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On Mother’s Day(s) & Estrangement

Not having addressed the emotions surrounding Mother’s day and estrangement for years here on this blog, I found myself thinking about the subject and about what to say. Or whether to write a post at all or just let the day go by post-free as I’d been doing.

I am sitting myself down here to think while I type to see what occurs to me on this day, one of the more painful days to have to get through for mothers who have been estranged. A day which also can be painful for many who are estranged from a mother with whom they had had a loving affectionate relationship prior to estrangement. What to say?

My estrangement is now 23 years long. I don’t expect it to end. While I did suffer deep grief in the first 6 to 10 years as well as other strong feelings about the loss of a relationship with a person whom I had adored, eventually I developed a thicker skin and detachment set in. Consequently, I am sure that I am in a different place emotionally than most of the visitors to my website and blog. Most who come here are likely in that place of pain and devastation over losing someone they love to estrangement and would like to find some solution that would take their relationship back to the loving relationship they once had. Or thought that they had.

I wish I could offer that solution. I wish that I had found it myself. What I’ve found is that there are many reasons for estrangement. Sometimes the reasons have more to do with the person who has decided to estrange themselves and very little to do with the person who they estranged. I concluded that it can be futile for the person who has been estranged to resolve the estrangement. That the only person who can resolve it is the person who decided to do the estranging. The person who has been estranged has a few options: One is to keep banging their head on the door of estrangement by making attempts to end it. Another is not to do that but to bury their feelings and risk becoming clinically depressed. Another is to accept the estranger’s decision and to go on with their life, living it as well as they possibly can.

Recently a friend mentioned a book that she had read and loved. I haven’t read the book but the title caught my attention: “The Knife of Never Letting Go”. The title says so much. If you never let go of an issue or a person or a thing and the situation is unresolvable, then you are at risk of being damaged by the determination to hold on.


The friend who mentioned this book has experienced a loss that was one of the most drastic that can be imagined. She has had a very hard time emotionally in the years since that loss occurred. I don’t think she will ever “get over it”. But she seems to be doing a bit better as time goes on. She obsesses about it less. She is capable of feeling happy and of going on with her life. The knife of never letting go seems to be cutting her less.

From what I can see online about the book with that title, I don’t think that the title has anything to do with family estrangements but I don’t really know. It is a fiction book that is written for the age range of teens. I didn’t mention the book so that anyone would go out and buy it. It sounds quite good. I love the title. It would be a good title for a book on estrangement or other losses but the title has been taken!

Getting back to the subject of today, Mother’s Day, and what might I offer as a suggestion for getting through the day and other days of similar significance (birthdays, other family oriented holidays). Speaking for myself and acknowledging that I am at a different place in terms of emotions than most visitors to my site, on days like this I choose doing something that I REALLY want to do. See a movie I’ve been meaning to see. Eat some food that I like a lot that I haven’t had for a while. Wear comfortable clothing. Or wear something that just makes me happy regardless of comfort. Take a nap if needed. Read a book I’ve been meaning to read. In a choice between whether to do work or not, choose not to work at least some of the day if not all. (I tend to choose work too often.) Be good to myself. Be good to others as well as yourself. Meaning be polite, kind, civil, honest and genuine. If possible, let go of that knife for the day. If not possible, grip it less tightly and not by the blade’s edge.

Wishing you a most peaceful and Happy Day!

A blog written by a grandmother denied access to her grandchildren

A mother and grandmother who posts on her own blog about family estrangement and the loss of relationships with her son and grandchildren wrote to me this week. She sent me a link to her blog for inclusion here.

I took a look and like her writing so much that I am happy to provide a link to her blog here: Family Estrangements: When grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren and have added it to the Links Page on my Estrangements.com site too.


Slate staff writer Katy Waldman's article on Narcissism: Link

Are you a Narcissist? by Slate staff writer Katy Waldman, August 2014

If you’re new to being estranged and to online discussions of the condition, you might not have experienced the word Narcissistic (with a capital N in the context of Narcissistic Personality Disorder) occurring frequently in discussions of family estrangement. If you are a longtime survivor of family estrangements, it would be hard to imagine that you have not encountered those two conditions, Narcissism and Estrangement, being mentioned as related to each other. Parents are labeled as having (or being) NPD. Kids are labeled as having (or being) NPD. It seems some days that just about anyone who gets up in the morning and thinks or says anything positive or negative about themselves must have NPD according to someone who has estranged them or is estranged by them.

Parents and adult kids in online discussion groups report being accused of pathological narcissism. Parents and adult kids regularly diagnose their respective adult kids and parents as having NPD. There are groups set up just to discuss the narcissism of parents. Oddly, since it seems that the condition of pathological narcissism would not be restricted only to those who see themselves as offspring but could be suffered by anyone, parent or adult child, there are no groups set up by and for parents specifically to discuss their experience of having offspring who are pathologically narcissistic. The reasons for that are open to speculation.

Anyway, what brings me to my blog this morning is an article that I read online about NPD by Slate staff writer Katy Waldman that I thought was worth adding a link here. She mentions a number of points that have occurred to me over the years of reading about the personality disorder of NPD and she includes links to other references on the subject too. Considering this subject is one that comes up so very frequently in relation to the condition of family estrangement, I thought it was a very appropriate and worthwhile link to share here.

Are you a Narcissist? by Slate staff writer Katy Waldman, August 2014

Baggage, baggage, and more baggage

I've been thinking a lot lately about the baggage that people carry and how people interpret who and what other people are. The series of posts I wrote about Being Wrong were motivated by my desire to get through to those who believe they are right no matter what, no matter if there is evidence that they may not be as right as they think they are. I've addressed this issue of baggage in years past and have made a permanent page link, to one post (written in May 2007) titled "On Baggage" in the left side bar.

I think that we all carry baggage but I think that when we are aware of our own baggage and our own limitations and history, we might become less likely to be so sure that we are right all of the time. If we are wrong less of the time, I can't help but think that would be a good thing. However, I am aware of my own limitations in getting this point across to strangers. So I have to accept that -- my limitations.

I have seen that there are some who have not figured out what I was trying to communicate with my posts on Being Wrong. I was trying to write on the topic without being more specific as to who or what inspired me to write as what I wanted to communicate was meant for many, not for a specific person or persons, even if the topic was motivated by the actions of a small number of people. I did not want them to feel singled out. And they are not the only ones who do the kinds of things they have done. I accept that I may not get through to anyone who believes that they are always right and that they always do the right thing even while they are being abusive.

As a result of what I have been seeing and thinking about lately, I offer the following links to the wisdom of others. I am posting the links and my reasons for offering each link.

1. I offer this link to the Shrinking Woman video because the poet addresses the issues of how women so often feel as though they must be smaller and smaller and smaller, both physically and in terms of behavior, rather than be large and make waves or complain or argue or do anything that men do. When men talk about what concerns them and make waves and stand up for themselves and share their experiences, they are seen as strong and brave. Women who do the same things are typically criticized, insulted, demeaned and called names. They are treated this way not only by men but also by women, especially by women.

2. I offer this link to a post on a blog that belongs to Danielle LaPorte because I have been told that it would be better for me to delete my blog. That I would be a happier healthier person if I deleted my blog. The reason why I have this blog is because I thought it would be appreciated by others who were experiencing estrangement to know that they were not alone in this experience. I shared my experience, not because I enjoy talking about being estranged and need to put myself out there, but because I believe that there are others like me and that they may feel alone in having this experience. When I started the website and blog there weren't the number of places online where there was information about family estrangement and there were no blogs where anyone was talking about the experience.

Yes, I could take the blog down. I have been tempted to do that but I have not given in to the temptation. I still think that the information here including my sharing of my own experience could be of help to someone. It costs me little to let it stay up. I do let my living my life take priority these days and rarely have anything to add.

3. I offer this link, Karma - Insults, which is from the blog, Quotes About Living from Doe Zantamata's "Happiness in your life" book series. I offer this link because of the baggage that causes others to do things like offer their amateur diagnoses of the people from whom they are estranged. Not everyone does this. Some people do have the opinions of mental health professionals as to what is wrong with their relative. For example, my mother really was mentally ill. She saw psychiatrists for almost sixty years and was in and out of psych wards.

4. I offer this link, Karma - Allowing change, from the same series because I believe that Zantamata offers a great truth in that quote.

5. I offer this link, Karma - Expectations, also from the Zantamata Quotes About Living, because it gives an explanation why some people find it so hard to trust that someone else doesn't have some evil agenda for why they do anything nice. Not all estranged parents and not all estranged children are people with personality disorders.

Many estranged parents and many estranged adult children are pretty much nice normal people who would be kicked out of any therapist's office in short order because they don't have anything sufficiently wrong with them for the therapist to help to resolve. And many of those who wouldn't be kicked out of a therapist's office don't have a whole lot seriously wrong with them either.

If someone can't believe that someone is a nice person no matter how nice they are, then it says more about the person who wants to believe bad things than it does about the person who is being maligned. It might not say bad things about the person who is believing untrue things but it does say something about them.

Someone can be a good person and still believe untruths. This is what inspired me to write about Being Wrong. Because I believe that many good people believe bad things about other good people who don't deserve being so maligned. After all, it is said that you have to demonize someone before you can hate them. It's a lot harder to dislike and hate someone who really is a nice enough person. So, to estrange them successfully, it helps to demonize, demonize, demonize!!

I recognize that I likely have not made much headway in making that point about baggage. I hope that somewhere out there my point is clear to someone. Or if not now, some day perhaps.


Family estrangement in photographs

I am reading estrangement into the action taken on old photographs.

They say a photograph is worth 1,000 words.

The photo above is a carte de visite (cdv) from the early 1870's. The mother's face was scratched out in the negative prior to the image being printed. It would have been scratched out by the photographer himself. Perhaps she was his wife whose face he never wanted to see again. The photo becomes an iconic image of estrangement.

I imagine that she was once loved and that the person who had loved her must have been the same person who scratched her face out of the negative before printing what may have been the only image of their child. (Why else would someone print an image that they had damaged in tis way?)

Here's another one, a tintype from the 1860's to 1870's. Like the cdv, the mother's face was scratched out by the person who made the tintype.
I doubt that they were able to forget the person with as much success as they removed their faces from the photographs.


Next Post will be by Guest Poster Topiarystepmom!

The next Post will be by my first invited Guest Poster, Topiarystepmom!

Topiarystepmom is the founder of the Parents Who Walk Away (PWWA) discussion group on the DailyStrength.org site. She founded PWWA in October 2011 and the group now has 232 members. She has had four decades of serial estrangement experience.

She is the first invited Guest Poster to my blog. I have told her that she can write on any topic that she chooses. So the upcoming post will be as new to me as it is to you!


Note to estranged daughter

As you know, I can see the many many visits that you've been making to my blog. I also can see from the source of some links that bring you and others to my blog that you've written a post which has a title that references my taking three years to write something and the last word that I can see in that title on my statistics counter is "you" which likely means "me".

I am taking a moment here to let you know that I did not write my posts on Being Wrong as being about you or meant for you or directed to you. I wrote those posts because the book and the topic brought up many thoughts about our ability to make errors, our ability to be wrong. I felt compelled to write about it. If you did not exist, I would still have felt compelled to write that.

I see that you continue to be obsessed with my blog. I do not visit your blog. I do not monitor it. I am not going to read the post that you wrote. I leave you and your blog in peace. I wish that you would leave me in peace. While I hope that life is going well for you and I will always care about you even though we are estranged, I do not want to have anything to do with you. I would appreciate it if you would stop visiting my blog.

If I take three years or ten years or two days to write about something that I am thinking about, it is none of your business. I mind my own business. How about you minding more of yours and less of mine!

Any posts that I write here are not about you and are not directed to you. Please go away. It would be great if we could at least have a peaceful estrangement.

Take care,


Being Wrong: Part Six

I woke up this morning and realized that I was not finished yet in talking about Being Wrong. There is another important question that we can ask ourselves as we examine our ability to be wrong and how our errors impact ourselves and others. Going back to the description of what occurred between Carol and Tim in Part Five of this series, what if we are Tim? What if we are wrong about someone? What if we are seeing someone through some very dark filter?

I don't know why Tim saw Carol the way that he saw her. I doubt that Tim could give me a good reason if I asked him. I suspect that Tim doesn't know the answer. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if Tim always sees Carol that way and never changes his mind. But I do know that sometimes the Tims of the world go through a transformation and lose that dark filter through which they had been seeing someone that they had spent years disliking, fearing, and even hating. Claiborne Paul Ellis did it. I've done it myself when I've gone from having a deep dislike of someone to becoming very good friends with them.

Continue reading "Being Wrong: Part Six" »

Being Wrong: Part 5

That sure was a long seven days since I last posted an entry on this topic of being wrong! That delay occurred despite my best intentions to do what I said that I was going to do. It has been difficult for me to finish this piece. My goal is to make a point but I want to make the point in a particular way. I want to make a point about us all as humans and about our human nature. I am not saying that I am somehow free from being wrong as I am not. That is part of the point too.

I was inspired to write on the subject of being wrong by several things. They are as follows: the book: Being Wrong, Adventures in the Margin of Error, my reading of numerous blogs and discussion groups on the experience of family estrangement, my personal experience with being wrong, and my observations of events in the lives and relationships of friends and acquaintances and in my own life.

Continue reading "Being Wrong: Part 5" »

Being Wrong, Part 4: How is it that sometimes we choose the wrong answer?

Funny how things change. In that first post on Being Wrong that I wrote in May 2011, I talked about a couple that I knew, "Bob" and "Janice" and how I had gone from initially disliking them a lot to becoming good friends with them. I was using that transformation as an example of how I felt I had been wrong about them and that I thought I had been unfair. Since I wrote that post, Bob and Janice both did things that felt so unfair that I made some important decisions later in 2011 due to their actions. I make a brief reference to what the wife did in my New Year's Resolutions post of January 5, 2012.


Being Wrong, Post #3: When you're just plain wrong.

Over a year ago I wrote two posts on the subject of "Being Wrong" inspired by a book titled "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" by Kathryn Schulz. I said that I would write more on the subject of being wrong but till now, I hadn't written another word. However, I continue to think about the subject a lot.

I hadn't written more since then for several reasons. One was that I felt that the topic was so important that I felt overwhelmed by it, afraid that I wouldn't be able to express my thoughts well enough to give it justice. I have been so busy with the usual sorts of things that go into living a life that I haven't felt as though I had the time to sit down, look through the book again, gather the threads of my thoughts on the subject, and put it all together in a coherent post. I've been so busy that when I had down time, I didn't want to spend it on putting together my thoughts on why that book had impressed me so much. Impressed is not the right word but it is the best one that I can come up with at this moment. I have thought about the subject of "being wrong" again and again. Things that happen in my life remind me of what I read in this book. The things that I see myself and other people doing remind me of this book.

Late last year for example I began hearing about the movie Hugo. I heard about the plot line and I thought that it was odd that nowhere was it mentioned that there had been an animated movie that was based on the very same plot line. That seemed unfair. Every time I heard about the movie Hugo, I had these images in my head from the animated movie. I could see the scenes, remember what the characters looked like. I could remember what they did and said. I thought it was outrageous that no one was mentioning that fantastic animated movie. I spoke about it with my husband and he said that he remembered the movie too. Although he might have recalled seeing the movie after I had kept talking about it for a while. He did not remember the movie's name or where we had seen it.

I thought that Scorsese had ripped off the plot lines, character and story of the animated movie that I remembered and I was so puzzled that no one else was mentioning this obvious ripoff. I did online searches for the animation version and could not find it. It was such a cool movie that I couldn't imagine that it wouldn't be in the online databases of movies.

Then I had an epiphany! It was not a movie that I had seen. Even though I remembered the scenes of the animation vividly in my mind, it was not a movie that I was remembering! It was the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret that I had read and was remembering as though it was an animated movie! There had never been an animated movie that existed before the movie Hugo! My memory was entirely incorrect! I had seen the book on which the movie was based before the movie was made. That person who had the book had recommended it to me and had lent it to me. I had read it and returned the book to them. All the pictures in the book and the story line had combined together in my memory so that I was remembering it as a movie!

I was stunned to realize how deceived I had been by my memory. Not only stunned by that but also stunned to realize that my own account of having seen a movie that didn't exist had influenced my husband to believe that he had seen the movie too! He hadn't even read the book!

It was a perfect example of feeling "right" but being wrong about something. Absolutely unarguably wrong. Both of us were wrong. When I recognized the untruthfulness of my memory, I thought back on Schulz's book, Being Wrong, and how this experience of remembering something that had never happened fit so perfectly with what is talked about in the book. People do this all the time. They believe that they are right even when they are absolutely wrong. It happens all the time. We don't like to think that we are capable of being 100% wrong but sometimes we are, no matter how much we'd like think that it doesn't happen.

I've been collecting examples of that experience in my own life. There are a lot more than one. It teaches me humility among other things. It teaches me how others can do the same things as I do. That book talks about these kinds of experiences.

Generally we don't go around thinking about the times that we are wrong, whether we are wrong now, whether we've been wrong in the past, why we are sometimes so wrong, and what might we do so that we can be less wrong.

Why is it important to know if we are right or wrong? Why give the subject any space in our minds? I know I am stating the obvious when I say that being right or wrong can have serious consequences in our personal lives and in our culture. If the worst thing that I've ever been wrong about was whether I'd seen a movie or not, I'd be fortunate. More serious consequences involve decisions that we make in our lives regarding relationships, politics, guilt or innocence, issues of fairness, whether our decisions and acts are perpetrating good or evil. It is entirely possible to be on the wrong side of a line while believing that we are entirely in the right. It is possible to commit abuse and believe that we are doing the right thing. That is what struck me about the writings in that book. How abuse is committed in the name of doing the right thing.

I will write more on this subject and I promise that I won't procrastinate for over a year before writing that next post. I have too many thoughts on the subject of Being Wrong to express them in two or three posts. I intend to write another post on the subject within the next week. Stating a timeline might help me to get this next post written.

Wishing you all less of being wrong and more of being right and if you've made errors, please know that we all make them!


On New Year's resolutions & happiness: posts on the E-stranged blog

As the new year begins, some of us make resolutions. I visited Fiona McColl's E-stranged blog this week and found two superb posts that she wrote that resonate with me and that I am linking below along with the thoughts that those posts inspire. The first linked post is on her New Year's resolution. The second is on the pursuit of happiness.

Care Less, a post written by Fiona McColl on her blog E-stranged. January 3, 2012

Emotions being what they are (in other words difficult creatures to control) the goal of caring less may seem daunting. It might make it easier if you can give yourself permission to care less. Many of us feel as though caring less would be a terrible thing to do but when you are in the habit of caring more than is good for you, caring less can be freeing. It is okay to care less. Unless you are the sort of person who never cared at all and then, if you are, the concept of caring less is not something you are going to be making any New Year's resolutions about and you are probably wondering why someone would even write such a post!

The Pursuit of Happiness, a post written by Fiona McColl on E-stranged, January 5, 2012

This post resonated with me as I found myself in a situation as a volunteer where I had misplaced my priorities and was putting an organization's needs as a higher priority than my own personal, family and business needs. I knew this but was having a hard time figuring out what to do about it. And then someone who is inextricably involved in that organization treated me badly. She chose a day that was particularly awful to do that to me as it was a day that I and others had worked really hard to make successful.

The last thing that I or anyone involved needed on that day was to be treated badly. After that, I had the choice of continuing to keep that organization at the top of my priority list or let them find someone else to take over my volunteer work. If I stayed, I would be forced to interact with the person who had treated me horribly. If I stayed, I would be continuing to put the organization's needs higher than my own. If I stayed, I would be in a situation that was getting worse despite the input and warnings from myself and others. Or I could let it go, choose to be happier doing more of the things I needed to do for myself and my husband, and let them find another volunteer. I am choosing happiness. I resigned. That was a bit of a shock to them but my friends are still my friends and it may all work out for the best in the long run anyway. It wasn't reasonable to expect someone to do as much work as I was doing as a volunteer. Organizations will take whatever you offer, even if it is more than you can afford to give.

I am giving them some opportunity to find someone else before I am completely out of there. So I am still doing work for them but not giving it my all any more. I am looking forward to being out.

I am a little bit worried that I won't have the strength to get myself completely out. It will be one more learning experience for me to extricate myself. I guess the worst that can happen as far as I am concerned is that I might continue to do some things for them that I particularly enjoy doing. And do those things at a pace and time frame that doesn't conflict with other things that are more important.

Going back to Fiona's "Care Less" post, I wish that I could care a lot less when I put myself in this kind of situation. For the future, I know myself better now and I intend to be far more cautious when offering my services as a volunteer. It is not happiness when I have no time for my own things but only time for others. Volunteering is a good thing which I like to do but, like so many things, it can take up 100% of my time if I let it.

I feel sure that my life experiences had a lot to do with how I ended up doing too much of a good thing for a good cause to the point that it was not good for me. I am aware of that. I know it is up to me to make decisions that are healthier so that I don't find myself in that same kind of situation again. Now I see "red flags" in certain situations that I might have jumped into too quickly. I see other people putting themselves into tough situations. I don't try to talk them out of what they are doing because it isn't any of my business and they would not appreciate my butting in but seeing them do the same kinds of things that I have done makes me realize that it isn't just me who does these things. A lot of us do them and then eventually we figure out where we've gotten out of balance with what we're doing and how to get back on track. And then allow ourselves to make decisions that let us live happier lives.

Happy New Year everyone!


Christopher Hitchens Article on Estrangement, Vanity Fair, 2005

The writer Christopher Hitchens has died. I've spent much of my day so far reading obituaries about him and watching videos of him on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Among the many words written by and about him, I found an article by Hitchens on the estrangements that occur between siblings. It is titled: "Oh Brother, Why Art Thou" and was written in 2005. He had been estranged from his brother, Peter Hitchens. They eventually reconciled.

Here is the link to the article:

"Oh Brother, Why Art Thou?" by Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair, May 16, 2005

and here is a link to today's post by Peter Hitchens on the death of his brother:

By Peter Hitchens, December 16, 2011: In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

and a link to an earlier post by Peter Hitchens on the relationship with his brother and their eventual reconciliation:

"How I found God and peace with my atheist brother" by Peter Hitchens, March 11, 2010

More on the subject of "Being Wrong"

I've been wanting to write more on the subject of "Being Wrong" but have been having trouble finding the time to sit down, organize my thoughts, and write up a coherent post on the subject. I have too many projects going on that need my attention. So I will make do with writing some smaller additional posts on this topic as I find time to do them rather than try to find that larger space of time to write that I would prefer. That larger space of time just isn't happening!

I think of this subject of "Being Wrong" quite often lately while I am doing other things. My husband and I watch The Bachelorette. A week ago we watched with dismay the treatment of the current bachelorette, Ashley, by the narcissistic meanspirited jerk, Bentley. Ashley was unaware of his comments shown on TV during the program of how much he did not like her, was not interested in her, and how much he apparently enjoyed putting one over on her. Ashley was enamored of him. He had her fooled. She was wrong about him. He did not love her, was not attracted to her, and was getting off on fooling her and messing with her head. A true charmer he was not. She was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was painful to watch her reaction to his untrue explanation of why he was leaving the show.

I was imagining how horrified her family must have been to see her tears and then this dude preening over his managing to deceive her. I think through his behavior he exemplifies the word "cad". For some reason Ashley did not see through his deception. How many of us would? We might tell ourselves that we would see it but how often in life are we faced with someone like that?

This kind of person is not encountered that often except perhaps in certain kinds of professions. (Like criminal professions?) Interestingly his profession involves money which does seem to attract a certain type of personality. Which is one reason why the global financial crisis has occurred as there were too many personalities who didn't give a damn about anyone else and who were involved in decision making at the top of companies involved in money management.

People who care only about themselves are not good people to get involved with. When you can see them coming and protect yourself, it is a good thing. They should have a class in school when we're growing up that is on the subject of the identification of the soulless people in life who will walk on you with track shoes for their own enjoyment. We don't expect to encounter this kind of sucky behavior from most people. So they pop up when we least expect it and surprise us.

Most of the time when people are nice to us, we think that they like us and that we might enjoy spending time with them. So it's a shock when we notice that our hearts are stolen or our wallets or the global and/or national economy. We don't see it coming unless we're watching for it and we aren't trained to be that cynical about people.

We usually expect that the people who will do rotten things will look a bit rotten on the outside or smell bad or that deception will show on their face. We don't expect that it is someone who will hug you when you're crying. Then we find out that they laugh behind your back at your tears. How enormously painful to be hurt by someone that you liked and maybe loved.

More  on this subject when I find the next bit of time to write.


Family Estrangement: "Being Wrong": The Book, the Experience

I finished reading the book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, on May 20, the day before the day predicted by Harold Camping for the much ballyhooed Rapture that didn't happen. What I learned, among many other interesting things, from the book was that in the nineteenth century there was a man, William Miller, who had set the date of October 22, 1844 at the day when the world would end and judgment would occur. That became known as the Great Disappointment. Funny how people are that they would be disappointed that the world did not end. Things must not have been going too well for them or for their twenty-first century spiritual kin that they would find survival in this world to be such a disappointment.

I was interested in reading the book, Being Wrong, because I personally have needed to cope with being wrong at times and also with others being wrong. The issues that I find so interesting about the condition of "being wrong" encompass a number of areas in life including the need to be right, the resistance to being inaccurate and/or wrong, the absolute denial of being wrong despite evidence to the contrary, perfectionism and its role in determining rightness or wrongness, political issues, religious issues, romantic issues, memory, psychology, culture, society. Kathryn Schulz, the author of "Being Wrong", attempts to cover most of these issues.

For me this was not light reading. It took me a while to get through this thought provoking book. It provided me with some answers for how it can be that people decide that an idea or a course of action is the right course of action and ignore evidence that indicates that they might be incorrect. As I read this book I remembered decisions and ideas that I had had in the past that I later changed my mind about.

Some specific memories that I have where I ended up changing my mind are ones that relate to my disliking certain people. I remember that in 2003 I met a woman for whom I developed a strong dislike. I considered her to be unfriendly, cold, haughty, aloof, and rigid. I was involved in working with a group of people that included her. She held a prominent post in that group. I disliked her a lot. I'll refer to her as Geraldine.

At that same time there was a married couple in that same group that I also disliked. I had been hearing negative things about them from others. I had heard that they were controlling. Both were described in many negative ways. I met them after having heard these things and I was ready to dislike them. The chip was already on my shoulder when it came to them. I'll refer to them as Bob and Janice.

I saw the things that they did through the filter of my dislike. So I saw them as controlling, incapable of warmth, mean, uncaring, authoritarian, and even foolish and stupid. I had to work with them but I wasn't willing to give them any benefit of the doubt. I felt antagonistic towards them. In retrospect I cringe at how I talked about them to others and how I thought about them at that time.

It took a while for me to see Geraldine, Bob and Janice in a different light. To put it in a different way, it took a while for me to see the light. The light being that they were and are all hard working intelligent nice people who give of themselves to benefit others and who deserved my respect, admiration, and friendship, not my enmity or my hostile negative thoughts and feelings. Why had I started out with such a wrongheaded assessment of them? I ask myself that. Why had I been so unfair?

Similar things have happened where I have thought that certain people were quite wonderful and then they turned out to be untrustworthy, dishonest, out for themselves alone and screw everyone else. I can be so very wrong at times that I scare myself!

In the case of Bob and Janice, I had allowed the statements of others whose opinions I trusted at that time to influence my feelings about Bob and Janice. The more I worked with and spoke with Bob and Janice, the more I liked them. I was puzzled about this. Every time I got off the phone with Janice, I felt surprised by how much I had enjoyed speaking with her. The more I spoke with her husband, the more I liked him. My husband liked him too and my husband is a pretty good judge of people.

It took me a couple of years but I eventually needed to admit to myself that I thought that my other friends were wrong and that Bob and Janice were terrific people who did not deserve what had been said about them. I even realized that one of the people who had been the most negative about Janice was very much like Janice in her personality. Perhaps, since both are somewhat take charge people who spend a lot of time doing things for others, their similar personalities had resulted in a collision of personalities rather than a positive experience. I can't find a good explanation for why my friend disliked Janice so much except that maybe it is impossible to have two women like that in the same room? I know that I have ended up liking Janice quite a bit and liking my other friend somewhat less because she has done so much badmouthing of Janice that I haven't found any evidence was deserved. By doing that, she was doing damage not only to Janice but also to a very good organization that is set up to help the local community. For a time I was guilty of this same thing because I had also said negative things that were unfair. Since then I hope that I have set things right through my change in attitude and loyalties. Since then I have become a defender of Bob and Janice when I hear unfair things said about them.

My feelings towards Geraldine also changed as I got to know her. I learned more about her personal life and how much she devoted of her time and energy to the organization which we both support. My theories of how unfriendly she was and how aloof fell by the wayside. I learned how to get along with her when she was upset. I contradicted her at times and we both survived. We both made each other laugh. We both felt grief over losses in our lives. We both cared deeply about many of the same things. We were both deeply invested in the same goals that result in helping an organization move forward that helps a community. I developed a respect for her creativity and her devotion to what she cared about. I grew to like her a lot which was quite a surprise to me after my initial reaction to her. I admitted to myself that I had been wrong about her. She was not the unfriendly haughty beast I once thought she was. She was a caring generous human being. She did not deserve the opinion I once had had of her. I had been wrong.

Thus I approached the book, Being Wrong, with my memories of the times that I have been wrong, my observations of when others think and do things that also seem to be wrong,  and my desire to understand how it is that we as human beings can cling to our wrongheaded beliefs no matter that there is evidence that we are indeed wrong.

More on this later. I think this is going to end up being a longer piece of writing than I had anticipated initially. I thought it would be only one post's worth of writing lengthwise. You could say that I was, yet again, wrong!


Being estranged and letting petty stuff get to us.

I've been estranged for a long time now. Life does go on. I am busy with my life but occasionally, like yesterday, something occurs that is really no big deal. It's petty. I don't have to react. Up till yesterday I did not react to that thing. I know that is better for me not to let little things like that get to me.

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How dumb & crazy would I have to be to do that?

Or maybe the title of this post could be "People who are never ever wrong".

I used to have a rather close relationship with someone who could never be wrong. It was crazymaking. In the middle of an argument, he'd change his position to mine as though it was his own all along rather than admit that his original position was not correct. He'd do this when his own position became difficult to defend. Do you know someone like this? It is crazymaking. Not everyone is like this.

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Why don’t I write regularly here any more?

You might wonder why, if I went to the trouble of setting up a website and a blog, I haven’t been writing about estrangement for a long time now. I’ve been thinking of how to explain that. I have been asked that question by a few visitors and I have responded to them. If you are among those who visit and wonder about the lack of fresh new posts, this post is my answer to that question.

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Altruism as an antidote to what ails us: Cami Walker's solution

Outside of what I wrote in my Guidelines for how to cope with being estranged I don't have any great answers on what to do about estrangements. But sometimes I see something written that rings a bell for me about things that have helped me. I saw an article like that the other day in the New York Times online.

Something that has helped me is to get involved in helping other people. In fact I do that a lot. Sometimes I do it so much that I don't have time to get other things done. So be warned! But it is a great way to get your brain going in a different direction and removing all the worries and preoccupations about things you can do nothing about. Also, you will make new friends and develop a whole new set of things to do that you never thought of doing before!

The article that I found was along the lines of curing what ails you by taking your viewpoint off of yourself and directing it outward towards the world. The article is about what one woman did and learned after she was told that she had multiple sclerosis. I think that the words "multiple sclerosis" would be mighty scary words to hear!

This is what Cami Walker did: In Month of Giving, a Healthy Reward by Tara Parker-Pope, Nov. 30, 2009.

That link is my gift to you today. Use it well!

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday season,


A small piece of the past revisited

It's been a long time since I wrote a post that talked about estrangement. It is almost a year since the dialogue begun on May 12, 2008 that I had with my estranged daughter in the comment section of a post on here. One point of contention for her was whether I would mention certain things or not in my blog. I would not agree to what she wanted from me but I knew it was a sensitive point so in my own heart and mind I had decided not to write about those issues unless I had a good reason to do so. Since May of 2008 I have not mentioned those issues here.

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Q&A on Writing and Coping with Estrangement & the Holidays

A reader asked me a question recently. She asked if I had any tips for dealing with the holidays. Another reader asked if I had stopped writing on my blog. I've been thinking about the answers to both of these questions.

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Triple Crown Winner: A Horse Named Addiction

This is the second attempt to write about my father for this Father's Day post. I thought of writing about how imperfect he was and how I had not estranged him. I started to write and talk about the negative things. I wrote two paragraphs and had to stop and delete them. I couldn't do it.

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