting here, stuck in my own head trying to learn the lesson from this. And I did learn some great lessons, that I don’t have to run when I’m scared, and that the future isn’t set in stone no matter what I think. I owe him a great debt to show me that I have to put myself out there. But the real lesson is that DF is just a great guy. And he  has responsibilities too. And that the universe is putting him where he is needed. I don’t know, I can’t explain but it just seems like the trajectory of DF’s life is putting him exactly where he should be. And it has nothing to do with me.

As short as the time was, DF had such an impact on me. I was able to like someone just for the sake of liking them. I was able to enjoy myself and just have fun and that hasn’t happened in a long time. I was able to deal with the fear of getting hurt and keep myself out there anyway. I guess I felt safe with him. I didn’t have to hide my love away, and I’m not sure what about him made me realize that. I guess it’s his kind soul and big heart. But for now, I’m optimistic about the future of my love life. I know that if it happened once it can happen again. We had had some miscommunications at first and both of us thought that we were blowing each other off. Instead of just jumping to conclusions, I communicated with him. That hadn’t happened with anyone in a really long time. I took a chance with someone who made it safe for me to take a chance. And I feel like DF was instrumental in helping me get back to my own true self. He didn’t break my heart, he stretched it and that has only made it bigger and more resilient in a way.

When we were saying goodbye, DF kept saying we’ll keep in touch and he’s only two states away and I can come visit. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. I could see myself getting too wrapped up and using him as an excuse to keep someone else away. I also can’t shake the feeling that he’s where he’s supposed to be and that I’m not supposed to be a part of it. And in the scheme of things, that’s okay no matter how much it stings right now. And that’s the best lesson of all. Pain is part of life, transitions take place whether or not you fight them. And if I continue to keep on the Kevlar vest around my heart, I’m going to fulfill the prophesy that I will be alone. DF made me want to take a chance. And for that I am so grateful he came into my life. I hope I can figure out how to remain friends with him, but if we don’t I’ll always have the fondest memories and I wish him nothing but a good and wonderful life. I do hope that he comes back and finds me  someday though. I think we could be great friends at the very least. And his theme song in my head will always be “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead. There’s a line; “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right”  Truer words have never been spoken. I love your soul and very essence,  DF, take care.

Walking on Broken Glass

My sophomore year of high school was really strange. It started out great, for some reason I started to become popular and the year started out on a high note. Of course in my life that always is going to change into some nightmare. Easter of that year was rough, my grandma who lived with us died and we were very close. She had a stroke at home and before she went to the hospital all she talked about was me. That did not make my aunts and mother very happy. She also left most of her belongings to me, leaving out her daughters and their children. To this day I don’t really know why but that was par for the course. It seemed that my family thought the way to my heart was through their wallets. How wrong they were.

When grandma died, I thought my life was going to change for the better. I figured without her there Uncle Quicksand and Aunt Crazy wouldn’t have reason to come visit and make me miserable. Wrong in such a big way. My dad got a fellowship to Tulane and he and my mom headed off to New Orleans for a bit. So, in my mother’s infinite wisdom it was decided that Uncle Quicksand and his wife would come and stay with me, since a fifteen year old could not be trusted alone for that long. In a way they were right, I know I would have had wild parties and probably wouldn’t have gone to school. But I find it hard to believe that there was not other solution. So again the nightmare begins. Aunt Crazy always criticized everything about me, due to her insanity I suppose. There was this undercurrent of resentment from her, as if I as a child was seducing her husband. Never once did she think that she was married to Humbert Humbert and he was  the one who was wrong.

Uncle Quicksand spent almost every night in my room during that period. I would just lay there waiting for it to be over, afraid to move, afraid to scream, afraid of everything. In a way it was easier to accept the horror that I knew rather than speak up and open the door to a new nightmare. The devil you know, I guess. And then I would go to school the next day and not share my secret with anyone.

About a month after the latest saga in “The Land of Poor Judgment” I noticed that I didn’t get my period. Uncle Quicksand always made sure he didn’t ejaculate inside me, but I suppose he was excited that he had all this time with me. And the fact that Aunt Crazy blamed me most likely made him feel like the victim here too. He would tell me it was my fault because I was so pretty and sexy and I made it so he couldn’t help himself. I didn’t know what to do in my dilemma. I talked to my friends without disclosing the father and none of us had a clue. It was such a conflict for me. Part of me was overwhelmed by the fact that I had a baby in me (that I had named Jesse) and the other part was overwhelmed because I had a monster’s child in me. I just felt sick all the time. A girl I knew told me that I needed to tell my parents about the pregnancy and she was right.

I’ll never forget that night. My dad was still working and my mother was in the kitchen. I told her I needed to talk to her. I just said “I’m pregnant.” and she responded with “I knew it.” I still don’t know what she meant by that, did she mean that she always expected the worst from me or was my behavior suspicious. Either way, once again she never bothered to ask me what was going on. She asked me who the father was and I wouldn’t tell her. I couldn’t . She called my dad and he came home and I saw his face fall. Then I saw the anger and rage. I was called every name in the book from tramp to slut. I was told that I ruined my life and that I have so many opportunities if I could just see them. Yeah, so many opportunities to be raped by your brother-in-law was all I could think.  I went to my room for a bit to listen to them scream at each other and   to my mom cry for her mother, it was so horrible. I went back into the kitchen and was sitting there and out of the corner of my eye I saw some motion coming at me. It was my dad and he just lost it. The next thing I knew both of his hands were around my neck and I really couldn’t believe this was happening but he was strangling me.  I felt the pins and needles in my head and my eyes bulging out. Holy crap, is this really happening, is he actually trying to kill me? I could hear him yelling “Slut, you’re just like your mother” (my birth mother was 16 and unmarried.) I knew my mom was trying to get him off me, one of the few, if only time, she ever protected me. I guess he snapped out of it and let go. But then again the rage kicked in and right next to him was an iron that was now bashing me in the side of the head. I don’t remember how I got out of the kitchen. I ended up missing a week of school not because of the pregnancy but because I had hand prints around my neck and the side of my face was swollen from being hit with a heavy metal object.

I don’t recall if my sister came over that night or the next day, but her reaction was pretty much the same sans the extreme violence since her abuse was more emotional than anything. She flat out asked me if it was Uncle Quicksand’s. How bizarre is that? To think that they all knew or at the very least had an inkling and not only did nothing but repeatedly placed me in situations to be alone with him boggles the mind. It was decided that I would have an abortion. I really think that was the best thing since I probably would have been disgusted by how this child came about. But of course my mother had to add “Your father is a doctor, he give life he doesn’t take it away.” So now I am supposed to feel like a murderer and feel sorry for the rest of my family for what I am putting them through? It really never ended for me.

It was decided that my sister would take me to the clinic. They also all decided that I would be awake for this for some reason which was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. It was painful, I was scared and I felt this horrible guilt, and I still do. But I had nobody, never really did if you think about it. As she was driving me back to my parents’ my sister said she needed a sweater to go out that night and we had to stop at the mall. I didn’t want to go and we argued and of course I lost since I never had any recourse. There I was, I just had aborted my child of rape at fifteen, was in pain, was weak and trying to hold it together and all she could think of was her goddamn sweater. And she wonders why I have no relationship with her now? I got home and mom in her infinite wisdom tell me that I should never tell anyone this. She had a really great reason for her line of thinking: “No one will want to marry you if they know you had an abortion.” Well done, Mom.

So maybe life will get back to normal now. Guess again. I went back to school and a few days later an acquaintance of mine asks me if I had an abortion. I can’t even explain the shock I felt and couldn’t imagine what happened that she found out. Here’s where it gets even crazier. There was a boy in my school who was such a jerk. You know that type, teasing people in such a malicious way that was really hurtful. Well, his sister worked at the clinic and saw my name and told this guy. And of course he never thought about how rough it may be for me, he instead decided to spread it around school. I would walk down the hall while he and his cronies would mutter “Abortion” under their breath. Nice huh? Now I know that I wasn’t the one who was wrong but back then he was destroying me. His sister so completely violated my privacy that I think it borders on illegal. And he was just an asshole. But that just added to my shame and confusion.

It was if a bad situation was being tempered by people whose only motive was to make it worse. I don’t know what the boy at school got out of shaming me, I don’t know what my sister got out of treating me like garbage. And I’ll never know. And I don’t focus on it. There are really no answers to a lot of questions I have about how I grew up. I find it difficult to think that some people are just unkind, I try to think that something must have happened to them too. But to take it out on me the way it was is unconscionable. Maybe it’s because I was so beaten down that they knew I couldn’t fight back. I don’t really care anymore. I’m happy that I”m me and not them. I just know that I wouldn’t have made the same decisions. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but I do like to think that if I were any of the other players in this story besides me, a bit of compassion and empathy would come into play. All I knew that I lived in constant fear in my own home. Even the most ordinary days were spent waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was if I had this ordinary looking life from the outside but in actuality in order to get anywhere I had to take the path that was the most painful. Kind of like walking on broken glass.

It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp

My sister (E) had a horrible marriage. We were always so different (thank God) as she always wanted the whole shebang of a nuclear family. I don’t think I did, I valued my freedom and it was hard to know what normal families were like. I saw normal people at my friends’ houses but in a way, deep down I always thought they were just putting up a front. I really had a hard time believing that people truly loved each other and were supportive and protective. I just couldn’t believe that nurturing love existed.I wanted it, but I felt like I would just be chasing windmills and chose to avoid it and take the road that would offer me excitement. I always just figured when the right person came along, who wouldn’t bore me or judge me then I would be happy.

E met her husband (S) when she moved to the southeast. He was from a prominent southern family who had been granted land by King George II. I think that made her want that status, since that was what seemed to motivate her in general. They really didn’t get along at first, and one New Year’s Eve things between them just clicked I guess.  Eand S had a strange courtship. Their personalities were as opposite as can be. He was actually more like me, a bit wild, somewhat irresponsible and very outgoing. He could roll with the punches, while E would freak out if anything went off-script. S didn’t care much about status, the size of someone’s house or what car they drove. When E would describe someone, those were the first things she mentioned. They got engaged on Christmas after about a year, which was the result of an ultimatum, good move huh? I really don’t know why he succumbed to the pressure. She would relentlessly criticize his family for the most minor infractions: dressing comfortably, watching football etc. It was kind of ridiculous and annoying. They seemed happy enough but that wasn’t enough for her.

The morning of her wedding was pandemonium. They were screaming at each other for whatever reason, I remember him calling her a bitch. All I could wonder was “is this how it is?” I know people are nervous but this was crazy. Then morning even got worse when she couldn’t find her diamond earrings and accused me of stealing them. I was flabbergasted since she always was irresponsible with jewelry and here I was trying to make the most of this day and instead being on trial.Par for the course, since she really is unwell.

A few years into their sentence, they had a son. Today he is a messed up adolescent who gets expelled and spent time in a therapeutic boarding school. He used to call me to tell me that his parents are always fighting. I did my best to comfort him, since I had grown up with the same volatility that surrounds E. I could see her doing the same things to him that she did to me and it was heartbreaking. One of her lowest moments came one Easter weekend. I don’t remember what started it, it was usually something minor, but it was bad. E went into her bedroom with my nephew and handed him a small bag of pot and told him “Go give this to your father” and he did. S went nuts, as I would have too. I really can’t imagine putting your child in that position and just trying so hard to hurt someone no matter what the collateral damage is. He came in yelling and she wouldn’t get out of his face. She pulled the usual thing that she used to do with my father, getting an inch or two away from his face and just say over and over ‘Are you going to hit me?” She is one of those people who cries abuse when it didn’t happen. She claimed for years that she was covered in bruises from various people, including my father which 100% didn’t happen, but when she was asked to show them, they always had faded. Even when she and her high school boyfriend had broken up, she cried abuse and actually admitted years later that it was a lie, but even in admitting it, she saw nothing wrong with it.

After fourteen years of ridiculousness, E claimed that she received a phone call from on of  S’ paramour out of the blue. He had been having affairs since they hadn’t had sex in nine years and she was such a miserable person to be around I really don’t blame him. I still remember the phone call from her since it began with ‘You know how I never ask your for anything?” which is an unbelievably unbalanced way to talk to someone. She wanted me to get on the next plane since she was so upset, which I did. My husband I went down and by the time we got there, their separation had spiraled into S trying to kill her. She was telling these tales of him spying on her, the neighbors spying on her for him and something involving a missing girl in their state. I was listening to this thinking that it couldn’t be true but at the same time, I had grown up in such craziness that I always felt like I was the one who was wrong. So I just went with it. It really was crazy, but whenever I said something to that effect, I was told I was in denial.

My nephew was away at camp for this and we all went to pick him up. The previous day, E had bought a new car and we dropped them off to pick it up. On the way home, instead of having a tender talk by both parents that would reassure him, E just blurted out that she and S were divorcing and S was having an affair. My nephew was eleven at the time. I was so disgusted. I couldn’t believe that she either hated S more than she loved her son or she just thrives on pity so much that it doesn’t matter who she destroys as long as she get attention. I still don’t know which one it is, probably both. By the time I got back to the house, she announced that her son had run away. I found him and we talked and I calmed him down.

The next few weeks back in NYC were a haze of endless phone calls from E. Literally my phone rang every few minutes if I didn’t pick up and when I did I would be berated because I wasn’t available to her.  It was a constant barrage of irrational accusations against S. The missing girl, missing money, neighbors spying on her with a baby monitor., her alarm going off. It was just nuts and I kept telling her that if this is true then she should call the police. Of course there was never any proof of this. She was also claiming that S’ friends were calling her out of the blue to tell her all the things that he had done. None of this is true, but I still was feeling like a bad person for not believing her. I felt like I was being disloyal to a family that had never been loyal to me. I guess I just wanted to please them after all these years so I went along with it until she took it too far.

One day she called me to tell me that S is a pimp. Yes, you read that right. She was claiming that her professional, soon-to-be-ex husband was pimping out girls in a gated community. And he was involved in the disappearance of yet another girl. Again I told her to call the police if this is true. Her response was that she couldn’t prove it. That made no sense to me and I started wondering how this could possibly be true. But also, if it was factual, how could any mother expose her son to this. I was stuck in quite a quandary since I felt like my mother’s poor judgment was being replayed  by her with her own son. Then she started asking me if I had time to plan her funeral with her since she was going to be murdered. That’s when it hit me, this woman so desperately wants to be living in a Lifetime movie. She will do anything for the attention, and I mean anything. She will drag someone else through the mud in order to make herself look good. I started wondering what she had been saying about me.

They’re divorced now and my nephew is over the age of eighteen, so they don’t really have any legal obligations to each other anymore. This is after years and years of court dates and attorney’s fees. She lost custody of her son at one point and I think that was the best thing that could have happened to him. It’s just too hard living with her. It is like living under the Sword of Damocles, wondering when she would be displeased and explode. And then listen to her just flat out deny her actions. It really is insanity. The funny thing about this is what made me realize that she just lives in a fantasy world where she is victimized by everyone because she is such a good person. S ended up keeping the house and E bought a new one. Now here’s the thing, I had been hearing about what danger she was in from S, how he is definitely going to kill her or hurt her or whatever. I know for myself, if I truly believed I was in danger from my ex, when I moved into a new house, it wouldn’t be around the corner from him  in the same gated community.  No rational person would choose to move in such close proximity behind the same gate. That’s when it all became so clear and in a way through her divorce, I was the one who became liberated because I was finally able to objectively see the damage she does by spreading her lies. And it helped me realize how not normal she is. But the part that comforts me the most, is the fact that she was the one who took it too far with her lies. I hate to see someone in pain, I really do, but in a way, it does offer me some mental rest to know that I gave her enough rope and she hanged herself with her own tales. But it also helped me realize that I can’t just love someone because I am supposed to. That’s not a good enough reason anymore. Love has to have support and caring and honesty. I didn’t grow up with that, but I can find it somewhere. It’s out there if you know where to look and how to recognize it. Obligations and love aren’t the same thing and I really don’t have it in me to pretend that I love someone who has been a force of destruction in my life since I was a child. I’m sad about it, but in a way, I divorced my sister as well.





The Song Is Over

Eight years ago today, my mother took her last breaths on earth and it was over. Surprisingly, it was rather peaceful to me and I’d like to think for her as well. Believe it or not, the last ten years that we had together had been pretty good.  There were two reasons for this, the first was that my sister was really spiraling out of control and her true colors were showing so much I think my mother was realizing that I was the sane one all along. The second was that I somehow made peace with the decisions that she had made, although I’ll never understand them. The turning point for us was when she called to tell me that Uncle Quicksand had died. I guess sometimes instant karma does happen, as he had spent the last decade of his life suffering through dementia and the physical breakdown of his body that comes naturally with age. But a part of me likes to think that maybe the cruelty of his soul had no place else to turn so it turned inward to torture him with the feelings of helplessness that I felt at his hands all those years. My mother had called me to tell me of his death, she found out from another aunt of mine. I asked her what she said to Aunt E and I was told that her only response to hearing of his demise was “Good.” My aunt actually got upset over what she perceived to be my mother’s coldness but it turned out that that was what turned our relationship.

About a week before she died, I was rushing to work on a Monday morning, I was running late as usual. When I got off the subway I saw a bunch of messages on my cellphone but figured I’d just check them at my desk. As I settled in I started listening and was hearing that my mother had suffered a massive stroke that morning, one that can’t be recovered from. I quickly spoke to my boss and left. The rest of the morning was a blur of phone calls to airlines and packing. Of course there was a snowstorm so I couldn’t leave until the next morning. When I arrived I went straight to the hospital.

Walking in to Intensive Care was surreal. There was my mother, the woman who had all this power over me, on her side, semi -fetal with a tube in her nose. She was so still that I wasn’t even sure if she was  alive. The doctor spoke to my sister and me and it was decided that her feeding tube would be removed and her body would shut down and that would be the end. I was told that it’s rather peaceful, almost hallucinogenic to starve to death this way. Also, pain management was in play in the form of morphine which would help slow down her breathing and bring the end faster. They said it should be about a day tops. For some reason when they asked me if I was ready I asked for an extra hour. I have no idea what I thought sixty minutes was going to do but it made sense to me.

A day turned into a week, proving how tough a lady she really was. A couple of days in, it got to the point that I just wanted it to be over. She was immobile, her brain had basically exploded. But the strange thing was that when I looked into her eyes, I could see her looking right back at me. She looked so helpless and I realized that the tables were turned. Her well-being was now my responsibility. I knew she could hear me, which just made me feel so badly for her. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be a prisoner in her own body, and her whole life coming down to this moment. So I started telling her that I was getting married in two weeks and I’m going to have a good life and have kids and be happy. I added that it’s over now, it doesn’t matter anymore and it’s okay.  Then I said what I thought to be the only fair thing to say, “You’re going to die very soon and it’s alright. It’s time to go. I’m sorry” Although my voice was cracking, I wouldn’t cry, I didn’t want her to feel guilty about leaving me. The only tear came from her left eye. One long tear that rolled down her cheek and confirmed that she knew I was there. As I wiped it away, I  again repeated, “It’s over” but this time I added “I know you wouldn’t do it the same way if you could do it over.” And I knew  at that moment that what I said was true.

At that point I knew I had a choice to make. I could forever tether her to a series of bad decisions or accept what had happened as the past and move on. I had even managed that with my uncle. For years after he died I felt so drunk with power because he had died and I was still alive. I felt like a better person than him and for some reason I felt that he couldn’t get in heaven without my forgiveness. So I decided I wouldn’t give it to him. I would actually say ” I damn you to hell” aloud when I was by  myself. It was satisfying until the day that I realized that damning him was also damning myself to continue with all the anger, rage and hurt I felt. I just let it go and said “It’s over, it happened, and I forgive you.” Am I a saint? Absolutely not, mostly because I wasn’t acting out of benevolence, I was acting out of self-preservation in a way. I wasn’t saving him, his redemption wasn’t up to me, but mine could be. In a strange way, I couldn’t save myself without saving him.

As for my mother, seeing this strong , powerful woman lying there so skinny and infantile made me realize that everyone is complex, nothing is simple in this life. I had made so many bad choices, really hurtful and selfish ones at times. But I got my act together somewhat. I was being married in two weeks, isn’t timing great? But I was moving on to a new phase with someone who  wasn’t there for all the messed up things. I had my chance at redemption, luckily it was early enough in my life that I could still have time to be content. I don’t know if my mother was ever content.  You just really don’t know everything that happened to someone, and you really can’t get in someone else’s head.I don’t know what may have shaped her judgement. That’s the thing, if you looked at me in my teens and twenties, you may have thought I was just a maniac, but it’s  more complicated than that, it always is. I was never able to draw a line from what happened with my uncle to the way I behaved. And I guess the shame and disgust made me want to avoid thinking about it. I didn’t want to see myself as a victim, I still don’t think of it that way. I can’t bear the thought of being pitied. Life is too convoluted to judge her on the basis of her bad decision. It all finally hit me,  if I refused to make that the defining moment in my life, then why should I make it hers? I guess what made that the easier for me was the fact that I truly do know that she wouldn’t do it the same way again if she could do it over. I just know that. And in a way, isn’t that what we’re all looking for when we get hurt? Not just the “I’m sorry” part but knowing that when the other person sees the hurt they caused, they wouldn’t make the same decisions again if they could.

Everyone’s life is more than just one note. We all have our own symphonies and operas and albums composed of every decision and moment and breath that we take. We can’t judge or be judged based on a beat being missed or being sharp when we should have been flat. It’s the overall song that we leave behind and hopefully it will be sung with jubilation over our lives as a whole, not just the bad choices that we made.  At least that’s what I try for, but there will  always be a moment when I’m off-key. But I’ll  just keep playing until that final serene  note is played in harmony with all the other beings in the universe. And really isn’t that the one that matters the most in the end?

“The song is over
The song is over
except in one note, pure and easy
Playing so free like a breath rippling by.”

Get Up, Stand Up (Stand up for Your Rights)

Several years back I went to my sister’s home to visit both her and my mother. I pretty much hated going there because it was never a peaceful place. My sister was always angry about some slight either real or imagined, usually the latter and vacillated between making me miserable or embarrassed or if I was lucky, her wrath was aimed at her husband. He would constantly be berated by something, usually things a decent person wouldn’t use as ammunition, private things between a husband and wife. But she knows no boundaries and everything is fair game if it offers her some sort of catharsis to say it and try to win some allies.

Before she moved to another state for her job, my sister lived in the town we grew up in. She was quite close to one of my cousins, who was a year younger than her. They were very alike and would go to the occasional dinner, movie or what -have-you. One night in a restaurant, my cousin confessed to my sister that she had become involved with a married man. My sister, the moral barometer that she perceives herself to be, was appalled to say the least. Not an uncommon or even abnormal reaction if presented with love, understanding and support, all foreign concepts to her. She relayed this tale to me later and kept asking me if she was wrong to feel that way. Of course you’re right, I agreed with her until she continued with the rest of the story. She told me that my cousin wouldn’t listen to reason and didn’t seem to understand why it was wrong. So my sister decided to try a different approach. When the waitress came to their table to check up on them, my sister said she turned to the waitress and said, “My cousin here is seeing a married man. Will you tell her that it’s wrong.” I kid you not. It was so important to her to be right that she didn’t care how hurt and humiliated my cousin must have been. That was actually the last time they really spoke. My sister later asked her to be a bridesmaid at her wedding , and not only did my cousin refuse that offer, she wouldn’t come to the wedding. My sister’s take on that was that my cousin must have been jealous of her and that she actually wanted to marry my sister’s husband. Not the fact that she may have done something to cause the rift between them. That’s how it’s always been with her and at this point I don’t think anything  is ever going to change.

Back to my visit. My brother-in-law and I decided to take my nephew and a few of his friends miniature golfing. I remember that day like it was yesterday, mostly due to the behavior of one of the little boys. A we were going around the course, this little guy had to go to the bathroom almost constantly, and at one point he couldn’t make it to the bathroom and went right on the side. It was quite noticeable to me. When we got back to my sister’s I casually said to her “You need to call that kid’s parents. The amount of times he had to go to the bathroom is just not normal and I think he may have diabetes.” It was just a guess, I’m not a medical professional but my sister is an R.N. I figured she knows the parents and it’s her place to call. She told me that she wasn’t comfortable doing that and something like ‘No he doesn’t.” or “How would I know?” Honestly, I completely forgot about it until  a few months later.

I was back for a visit, probably the next holiday and we were talking in her kitchen. She started telling me a story about my nephew’s friend that went into a diabetic coma a few weeks back. It was the same kid, but suddenly my sister is the hero. She starts telling me that she noticed the symptoms and was just about to call his parents coincidentally the same day that he was hospitalized. Suddenly her inaction had been revised into a tale of her heroism and always looking out for the greater good. Usually, I knew I would be fighting a losing battle and she would find a way to twist my words so that I would end up doubting things that I knew were fact. I had grown up with her telling me how bad I was, how wrong I was so much so that I innately believed it no matter what the circumstances. But that day, I knew for a fact that not only did the story not happen the way she told it, but also, she was flat out lying about her role as the hero. She had minimized my role completely and took me out of the story all together.

I  guess it was so cut and dry, that for the first time I said ‘That’s not what happened at all. I asked you to call them and I was the one who noticed what was going on.” My nephew, who had been there for both events said “She’s right, Mom.” So of course my sister called me a liar and I didn’t say anything at first, but I knew what was true. I was so angry but at the same time, I was so relieved because this was the first inkling that I had that I wasn’t completely crazy and malicious. It was truly a blessing in disguise. And also for the first time I was able to defend myself in a clear and concise manner. Needless to say, she was angry on a couple of different levels, one that she wasn’t being worshiped and glorified, and the other that I may be right in this case. But I felt the beginning of my inner strength coming alive and that I have every right to disagree and say my piece without being belittled.

A couple of years ago, my sister had been a contract employee for a medical supply company. Whenever she talked of it, it seemed as if the company would never have survived if it wasn’t for her. Her contract was for a year and when it expired she called to tell me that it wasn’t being renewed. She said that they told her her numbers weren’t high enough. But of course there was more to the story from her. It seems that one night she had gone out with her boss, a V.P., and the VP had gotten a little too drunk to drive and my sister drove her home. It turns out that on the ride, the VP confessed to my sister that she was having an affair with another married officer of the company. According to my sister, she was let go because ‘she knew something” and they weren’t comfortable having her around. Of course it wasn’t her performance, and although it would make way more sense to keep someone who was privy to knowledge that would hurt these people, they fired her because she knew too much. I guess it’s just like my cousin not attending her wedding not because my sister’s actions caused the schism between them, no, it was because she was jealous.

That’s the theme with my sister, no responsibility for her own actions and sometimes  hurting people with intent, but there’s always the ever present  ability to be able to revise the past so she looks good. The problem with that was that I grew up with it. I grew up doubting everything about myself because my sister didn’t approve of it. If I disagreed with her, I was subject to both physical and verbal abuse, even if something had absolutely nothing to do with her. Even if it was just a case of either a stupid teenage misstep or the fact that she was angry that I got better grades than her. (I can’t explain that one either.)

When my adult friends  meet my sister, they would always comment “I can’t believe how different you both are.” And to that I say “Amen, Hallelujah!” I’m so far from perfect that at times I feel like the upside-down mirror image of perfection. But the main difference between the two of us is that I can recognize the difference between wanting to be right and wanting to be good. Although I try to be the latter, and fail at times like any other human, my sister seems to have a pathological need for the former. And the only thing that results in is that she looks at life as a zero sum game. Which if she could just stop for a minute, she might realize that there isn’t a finite amount of happiness and satisfaction in the world. And just because someone else can be satisfied making different choices than her, it doesn’t make them less worthy or less deserving of their basic human right to a decent life and some love , compassion and empathy.