Forgive us our trespasses

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT works a second job, part-time at a small compounding pharmacy. The owner of the pharmacy is generous enough to treat his employees to a nice dinner around the holidays, his way of expressing appreciation for all they do. We were having a fine time Saturday night. People had a few drinks. Dessert had already been served, things were winding down. I couldn’t really hear much from the other end of the table, it was so noisy, but then it happened. The husband of one of the employees, started making fun of someone with Tourette’s. This guy is generally the life of the party, joking around; he has people in stitches with his stories.

I don’t know how it started, but he was suddenly mimicking the tics of a grown person with Tourette’s, someone that he knows. Like he was doing a comedy impression. It went on for a bit. Then he talked about how the guy he knows, with the Tourette’s, was abused as a child, insinuating this caused the tics, or made them worse.

I waited for my husband to say something.

He didn’t.

The man quickly shifted his topic to being a (his words) “deplorable” Trump supporter. He was loud and proud about it.

I looked at Todd and what I told him with my eyes was IT IS TIME TO LEAVE.

We got up and walked to the other end of the table, to the owner of the pharmacy, who seemed so happy to have everyone gathered. As we said our good-byes I stood inches away from the “deplorable,” and had a vision of flicking him in the head as we walked past. That vision seriously came to my mind. What would happen if I just picked up a cloth napkin off the table, and twirled it tight and snapped him in the head with it, like a towel in a locker room?

We stood outside the restaurant waiting for the valet, our eyes met and HT said, “What?”

“You know what! How could you not say something? Were you expecting me to handle it? These are YOUR people.”

“Do you want me to go back in?” he asked.

I glared at him.

The valet pulled up with our car.

Taking out my phone I pulled up a photo of our son. The one with tics. The one that can suddenly, overnight, look like he has Tourette’s when a virus or bacteria causes his immune system to over-react and attack the movement area of his brain.

Shoving the photo in HT’s face I asked, “Don’t you feel kinda like you just betrayed your child?”

Eternity went by in his one-second pause. He bowed his head and replied quietly,

“Yes. I do.”

His willingness in that moment to be honest and vulnerable, turned the ship around. Had he gotten defensive it would have been so much worse.

It was a long, 45 minute drive home, and we fought some more, (with me texting a friend for support behind his back) but the edge was off. We were getting back on the same team. Once home, around 11PM, we walked the dogs, and we talked more. I acknowledged that this was a big night for his boss. And that confronting the “deplorable” would have ruined it, especially so late in the evening when there wouldn’t be time to recover the mood. HT said he would address the woman who’s husband caused the scene, and tell her how hurtful it was, when he saw her on Monday. Not that it’s her fault, what her husband says, but she was giggling along with it, and so were some others. I forgave him for not knowing what to do in the moment. The truth is, I didn’t quite know what to do either. I was stunned.

While I was glad he planned on talking to his co-workers, I felt the need to say some things too, as a mother. I wrote an email, describing who our son is, and what his struggles have been. I attached photos of how little he was when his PANS started, and photos of him now, because I wanted them to see his face. I wanted them to know that making fun of someone for something they can’t control is ignorant and cruel. I sent it to HT’s boss asking him to forward it to everyone that had been there. I hoped that even if the “deplorable” didn’t take my message to heart, maybe someone else in the group would. Maybe it would be an opportunity for learning.

Driving to teach a yoga class the next morning, I thought about times I have inadvertently offended someone. When you know better you do better, and there have been times in my life where I didn’t know better yet. Maybe he didn’t know better. While I feel it was the right thing to do, to address this, I also have to look into my own heart and know, without a doubt, that I have been on the other side of this equation. And undoubtedly, there have been occasions I’ve offended people without even knowing it.

This passage from The Lord’s Prayer said over and over in my childhood, my grandmother’s voice, with mine mumbling underneath it in church,…and said every night at bedtime prayers…..repeated in my mind,

Forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT’s boss called the next day to apologize for not setting the tone at the dinner. The “deplorable’s” wife apologized via email and in person to HT on Monday. Another colleague also apologized via email, and in person.

I have gone back and forth about whether it was necessary to address this, in this way, and if I let my ego get the best of me. Could I have been a bigger person? Would it have been better to take him aside and talk to him privately at the dinner? Perhaps, but I didn’t have that presence of mind at the time, because I was upset. Because I am human. Because I was stunned. HT was too. Some people think it is cowardly not to address a person face to face, but those are usually people that have the words, right there, in the heat of the moment. They are good arguers. Quick tongues, quick on their feet. I need to think first. As a special needs parent, I’ve come to respect different learning styles, and different ways of expressing. I express through writing.

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

In the heat of the moment, I freeze and can’t talk. Or I cry. I’ve gotta feel really safe to express myself when I am upset, and I didn’t know this guy. And he didn’t seem all that safe to me.

So, that’s how it all went down.

I felt like if we didn’t address it we were betraying our child and others like him.

Trump might have won the election, but it is still my country too. I don’t want my world to be a place where making fun of people with disabilities goes unchecked.

I didn’t flick the guy in the head. For now, that’s going to have to be big enough.

The Grump Family

I have been dealing with a very bad cold since Tuesday. The kind that doesn’t allow you to sleep because so much is going in with your throat, ears, nose, sinuses, that kind of thing. Seth had it first, then Riley, then me.

It’s been hard, trying to implement this new way of eating, working like crazy in the kitchen, all while not feeling well, and also dealing with the emotions of my children who are having to get used to new food and let go of some old food favorites.

Plus, let’s not forget I too am detoxing from my sugar addiction, and I am an emotional eater and I can’t turn to the foods I love during this stressful time.

Yesterday, I was a total grouch. My kids were driving me crazy. Seth didn’t like anything I busted my butt to prepare for him. I burned my hand in the kitchen. We were going to a party, and I made sure to bring stuff my family could eat, but the whole thing filled Riley with so much anxiety. Anxiety about feeling “deprived” of what everyone else was having. Anxiety about being different. I was getting sick of hearing about it. On the way there we talked about all the kids she knows and I rattled off all of their food issues (there are plenty) and talked about how it isn’t a big deal and everyone had something they’re dealing with, and it was in one ear and out the other, her anxiety ramping up up up. I wasn’t the most patient. I  wasn’t talking it through, or validating her feelings, I was basically rolling my eyes, telling her “no one cares” if you are different, and “if you keep this up, we’re turning around and going home.”

She navigated the party quite well, with a lot of navigating on my part at the beginning, better after she got food, and with some whining at the end as we were leaving… over a box of canolis that showed up. She’s never had a cannoli, and she certainly felt like she was missing out. I convinced her that cannolis are filled with an almost cottage cheese filling and not even all that yummy. Todd mentioned how disgusting the pastry part is, practically made of lard. And for us, it is true, we’ve never really been cannoli people (Cheesecake? Now you’re talking). She felt a little better. Hey…you do what you gotta do.

We took a moonlit walk last night, after I heard the moon would be the  brightest we’d ever see in our lifetime. It was awesome, sitting there on a park bench, looking up at that beautiful moon with my husband and my sweet little kiddos.

After that, Riley was tired and very whiny getting ready for bed. Suddenly so tired she couldn’t wash her face. She started freaking about the garbage in the bathroom being full. She was teetering. Todd, who had worked at 6AM and then energizer bunnied all day, going to the store after work and then going to the party, well….he yelled at her.

It wasn’t a good loving supportive day for Riley. She is doing so well most of the time, we sometimes forget she still has autism. We forget it’s not as simple as saying, “Don’t worry about it.” If she could “not worry about it,” she certainly would. We never could have just blown off her feelings even a couple of years ago. We’d have had a major meltdown on our hands. Sometimes we forget how hard she is still working.

This morning, I snuck into her room and snuggled into her bed, wrapping my body around hers. She wiggled into me. I held her a while and then said, “Riley, I’m sorry I was so grumpy yesterday.”

Immediately she turned to me with her big beautiful eyes and said,

“I totally forgive you.”

Taboo Topics

*(image from Women on Writing).

I’ve had the honor of being featured at Women on Writing today.

I have not been writing about Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar much, because I’d been grappling with a lot of emotions around it since my first reading. I guess I still had some guilt about publishing it, seeing my father as having an illness. I had some angst about forgiveness. Was I a bad person for writing it? Was I trying to punish him? Every time I think I’ve put those questions to rest they circle around again.

Enter Bill Macy as Frank Gallagher in Showtime’s Shameless series.

Watching the series has been helpful for me. Frank is over the top, to be sure. He’s very different from my father in some ways (my dad held a job and did very hard physical labor, Frank is a “disability” junkie, looking for any way to scam the system) but there is enough of my father in him.  The part of every active addict that cares more about the substance, than about anyone he loves. The part where people are only useful for you if they feed your addiction or your ego. If not, to hell with them. Even your own children.

Thinking about my previous post on Project Forgive, I had a revelation. The man whose family was killed by a drunk driver? The one who forgave the guy who did it? He was never asked to act like it didn’t happen. He was never asked to sweep the violation under the rug. No one questions his true “forgiveness.”

I can hold deep compassion and forgiveness for my father AND I can talk about my own experience and write about it. One does not cancel out the other.

Some statistics report that one in every 12 adults in the U.S. is an alcoholic. Others show that one in three girls is sexually abused and one in 5-7 boys is sexually abused.

And you know why it continues?

Because it’s taboo. Because people are too ashamed to talk about it. Because society makes people like me feel guilty for even mentioning it.

But you know what? I am a good person. I am a loving person. I am a compassionate person. I am a forgiving person.

I am also the Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar.

And there are millions of me.

Project Forgive

I’m supporting this project.

Because I believe forgiveness is the most important thing we can do on this planet. When we look at another who bothers us and know without a doubt, that if we’d lived their life experiences, we might act the same way they are acting right now, or worse. That’s forgiveness.

It isn’t a pious act. It’s not, “Let me forgive you, lesser person, beneath me. Let me be so magnanimous.”

NO.

Forgiveness does not mean we have to hang out with someone who hurts us or continues to hurt us. It does not mean we have to trust them. It means knowing we aren’t “better” than them.

It isn’t about accepting apologies. Those are nice, but often they don’t come.

For me, sometimes the most petty of so called offenses are the hardest to forgive.

Like, the chick at yoga who was picking her toes and leaving skin on the floor? I’m having a really hard time with her. Somehow, the big ones seem more important, because so much is at stake if you hold on to that big hurt, the big hate. But the little ones will nip you to death.

Forgiveness is a muscle. You have to keep at it. There have been times when I have felt complete forgiveness, and then a new memory will arise, and emotions come up and I have to work on it again. It’s an ongoing process. It’s part of being human. Sometimes I have to forgive myself for not feeling forgiveness.

What would you do if someone dear to you lost their most precious loved ones as a result of a drunk driver? What would you do if you then found out the drunk driver was also someone dear to you? If you are film director Shawne Duperon, and you experienced the above scenario, you make a film about forgiveness.

I think this movie is going to change the world.