1. Fran Stekoll says

    Living in a Retirement Community has it’s positive and negative aspects.
    It took me time to really get to know those who moved in. I’ve been here for 25 years and had formed a small set of good friends. I’d become very active on the Home Owners Board in various capacities, one being Park Acquisiiton
    We had sent several letters to the then owners of De Anza, expressing interest in purchasing our Mobile Home Park. At that time the price was $8.75 million. We had professional men and women living here who put together donated monies to cover costs of transitioning the land from rent to own. We had secured a loan for a large portion of the cost and had promises from residents to provide the balance. We felt very good about having everything in place. Then the unexpected happened: The owners sold our Park one night with a package of other Parks all over the United States. We argued that we had first right of refusal. They responded, saying our first rights weren’t upheld legally due to their purchasing us in a package. Everyone was devastated. Some couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, had heart attacks, nervous breakdowns. When I realized that we’d all lost our equity, that we’d be forced to sign a 34 year lease allowing us to keep the same rent we had under rent control; but that when we passed away these
    so-called owners would get our homes, I too felt betrayed. Being a Social
    Services Professional, I looked in the yellow pages and sought support for all of us. I called the local Family Services Association. We arranged to have a crisis group held in the clubhouse for 6 consecutive weeks. Somehow this seemed to help those who were so distraught. I still was reeling from betrayal. But like forgiving my x-husband for straying and having a baby out of wedlock, I found it in my heart and soul to forgive the
    owners of De Anza. I knew signing that lease was a ploy, for at the time the average age was 78 and most of us wouldn’t be alive in 34 years; however
    I thought positively, and began researching options to turn this around. Today we have a De Anza Project Justice Team. Our goal is to contact the Heirs, Renters, and Owners of our Park and get information as to how much they got if sold, how much rent they’re paying, who purchased their home or if they walked away for $1. This information will be used to justify our cause and somehow seek a solution to lowering our exorbitant rents, thus allowing us to sell our homes at a decent rate. Another solution has been approved recently by a son who’s living here with his Father. He proposed an extra amount in space rent to be paid now so that when his
    Father passes, he will be on the lease for 20 years. I am hoping to follow in that capacity, putting my Daughter who is my executor, on my lease now so that she can afford to stay in my home. My recently deceased husband had
    a separate home here and unless it’s sold within the 90 day time limit, she will walk away with $1. Matt paid $350K for his home 15 years ago. It’s hard
    to forgive; but it does have its rewards. Rather than let those hard feeling eat us up and cause in some cases illnesses, it’s better to let it go. Life is too short to hold grudges.

  2. pascale says

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a deeply troubled relationship with my mother. We were constantly on opposite sides of any situation, and completely disagreed on how the other was living their life. I blamed her for being a terrible mother, being much more generous with her rage than her love and not ever accepting who I truly was.
    After the two of us became the only members left of our immediate family, the situation grew even more challenging. My mother clung to me and fought me at the same time. Everyone could see she was having mental and/or emotional issues, but she was so powerfully independent (and often violent) that no one could touch her. No one could help her.
    I work in the intersection of spiritual and psychological health. I have the experience, the tools and the desire to help so many people, providing profound life awakenings, but I could help neither my mother nor myself. We were locked in a drama that neither of us wanted to be in.
    On March 10th 2010 my mother suffered the first of several severe strokes that would leave her completely debilitated. First she lost her mind, then her body. Her fierce independence dissolved along with my ability to look away. She became my responsibility.
    Those first few months were devastating – I put my entire life on hold to be by her side. I left my daughter with her father, relinquished the responsibility for my businesses, and took over her life. It was impossible for me to see her so helpless, so I didn’t. I took on her fire and energy, and got whatever needed to be done, done. The crises came fast and frequent – there was no time to even catch my breath – but I took care of it all. Juggling the medical system, the finances, the community happened with the ease of running on a treadmill. I had found my pace, and would keep running for as long as I needed to.
    Sitting with her one day, holding her hand, the light broke through. I was finally able to feel the love I had always had for her, to understand how a hard life had toughened her to the degree that it actually broke her, to understand that, in fact, there was nothing to forgive her for. My mother had done the best she knew how. The fact that she was not able to love me the way I needed was not her problem, it was mine. I saw her as my Bodhisattva – the force from which all of my accomplishments were born. I could not have found my stand, my voice, my place in this world without the lessons I received from my mother, good and bad. I could see her suffering as the ultimate sacrifice made… for me.
    The idea spread as I realized that forgiveness is just the interim step to a true understanding of universal connection. The vast interplay of all the different forces in the world is much too great for any one of us to understand. What we view as an act requiring forgiveness must be, on another level, exactly what needed to happen. The implied superiority of being the forgiver could be nothing but the ego speaking. If we are one, then none of our actions are anything else than our own.

    She loved me; I know that. I also know she still does, although it is impossible to verify given her state. She remains in a limbo between a human existence and that which is not. Her body is still here, but I’m not sure how much of her spirit is. It is an ironic ending for someone who lived her life like a lightning bolt, with the force and fury to create and destroy. I do not claim to understand what it means that she lingers between worlds now, that she has become like an infant again. All I can do is be with her as her soul does its work.
    My mother does not deserve my forgiveness. She lived her life in the best way she knew how, which is not for me to assess or condemn. She continues to be a gift, an opportunity to express the best that I am, and I offer her my love and gratitude.

    • Fran Stekoll says

      Pascale: Your story was heart wrenching. I too,had a Mother who was unable to express love. When her body declined and I had to care for her, I became the Mother and she my daughter. Her mind did not accept this role reversal; however we had no choice. I was
      able to find a mutual friend who became our intermediary and finally brought us to the same level. Just before she passed away we were able to say “I Love You” to one another. You were right when you said she did the best she could. You are also doing that. I commend you. Don’t give up your life. She’s had hers and you deserve to have yours.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Pascale, I too have a mother that has difficulty expressing love to me. She has a habit of lying and taking my things. When I visited her and looked at the photo albums I noticed that they were one’s I had bought. She simply added some pictures of her own. She didn’t pay for the film or development or the album. It made me cry. I asked for her to return my property, but she hasn’t as of yet. I forgive her, but not the thief in her that stole my albums.

  3. says

    Forgiveness is obviously a very volatile subject. I have found it to be a powerful force in my life, but when it comes to the big violations in life, I have never set out to forgive. When it has come, it has come spontaneously, when I did not expect it, after many years of struggle and healing and holding my boundaries. I want to emphasize to those of you who are currently in the process of holding boundaries against those who have hurt or violated you, that those boundaries are essential and can make the different in enabling you to reclaim your life. In my life, I had to do that for many years, too. but in my situation, looking back 25 years later, changes have occurred in my family constellation I could never have dreamed of back then. Some relationships have never been healed; others, amazingly have been reconfigured different. I have relationships with people I never thought I’d talk to again (I wrote a whole book about this–I thought we’d never speak again). But I have never once compromised the truth or made myself vulnerable to being hurt again. I guess the best way to describe it is that I got stronger and that my world view grew much, much larger and I saw things through a different frame. If you are at the beginning of this process or just affirming your NO, I don’t expect you to be able to understand this or imagine it. I’m just telling you it has happened for me, in some very unexpected ways.

    • Laura Braaten says

      My relationship with forgiveness has been like traveling an unmarked road –in a car with no headlights. I don’t really understand what the word “forgiveness” means to me personally. I get caught up in intellectualizing and feeling like I should forgive, e.g. childhood violations. I have spent a lot of time fixating on whether I have forgiven or can forgive, and that has been destructive for me. So I have learned to focus on taking care of myself and trusting that strengthening my core would lead me in a healthy direction. In order to protect myself emotionally enough to heal from violations within my family, I had to set very firm boundaries with some family members about twenty years ago. When I set these limits, they were not well received, understood, or respected by most of my family. I spent almost two decades in this “safety zone” feeling much like an orphan. It was lonely at times but I felt enormous clarity and growing strength. Last fall I became aware of this thought that I should spend the holidays with my family. It all happened with no “plan” on my part –I had no idea why I was thinking that I should and could see them. But I followed that little voice and trusted it, and it led me down a very long dark tunnel and off a cliff. And I landed on my feet. As a result, I now have been able to reestablish relationships with my family of origin. But I have defined myself VERY differently because of the hard work I have done since childhood to find my own voice and hang onto it. I am connected, no longer an “orphan,” but feel a strong sense of healthy detachment and confidence that I can protect myself. I will never be close to some members and some of the violations will probably never be acknowledged. But I have healed in ways I would never have thought possible. And some members of my family have changed in ways I cannot believe. The traumas and violations are still there and can never be erased. But I feel that I have been able to transcend and transform these painful experiences. Somehow I have fewer expectations, which is good because expectations seem to get in the way of reality and following my intuition. I’ve learned to find a path where there is none and figure things out as I go along. I don’t need to know where the road leads to anymore.

      • says

        Yes, Laura, that’s just what I was talking about. For me things have definitely changed in ways I could never have imagined 25 years ago when I needed to build a wall between my family and myself. Now I’m taking care of my 84 year old mother when for years I swore “we would never speak again.” And in the order of things, it feels right, over the course of my whole lifetime.

      • Fran Stekoll says

        Laura, Good for you. Taking the steps you have to re-kindle relationships with your family says you’ve accepted who you really are despite what has happened in your past. I remember my Father saying “Two wrongs don’t make a right” When someone doesn’t accept who I am or what I’ve done, I always tried to put myself in their place, bless them and send them on their way and be the change I wanted to see happen.
        Sounds like you’ve done that. I commend your
        efforts. I felt good for you after reading your blog.

    • Ilana says

      Laura- I am so glad you added this to the prompt. I look forward to the prompts every week. But lately I have read the prompt and decided not to respond. Then after thinking about it for a while I find I am able to. When I read this one I nearly spat at the screen. Forgiveness has been demanded of me my entire life. Society preaches it, literature preaches it and religion preaches it. “Forgive for yourself. You’ll be trapped if you don’t.” Then I read “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kid. I don’t remember the quote verbatim but it basically says, “If God came down and said, ‘forgive now or die’ 80% of people would start digging their graves. It’s that hard.” I would be among the first of that 80%, I’m sure. I found the quote so liberating. I am learning that forgiveness comes with time, when we are ready. If I try to force it then all attempts are lost. I did find something to write about this week. It was a very special moment when I forgave this person. Because I did it when I was ready and not before it was real and true. I have not told the story since because I have forgiven and forgotten. Not forgotten in the actual sense but in the sense that the story does not plague me or haunt me. I hold no bad feelings because I forgave when I was ready and not before. Sadly, my response will have to come next week as it is on my lap top which does not currently have internet access. Gotta get that fixed or retype the whole thing. I will get it posted soon though. Thank you for your statement honoring those of us who are only at the beginning of a long road. A road that I can only hope ends in forgiveness. IM

  4. Sunny says

    “Forgiveness does not excuse behavior, it allows me to get on with my life” and “a truth that changed my world” prompted me to write today.

    Forgiving without excusing has helped me to become the person I am – and a person I like.
    I forgave my son for burning a picture from my grandmother, throwing me over a couch, swearing at me, believing lies about me. I forgave my other son for assisting my husband in his “kidnapping” (didn’t work), punching a hole in the wall, blaming me for his father’s drinking. I forgave my daughter for saying “well, mom, it’s all Dad’s money anyway”. I forgave my husband for losing our business and our homes, throwing up on me in bed, telling my children lies, telling me lies, moving in with another woman while we are still married.

    Forgiveness is a work in progress… I’m not sure about anyone else, but for me, I have to consider and work on it every day (you never know when someone might ask for it and you need to be prepared!). When one of them – never yet my husband – sincerely asks me to forgive, without hesitation I say and mean the words. Sincerity includes recognition and ownership of an inexcusable behavior. I do not offer the words of forgiveness in the absence of a sincere apology; I forgive/work on forgiveness in myself and wait. I give much credit to people for critical times of awareness – realizing that often in my life I do not recognize immediately my own behaviors as inexcusable.

    To sum up: As of today I have lost what many people consider very important. Because of forgiveness, I have everything.

    Which leads me to “a truth that changed my world”.

    My 19-year-old son and I have been discussing his upcoming backpacking trip for several weeks – and his budget, and his supplies. Several years ago I took my first walking trip in England. Since I never spent our family money on my own personal desires, my father (a great fan of travel – yet another forgiveness story in progress) gave me money for childcare and a little for spending money. My friend paid for the trip. There was no money to outfit myself, so I just took what I had. No new walking boots. No new clothes. No rain slickers, fanny packs, socks or whatever else REI/Lands End/others offered to make my trip a dazzling adventure. The truth that changed my life was that the hosts of the trip (some earl, some lord) laughed – not in an unkind way – at the people who wore everything brand new. My friend and I were accepted as peers because we did not have all “the stuff”. Apparently all the recently purchased stuff labels you as a pretender/beginner). I read something in an art teaching book the other day which said the opposite: “Buy your students the same excellent quality art supplies you use. The cheap ones may cause your students to become frustrated with the inadequate materials”. Ha. I’ve never had money for “excellent” supplies, but I’ve made beautiful art using cheap supplies – q-tips instead of torquillons, etc. – and so have my students.

    My son went out and bought hiking boots for $230. He cancelled our date to go compare/contrast today and told me “Dad is taking me for the rest of my stuff on Thursday or Saturday.” My husband, who kept all his top-dollar stuff in the garage until it rotted or disappeared… unused. Hmmm. Live and learn is a big part of forgiveness.

    Disclaimer: I had a lovely colonoscopy today and might be a bit loopy… so there’s a part of me thankful for my son’s cancellation…

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Sunny, thanks for your post. I’m glad to hear that you had a “lovely colonoscopy”. Hopefully, that means you don’t have colon cancer.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Sunny, thanks for your post. I’m glad to hear that you had a “lovely colonoscopy”. Hopefully, that means you don’t have colon cancer.

  5. Ann Volkov says

    Forgivness comes in many forms. The baby that forgives the momma that comes when he/she has been crying so long. The mother that forgives her child when he tries to come up with a viable excuse for the broken toy and then begins to cry. Playing children that begin to fight over a toy, yelling, pulling, grabbing & pushing until one relents, “you can have it” and the other takes it with guilt, then hands another toy to the child and once again all is forgivin, everyone is happy.
    Another great forgiver is the loving pet. The one that waits for you to get home and is so excited you are that he forgets you have been gone so long. He forgives. When you are too tired to play ball with him & you say tomorrow…
    he walks away sadly, drops the ball and plops down on the grass. But the minute you call his name, he forgives! Everytime!
    I think adults need to forgive as children & dogs. Their love is unconditional and they don’t take you down with painful words or actions. They see the person not the predicament. It passes so quickly, because the love is all they want to see and share. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Luke 18:16. The first forgiver of all things wants for us all to be as little children. Love deeply, forgive easily and life will be filled with great joy.

    • says

      Ann, what you say about animals is certainly true. They always let you back into their heart. But I don’t think any of us can or should tell someone else what they should do in terms of forgiveness. I believe it is ultimately a personal journey and shouldn’t be urged or pushed on anyone.

  6. Ana says

    I have forgiven people, and it completely changed my attitude towards myself, my life and others.

    But, have I forgiven people like my perpetrator half-brother, my abusive mother, my father who abandoned me…? Not forgiving was a process I owed myself. A grief I had to experience. But, the longer I did not forgive, the more it had a bad habit of becoming bed fellows with anger and hate…sometimes towards people that had nothing to do with the original hurt. In hindsight, not forgiving on any level was a hard place to live.

    I first forgave the parts that hurt my family. Maybe that’s not forgiving as much as empathy and compassion for what happened to them – for those things that made them who they were. This still led me to freedom. Their actions towards me will never be acceptable, but when I came to understand them, the complexity of their humanness, I was on to something…I was on to me, my humanness and my life. This is not to say that when something recalls those awful memories, that I don’t feel hurt or get angry. I do. But I don’t live in it.

    In the end forgiveness appears in different stages and degrees…and freedom always follows. And that’s what I want for myself and where I want to live, in freedom.

    Hope this all makes sense.

    A line I have never forgotten: “You can bury freedom, but you can’t kill it.” — Peejoe – Crazy In Alabama.

    • says

      Ana, your post makes it clear how complex and personal this issue is. We each have to blunder along finding our own way. And time can have far more influence than we think. And that’s not something that can be rushed. I couldn’t forgive anyone until I knew deep in my bones that what they had done to me hadn’t destroyed me. I had survived and my self was intact. In fact, I had become stronger. It was only from that vantage point that forgiveness became a possibility.

  7. Lee Senior says

    When I was 17 years old and graduated high school, I felt it was time for
    me to be independent. My mother had always clung to her children, (there
    were five of us) and trying to leave home was difficult. Mama thwarted me
    in every conceivable way. And so, staying home , I grew frustrated, conceived of every possible way I could leave, but was unable to make the change. My mother would not only stop me, but when a friend and I planned to move together, she dragged me to my friend’s mother and convinced her
    not to let her daughter leave home.

    Much of this was based on a friend of my mother’s who had two sons,
    and told her she would never let her sons marry anyone who did not
    live at home until she was married. Mama’s major worry was “what will
    people think.”

    Once she even threatened to kill herself. I was 18 and had taken an
    apartment in New York. When I came home, I found her with four of
    my siblings, all younger and all hysterical because she was threatening
    to killl herself.

    Furious, I asked how she planed to do it. She said she was going to ask
    the doctor for sleeping pills and overdose. I said I would call the doctor
    and tell him not to give her anything. I went to bed in my room in the attic, and a short time later heard her creep into my room and begin rummaging
    in my closet.

    “What are you doing?” I asked.
    “I’m getting a hook so I can hang myself,” she replied.

    She then pulled a hook out of the closet wall and went into another
    attic room where she hung her laundry on rainy days. It was crisscrossed
    with clothes lines. She began trying to twist the hook into the ceiling
    which was within reach. There was no way she could hang herself,
    however, she was acting crazy and I was frightened.

    I began pleading with her to stop, and she fought me, continuing to try
    to screw the hook into the ceiling. Trying to stop her, I was almost as
    hysterical as she was. My father, hearing the commotion, awoke from
    his sleep and came into the attic.

    “What’s going on?” he asked.
    “She’s trying to kill herself because I am leaving home.”
    “You’re not leaving home,” he said.
    “I’m not leaving home,” I agreed.
    He led mama downstairs and I crawled back into bed.

    Not much later, I again heard footsteps on the stairs, and
    then mama appeared by my bed.

    “I’m sorry,” she said.
    That’s when I really hated her.

    It took a long time for me to forgive her.
    I left home the following day, when she was out of the house, and went
    to stay with a friend in Greenwich Village. A few days later, another
    friend, with whom I had planned to live, arrived in the Village and the
    two of us found a furnished room, while we continued to look for
    an apartment.

    Once we found an apartment, I called my mother to let her know where
    I was. She did not sound overly upset and advised me that she had
    called a theatrical registry where I was registered and they gave her
    my family’s address. I silently blessed them. I then gave my mother
    my phone number, and told her I would be home for the Jewish holidays.

    I went home, and discovered that neither of my parents had told any
    of their friends that I was not living there. “What would people think?”
    I went to services and from then on visited home most Sundays.
    Not living there, I was more comfortable with my parents, who still had
    not told anyone I was not there, until my younger sister slipped once
    when she answered the phone. However, by this time, both my parents
    had accepted the fact that I was not coming back to live with them,
    and my relationship with my mother was on a different level. She would
    visit me in New York and enjoyed meeting my friends. She had forgiven
    me for leaving, and I had forgiven her for causing me so much stress
    and worry.

    • says

      Lee, thanks for sharing your wild ride. It’s amazing how resistant to normal change (like a child growing up) we can be. I have a 19 year and a 15 year old and I can see how hard it is to let them truly explore the world and find their own way. I’m sorry your mother couldn’t do it with more grace. But glad you both were able to finally accept the inevitable reality. Children grow up and leave their parents!

  8. Terry Gibson says

    This topic is challenging, for sure. As I thought about it yesterday, I realized that I forgave my oldest brother for what he did to me. Even when that was the beginning of what became a special, twisted brand of hell that didn’t end for decades. I was about 23 and Steve picked me up in his taxi at the train station. I was always thrilled to see him and he me. But, we were so conditioned not to touch or show any emotion, that our reunions were always stilted and awkward. We had two missions on this trip: because I felt safe with my brother, he took me to meet Dad, a reunion about 17 years overdue. Second, he took me to his apartment, where my oldest brother “Jeff” lived in a room upstairs. I don’t know what I was running on then because I was nowhere near the worst of what was to come. Therapy had been helping, I guess.
    Comforted by Steve’s soothing presence, and our love of “Jeff”, I faced the boy-man who was four years my senior. I trembled and, of course, Steve couldn’t put his arm around me. Jeff cried but still met my eyes. I forgave him because: he didn’t deny it; he didn’t say I was the one who started it (two HUGE fears of mine); and due to having learned later that both of my brothers were first molested by the uncle who also lived at Grandma’s.
    More news rolled in. Jeff was a teenager when he molested a two year old girl he was babysitting. Steve walked in at some point. He reassured me that he was doing everything he could to help her. I gave that over to him because I was far too fragile to do anything but. Since Steve’s death, I reached out to her, identifying myself as one of Jeff’s first victims.
    My question is: Did I forgive because I felt sorry for him? Probably. Would I have been able to NOT forgive him? Probably not. I always felt more for others than myself.
    Forgiving Jeff didn’t mean I condoned his behavior. Far from it. He later kicked his girlfriend in the stomach while she was pregnant. He probably did worse than that. I never found out.
    After his six-week or month stint in jail, he was found passed out in the street, drunk. He choked on his own vomit in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. When the police officer gave me the toxicology report, Jeff had only two aspirin in his stomach. He knew he’d bleed to death if he drank again. So he did. I tear up as I write up because he, like Steve and I, didn’t ask to be interfered with. We didn’t carry it on and Jeff did. But I still love my oldest brother.
    By the way, once I let it go, I felt lighter. As for other acts of forgiveness, they’ll be a long time coming, if they show up at all. I don’t feel a rush because I am not writhing in toxic blood because of it. Do I see a bit more of this in future? Maybe.

    • says

      Terry, so sad. Your story. Your brother. I’m glad you were able to release him. I especially loved your line, ” I don’t feel a rush because I am not writhing in toxic blood because of it.”

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Laura. I appreciate it. I do feel sadness about Jeff and Steve. At the same time, I feel guilty that I am the one who survived and was blessed with a brand new, healthier life. I worked so hard to get here! I celebrate being able to laugh, cry, and be more rounded emotionally. Instead of the emotional flatliner I used to be. I just want to give everything I can and savour the sweet parts of life now.

    • Ilana says

      Terry-Thank you for sharing this story. I am struggling with forgiveness now more than ever, though it has always been difficult for me. I found what you wrote very validating of my hesitance to forgive. You forgave your brother when you were ready. Whatever reason you did it for, it was still your decision. I also liked the line about not “writing in toxic blood.” It gave words to the reason I cannot yet forgive so many people. I also loved what came before it. “As for other acts of forgiveness they’ll be a long time coming.” It kind of gave me permission to wait until I am ready. Thank you again, IM

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Ilana. I find forgiveness to be so individual. How it looks, what form it comes in, at what time, and how devastating the injuries. We can fake it but to what end? Who cares about those who say it is an absolute MUST? I love Laura’s description I just read somewhere, something like looking at how deeply the impact. For e.g., my mother and stepfather broke my spirit just when it should’ve been able to roam happy and free. They groomed me to do things that weren’t in me at all. Ultimately, I think that the abusers dishonored our humanity and, if we rush things, we are doing the exact same thing. You deserve so much more, Ilana, as we all do.

        • Ilana says

          Thank you Terry- You make a very good point. If we rush forgiveness we dishonor our humanity. I chose not to talk about my abuse this week but, instead, a wonderful man who under dire circumstances, made a mistake. Have a good week. IM

  9. Deanna Lagroix says

    I’m trying to learn some lessons. Yes, I do need to talk to my girlfriends; to share my pain and discuss the lessons. He thinks that’s rubbish and that one must decide alone and only for oneself, not consulting books, counselors or other sources of information. I know I must ultimately make my own decisions and many times it has taken me a long time to make that decision and move forward. I’m sure that comes from so much insecurity in my life’s path. I doubt myself and my capacity to do the right thing. I believe that I am as good a listener and sympathizer as I am a talker and a sharer. But I am an emotional soul and the joy and excitement of feeling free and alive and looking to the future with new eyes, led me to move too fast and to expect too much from someone who was never in that space. He was just having a good casual time and while he did address to me that I was probably on a path equivalent to a rebound romance, I don’t think he understood my need for answers and discussions on the relationship. When I pushed for answers and further discussions, it engendered and anger in him that I didn’t know existed. Being told that I had become a negative in his life was a new experience for me and it told me that we were on very different paths in life. I am an open book (except for the secrets I was keeping inside for many years) and he appears to be a closed and solitary person.
    Though being terribly hurt by this recent experience, I don’t think either of us ever meant to end up enemies. The tears of pain and loss have begun to lessen and I want to remember the great gifts of companionship and fun he gave me and especially for helping me to feel young and attractive again.
    Forgiveness is indeed a gift to me as I heal and I want to dwell on his qualities and mine and the happiness I had for the short time I had it. There really is no place for blame here; he was being true to himself and I resisted seeing the signs. Life is a process of learning and I keep learning my lessons the hard way!!

  10. Camilla Sørensen says

    To me forgiveness is in the future. I am not there to forgive right now. I am to hurt to forgive my father and his abuse of me. He hurt me in ways that is unforgivable. When he was confronted with the abuse of me, with me sitting in a mental institution, where the doctors said I had all the signs of seksual abuse, my mother saying no, my daugther has never been abused, my father chose to stay quiet, turn around and leave me there knowing what he had done to me. And he continued to abuse me for another 13 years, granted he couldn’t have sex with me psysically, but he continued to act as if I was still his “wife”. For me to forgive, I have to look to myself, and place my anger at him for his betrayl, his narcississim and his egoism. To see him as who he really is, someone who put his own needs infront of me, who betrayed my trust and my love for him in ways that hurt me to my inner core. He is not the great father that I thought he was. He was not there for me, and I thought there was something very wrong with me for a long time, not him, and it has taken me over two years to seen him in that clear light, as who he really is. I need find my anger at him for a little while longer and to get strong and clear boundries toward him, however, if forgiveness comes after that to free me from his abuse in the past, then so be it, but for now there is no forgiveness in my heart for this man.

  11. Beverly Boyd says

    I’ve wanted to write this story for weeks, especially after Bobbi Anne’s poem about “cutting” and the need not to be silent, and again this week with the forgiveness prompt. Should I have been more diligent about connecting with other parents? Should I have so easily believed my son when I had no real suspicions? Did I do enough to help the investigator? A wise friend tells me,
    “You need to forgive yourself for not being omniscient.” Another friend is amazed that I even thought about asking at a time when we generally trusted people and believed our children were safe with almost all of them.

    Here is the story:
    One day last December my phone rang. “Mom, remember Steve Hill?” It was my fifty-year old son, Robb, on the line. Of course I remembered Steve.
    “Remember one time you asked me if Steve had ever been inappropriate with me or any one else in the troop?…
    “I said ‘No’ “, he continued,…”Mom, I lied.”
    His voice broke. “Mom, I’m sorry I lied.”
    Was he making amends…to me… for lying?

    He went on. “You’ll probably get a phone call from an investigator in Portland, who is trying to get information about things that happened when Steve was in Vallejo. I gave him your address and phone number. I hope you won’t mind”

    I remembered that conversation. I had believed Robb when he said “No”. I had not had any real suspicions when I asked. I did recognize the opportunity for such activities after Steve began taking three or four boys at a time to reconnoiter the area and the available facilities where the next month’s troop adventure would be. Robb was sometimes one of them. Did they share two man tents? I only imagined possibly one on one encounters out of sight of the other boys. Involving them in a group never occurred to me, but I am getting ahead of the story.
    We were on the phone briefly that day, which was very unusual for talkative Robb. He clearly did not want to talk any more about it. He assured me that he had not had problems, but he had known about some of the other boys. Since then he has told me more about Steve’s attempt to get him involved and he refused. Who knows what the real truth is. I’m willing to hear it. I don’t need to know.

    The investigator contacted me. I could tell him a lot about fraudulent financial issues that came to light after Steve had been discharged from the Navy and went home to Portland: three loans parents had co-signed that Steve defaulted on; hundreds of dollars collected for pictures of troop activities parents had ordered were never delivered; a robbery at his house may have been staged. Items similar to the ones Steve claimed stolen had been temporarily stored in the garage of one of the boys in the troop for a few days until he moved. I reported that information to the police investigator. The defrauded parents called me when they could not find Steve at the addresses he had given. My husband had become interim scoutmaster and they hoped we would have better information. We didn’t.
    In addition to the financial activities, there were some things that seemed just plain strange but must have been part of the web of lies Steve used over the three years he lead the troop. From being from a poor family and regretting he had not been able to go to college he had recreated himself to being ready to start graduate school in dentistry. He asked some of us to write letters of recommendation for post dental school training in pediatric dentistry. The address he gave for the dental school, which did not exist, turned out to be a laundry. Had his parents really died in an accident? Was he really raised by an aunt? We were all busy parents, seldom in touch with each other except at busy scout events, none of us quite remembering all the versions of his life as he changed the details over the years.

    Steve went to Portland and started another high adventure scout troop there. This time he apparently found a more moneyed group of families. When he proposed buying a bus to carry the troop and their gear on outings the parents sent inquiries to the Vallejo Boy Scout Council. When we found out about it from contacts at the Vallejo Council none of us were too surprised but found it amazing and even amusing how quickly he had “upped the ante”. Was he planning even bigger loan defaults? Of course we let the Vallejo Boy Scout Council know about the defaulted loans, etc that he had perpetrated.

    The investigator was not interested in all of this. He was looking for boys or parents who remembered informing the Vallejo Council about Steve molesting boys in the troop; for people who could testify that the information had been sent to Portland and Steve was still able to start a troop there. Three men who had been in HAST 72 came forward with accusations…too late for the statute of limitations in California. Four men from the Portland were suing the Portland Boy Scout Council. I could not add anything to his information but I offered to use the contacts I had to see if I could find any one who could help. I did put out some inquiries to my husband and our other sons who had participated in some of the troop activities. They in turn contacted some people they thought they could find. All of us came up mostly with only a few anecdotes; promises to talk to their son…and then nothing.

    I went to the internet and was stunned by what I found there. Several articles one included a picture of a sixty-two-year-old, recently released in 2011 after serving twenty years for molesting boys in a non-scout related activity. He is now a registered sex offender living in downtown Portland. Was this bearded, pasty looking man the same person as the enthusiastic twenty-two-year-old dental technician who arrived on Mare Island in Vallejo in 1972? Our sons were among others who eagerly joined the fledgling troop and we were among the parents who supported them. High Adventure Scout Troop (HAST) #72 was on its way to three exciting years of canoe trips, spelunking, backpacking in winter as well as summer and other extreme adventures. Our sons were delighted to be tying knots for something more than badges and my husband who was an eagle scout was delighted to have his sons enjoying scouting.

    A few weeks ago amidst other coverage of the well-known Sandusky/Penn State sex abuse trial, the news broke that the four young men had won the suit against the Portland Boy Scout Council. I went to the internet again:
    “Former Boy Scouts file $21 Million suit for alleged abuse in 1970’s by notorious Portland child molester Steven Terry Hill” read a headline in the Oregonian.
    I said his name. I want you to remember it. His name needs to be associated so much with this problem that he becomes the Jeffrey Dahmer of boy scout molesters.
    Notorious child molester… This was not someone who had gotten to a few boys. This was someone considered “notorious.” I had been there when it was happening. What had I not noticed? I believe I had the courage and would have acted if I had more substantial suspicions.

    One particular quote haunts me:
    “What is so shocking about this case is that none of the abuse of these boys suffered had to happen…it could have all been easily avoided,” said Crew (one of the lawyers in the case). “All the Boy Scouts had to do was exclude Hill from scouting, call the police or even warn the boys about the danger Hill posed.”

    It haunts me because Steve found other ways to attract boys: an adventure club and a driving school. His financial dealings that I have knowledge of and the bed of lies he took us in with are examples of his unscrupulous creative mind. I believe we were chosen and groomed. How? It was a troop that attracted exceptional boys from all over the city rather than being based in a church or school where parents and boys had naturally occurring ways to know each other outside of the troop.
    Certainly the Portland Boy Scout Council should have been more diligent in protecting the children in their midst. What can parents be on the alert for? What are the signs of “grooming” of not only the potential victims but of the adults around them?
    Strangely, I don’t hate Steven Terry Hill. How can I hate someone that sick? For the same reason I forgive him. I hate what he has done. I would like to see him sent back to prison and die there, not so much to punish him, but so no other child will ever be molested by him

    Sorry this post has been so long. I could write a book!
    How can I forgive myself? Yes, I know I am not omniscient. But is there something more I can do so that other children are less at risk? I could write a book, but I have too much already in the works. I would be happy to collaborate with anyone else who feels the passion for this that I do. Any takers?

  12. Ilana says

    The Yelling Trail
    It is my firm belief that with a little effort you can romanticize almost any situation. Looking back and telling the story, you can conveniently forget the ugly moments, the moments of cowardice and selfishness. You can play up the sweet moments, those of self-sacrifice and caring. And why wouldn’t you want to? It’s much nicer to remember the strength and support we showed each other than the ugliness and the hurt. Let’s try it, shall we?

    In February of 2001 she was a beautiful young woman, full of promise and excitement. Newly married and head over heels in love with the most wonderful man she had ever met. She was getting ready to graduate with her master’s degree. The night before Valentine’s Day, tragedy struck. One moment she was laughing and the next, terrible pain exploded in her head. She collapsed in agony, begging her new husband to call an ambulance. Emergency brain surgery saved her life that night. Over the next several months her gallant husband tenderly nursed her back to health and they lived happily ever after. It’s a beautiful story. Isn’t it?

    It’s the truth, albeit a subjective one. But it’s not the whole truth. The whole truth has ugly parts too. Recovering from brain surgery is excruciating, both for the survivor and her loved ones. We got tired, we made mistakes, we hurt each other. There were times it almost broke us. This is the story of one of those times.

    By the third week of May I had put most of the, grueling, physical recovery behind me. Though it was still terribly painful, I could open my mouth again and was slowly regaining the use of the left side of my face. I could bath by myself again and even the splitting headaches had grown less intense. My emotional state was another matter. The terrible depression had not lifted. It had been steadily getting worse since we left the hospital. I thought, sadly, of my old life. I had been on a track to graduating with a master’s degree. Now I was learning to read and comprehend a simple children’s book.

    On top of all we were going through Zander’s beloved grandmother passed away. At first, I did a fairly decent job of supporting him. The night before the funeral we split a pint of her favorite ice cream and talked about what an amazing woman she was. I did a good job at the funeral, too. It was in the days following that I fell short. I wish I could have been more of a support to him but I was too sick, too wrapped up in my own pain. I know that much was my fault but I was desperate.

    Crazy to get back to school and move on to my professional life, I decided to meet with a career counselor at the university. It was a mistake, a big mistake. The woman told me to go home and rest, recover from what I had been through. As sympathetic as she had tried to be, she could never have understood how devastating her advice was. I went home feeling worse than ever. Zander held me while I cried. Lying there, on our bed, in his arms, I wondered why he wasn’t able to take the pain away. Nothing made me feel better. Nothing relieved the feeling of having been utterly destroyed. At some point I gave up and stopped crying. I pulled myself to my feet and washed my face.

    “Ilana.” He said, as if he were simply suggesting we have hamburgers for dinner. “I want to go to services tonight with my parents. Come with me and we’ll say Kaddish (the prayer for the dead) for Grandma Leah.” A horrible feeling of helplessness came over me. I knew I couldn’t do it; just didn’t have the strength to face my in-laws. (A story for another time but suffice it to say they did not handle the surgery well and were not safe people just then.) I don’t remember what I said. All I remember was his response. He was absolutely furious. He yelled at me about how he had done so much for me. Just because I was having a hard time didn’t mean that he didn’t need some support too.

    He was right, of course. I was a terrible wife, always taking and never giving. It was pathetic. I was nothing; no longer a graduate student, not a professional, just dead weight. I couldn’t even be a supportive wife to my new husband who had given so much to me. With his angry face in front of me and the wall only a few feet behind me I was completely trapped in my inadequacy.

    It suddenly dawned on me that the only answer was to get rid of the wretched creature I had become. Then I couldn’t hurt him anymore and my own pain would finally end. I had been fighting suicidal fantasies for over a month. Now they pressed down on me with a weight I could not bear. Instantly, all of my plans came into my head. I would do all of them to make for certain I was successful. First I would take all of the pills I could get my hands on. Ativan is a very powerful drug. I was supposed to take a quarter of a milligram in the throes of an anxiety attack. Taking twenty milligrams at once would surely have the desired effect. Just to be sure though, I would follow it with every last drop of alcohol I could find. Once well numbed I would slit my wrists and finally, throw myself from the balcony. That last one might not be very helpful as we had a second floor apartment. Still, a headfirst collision with the cement would have to do some damage.

    I knew I was in a precise moment of decision. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it now. I walked out of the room, picked up the phone and called my parents. “Dad. I’m having strong suicidal fantasies. I need you to come pick me up.”

    “That’s ridiculous!” Zander snapped at me. “If you need to go to your parents’ I’ll drive you there.” I don’t remember the hour long drive to my parents’ house. They were waiting in the living room when we got there. The night was spent in panicked discussions and my promising not to do anything dangerous. The next morning something sparked Zander again. After breakfast he took my head off at the top of his lungs. He made a dramatic and very loud exit. I was left sitting at the table, looking at my parents. “Did I make a mistake?” I asked, referring to my marriage. My father responded, “I don’t know but whatever you decide we are behind you all the way.” I made up my mind to find out. I called Zander. He wanted me to come home. My mother drove me back to our apartment leaving when I assured her I’d be okay. I went inside and suggested we go for a walk.
    The path we took was henceforth known as “The Yelling Trail” because that’s exactly what Zander did. For over half an hour he screamed and yelled and swore at me. I listened as much as I could. At some points I yelled back but not very much. He finished up by saying that he had considered calling a divorce attorney. I said that I’d had thought about that too. We both agreed that wasn’t what we wanted. After that we began the long, arduous, journey back to the loving relationship we’d had before… before the surgery? No. I don’t think we ever got back to that innocence but we did repair the damage.

    Still, I was angry. What kind of an asshole screams his head off at a woman who already wants to kill herself? For months I was haunted by what he had done to me. I would refer to “The Yelling Trail” as if it were an historic event. One day, somewhere between four and six months later I brought up “The Yelling Trail” again. Zander got angry. “Aren’t you ever going to forgive me for that? I’ve apologized to you a million times.”

    “No.” I answered quietly. “As a matter of fact you never once apologized for it. You always said that you had a right to your feelings, you had a right to do all that yelling and that you weren’t sorry.”

    “Oh. Well, I should never have done that to you. It was wrong and I’m sorry.” He said it gruffly as if he were irritated but I knew, with absolute certainty, that he meant it. At that moment that was all I needed. I forgave him and never looked back. I am now free to love my beautiful Zander, understand that he is not perfect and appreciate all the wonderfulness that he is.

    • Ilana says

      I think I figured out what bothers me so much about this post. My anger at my parents for the way they raised me torments me daily. Because the relationships were so enmeshed it took great courage for me to put an end to communications between us. Here, at the Writer’s Journey I have found a safe place to be honest about that. This post looks at a time when they were supportive of me. I fear that someone reading it may respond, “Oh, so all this time you’ve been so angry, they really were very supportive of you. So basically, Ilana, you are full of shit.”

      I think all my life I felt I had to be grateful for all they gave me, despite what they took away, or didn’t give me. Now, as I fight to overcome the negative I feel trapped by memories of the positive. It makes me feel ungrateful, dishonest. It makes me feel like I have, in fact, gone crazy. Perhaps I am just full of shit but at least now, I’ve tried to be honest.

      Thanks for listening, sIMz

      • Laura Davis says

        Ilana, human beings are not black and white. Relationships are not black and white and our choices are rarely absolute. You can hate someone and still love something they once did for you. You can despise someone’s awful qualities and still appreciate a moment they were loving. In literature, I would always prefer the character who does heinous things but is also gentle with his hobbled dog to a character who is only evil.

        When you need to set boundaries in a relationship–for your own survival, mental health or independence–you need to focus for a time on the negative actions or qualities–so you CAN set those boundaries. But ultimately, once you’ve proven to yourself your independence, or strength or mental /emotional stability you may peek out from behind your fence, and acknowledge the good that may also be there. You may grieve for the fact that you need to have a fence at all–thatt the bad supersedes the good to such an extent that the fence is necessary. If you’re lucky, as I was, you may get to take your fence down, and forge a new relationship that does not compromise your spirit in the same way.

        But even from behind her fence, you can say no and still feel love and appreciation simultaneously. The human heart is complex and multifaceted.

      • Beverly Boyd says

        Ilana, I appreciate your willingness to be honest, even at times it seems at odds with what you have honestly shared with us in other posts.
        If I have learned anything about living, it is how complex our relationships are. The closer and more important they are the more complex they seem. It is often hard to hold two very different realities.
        My mother truly loved me and took good care of me, and she was an amazing psychological bully who purposely set out to “break my spirit” (her words).
        My father, who I sometimes describe as the most naturally good person I have known, had parts of his personality, not necessarily bad< that could make his relationships very painful.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Ilana, Unfortunately, I’m a bit rushed tonight so I can’t focus very well. I couldn’t say it as well as Laura and Beverly, who captured my sentiments exactly. All I can say is that you’re not crazy or full of crap. I don’t think that and I’m sure the people in this empathetic and caring community don’t either. You’re in pain and getting through that is possible. Please treat yourself with tender loving care. You deserve no less.

  13. Bobbie Anne says

    Forgiveness does not excuse behavior. It allows one to get on with life. How about domestic violence? Here’s something I’d like to share:


    He’s up all night working on the
    domestic violence unit he has
    to teach to the other instructors
    his wife attends a church support
    group dealing with abuse
    he’s the instructor of the month
    attired just so in a crisp uniform
    wearing perfectly polished shoes
    everything in precise order
    he says he never beat her
    he’s not someone you’d
    think would hurt a woman
    in that unspeakable way
    he says he never hit her
    there’s no proof of that
    he can always deny it
    what a master of deception
    he’ll tell you how he
    tries to do the right thing
    why, he wouldn’t
    hurt a fly
    after you met him
    you’d want to believe him
    I know that she did

    • Ilana says

      Bobbi Anne- I agree with Laura. It is not only chilling but needs so badly to be said. This is what the world needs to be educated about. No one wants to believe a man like the one described would do that. This is so beautifully written and I think it could do a lot of good. I do hope that if it has not yet been published and made available to the world, it soon will be. Bravo! IM

  14. Debbie says

    There was a monumental wall to be scaled. I was in need of learning the practice of forgiveness. Some, who know more of my story, might immediately think of those whose actions diverted my life, trapping me inside of my own fleshy prison for years.

    However, those characters were gone. First forgiven of their transgressions against me and then “annihilated with my indifference.” I only realized this recently when, as recounting memories in counseling, on this blog and in small, safe groups of women, these events that once terrorized had lost their “juice.”

    What, then, was the problem? The forgiveness yet to be attained was for myself, from myself. While I seemed ever ready to provide the rationale for behavior of others I could not apply the same generosity to myself. Finally, instead of stomping callously around my interior world braying judgments on what I should or shouldn’t have done – I stopped to ask a long overdue question. Why didn’t I deserve the same evaluation of environment and motives as anyone else? The hush that fell over the voices in my head was palpable.

    Literally everything depended on my response. The continued existence of the every present critic, the indolent indulger who used food and drink as therapy, the warped mother figure who suffocated even as she tried to nurture, the little lost girl who had made a career out of waiting to be rescued and, most importantly, the quiet little voice of hope, love and freedom that had waited patiently over the decades to be heard. The silence continued to grow and permeate my interior landscape, the internal world had stopped turning.

    As I tested and prodded at the well used rationale for why I did not deserve to be forgiven I noticed, for the first time holes and decay in the walls around my happiness. Maybe this fortress of self-loathing was not impenetrable after all. Maybe, just maybe, there was a way out. But I had no map, no path to follow, no experience to guide me on what to do next. The voices seized upon that moment of indecision to once again begin the cacophony of verbal assault that has been the mainstay of my inner life for so long.

    Instead of cementing me in indecision, however, the familiar judgmental chorus actually catalyzed immediate action. Searching through the din for those threads of kindness and empathy, I wound them carefully around my heart, charged the walls and broke through into the sunshine of self acceptance.

    Feeling the warmth on my face I vowed, while I may still lose my way at times on this journey, I will never return to that prison again!

    • Ilana says

      Wow, Debbie- That was beautiful. I loved how you ended with the acceptance that you might lose your way again and then followed it up with never being in the prison again. The other phrase that meant a lot to me was “annihilated by my indifference.” It spoke to me about a struggle I am personally dealing with. I am so hurt by my younger brother’s abandoning me. He is so cruel about it. I just wish I didn’t care anymore. The idea of my one day annihilating his power over me with my indifference is so amazingly liberating that I am just going to have to quote you on that one. Welcome back. I missed you! IM

      • Debbie says

        Ilana – I love that line “annihilated by my indifference” but it is not original with me. An amazing woman writer, Barbara, actually wrote that line and, with her permission to use it, I included it into this post. I had the same reaction when I heard her read the line – it blew me away. Glad to be back and catching up a bit. The last three weeks were so hectic I could not, did not make time to write. But I am back and hope to catch up to the current week’s prompts by the end of the week. There are many posts to review and enjoy!

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