First of a Thousand

“I WANT TO BE HEARD!” I roared, slamming my fists on the bed. It was November 2012 and we were pastors…or at least about to be. My then husband of 21 years and father of our 4 children had just asked me what I wanted. It was not the first time, and wouldn’t be the last, he would ask me this question, but it was the first time I’d ever responded with such force and raw honesty. It obviously shook him, which struck me as odd. He was always so fucking sure of himself and aggressively went after whatever HE wanted. How could it be that my daring to do the same was perceived as a threat, especially when all I wanted was to have a voice and a say in our future as a family? The fear in his eyes was unmistakable.

At the time, I suffered from the massive delusion that humans are mostly rational creatures (we are not) and that if I was able to clearly explain the reality of my experience, the powers that be within Church World would understand the harm they were causing my family and be motivated out of love to stop (they did not).

I have a thousand tales to tell of my rise out of a lifetime of exploitation and abuse within Evangelical Church World and my 25-year marriage to a malignant narcissist. Eight years ago, my conscience clawed its way to the surface and demanded to be heard. Today, it demands of me to speak out against the current plague of genocidal sociopathy terrorizing us all and to give voice to victims of domestic abuse – which, under the current fascist regime, is every American.

The biggest challenge for me over the last four years has been to wait in faith for Her (my intuition/Whatever God There Is) to give the green light as to when and how to begin to tell my story. “When” became clear upon the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “How” to unravel and share enough information to fill several books is to simply begin and say what happened.

I was born and raised within a system that insisted its ideas of God were absolute truth. I learned very early on as a child that to exercise autonomy or freedom of thought or expression brought out fear, anger and condemnation from those I loved and trusted most. This is the root of my super codependent skill of stuffing my honest self deep down so as not to make waves or cause anyone the slightest bit of inconvenience or discomfort.

As a teenager, I managed around this by compartmentalizing. I dutifully complied with home and church life with my parents, but school and my social life away from them was my own. I spoke as I pleased, engaged in relationships as I pleased, and found I preferred the company of *gasp* non-Christians. I was most happy and self-fulfilled then. But I would soon discover “the system” that considered my personal freedom of mind, body and soul to be a threat extended well beyond Church World and permeated everything and everyone.

My autonomous safe haven and all its gains were wiped out on my 18th birthday by a fledgling narcissist Lost Boy. It is the most important story I have to tell when the time is right, but for purposes of overview…

The Lost Boy was enraged when I dared to take a stab at being single and unattached to any boy, and he took it upon himself to make me pay with a gaslighting intimidation and triangulation assault that utterly crushed and disabled me. I was coerced into dating his sycophant buddy who I barely knew and had no interest in.

That boy was nice enough and not a monster himself, but he wasn’t good to me either and not at all what I wanted. The Lost Boy had me convinced that I was selfish and entitled and had been responsible for the conflict and that I would destroy this boy if I broke up with him. I saw no way out. I spent the last four months of my senior year of high school shut down and numb to my own reality, torn away and isolated from my true friends. I lost myself right under everyone’s noses and no one could see it.

The boy I never wanted to be with would die just a few months later. He fell asleep at the wheel returning to his college after a surprise (uninvited and unwanted) visit to see me at mine.

The trauma left me primed and ready for the next tag team of narcissist Lost Boys to descend like vultures on road kill. By very deliberate design, I couldn’t recognize them as such. I thought I was safe. I thought they were my saviors. I was at a Christian college and it was an older Christian boy who set my heart on fire.

As this particular brand of Monster is SO adept at doing, my shockingly-soon-to-be-husband along with his sidekick minion secured me with blinding speed. He proposed to me on the one-year anniversary of my previous boyfriend’s death. We secretly married in Vegas only four months after that on my 20th birthday. The red flags of his misbehavior waved furiously in the subsequent months between Vegas and our “official” very pretty, churchy church wedding. Had we not already been legally married, I probably would have had the courage to not go through with it. But, here I was again feeling like I had no choice and no way out.

The first two years of marriage while living on campus at our Christian school were marked by my husband’s meth-fueled frenzy of infidelity, neglect, and financial abuse right under my nose where I couldn’t see it. I will have much to say in later writings about what mind-fuck wizards these Monsters are at doing that.

The day I finally did see and knew I had to leave him, he hoovered me back in with the ultimate con. He “repented” and “left his life of sin” to become my hero and a Bro of God in Church World in his home town.

Fast forward four children and two decades of ministry together, and it unraveled exactly as it had begun but with infinitely more at stake. Substance abuse, infidelity (criminal in nature), financial and sexual abuse…brought into my house, triangulating and manipulating his own children and enabled by his network of minions – the Bros and Biddies of God – right under my nose where I couldn’t see it.

Except I DID…see it, know it, feel it every minute of every day since I lost myself at 18 years old. But I couldn’t afford to acknowledge or bring it to the surface until my children and I were safely 2000 miles away from him and the entire system of abuse that was backing him up. She (my intuition/Whatever God There Is) knew he would kill us all if I confronted and exposed him directly and there was no one who was going to believe me.

And so ends the first of a thousand stories I will tell.

Dropping Keys for the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners

I have a funky way of writing things I see years before I understand what it is I’m looking at. Life has a funky way of fermenting my raw material over time through process into some potent spirits. Gunna duck my head low and sign off the blogging. The first is again the last.

Cages and Keys

Hello, and welcome to the very first installment of Cage-Free Christian!

aIf you’ve followed me over from The Gospel of Snark, a double welcome and thank you! That anyone reads anything I blog barf is astounding to me. I originally began blogging strictly as personal therapy, having been plunged into an emotional/spiritual undoing that stripped 40+ years worth of everything I thought I knew down to a bare foundation.

In many ways the GOS was a documentary of the death of me…and it wasn’t pretty or sanitized or safe. I let you see it all.  Raw vulnerability is a piercing sword that divides and disrupts. My story was simultaneously the stench of fear and doom to some and a sweet aroma of life and freedom for others.

Just like my parable-preaching Jesus, I luvs me some word picture metaphor. The metaphor theme for Cage-Free Christian comes from a…

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Words

Cages and Keys

When I read your FB text last night, I instantly related.

You are so consumed with your own pain that it makes me feel like I’m not your [relationship descriptor redacted].

Get on some meds you psycho bitch!!

No I am not [wonderful] but I think I am kind, and you were kind to me so I hope you will find peace and happiness in the future.

No time and in no way is it appropriate to be rude, unkind, cutting, demeaning, speaking out of rage and anger, and belittling others. I have seen you do each of these things with a measure of generosity. I have watched you shred those who even mildly suggest that you’re out of line.

Hi JD, I just wanted to say “Me Too”. My emotions are too raw to say anything beyond that, but ME TOO sister.

You need to get off Facebook and…

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What It Means When A Narcissist Says, “I Love You.”

The best explanation of this personality disorder I’ve found. Reposting for all the Me Toos…and that would be every American as we approach final collapse of the Narcissist in Chief. Hang on, Peeps. These things do not go quietly or without a brutal fight. There will be casualties before he and his minions ultimately slink away into the shadows with a pathetic pout and wimper.

Cages and Keys

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A NARCISSIST SAYS “I LOVE YOU”

Dear Codependent Partner,

What I’m about to say is not something I’d ever say or admit (to you), because to do so would end the winner-takes-all-game that is my main source of pleasure in life — one that effectively keeps you carrying my load in our relationship.

And that’s the whole point.

When I say “I love you” I mean that I love how hard you work to make me feel like your everything, that I am the focus of your life, that you want me to be happy, and that I’ll never be expected to do the same.

I love the power I have to take advantage of your kindness and intentions to be nice, and the pleasure I derive when I make myself feel huge…

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To Vato With Love

Bros and Biddies, Hombres y Mujeres – VATO – why so goddamn afraid of my voice…OUR voice, THEIR voice? Is it because you fear, now that we are finally armed with knowledge and power, we will do to you what you have done to us? Relax, Vato. Calm down. How is it after all this time you still do not know who I AM?

————————————————————————————-

–When someone says, “We’re saying the same thing.”
Say, “We are not saying the same thing.”

–When someone says, “Don’t question, just have faith.”
Say, “I am questioning, vato, and I have supreme faith in what I think.”

–When someone says, “Don’t defy my authority.”
Say, “There is a higher authority that I follow.”

–When someone says, “Your ideas are seductive.”
Say, “No, my ideas are not seductive, they are substantial.”

–When someone says, “Your ideas are dangerous.”
Say, “Yes, my ideas are dangerous, and why are you so afraid hombre o mujer? ”

–When it is said, “It’s just not done.”
Say, “It will be done.”

–When it is said, “It is immature.”
Say, “All life begins small and must be allowed to grow.”

–When it is said, “It’s not thought out.”
Say, “It is well thought out.”

–When they say, “You’re over-reacting.”
Say, “You’re under-reacting, vato.”

–When they say, “You’re being emotional.”
Say, “Of course I have well placed emotions, and by the way, what happened to yours?”

–When they say, “You’re not making any sense.”
Say, “I don’t make sense, I am the sense.”

–When they say, “I can’t understand you when you’re crying.”
Say, “Make no mistake, I can weep and be fierce at the same time.”

–When they say, “I cant understand you when you’re being so angry.”
Say. “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice, or sweet or silent, either.”

–When someone says, “You’re missing the point.”
Say, “I’m not missing the point, but you seem to be missing my point — What are you so afraid of?”

–When someone says, “You are breaking the rules.”
Say, “Yes, I am breaking the rules.”

–When someone says, “That’s not practical.”
Say, “It’s practically a done deal, thank you very much.”

–When it is said, “No one will do it, believe you, or follow it.”
Say, “I will do it, I will believe in it, and in time, the world may well follow it.”

— When it is said, “No one wants to listen to that.”
Say, “I know you have a hard time listening to that.”

–When it is said, “It’s a closed system, you cant change it.”

Say, “I’m going to knock twice and if there is no answer, then I am going to blow the doors off that system and it will change.”

–When it is said, “They’ll ignore you.”
Say, “They won’t ignore me and the hundreds of thousands who stand with me.”

–When they say, “It’s already been done.”
Say, “It’s not been done well enough.”

— When they say, “It’s not yet time.”
Say, “It’s way past time.”

–When they say, “It’s not the right day, right month, right year.”
Tell them, “The right year was last year, and the right month was last month, and the right day was yesterday, and you’re running behind schedule, vato, and what in the name of God and all that is holy are you going to do about it?”

–When they say, “Who do you think you are?” —
tell them …tell them who you are, and don’t hold back.

–When they say, “I put up with it, you’ll have to put up with it too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”

–When they say, “I’ve suffered a long time and you’ll have to suffer too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”

–When they say, “You’re an incorrigible, defiant, hard to get along with, unreasonable woman … ”

Say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes …and I have worse news for you yet–we are teaching our daughters, and our mothers, and our sisters…we are teaching our sons, and our fathers, and our brothers,

to be
just
like
us.

Go and do likewise in your own ways dear brave souls: Tribe of the Sacred Heart, many of us Scar Clan.

With deepest love for your soul who knows the way… has always known the way… Now is the time for deep prayer and effective actions…

Creator bless all the children who stand for us all, all the older people who stand for all the children, for everyone of learning heart and truth-seeking mind.

– Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

What Do You Do When You Know You’re Too Much?

Whew. Almost two years out from this. I was SO sick and in more danger than I could afford to acknowledge. Swimming free and deep waaaaaaaay out in the wilds these days as I was always meant to. There is no going back. There is no nostalgia or longing for any of it. Only relief.

Cages and Keys

I’m a severely introverted and reserved person. These days, in person, I’m unlikely to impress you. I don’t emote much. Whatever I’m feeling (and I feel the full spectrum of emotion with deep intensity) this is probably all you’re going to get.

11137161_10206954157038295_2399070076741061462_n This is my excited face

My randomly selected combination of genes allows me the luxury of attaining the label of “attractive” female from others if I put just a bit of effort into my outward appearance. Truth is, I’m much more comfortable downplaying any outward attractiveness to the point I’ll even deliberately sabotage it when I feel the real me – my passion – my soul – who I really am, think and feel is being dismissed because it’s just too much for someone else to handle – which is most of my life, most of the time, and all my relationships at some point or another.

12643015_10208826555127077_1727118579843219199_n Exhibit A: Flaunting the…

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Shut Up and Sing

Cages and Keys

I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets, and I don’t mind saying
It’s a sad, sad story
When a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Saying that I better
Shut up and sing
Or my life will be over? – Dixie Chicks

Once upon a time, we were offered 6 figures to climb the corporate church ladder and be entertainers in an even bigger and better church than we were already in. We turned it down. It’s quite a story from there.

The short of it, the second we stopped singing at the church we’d remained loyal to in order to minister with integrity, they broke every promise they’d given of support, disowned and ghosted us…

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YOU CAN, BUT I CANNOT

YOU CAN, BUT I CANNOT

You can
call me names,
call out my flaws,
falsify what
you never saw,
slap my jaw,
parade around
man of straw,
throw me around,
for I’ve no quick-draw,

try to ice me with your cold,
so I can never thaw,
fling me down
some endless maw,
act as though my gifts from G-d
are no reason for dropping jaw,
tell me my words matter not,
that I just hem and haw,
you say nothing happened
when it was stars I saw.

You can
throw me to the floor,
bang my head
against the door,
slam my hands
in the drawer,
overwhelm my pleas
with your roar,
take my oars
so I can’t reach shore,
take everything I’ve got–
demand you’re owed more,
slash my sails
so I cannot soar,
insist my plea for life
is to you, an act of war.

You can
try to erase me,
try to outpace me,
you can bellow
I wont escape the chase,
you can put me away
in a lonely place,
tell me I ought not
show my face,
take from my deck,
for yourself, all the aces,
you can cram me
into your personal vases,
bad mouth me
tell everyone
I deserve no kindly spaces.

You can strip me of
my dignity,
toss my corpse
away abhorrently,
you can try to force
me to act abortively,
you can say the truths
I tell, are absurdities,

But I promise you this
though you can
try to break me,
my heart and more,
tho you call me a whore,
tell me I am wrong
to the core…

you cannot have
the Sun inside me
the One who glows
all the more–
no matter what comes,
no matter what goes–
You cannot still,
nor stop the Sun
that glows inside me.

Even in blood,
this Sun shines,
even surrounded by black,
this Sun grows the vine,
even though you try to
take from me ‘my Thine’
even though you
hurl and break my holy shrines,
this Sun is in no decline,
this Sun is my sign
that my soul is safe times nine.

You can take what is takeable,
even as you maim my heart,
try to tame my wild,
break my smile.
But no matter what
no matter the trials,
no matter those who make fun,
take joy, in my being shunned,
I cannot give you my Sun.

I cannot,
will never, as long as
there is breath,
even as you attempt
to demean me by stealth,
for my Sun is
my insurrection against death,
my Light will one day I pray,
bring me again
to a new day
of complete resurrection.

_________________

The poem YOU CAN, BUT I CANNOT, ©1965, 2016, by clarissa pinkola estés

Smear Campaign

So you’ve had your heart ripped open and torn to shreds, been physically and financially exploited and devastated, and now…here comes the smear campaign. If you are going to escape, there’s no escaping this classic hallmark of the malignant narcissist. It’s not enough to simply cut you open, they must fling fistfuls of excrement into the gaping wounds they inflict and recruit as many others as they can to join in. The only saving grace one has in breaking free from one of these things is in how utterly predictable they are in their pattern of behavior. They do not and cannot deviate from it.
 
The smear campaign is the absolute worst in terms of pain, isolation and humiliation.
 
However, the absolute best is on the other side once you’ve identified all the people in your life that need to go. For me, it’s been 98% of everyone I knew in 20+ years of church world. Gone. I do not miss any of them any more than one would miss cancer once in remission. The only real loss is in having to cut off some lovely genuine people with social/familial ties to the toxic ones. Losing them is like surgically removing a margin of healthy tissue around the cancer to ensure you’ve gotten it all.
 
My life is finally my own and I can breathe.
 
My children are happy because I am finally happy and free and sane. Every relationship that remains or is established going forward is healthy and REAL.
 
The enormity of the injustice and cruelty hurts like hell, but if you survive it without becoming the monster yourself…nothing can touch or stop you.
 
Nothing. It’s becoming my everything.

Leaving a Person with Narcissism: Here Comes the Smear Campaign

 

Adult with long curly hair listens on phone with disdainIt took FOREVER to finally leave the person in your life with narcissism, only to realize that once you made that fateful decision, your name became mud.

Your ex is not going to let you go without a fight. You’re going to be villainized like you never experienced before the breakup.

All your friends and family will hear how crazy, unbalanced, manipulative, and narcissistic you are. Your ex will be sure to strike first; you may not want to strike at all, but your hand may seem forced.

The smear campaign of a person with narcissism can be so convincing. Since, throughout the relationship, you mainly kept your mouth shut about the problems you were having, no one really saw this coming. When your ex starts to talk negatively about you, with feelings of hurt and strong conviction, others may be inclined to believe what they hear. They had no idea how “crazy” you were, but now, if they think about it, they do remember the time you did x, y, or z.

Like many people with narcissistic qualities, your ex can be a master manipulator. They can turn on the sad eyes and tears, convincing everyone how dearly you are loved by them and how clueless they are about why it ended so abruptly. Maybe it’s menopause or a midlife crisis on your part. Obviously, something is wrong with you.

The smear campaign may even work with your children. The children have become so accustomed to an abusive relationship that the concept of scapegoating seems normal. Blaming and villainizing others has been modeled as acceptable. They may see nothing abnormal about making you a target of wrath. And since they love the parent with narcissism, they likely want to win their favor, which makes it all the more easy for them to join in the campaign.

The Anatomy of a Smear Campaign

Here’s how a good smear campaign works:

  1. It generally contains an element of truth. For instance, if the person with narcissism complains you abandoned the relationship, well, this is true. They will likely go on and on about how all they ever wanted was to love you and stay with you, but you, in your evilness, flippantly left the relationship—for no reason other than you don’t care about anything other than yourself and can’t keep your commitments.
  2. It is done with implication. The person with narcissism may say something like, “I don’t want to sound mean, but certain people, who shall remain nameless, have me worried.” The person with narcissism may imply that, no matter how hard they have tried to help you or deal with your issues, you are irreparable. Some people—you being one of them—are just hopeless. Implication can be a very effective tool. Those listening come to their conclusions about you based on this subtly nefarious input.
  3. It is also done overtly. Sometimes the person with narcissism just comes right out and says it: you are a no-good lunatic! They will tell story after story about all the awful things you’ve done. They will take every vulnerability you’ve revealed to them and use it now, along with made-up information, to tarnish your reputation and slander your name.
  4. It is relentless. No one holds a grudge quite like a person with narcissism. They can carry a silent treatment to the grave just as well as they can carry a smear campaign. They are relentless. You may be shocked and dismayed by the battleground you find yourself navigating. Never have you encountered such an enemy.

How to Deal with Narcissistic Attacks

What can you do if you find yourself in this position? Here are some tried-and-true suggestions from those who have gone before you:

  • Learn to value yourself above anyone else’s opinion. The only way a smear campaign can work is if you allow it to. If people choose to go along with false accusations about you, then yes, it hurts—but you don’t have to let it destroy you. You can learn to not care what others think about you.

Yes, you do deserve defense, but being caught in the trap of trying to get others (and the person with narcissism) to see your good heart can become a never-ending battle. It is easier to simply tell yourself, “They aren’t going to see,” and move on.

  • Remember why you left the relationship in the first place. You were devalued and discarded. You did not leave to continue to be disrespected by others. If others are going to jump on your ex’s narcissistic bandwagon and join their hater campaign, simply walk away and remind yourself that you deserve respect.
  • Resist the urge to defend yourself. While this may be easier said than done, it is an important concept. Remember when you were in your relationship? You likely felt defensive often. You probably tried to explain yourself thousands of times, to no avail. You ended up being caught in all kinds of “gotcha” traps. So now that you’re out of the relationship, understand that this person continues to try to control your emotions in similar fashion—causing you to doubt your motives, your good nature, even your sanity. Yes, you do deserve defense, but being caught in the trap of trying to get others (and the person with narcissism) to see your good heart can become a never-ending battle. It is easier to simply tell yourself, “They aren’t going to see,” and move on.
  • Make a preemptive strike. In other words, make friends with your “enemies.” Let them get to know you personally. It’s a lot harder to hate someone you know well. If you can befriend the people your ex is targeting for their campaign, you may be able to affect some damage control. If the people being targeted are family (including your children), tell them your side of the story. Let them know you are the target of a smear campaign and to not believe what your ex is saying about you. Inform them your ex is creating “spin” to the point that what they are saying is fiction and a waste of time to believe. Be forthright, convincing, and firm. State your side once, then let it go.
  • Spend your time well. No matter what others think or do, you really have no power over them. The only person you have power over is yourself. Regardless of what others do with their thoughts and actions toward or against you, you cannot control them. You may be able to influence them, but that is all. Don’t spend a lot of your precious energy trying to make others see the truth. Spend time with people who don’t judge you—those who value you and help you feel supported and loved. Enjoy your life!