Thursday, May 16, 2019

When Break Up Behavior Isn't Normal

I once met a young man and we got to talking. He made me laugh. We exchanged phone numbers and started getting to know each other. We were out to lunch when I realized this wasn't someone I was interested in moving forward in a relationship with. He had stated his goals and what he wanted out of life, as did I. What we wanted was too different. It was as simple as that. I thanked him for lunch, he wished me well.

I tried to end a different relationship when it was obvious that one wasn't working. He got angry. Felt disrespected. Called me selfish. Called me a lot of other names, too. It was about as opposite a reaction I ever could have imagined.

He stood across the street from my house on the sidewalk. Just staring. I closed the curtains. I called the police.

What is he doing? Standing there.

Is he threatening you? No, he's just standing there staring at my house.

Is he yelling? No. He is standing across the street. On the sidewalk. Staring at my house. Where he has been for the past 25 minutes. He is not moving. It's creepy.

Look, he isn't threatening you, he isn't bothering you and there's nothing illegal about standing on public property. 

I had been told, by the police, the ones that I was supposed to go to when I felt scared, that I was being ridiculous. That there was no reason to bother them. Just because I didn't like it, didn't mean it was illegal.

He was there all the time. Day after day. If he wasn't standing, he was slowly driving past my house over and over. Guess what? There is nothing illegal about driving around either.

I kept my curtains shut. I never opened the windows to reveal just screens. I looked up and down the street before darting to my car and leaving. I kept my lights off all the time so he wouldn't know if I was home or not. After getting far too many hang-ups after I answered my phone, I started to just let it ring. And ring. And ring. Eventually, I just switched the ringer off.

I was a prisoner in my own home and, although the legal definition might not have ever been met, I guarantee this guy knew what he was doing. He meant to hurt me, scare me, and teach me a lesson.

And he did.

I moved in the blink of an eye, leaving behind the house that I owned and renting another. I moved to a location without a public sidewalk he could stand and stare on, and without a quiet street that he could slowly drive by on every twenty minutes until his obsession wore off. I moved to a place where he and his behavior would look obviously out of place. Where others would notice he didn't belong. I wanted to make sure everyone would be aware of the creepy guy with the creepy behavior.

I did the right thing. I ended the relationships I knew were not right for me. I walked away from the thing I no longer wanted to be a part of. I stood up for myself and advocated for myself. I was strong.

It's a message we teach our young girls over and over again: get out of the relationship as soon as you know it's not the right one. Don't string another along. Don't give up your future or yourself for another. It's better to be happy and single than miserable in a relationship.

So, where are the messages for our sons? The ones where we teach: you have no right to intimidate someone just because you're mad. You are not allowed to pester someone who said they don't want to date you. She said she doesn't want to see you - so stop trying.

Who has talked to their sons about the proper way to behave during a breakup?

Because 42 text messages over eight hours is not normal breakup behavior.

Standing on a sidewalk for 30-40 minutes at a time across the street from the girl who broke up with you a month ago is not normal break up behavior.

Yelling profanities and calling the girl who broke up with you names is not normal breakup behavior.

Facebook stalking, Instagram refreshing, Snapchat spying, or trying to befriend her accounts under a false name so you can see what she's up to is not normal break up behavior.

Sitting outside her work trying to catch her coming or going is not normal break up behavior.

And maybe parents can't quite see how their sons are mishandling breakups... but I bet friends see. Because I have heard you talking.

Dude's obsessed, man! 

Yeah, I told him to just stop texting her but he won't.

He, like, got into her Facebook account and can see everyone she's talking to. 
He's freaking crazy, man!

Friends, step up. YOU'RE the ones that need to go to the police. YOU'RE the ones that can stop something from getting out of control. YOU'RE the ones that can warn a young girl that they're in danger. YOU'RE the ones that can help someone from slipping down into a dangerous place where people get seriously hurt.

I'm going to switch gears here because the area in which I live has been talking about opening a new domestic abuse shelter for women and I am probably the only person against it. Yep. Me. A person who has lived through this is against it. Not in theory - but in location.

It's a proposed location right across the street from a huge public park area. Where someone with a 300' restraining order can still sit and watch the proposed domestic abuse shelter property because guess what? It isn't illegal to sit in a park. You can even walk back and forth and back and forth in a portion of the park. It isn't illegal to walk in a park.

It's a proposed location with four different "back way" entry points straight into the housing side at the rear of the building... easy access for the guy who cannot seem to participate in normal break up behavior. Several of those access points are through commercial properties where no one will notice someone walking through late at night after the office staff left. (I don't know if you know this, but most men intent on scaring someone and teaching them a lesson prefer the surprise attack. They tend not to park in the lot and check in through the main office.)

It's a proposed location where a woman (and her children) staying there cannot see who is outside. In fact, if they're lucky enough to have a car, their car will be parked in a back lot which, I hope the neighbors daily keep an eye out to ensure no one's lurking around. Lots of guys "just want to talk" and if they could just see you one more time...

It's a proposed location with public street parking all around it. It's not illegal to park a car. It's not illegal to sit in a parked car. I don't know about you, but I want to know what I'm walking or driving into way before I get to it.

It's a proposed location where, if you don't have a car - which happens sometimes because, for some reason, those really great guys that love you so much also don't want you to have transportation - so, if you don't have a car, you get to walk 2-miles to the local grocery store, dollar store, drug store or medical center. A lot can happen in two miles there and two miles back. Or, I suppose you could spend your hard earned cash getting one of those big burritos at the gas station for dinner. Because who cares if you will ever actually have enough money to live independently in your own place? It's way more important to support the businesses downtown that happen to be more expensive than those horrible big box stores on the outskirts of town. Besides, if you can't financially support yourself, you could always go back to that great guy you were trying to flee from.

It's a proposed location where young children can walk to school! Umm.... absolutely not. If that was my kid, I'd want them on a bus. Not walking where dad/stepdad/mom's recent boyfriend can saddle up next to them and start asking questions... or maybe just offer them a ride. Kids don't know how to handle these situations. Don't make them walk into one.

It's a proposed location that, quite frankly, given the situation I was in - would never go to because I wouldn't feel safe there. Now, maybe times have changed since my situation and men who abuse/stalk women are much more polite and follow rules better. Maybe it was just my situation where they knew oh-so-well just how much to do without getting into any real trouble.

But perhaps you should take one look at the aerial photo of the entire block area just in case...

I don't pretend to have the answers, but I do think we need to start with talking to our sons about how to behave in a break-up and get some laws on the books to better identify the behavior that isn't normal in order to stop things before they slip too far. Because, when our girls are strong and walk away from a relationship that isn't good for them, they need to be able to keep living.

The proposed new domestic abuse shelter property outlined in red. The living facilities will be at the rear of the building with offices up front. Note the multiple access points to the rear of the building. Note the large park opposite the front of the building with public on-street parking. Note the parking area at the rear of the building where anyone can easily hide.
Everything about this location is not secure. Not good. Not safe.
Walworth County can do better for our women and children who deserve to be and feel safe! 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Ticket for One, Please.

I started doing something after Avery died that, when I tell people what I'm doing, they look at me with very sad eyes. But they don't need to.

I started going to the movies by myself.

I like it. I need it. I mean, I really need it.

There are obvious benefits: no one steals your popcorn or asks what just happened because they were totally not paying attention; and there are the obvious disadvantages: no one to go get you a refill because they're annoying you by asking plot questions they should already know the answers to, had they been paying attention.

But that's not why I do it.

It started as a necessity. A holiday without when my oldest daughter was out of the country on a much-deserved escape from reality and my youngest was with his father celebrating with his family. I was very alone on Christmas and the thought was destroying me. I felt frantic. That's a very common emotion felt after the death of a child: franticness.

It pops up whenever it feels like it. Frantic means, wild or distraught with fear, anxiety, or other emotion. Sometimes it shows up at obvious times like a holiday. Other times you're standing in the freezer section at the local Piggly Wiggly completely frantic with some overwhelming emotion because a box of popsicles triggered something within you and you can't breathe and you can't think and your baby died and your eyes are wide and you can't figure how to get out of the stupid store and why did this have to happen to you? What did you do to deserve this?

Frantic shows up a lot. Enough years pass and one day your arms are strong enough to hold Frantic at bay for a bit until you can actually get in your car and process. (That's another thing mothers of heaven-children become well acquainted with: learning how to process.)

Anyway. It was Christmas. I was frantic. I needed a plan to avoid jumping into that Dark Pit that was calling out to me so gently and sweetly. Come. I have a big fluffy mattress and pillows at the bottom. I have comfy blankets. It's dark so you won't have to see all those happy people. You know, the ones who get to keep their children... Dark Pits are liars. Plans to outsmart Dark Pits are necessary.

So, I hopped on my computer, conducted a Google search and created a spreadsheet that helped me pinpoint four different movies I could see in one given day without any awkward wait times.

I had the best time ever! There was hardly anyone in the entire complex until the 7:00 pm show started, and by then I had three movies under my belt.

Something happened that day that I needed. I needed to be alone. I needed to escape in a healthy way. (No alcohol. No hatred.) And I needed to not be required to be an active participant.

You see, something else happens when you lose a child. Those people around you that love you and care for you? They desperately want you to "get better." The thing is, we don't. We will always be grieving. We just learn how to make it less obvious so others feel less awkward. We still hurt. We still want to cry. We still long to physically hold our children. We still want to talk about it. But we know it bothers you. We know it's hard for you. So, we buck up and make sure that you are convinced that we are fine. And for the most part, we are. But not every single second of every single day. Whether you realize it or not? You really hold those stricken by grief to a higher standard of doing fine.

When we're not fine and we get quiet, that's when the trouble starts.

When we're quiet, you get uncomfortable. When we know we're tired and need to just sit this one out, you panic.

It's okay. We don't blame you. We know you don't have much experience in how to be friends with someone who lost their child. Nevertheless, sometimes we just need to process. Or ward off Franticness. Or sometimes it's as simple as we're just tired of smiling right now. We're not going off the deep end. We just need some time.

You're probably wondering why we just don't go to therapy. We do. I mean, most of us have. We frantically dialed a number and explained our kid just died and we're drowning and we get an appointment. But it becomes very clear very quickly which therapists understand grief and which ones learned about grief in a textbook.

Do you know how many times a mama has told me they stopped going to therapy after they realized they were holding back sharing because they knew it would upset their counselor? True fact. That's one of the first places we learn that Hard Grief is not acceptable in normal society.

Grief is hard and it is heavy and textbooks underestimate its power. If you can't be real with a certified therapist what options do you have?

I happen to have found popcorn is quite therapeutic.

There are times when I feel Frantic approaching and I know I need to get myself to a matinee. I have my boundaries: no killing, no deaths and no telling anyone I'm going before I go. Too often they want to force themselves along or convince me it isn't healthy for me to go alone.

Here's a fun fact: healthy people go to the movies alone all the time! No one looks at them with sad eyes. It's usually more in awe. I could never go to a movie by myself! That's so cool that you do that! 

We need to start looking in awe at those who struggle when they are taking healthy steps to balance themselves.

A lot of mamas without have started running. That's something deemed healthy and good. Training for a marathon gives you lots of alone time to process where you're at emotionally. But running is kind of hard. Then there's that cold, raining weather you have to contend with. And hills. And dogs that run out of yards. And gnats that accidentally get swallowed when you're gasping for breath.

At the movies, they have really comfy chairs. And popcorn. With butter.

Some mamas journal or write poetry, others garden. One mama told me she learned calligraphy because she liked how it demanded her to focus. As she got more proficient she said the repetitiveness of the strokes and the sound of her pen on the paper was soothing. Some mamas will knit or sew or bake fancy cakes to forget the stress of the moment. I go to the movies.

The key is to find what works for you and then make time to do it. Whatever it is doesn't matter, as long as it is a healthy choice and one that refreshes you.

Keep going, mama. You've got this.

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