Say Yikes and Move On!

“I set boundaries today, in good faith, with anyone who disregards my thoughts or feelings. Disregarding and disrespecting are different from disagreeing.” (wise words of my sponsor, in today’s meeting)

People pleaser, Pollyanna, Martyr (PPM) types behave as if openly and honestly disagreeing, is disrespectful and they tend to respond with entitled, but passive aggressive retalliation toward those whom they perceive as challenging or confronting. PPMs have not yet learned to accept differing needs and experiences. With them, honest communication is not possible. They simply do not know how. They tend to opt for a full on war (in which there are no rules) over an open dialog which requires fairness and honestly speaking and listening to challenging differences. For optional relationships, I have been advised to just say YIKES, and move on.

For non-optional relationships, setting firm boundaries around my right and responsibility to be treated(and to behave) with dignity and kindness, has been an edifying experience, allowing the bully to cook their own goose(while sparing me from the intense and habitual desire to tell them about themselves, in ways which make me feel bad about myself). Hostile reactions to healthy boundaries, reveal their true nature, but only to those courageous enough to look closely. Have courage. Look closely.

Choose genuine kindness and authenticity. Always. This is what I am learning and trying to model for my sons. One day at a time. Kindness, boundaries, healthy conflict resolution, detachment. All new and unfamiliar ways of being.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

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Educated by Tara Westover

I am on my second go-round of this riveting and relatable memoir, as it is generously providing words for thoughts which previously, I felt unable to put together for myself. To say that Tara Westover’s life was brutal, unbearable, would be an understatement. And still, I feel something not unlike coveting, for her. In addition to the abuse and dysfunction, the Westovers share a rich rural culture, deep religious conviction and practices, and the work of a family business– the family is bound by much more than coincidence of birth, a shared roof, and mental illness. Tara and two of her brothers experience trusting, protective, and lifelong closeness.

Additionally, she is able to discover a joy and talent for singing, learning, reading, and writing, which allow her life to become defined by more than what happened within the family. I often feel as if my rejection and abuse define me, because I really do not recall much more– like it is all I know of myself and my family. Recovery teaches me that I am not what happened to me. I am what I am willing to learn from it. Below are a few, not necessarily, fluid or cohesive thoughts, motivated by the words of Tara Westover, some of which incorporate chunks of words taken directly from her.

I came to see that the truth is this: It was not that I had done something wrong(although I have done many wrong things), so much as that I existed in the wrong way. There was something impure in the fact of my being. There is something different about me and that something, those differences are very bad, unforgivable–wrong at a cellular level. I am a bad daughter, a traitor, and my silence and compliance are the least I should offer– and I will do, not even that.

Not knowing for certain what was true and real, still, I refused to give way to those whom claimed certainty, and presented themselves as the gatekeepers of truth and history. I often thought that shame and alienation were results or byproducts of the conflict, and now I see how those served as both the purpose and motivation. Cruel things said and done were aimed at exactly those outcomes and delivered fortification and pleasure to those whose camaraderie rested on the shared need to reduce me, to gain submission OR to make me pay.

It was of comfort to believe that the defectiveness was exclusively mine, because this allowed me to hope that it was under my power to make US be healed. I wanted to believe that. The family system needed also for me to believe this. When I stopped believing and trying to do the impossible, when they could gain no traction from my reactions, it was OVER, in first my family and then my marriage.

When my own mother consistently refused to listen to or hear me, it made me stop listening to and believing myself. This is surely a contributor to the feckless belligerence, the profanity and the volume, my desperate and reactive attempts to be acknowledged, listened to. Sadly, we know too well that this insane behavior is readily dismissed and steals the show. Leaving witnesses fixated on only the unfortunate reaction to the thing which everyone refuses to speak of.

It both pains and liberates me to recognize that what a person knows and believes of a person, place, or thing, without first-hand experience, is limited exclusively to what they are told by others.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Unity v. Division

The messages of non-love which are cruelly and generously heaped upon my boys, by older members of their genetic families, require daily dispelling. The demystification is endless and I am grateful it is possible to speak openly with them about their having been made foot soldiers in a conflict, they are not yet old enough to comprehend. Fuck, I am 50 and still cannot get my head around it.

Our daily reminders illuminate:

-how partial truths and changing truths can make a person feel crazy and anxious. People attempting to dictate and manipulate our realities, make us doubt ourselves rather than those claiming a monopoly on the truth, which is subject to change based on their own moods and personal desires.

-how in healthy families, healing the family is winning. Avoiding getting picked off, or being on the more favorable side of the cross hairs, is the exact opposite of a win for a healthy family. Hustling for favor, is a game common, to families riddled with addiction and mental illness. The sick system relies on fear, shame, guilt, winners, losers, scapegoating.

In our home, we do not wish to beat or be beaten by each other. We value and prioritize unity. Triangulation and alienation leave parents and children painfully divided and siblings the same. Entire sections of family divided. Who wants that?

Here is who… Spiritually and mentally unwell people, extracting reverence and victory, at all costs, in order to feel ok about themselves. They are the ones who want insist on this. Because, in our home, we are blessed with recovery, we are learning and practicing a better way. A third way… I will not sit back and watch as my children are taught that pitting themselves against each other, me, or another is a good way to be in the world. That is poison. (Winning is for games and wars.) That mentality stems from generations of addiction and perpetuates addictions of all sorts. We will not abide.

My children have grandparents on all sides who will go/have gone to their graves while not speaking to their children and having their children not speaking to each other. I can think of little, that is more horrifying. I would prefer my boys align together against me, than ever, against each other. They belong to each other, not to US, their parents. They have been entrusted to us.

I continue reminding them. “I see your pain and it is big. I also see your courage and it is bigger. Together, we can do hard things.” (from Glennon Doyle Melton)  Just because a thing is hard, does not mean it is wrong.

With trusted others, we do not fear loss of favor or connection. Ever. We are for each other. This is how we identify people as safe. Do we need to act a certain way to be treated well and to be safe and welcomed…if so, they are not safe. Those are not our people. Though, we may be forced to engage, at times (until we are old enough to make our own choices).

The feeling of belonging, shared values, and a deep sense of empathy, will lead to unity and trust. The world has enough hate and division. We will not knowingly add to that. We will be intentional in our daily efforts to be more “for each other”, than against each other. We continue to work on ourselves and to accept those relationships which will grow with us or die.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Learning to Belong

As far back as I remember, I did not belong. Anywhere. I was different from the people to whom I am genetically linked, and treated by them, in ways which I found to be unacceptable. I failed to enter the world and that family knowing how to graciously or effectively accept or reject their treatment of me. Belonging to or with them seemed to imply that I had to be like them or to tolerate their reaction to my differences.

I wanted to be like them as little as I wanted to be with them, and being without them did not appear as a viable option. Often, I believe, the one thing we shared, besides blood, was how little we thought of me. I did frequently hope for divorce of my parents, though the idea of going with my mother was only slightly more terrifying than going with my father. I frequently wished (out loud) myself and them dead, only as a means as an exit to this thing called our family. In this environment, I learned some very unhealthy ways of being “together” with people. I was terrified and ashamed, every single day. I learned to react harshly and judgmentally to those who differed, struggled, or inconvenienced me, in any way. I learned that if you keep someone else in the crosshairs, you may feel safe for a while. You could always find or select a common enemy, someone to gossip about, exclude, or persecute. I learned what I lived. I am unlearning as quickly as I am able. Definitely a work in progress.

From one of my Al-Anon sponsors, I heard a story about belonging ,which changed my view of myself, as it had been shaped in relation to my mother and her family. I will attempt to do the story justice:

There was once a mother squirrel with a baby, who differed from the others. It was similar, with fur and four legs, but it looked and behaved in ways which were unfamiliar. Mama Squirrel was troubled by the differences. She surveyed other squirrels from her pack, who agreed, her baby was either a naughty or defective squirrel. As it turned out, the baby was not a squirrel, it was a baby bunny, wanting and needing bunny things. Just as the mother squirrel was squirrel by no choice of her own, baby bunny was 100% bunny, by birth. In a dynamic of acceptance, neither were right, wrong, or bad, just different.

Efforts to squash the differences were damaging.

While bunnies and squirrels have similarities, they are not 100% compatible in their needs and preferences. And that is ok. A bunny from a non-accepting squirrel family, may need to go elsewhere in order to learn all of the skills to live its best bunny life. Being labeled broken or naughty and collectively diminished and shunned, did not allow for a sense of belonging, purpose, or healthy connection–in my experience as a bunny in a squirrel family. I am 100% not like them, besides in the ways that I learned.

Ok, I totally muffed up the story. Without intentional acceptance and understanding of the differences, genuine connection and belonging were not sustainable and this bunny did not learn to thrive. I recall my mother insisting she treated my older sister and me, exactly the same, so what is MY problem?? We were not the same at all. As a mother, I learned early on that my boys have needs which differ from my own and from each other and it is my privilege and duty to explore how to get their needs met and to teach them that their needs are real and could and would be met.

Recovery taught me what I had always needed to know about belonging. While it can be faked and forged, it cannot be forced. Belonging does not mean being the same, it means being exactly how you are and still being connected in a way that is meaningful and good. Just as the parts of a puzzle or a piece of furniture requiring assembly, belong together, the individual pieces are not identical. They fit and rely on the differences for their strength.

In meetings, I love hearing how our Steps protect me from me. Our Traditions protect the group from me, and our Principles protect the world from me. By practicing the steps, traditions, and principles in all areas of our lives, we find healthy belonging–it becomes clear when there is unity of purpose and shared values and also when those things are not present. Recovery encourages us to identify healthy beliefs and behaviors and to participate in ways which are mindful of our group, as well as our individual members. Everyone has a voice, everyone matters, belonging is a natural consequence of sharing purpose and principles or NOT. Our fellowship is guided by the principles not by individuals(moods and personalities). Belonging is optional. There are no requirements for membership and you can not be kicked out. Though you may find that if you prefer to be “right” and in charge, to genuine unity and shared purpose, that healthy recovery groups may not be for you.

Desperate Willingness was my first step into recovery. Willingness to admit that the way in which I have lived and believed, did not work for me. It could not continue. For me, I got to stop hating myself for not being a squirrel and to stop bucking against the squirrels for not accepting me as I was and to accept that I was not one of them.

I was not broken(well, by this time, I was very effing broken, but I was not a broken squirrel) or worthy of unkindness. Unsurprisingly, I chose marriage to a very similar squirrel. I think he and I were in agreement on only one thing: I was broken and once fixed into a cooperative squirrel, who preferred and thought identical squirrel things, we would be fine. I fled one set of squirrels, only to submit myself to another. Because I had not yet healed from the damage, I repeated the dynamic–sought another source for harsh and demanding rejection and disapproval.

Once we became parents, I had no energy or will to continue in this way. Program taught me about my responsibility to Live and let live. Much easier said than done. BTW! I had never learned to live or to let live. I had moved through life like a pinball. Without any source of Good Orderly Direction.

In the rooms of Al-Anon, I began learning about healthy connection and belonging and I began to prefer it. Learning to belong, included learning to acknowledge people and places that were not a good fit for me. Poor fit is not a problem to be solved but maybe just an unpleasant fact. Any person or place inhibiting my self care and self love, is not a good fit for me. Neither I, nor it/them need to change. We are just not meant to be together. Everybody gets to be exactly as they are, just not at the expense of others. Acceptance allows for people and places to be as they naturally are without forcing, denying, pretending, and punishing. Whoa! Right? I know.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

The Quality of My Thoughts

When the people you are tethered to in childhood or marriage are the same ones who kick your feet out from under you, it fucks up your belief that things can ever be ok, or better. You doubt that people are who they say they are. It becomes difficult to make plans and choices and to envision a future of peace or emotional security.

When the feet kicking is sneaky and the reaction to IT, is more observable than the attack, it is damaging beyond words. This is how you make a person crazy. You undermine and sabotage their peace and then pretend you didn’t or you blame them.

After another night of disrupted and poor sleep, the quality of my thoughts is spectacularly bad. My worries for my sons over the stress imposed by the very intentional divide of our little family is immeasurable. My sons associate my sister and family of origin with being divided and separate. Their resentment for their father is growing, while their trust in him is shrinking. My older son’s inability to hide the pain, separates him from his innocence, as well as from his brother and father, who are quick to silence and judge his struggle. What a nightmare.

I feel hopeful that with a night of sleep and mental separation from the thinking of the thoughts, this will feel less heavy, or at least more manageable. Just for today. I can do hard things, one day at a time, together, with you.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Formatting Errors v. Compatibility Issues

Labelling the Formatting Issues as errors is part of an ongoing joke between Sweet Greg and me. As I said, we really do not get angry with each other and the times in which we have, we attribute to what we now recognize as “formatting errors”. For us, this means, that possibly, the person who is angry is rightfully so, because the other person said whatever they said the “wrong” way.   And if they would have communicated correctly, there would be no problem.

Greg and I are blessed with compatible operating systems. We prefer for life to be quiet and slow, not too peopley, and with minimal plans and schedules on our weekends. We enjoy down time together, separately and simultaneously while in the same place. I tend to need more space than him, maybe from damage and recovery or maybe because I was born this way. Either way, it is a fact, not a defect or a problem. Greg is not offended or challenging of my reality and the needs which make me uniquely me. He loves me unconditionally in all of my most Maggie-est of ways, not in spite of my Maggie-ness but 100% because of it, even the prickly parts. God bless that man.

The one time, in which I recall being genuinely (and irrationally, of course) angry with Greg, I mistook a compatibility issue for what was, in fact, a formatting ERROR. We were both happy and relieved to identify this thing, which for so many people, tears them apart, because they have not learned to recognize “it”.

Greg and I spend our kid-free weekends at my house. (We do not spend nights or share beds(unless on a trip)) in the presence of our children. He brings his sweet Golden Retriever, Sydney, who is always welcome. AND– like all Golden Retrievers, she shits and sheds. Greg would see me vacuuming or poo picking and ask if I wanted “help”. I would say, “No, I got it” and be resentful AF. I allowed this to continue for months until I wanted to end it with him.

See, I did not consider it “help”, for him to clean up after his own dog. I considered it his job. It was not a gracious favor, because if not for Sydney, I would not have the tufts of hair and additional poops to manage. But because he called it help, I would not allow it. Conditioned to “favors” and help, bound by fat strings and a secret price, to be extracted later, I could not accept. Insane. Truly. When I confronted him and attempted to shame him and label him irresponsible and selfish, which he is not, at all–it became clear what was happening. I was accustomed to dirty, indirect communications with weird secret emotional contracts to which I unknowingly entered, first, with my family, then in my marriage, I had no understanding of what it was like to deal with an emotionally present, generous, and direct communicator.

Sweet Greg and I enjoy high level compatibility and still experience formatting issues, which turn to laughter instead of divisive arguments. We each loathe talking by phone, needless complexity, indirect communication, we laugh at ourselves and each other, own our mistakes, apologize, and care deeply for the other’s peace and comfort. Finding food is generally our biggest challenge. There is never anything to eat…anywhere. Ever.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/