Stuck

I had a boyfriend who was 20 when was 17. His birthday was coming up and he wanted to celebrate it with his parents at his house and he wanted me to come. However, this involved a trip across the country in a plane. We flew from Chattanooga to Seattle, and then drove to some little town about two hours away. I was stuck at his house, in his town, with his parents. I had no way out. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it became really obvious very soon that I was in trouble.

Having never made any moves on me before then, he attempted to have sex with me that very first night. I resisted and eventually managed to survive the week still a virgin. I broke up with him immediately upon returning home and didn’t speak with him for many years afterwards. He was deeply confused as to what had gone wrong. Even after I explained it to him he didn’t really understand.

I suspected something was wrong from the very beginning of the stay with his parents, when I was greeted by his parents at their house and his father was wearing only an undershirt and tight shorts. I was clued in to more when I learned that my boyfriend’s “rebel” earring wasn’t rebellious at all – his dad had one, and his brother had one. I also figured out that something was wrong when his parents matter-of-factly put my luggage and his luggage in the same room.

The alarm bells kept going off – there was a lot of smoke, but I didn’t have an escape plan. Worse, I’d been taught to ignore these alarm bells by the very people who should have taught me better.

What were the alarm bells? My parents would have never greeted a guest wearing their underwear. They would never even be seen in front of anyone, even family, like that unless they were sick. They certainly wouldn’t have put a non-married couple in the same room together, and much less if one person was a teenager.

For his parents to treat me like that was a warning that I was not in a “normal” house – and I certainly wasn’t safe. He proceeded to try to “pick my locks” as the Pink Floyd song goes every night that week, and I was terrified.

How could I leave? I had no car. I had no spare money. He had the tickets – he’d bought them.

Perhaps I could have called home and gotten my parents to wire me money for a new plane ticket – to leave right away. Perhaps I could have gotten a taxi and just left.

I didn’t. I felt trapped, and I had no frame of reference for this kind of behavior. I had no way of knowing how to act.

But in a way I did. My brother abused me in many ways throughout my childhood, and my parents did nothing. He beat me and stole from me and when I told them they didn’t make it better. They didn’t punish him at all. He eventually became a full-blown narcissistic psychopath, and they didn’t nip this in the bud. He learned early on that he could get away with manipulating people any way he wanted. He learned early on that he could treat people like things and get away with it. Since my parents didn’t defend me, I learned to be passive. This was how I was supposed to be treated, apparently.

My trips to the dentist as a child also taught me passivity. He didn’t use anesthesia because he thought the needle would scare me. I learned that pain was to be endured, especially pain at the hands of an authority figure. My parents were paying for it, so this must be normal. Suck it up.

While I’m angry at myself for not standing up and defending myself, I also have to forgive myself. I didn’t know better. I wasn’t taught well. I learned to accept bad behavior quietly until I could find a way to remove myself safely. I’m angry at them for not teaching me how to take care of myself at all. I’m angry at them for their ineptness. But I also need to remember that they, like all parents, are amateurs.

I went to a therapist once who thought I should just hang out in the “angry” place and not forgive or excuse bad behavior, but it isn’t that simple. Emotions aren’t just one or another, but a range of them. I can be angry and forgive at the same time. I can understand and empathize, but also be sad at people’s bad choices.

While I think that boyfriend and my family “should” have known better, I’m putting my value system on them. I’m forgetting that they don’t have to do things my way. I’m forgetting that they have their own ways of doing things, and if I feel that they are wrong – for me – then I must get away from them. They don’t have to stop doing what they are doing – they just have to stop doing them to me. Their actions are their own, and the consequences of their actions are their own.

This all reminds me of how nobody told me how to use the brakes on a bike when they taught me to ride. I got very badly hurt, and it was totally avoidable.

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Cleaning out the Temple complex and authority challenged.

Jesus went up to Jerusalem because it was nearing the time for the festival of Passover. When he reached the Temple complex he found money changers and people selling the animals that the Jews bought to sacrifice there to atone for their sins. He made a whip of cords and drove everyone and their animals out, even overturning the money tables. He would not permit anyone to bring in anything to sell there. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, (56:7) he said “‘My house will be a house of prayer for all people,’ but you have made it into a den of thieves! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Seeing this, the disciples recalled this verse from the psalmist “Devotion for God’s house will consume me” (PS 69:9)

He was teaching and healing there every day. Children cheered out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The temple leaders said “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus answered “Haven’t you read the Scriptures? ‘From the lips of children The Lord has called forth praise’ (PS 8:2)?”

The chief priests, scribes, and elders started looking for ways to undermine him. They were afraid of him because the crowd of people there was captivated by what he taught.

All the Temple leaders challenged Jesus, saying “Who gave you authority to do these things?”

Jesus said “Answer me this, and I’ll tell you – was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” They debated amongst themselves, saying “If we say from heaven, then he’ll challenge us, saying ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say it was from men, the crowd will get angry with us because they thought John was a true prophet.” To be safe, they said “We don’t know.”

Jesus said “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus also told them “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will restore it in three days.” The Temple leaders looked at him like he was crazy. “This Temple took 46 years to build! Who are you to say you can do all this in three days?” But Jesus was talking about the sanctuary of his body. Later, after he was resurrected, his disciples remembered these words.

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MT 21:12-17,23-27 MK 11:15-19, 27-33 LK 19:45-48,20:1-8 JN 2:13-22

Many people believed in Jesus while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival because of the miracles he was doing. Jesus, however, did not fully reveal himself to them because he knew mankind’s’ true nature.

JN 2:23-25

What’s in a name?

At what point do you start calling someone by their first name? How do you feel if someone calls you by your first name and they don’t know you very well? Have you ever insisted that someone call you by your last name? What is in a name? What does all this mean? What is going on behind the names?

There is definitely a difference when you go from being addressed by your first name to being addressed by your last name. After my parents died, I started calling our next-door neighbor by her first name. Before that she was always known as Mrs. Miles. There was something about all that I had been through before and after my parents died that made me realize that I was an adult now and I started calling her Margaret. No one told me to do this. I just knew it was time. She didn’t stop me. Even though she was 50 years older than me I was now equal to her.

Really that is what the difference is. When you call someone by their first name, you are establishing a hierarchy. If you both refer to each other by your first name, you are equals. But if one is referred to by the last name and the other is by the first name, there is a hierarchy. One is higher than the other.

Notice that teachers are addressed as Mrs. (last name) while the children are addressed by their first names. Doctors are the same way. Even if he has given you permission to call him by his first name (“Call me Don”), you will likely still give him a title – Dr. Don. He is above you in skill, so how you address him reflects that.

If someone is referred to by their last name they are considered to be higher than the other person. There is a lady that I know who works at the pharmacy I go to. Her mother-in-law is one of my coworkers. I know this pharmacy tech by her first name and she knows my first name as well. But I was a bit taken aback when she referred to me by my last name. I was suddenly an authority figure and not an equal. I felt that she had said that there was a space between us, and that she was making herself lesser than me. Perhaps her boss would think it would be over-familiar to address customers by their first names, though.

There is a gentleman who comes to the library who is 30 years older than me and I referred to him by his last name. It is Mr. Vanderlip. At one point he said “No, call me Hank.” and that felt really wrong. I expressed to him that I really like calling him Mr. Vanderlip because it is such a cool name. But really the issue is that I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to call him by his last name because he is my elder.

Now, being an elder has something to do with the person’s age but it also has something to do with respect. Someone can be older than you but not an elder. So there is something in there about experience and authority and wisdom. An elder would be referred to by her or his last name, unless s/he gives you permission otherwise.

Kindergarten 11-20-13. Authority figure and progress.

I pray before I tutor. I pray because I think it is a holy obligation to teach children. It is important to raise them well and be a good influence on them. It is important to model good behavior. They need to be shaped. Everything I say and everything I do is being watched by them and it is important to set a good example. I pray that God is able to work through me to help them.

I pray that I’m able to reach them. I pray that somehow I’m able to get in their heads and find the key that unlocks the door. I’ll try anything. It doesn’t matter how they learn, just that they learn.

Today I worked exclusively with V. S and J were on my list but I didn’t get to them. S really doesn’t need me and J took most of the hour last week, so I decided to take him last. It isn’t fair to V if I can’t work with her as well. I’d also heard from the teacher that she was failing her performance tests so it was really important to focus on her.

When I came back to the class with V and they were lining up to go outside, J saw me and had a very sour expression. He really wanted to work with me and it just didn’t happen. There’s only so much I can do in an hour, and since she was doing well, I decided to stay with her. After my time there, he ended up getting to work with Liz, who is another tutor and a friend from yoga class. He was a little dismayed that he didn’t get me, but he still got a tutor. I think he really wants individual attention. What he really needs is for his parents to step up to the game and work with him at home. That may not happen.

V did very well with matching small letters with their capitals. She was also able to quickly tell me what the letters were for most of them. This is a huge improvement over last week. But then we hit a snag. We went to the “insta-learn” board, the one with the orange tiles and the interchangeable letters. I didn’t expect her to match the sound of the letters with the name of the letter, but I did expect her to find the letter after doing so well with the first game.

Roadblock. Full stop. She started trying to find the letter the way J does, by singing the alphabet song until she came to the letter. Except unlike J, she didn’t even start with her finger on the letter a. She would start with a random letter like k. Like J she still couldn’t find it with this method.

Then we switched to the foam board with the letters that push out. It was as if she was back doing the first game. She did it very well. I’ll never know why one version of the alphabet works one day and another doesn’t, but I’ll take it.

The note that the teacher gave me said that she needed to work on numbers. The teacher had a special bin just for her. There was a box of plastic penguins, frogs, and fish inside. They were small and in different colors. Just because we are learning doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it. Learning is easier if it looks like a game. She did OK with this but she got distracted a lot. She was telling me a lot of stories about her home that I don’t think were true. They sounded a lot grander than the stories the teacher is telling me. I think it is important to listen to her, but also important to get her to stay focused on the task at hand.

Since she was getting distracted, I asked her several times if she wanted to work on something else or go back to class. The kids will sometimes wear out before I think they have, and it is good to ask. When I first started tutoring I didn’t know this. After about 20 minutes of really intense one on one work their eyes start to glaze over and they get fidgety. They are ready to go back to class but they don’t know it yet. Or they don’t know they can ask. There are certainly rules that they have learned about how to interact with adults and other authority figures. Asking for what you need isn’t usually on that list.

I don’t want to be seen as an authority figure. I put the higher chair in front of the table for them and the lower one to the side for me. This way I’m at the same height. I don’t want to be above them because I think that gives a wrong signal. It sets up a hierarchy, and that is certainly something I don’t want to do.

Something that is very important to me is that the children I work with have a sense of control. I’ll ask them what they want to work with first. I’ll ask them if they want to continue or go back to class. I’ll ask them if they want a book at the end of the session. Then if they do want a book, I’ll ask them to pick the one for us to read. Now, sure, I’m in charge. If they start not paying attention I’ll try to get them back. If they want to work on something that is really for another student (as in it is beneath their ability) I’ll dissuade them.

The most important thing for me to remember is that I’m there for them. They aren’t there for me. Sure, I get a lot out of it. Sure, I enjoy teaching them and watching them learn. I feel really blessed that I was there when a girl “got” how to read last year. But they are the ones who need me. I’m there to help them, and helping them isn’t just about learning letters and numbers. It is also about helping them be happy human beings.

I’ll go back in two weeks. Next week school is out because of Thanksgiving. I look forward to how much they have changed. Tutoring is like watching plants grow. Every week there are new signs of growth to appreciate and celebrate.

Question the questionnaire.

Have you ever noticed when you go to a doctor’s office how many things they ask you on the forms? How much of this is just they are able to ask?

A form I filled out recently asked for my husband’s name, his social security number, and where he worked. I can see how this would be appropriate if I got my insurance through him, but I don’t. There was nothing on the form saying “only fill out if…”

I think a lot of it is that they ask because they can. We have been trained to trust doctors. We have been trained to follow their instructions without question. The receptionist is swept right up in that. She is part of the authority structure.

So when the receptionist asks for personal information, we tend to give it. Me, I question everything, everywhere.

“Why?” is a powerful tool. If you don’t get a good reason why they need the information, don’t give it. “Because” is not an answer. Understand that the person behind the desk is just a cog in the machine. She doesn’t make the rules. So don’t get upset with her. Even talking to her manager won’t help sometimes.

I’m one of those cogs. I understand. There are plenty of things that we are told to do that don’t make any sense. Sometimes administration even gives us scripts to follow to explain a particularly weird rule change. It would be better if they asked us beforehand if this is a good policy change, but they don’t. Ever. We find out about it just as it is about to roll out, or just as it hits the news.

But, sometimes the rules or the policy does make sense. Sometimes I am all about enforcing it because I agree with it. But I’m still all for people asking questions and not following blindly. It is best not to give away something that you don’t have to.