“I know you’re not crazy,” Luca’s therapist at wilderness camp said to me during our phone conversation yesterday. “And when Luca goes to boarding school, I’ll tell the next therapist you’re not crazy, and that you need to be involved in Luca’s treatment, despite what his dad says.”
Although our latest custody order states that Prince has sole-decision-making power over schools and mental health treatment for Luca, we technically still share legal custody and Prince is not supposed to do anything to obstruct my participation in Luca’s therapy. However, he has done just that.
According to Luca’s therapist, Prince has claimed that I am “out of the picture.” I’m nuts, and dangerous.
Which is why I will spend the next few years faxing the custody order to schools and therapists, taking pains to appear extra-sane while I explain that I did not “lose custody” because I’m a whack job, that in fact Luca had been with me the majority of time until he was 13 years old, and that I only agreed to give Prince major decision-making power because I no longer had the funds or stamina to keep fighting.
As the therapist went on about how he’s told Prince he needs to be on the same page with me, and that he’s hurting Luca by trying to chisel me out of his life, I sunk in my chair and felt about a 150 years old.
Prince is not going to have an epiphany. Not ever. He’s not going to wake up one morning and think, you know, I’ve been just lousy to Pauline, but I’m over it now, so I’m going to turn over a new leaf!
Prince is a man who is never satisfied. Since gaining decision-making power and no longer having to pay any child support, he has gone even further ’round the bend into the valley of vitriol. In one recent Our Family Wizard e-mail, he threatened to take me to court because he insisted that I have to drop off Franny to him on his timeshare Tuesday during the summer–but not the school year. When I reminded him that I work full-time and my babysitter was leaving at 3–because I thought he was picking up Franny from me at that time–but could drop her off then, he said that I was still violating the court order if I did not keep Franny till 5:30.
It was not worth the fight. I paid my babysitter for an extra two-and-a-half hours and had her take Franny to her dad’s house.
Prince’s response? Another e-mail excoriating Atticus for being a terrible stepfather. A sentiment which I imagine he is sharing with my kids.
I awoke this morning all racing-hearted and heavy-limbed, feeling slightly deranged. I imagined being at Luca’s wedding, and wondered what role I would have in it, or if I would even be invited. I imagined Franny’s nuptials, and the strain she will feel juggling a mother-in-law, Prince and me.
On days like this, I struggle to keep my head above codependent waters, the seductive current that tries to suck me down, whispering, if you’d just done x, Prince wouldn’t have done y, maybe if you try a, he wouldn’t do c. When I start thinking that there is anything anybody can do to control what Prince does, I know I need to do something fast to keep myself from becoming completely batty.
So I surfed the net for some Anne Lamott quotes this morning. For those of you unfamiliar with her, Anne Lamott is the Patron Saint for Unraveled Souls. She writes hysterical prose about spending much of her life unabashedly addicted to booze, cocaine and bad men, wracked with regret and envy, yet also blessed with recovery, intermittent grace and after years of struggle, a lucrative writing career. She is laugh-out loud funny, nakedly honest, and uniquely inspirational. She is my version of vespers, rosary beads and mantras.
Here is what she said to me this morning:
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.”
When it comes to Prince, I have only two options. I can either make myself crazy trying to get him to treat me like I’m not crazy, or I can accept that I cannot change what he thinks about me. While I wouldn’t totally rule out crazy, for today I choose acceptance.
What about you? What tricks do you have for managing crazy-making people in your life…preferably tricks that don’t get you arrested?
not taking calls, saving emails until I am ready to read them, and bald-facedly lying about unimportant details when requested to make changes to my custody schedule that I don’t want to accomodate, instead of feeling guilty and that if I were a good mother, I would want that extra time with my kids, and NOT believing that if I give something or make some compromise now, I wil be repaid later, or thought of as a good eprson, instead of the terrible eprson he seems to think I am and I avhe no control over
Damn what an insane and overwhelming struggle.
I reduce contact as much as possible with the crazy-makers. For instance, I reduce talk with the Ex to pretty much emails and texts only. Phone calls are SUPER rare. I have a folder for his emails that I just move them over to as quickly as possible.
Also, I really really really really try and remember that the only person who has the ability to make me crazy is ME. This is the tough one but I’m really seeing this evolve in my life lately.
What I mean is, our life is nothing but a series of events that are painted by stories our minds tell us. It’s our mind’s stories that make us crazy (or super happy or nonchalant or whatever). Actions are merely actions until we attach them to thoughts. It’s up to us to stop the stories, the thoughts. In your case, for instance, you could have an experience like the one you had with the counselor and then continue to think what you did OR you could think that you know what it’s going to take to be active in Luca’s life and it means faxes and talking and meeting with people and it’s work you look forward to doing because it keeps you in Luca’s life.
To go even further, you’re the one who decides to continue to extend the story of your thoughts and project into the future. Why imagine the future at all? And if so, why imagine something that may be awkward or hurtful? Do I make sense?
Honestly this has lately been the most effective thing for me. It’s just hard to keep myself remembering– an action is just an action. I decide what it’s story becomes.
William Belle says
Acceptance. Ah, so difficult when you feel like wringing somebody’s neck. Anne Lamott sounds interesting. I shall look her up.
I found this (anonymous) quote the other day:
I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to worth it.
Excellent advice, Emily!
Very sane, what you said.
I have found the strength to disengage from my mother (who is like Prince to a lesser degree, since the lacks the funds to wield complete power over her subjects). After the birth of my first child, I realized that I didn’t understand her brand of parenting and a power struggle ensued. She tried to regain it, and I retreated from it. Completely passive-aggressive, but it was effective. When I was pregnant with my second, she was completely unsupportive, and while I was in a very, very long labor (almost 48 hours with no drugs!), she decided to pick a fight with me about my biological father with whom (thanks to her effective parental alienation tactics), I had very little contact with throughout my childhood. He had become a very active grandfather to my first baby, and was at my house laboring with me for my second. She was very angry that he was present and assisting, and had the nerve to tell me that I was selfish! My ‘baby’ turned one a few months ago, and while she has been invited to life event celebrations (christening, birthday party), she has not been invited to participate in my life. At least she brought out enough crazy for everyone else in my life to realize what I had been up against for 35+ years. Pauline, maybe, just maybe in 20 years, you will be with Luca and Prince will be looking from the other side, trying to lie and manipulate his way back in. I hope, upon all hopes that it will happen sooner than that.
So I am now able to disengage, and look at her, I can see her for the person she really is. To answer the question in your post…I choose acceptance. Most of the time.
Beautiful and hopeful. Thank you.
Mikalee Byerman says
The tried-and-true tricks I’ve discovered that help get me through situations with the crazy-makers?
1. Disengagement as much as possible.
2. Finding humor and joy in the small stuff.
But then again, you already do these things — so no tricks here!
I can so relate to this post, Pauline. Early on in my divorce, my ex and his wife were telling so many people that I was crazy … that a very small part of me may have started believing, had I not taken steps to protect myself. Meeting my boyfriend (who has witnessed the crazy-makers and their antics daily for 2+years now), and finding encouragement from others (through my writing, mostly) has been so instrumental in my ability to see the situation for what it really is…
Thank GOD for perspective. And speaking of, I’m digging Anne Lemott’s quotes.
Ok, I love Annie Lamott. She’s wise and hilarious.
I have a crazy stepmother who does often dangerous things with my daughter (driving drunk, anyone?). She has a man eating 120 pound dog who scares the hell out of me (and menaces my daughter). I don’t think she means to do questionable things, but her version of reality is not mine. I once watched her discuss the series “The Borgias” and gay marriage with my sister’s strict catholic in-laws at my sister’s rehearsal dinner. It wasn’t going too well. My sister came running up to me and said, “Can’t you DO something about her?” At which point I replied, “You can’t control crazy.” This is what I tell myself every damn day.
And Pauline, you aren’t crazy. It’s just hard to get a grip when you’re in the grip of a crazy person.
Thanks, J — your stepmother sounds like a piece of work.
This is the quote that gets me through each and every time my ex tries to bully me or psyche me out (and he tries this every time we communicate)…“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”?-Steve Jobs
I love that quote, thanks for sharing it.
Thanks for this post. I have people in my life that try and make me think I’m crazy also – at one point when I was in counseling I asked the therapist, “Is it me? Am I the crazy one?” and she assured me that no, I am not the crazy one. Hang in there, I’ve been following your story for a while and you are a good and caring mom.
Great post – thanks for sharing. In dealing with my ex-wife, who has something mentally amiss, I’ve taken the path much like several others (above) have done: Don’t fight crazy with crazy, disengage, and keep doing what you know how to do best. I can’t say it’s been simple or easy. I do know that when I catch myself slipping into an emotional morass, I try to regain my balance by remembering what I am in control of, and what I can do to make a difference – as little as it may seem. I have a pretty intractable situation with my kids, and I have to play good offense with my oldest son’s counselor to ensure she sees me for who I am, not through the lens of a angry, vindictive ex-spouse.
People have told me that when your kids get old enough, they’ll be able to see the “crazy” for themselves. I sure hope that’s the case for you, me and any other divorced parent trying to survive each day. Best of luck & many blessings.
Thank you for lovely comment, DT. It’s amazing what so many of us have to deal with, and it’s so sad for the kids. I do know of cases where the kids figure out the “crazy” — it happened with my stepson. So there’s hope!