October 4th - 6th is National Storytelling Weekend, so let’s all share and tell some stories… POST in your team’s CHAT THREAD and/or POST a BLOG, telling us a story about any part of your journey. This portion is only required ONCE for the weekend, and is worth 200 PTS.
Story--what a word! In my job we often associate the word with fiction; I love fiction but I want to tell a true story. It does not have an ending. I hope to create the ending before I die.
I just read a very helpful and perceptive article in the NY Times about the consequences of living with lies and liars.
I've noticed something strange about myself: If I have to make a decision in which somebody I dislike or disagree with is involved; I almost always side with them. If I have a person I dislike, a person I like, a close family member, and my own feelings moving in contradictory directions, I will almost always go with the person I disagree with--I want to be fair; my father told me that some people have had less privileged lives than others; I've been told to extend the benefit of the doubt; etc. And I do this even when I have strong doubts and my family says "NO!" and my friends counsel me NOT to follow my impulses! Not me, I go with the person I dislike. I want to be "fair".
This is a true story.
In August, 1985 I moved to a new town. We had a neighbor--not next door but not far away at all.
I weighed 130 and was struggling not to gain weight. I had started a graduate program and I had two young sons (elementary school age). The neighbor was almost 70 and she had a very bad back. Sha asked me if I would go to the store and pick up some things for her. Her name was Rosanna.
NO PROBLEM! I was happy to help! I could see the way she walked, bent like a paper clip, her arms clutching her lower back.
She invited me in and was drinking coffee. I thought to myself, "Hey, why not offer ME some coffee-- I was your benefactor". As she sat she liberally doused her coffee with Grand Marnier.
She told me about her life and my hair would have stood on end if it could have. She was a victim in WWII. She was in the camps; her entire family died; she managed to escape being killed only by allowing herself to be sexually abused. She weighed only 78 pounds when she finally escaped. And it was such a pity that I weighed so much!
I was hooked! I wanted to redeem the War for her and to let her know that there were some good, decent understanding people out there. I entered into service with her and just about 6 days a week ran errands. One time I asked her why she did not have a tattoo, looking at the smooth skin on her arms. She explained that she had had it removed at great cost. She also explained why her name was ultra-Germanic and evoked Naziism--forced to renounce her real identity so she could try to postpone the inevitable trip to a concentration camp. I sympathized. Identity is so precious! I am so sorry that your identity has been severed!
Fast forward a couple of years. She has been to our house for every Thanksgiving and Christmas and I've spent many nights at her house nursing her when she was recovering from multiple surgeries. I suggested that she hire a nursing service and she said noone was as capable and kind as me.
I take care of her. I am working on my Ph.D. dissertation. My family pleads with me to spend less time with her and more time with them. A couple of my friends say that they will not be friends with me any longer because I am so irrational. "But she's a survivor!" I reply. And they tell me how I have been duped. And I wonder---she does seem to be so inconsistent. The Nazi death camps are no longer the biggest trauma of her life; the biggest trauma of her life was that everyone loved Jackie Kennedy's style and Jackie Kennedy ruined things for wasp-waisted ladies.
Things collapsed in 1988. I weighed almost 230 pounds; I had completed my graduate course, and another neighbor had taken me (kicking and screaming) to a therapist. He told me that he knew this woman well and that yes, she was German, but no, she was not Jewish. She had had a very cozy war. She had depended on virtuous sympathies to feed her ego and her narcissism since the early 1950's when she had moved to town.
I gained so much weight so quickly, I believe, because a part of me was worrying and wondering why I was paying more attention to this woman than to the legitimate people who should have claimed my time. Every minute I was with her felt like a claustrophobic trap. Every word she said about the War was a lie. And finally when I was taking care of her I saw her sleeping, sitting up on the side of her bed, with a needle stuck in her arm. She was just a junkie all along.
The end came when I looked at her photo albums which were on display in her study. There she was, plump, laughing, wearing fur and drinking champagne. She was revelling. And the dates on these photos in one particular album? All from 1940-1945. I called her unethical and she said she never wanted to talk to me again! And her name was really Mathilde!
And thus I gained my freedom. I wish I could tell you that I became wise. I continue to be a dupe and I continue to "side with" those with whom I disagree. But I am learning, the hard way, to stand up for my own beliefs. It is only when I reverse that equation and make decisions based on 1) my feelings 2) the needs of my family 3) the wishes of my friends and those I like and finally 4) the wishes of those with whom I disagree==only then will I perhaps come to care about myself more and to have a sane approach to decision-making.
This is my TRUE story. 200 points earned.