Monday, May 3, 2010

My Most Grievous Fault

"All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you." ~ Wayne Dyer

“I am responsible for my own damnation.” ~ Lord Soth (RA Salvatore)

I don’t have a lot of pet peeves, but I admit to a few. For example, I hate it when people cut me off on the Interstate. And I confess that I get ticked off when I’m trying to merge and other drivers won’t get the h*** over and let me in. It also rattles my cage that people who’ve had access to the same level of education I have (elementary, high school, some college) still don’t know the difference between their, there, and they’re – I expect to see that kind of thing in emails and texts, but come on, folks – in business writing? Get a dictionary! Another thing that pulls my chain is when people mistreat their pets. If you don’t want to feed a dog, don’t get a dog. If you don’t want to take him with you when you move, at least take him to the shelter where he might have half a chance of being adopted and will be fed until he’s put to sleep. Don’t abuse animals – they look to you for everything and they trust you utterly; even when you hurt them, they repay you with love. If you can’t respond in kind, don’t get a dog to start with. And don’t get me started on the other things – no means no, it is not a starting point for negotiations; take care of your own children – I could go on and on…

Okay…so maybe I have more pet peeves than I thought. But my all-time biggest peeve, the one that never fails to pop my cork, is shifting blame. Oh, how I hate the refusal to take responsibility for your own actions! People do it all the time. It was an ancient practice that we know as “Scape-Goating” –the Hebrews did it; the sins of the people were shifted onto a goat, and the goat was chased away, carrying the sins of the people with it. For example, people look at our lousy economy and blame Obama. But guess what? The economy was failing BEFORE Obama went into office. Not to say that I think Obama is the eighth wonder of the world; I don’t. But let’s not shift blame – our greedy free-market economy, predatory lending, and two or three decades of bad decisions is behind the recession we’re facing. Get a clue. And while you’re at it, let’s insist that our current government take responsibility for the decisions it does make – like healthcare reform, bail-outs, and the stimulus package.

And there’s the oil spill down in the gulf. Who could have foreseen an explosion on an oil rig that would cause such damage? How could BP have planned for such an event? Well, the practice is called contingency planning, or anticipating the worst-case-scenario. Get with the program, BP. Take responsibility for the ecological destruction your poor practices have caused. Don’t stand around, wringing your hands, and saying you don’t know what to do; it’s your responsibility now to figure out what to do, and then do it!

On a personal level, I recently had the misfortune to be in a relationship with an abuser. He stayed angry with me over the fact that I was in his life, and yet whenever I would leave, he’d call me and beg me to come back. Still, the relationship was “my fault” whenever it became problematic for him to be involved with me. My fault, somehow, even though when we parted ways I was never the one to call and ask to get back together. The emotional abuse was also somehow “my fault”; apparently I deserved to be told I had no rights, that I didn’t know how to parent my children, and that I was codependent and maybe even bi-polar. And the physical abuse was also “my fault”; somehow, I must have done something to deserve being threatened with a knife, being punched in the head until my vision blurred and I was concussed, and being hit in the face and having my lips split and bloodied. It is apparently “my fault” that I will carry around the emotional damage from his sexual assaults and abuse for the rest of my life; it has been months and I’m still afraid. I have nightmares that he’s found me; that he’s in my house, standing over me, holding that damned knife. I still go into melt-down mode when someone shouts. A few days ago I was in line at the store when the man in front of me raised his hand quickly to wave at someone – I ducked and covered my head with my arms, and spent the next few hours feeling like a fool. But somehow, his abuse was “my fault”; he assured me of this, that he would never have hurt me if I hadn’t hurt him first. How had I hurt him? Oh, I had dared to break off the relationship. Silly me; I should have known better!

Yes, I have responsibility here. I know and accept it. I made choices: I decided to trust him in the first place. I believed him when he told me he loved me. I enjoyed his company and loved it when he was supportive of me and interested in what I had to say. I let him into my life, because I believed he was the kind, caring man he pretended to be. To quote Metallica, “This thorn in my side is from the tree I planted.” (Hammet; 1996) I have no one to blame for the involvement and for the length of time it took me to get away – though I kept trying to leave him, every time I mentioned taking time away or breaking up, he would scream at me and start hitting the walls, threatening me, threatening to kill himself. Still, I could have called the police; I could have taken steps to stop him and to protect myself. I chose not to. And that’s my fault; my most grievous fault. And because of this relationship, other people were also hurt. Again, through my most grievous fault. What I'm trying to say here is I know and accept that I was wrong; I take responsibility for my choices. A huge part of this mess is of my own making.

But how, I wonder, was it my fault that he chose to abuse me? How was it my fault that he beat me? And afterward, when I fell in the hallway and couldn’t get up, how was I to blame? But he stood over me, screaming that he shouldn’t have to go to jail for me, and he wasn’t going to take me to the hospital or call an ambulance, because then he’d be reported. He shouldn’t have to suffer because of me, he said. Not fair. Not his fault. He shouldn't have to have his son know what he had done; it was too much to ask, and not fair. He shouldn't have his career damaged, his life in upheaval, because of me. If I hadn't tried to leave him, hadn't gone out with someone else after we had broken up, hadn't said something he misheard, then he wouldn't have hit me. And later on, when I finally did get away for good, he kept calling me and begging me to come back. What he did wasn’t his fault, he said, it was because of a chemical imbalance in his brain. How could I blame him for something he had no control over?

Well, here’s how, and forgive me for addressing this directly to my abuser:

You were diagnosed with bipolar disorder over ten years ago, and yet you chose not to stay on your medications. And though you knew you had problems with anger and though both I and your therapist had told you multiple times that you needed to be in treatment for your depression, you refused. You made choices; you planted this tree. Now that I’m out of your life, you continue to choose, and you’re choosing to harass me by coming to my work-place and turning up near my home. You are watering and feeding your tree. But when it comes harvest time, please be prepared for the thorns you’ll reap. And don’t blame me if you don’t like the view from jail. You are making these choices; you are leaving me with no choice.

Hammet, Kirk; James Hetfield, & Lars Ulrich. 1997. "Bleeding Me". Load. Elektra Records.