I was thinking a few minutes ago on what I should write about. None of the topics I outlined yesterday seemed appealing, either because it seems like writing about them would be too much work, or the topics aren’t really on my mind today. I considered writing a brief post about my day and working through my recent decision (five minutes ago) to take the Florida Bar Exam, but that didn’t seem fitting either.
And then, as often happens, life intervened. This time, in the form of Facebook.
Mom, this is another one you’re going to want to skip.
One of my younger brother’s oldest friends (I think they met in kindergarten or first grade) commented on a post I wrote about not being ready to have four teenagers. He said something like, “You are going to have four little X’s (his name) and Y’s (my brother’s name) running around, good luck!”
It hit me the wrong way, as I suppose it should have, even though I know no offense was intended. This friend has been around a long time. His family and my family ended up becoming friends. His mom and my mom are very close, and his younger sister too. It was the sort of merging of families that occurs organically when two single(ish) moms lean on each other for support and their kids end up spending a lot of time together. I haven’t actually seen him in a couple of years, which is about how long it has been since I went to my hometown, but he is around enough now to know the deal, and to have a pretty good understanding of why I don’t want anything to do with my brother.
It hurts my heart to write that, it truly does. I think my mom thinks it doesn’t really bother me. I guess because I’m so tough, it’s my decision and I could change my mind if I wanted to, etc., but that’s not true, and really, it’s not fair.
My brother is five years younger than I am and growing up, we were on our own a decent amount. He was a giant pain in the ass from the day he was born (and really, even before), but I loved him the moment I saw him, and I felt compelled to protect him immediately. My mom loves to tell people that I wouldn’t let him out of my sight, and it was true, I followed him all around the hospital when he was in the little crib on wheels, and I would sing him to sleep when he cried. As he got older he had terrible ear infections and cried all of the time, but I tried to comfort him. He was also small for his age and he had a speech impediment, and I was very protective. He was, in some ways, my first baby, and I was as guilty as anyone else of spoiling and overprotecting him, but I really didn’t know any better. By the time I was a teenager he drove me crazy, and years later when I apologized for ignoring him or yelling at him he said he forgave me, but really didn’t remember it that way anyway, and thought I was a great big sister.
When the signs of trouble started in high school I was already in law school, and I found myself pregnant and panicked, so I wasn’t around as much as I wanted to be, but I tried to do what I could to help him. By the time he was in college it was clear things were spinning out of control, but until he was about twenty I could always find some way to reason with him, and then something changed.
My brother made some really shitty choices that hurt a lot of very good people, and no one held him accountable while he carried on that way. My parents knew he was lying to their faces, about serious things, and knew he was lying other people too, but nobody did anything about it. I imagine they were afraid to lose him, and by that point they had been competing with each other for his affection for so long, I’m not sure they even knew they were doing it anymore.
When it finally got to be so bad it could no longer be ignored (because we actually thought he might be a serious danger to himself and others, something we were not alone in fearing), we all agreed to step in and tell him it was time to stop, which was a genuine attempt to help him, and quite possibly, as far as I was concerned, an attempt to save his life. Apparently he was angry about that effort to help, because it required him to hear some hard truths, and so he reached out to the opposing side of my particularly nasty custody battle (a battle underway while I was managing a cross-country move in the midst of a difficult pregnancy.) He didn’t reach out because he thought the other side should win or is a decent parent or even a decent human being; he did it simply because he wanted to cause me pain, and maybe he even thought he would somehow get something out of it.
He did a lot of things that many people would consider unforgivable, and really, he continues to do many of them. But the one thing I will never, ever let go of, is the fact that he put my children at risk. I have accepted that my mother is a grown woman and what he does to her is between the two of them. I can even see that with some of the other people he hurt. But not with my children.
He put my children in a bad situation, and I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t do it again. He also caused me a lot of stress and hurt during a time I was genuinely concerned I could have a miscarriage. I know as Christians and as Catholics we are called to forgive, and someday, I’m sure I will, but it won’t happen while my children are still young, and I will never, ever forget what he did. Layered on top of all of that are a long list of terrible things he’s done to other people I care about very much, and it starts to paint a picture.
I’m sure he has an explanation as to why he did what he did, or he simply denies that it happened. He recently told someone he turned down a job that would have paid him something like $1,000,000 per year so he could be close to his son, so the lies aren’t over yet, and no one should be surprised. That’s what liars do. Liars lie. Liars do what they want to do, when they want to do it, and leave everyone else to pick up the pieces. My mother has become an expert at sweeping up the leftovers, often under the rug, and I want no part in that. It has put a strain on our relationship and unfortunately I’m sure it will continue to do so, but that is another topic for another day.
I don’t know why any of us put up with liars, but we do. I see it all around me, every day. Maybe it’s because we think, “Well, everyone tells a white lie every once in a while, so who am I to judge?” or “Well, that particular lie didn’t actually directly cause me any harm, so it’s really none of my business,” or “Well, maybe he had a good reason to lie to her, she was crazy, but he would never do that to me.” Oh, he would, sweetheart. He most certainly would.
It probably sounds like I am angry. I am angry, I suppose. I’m not angry all of the time or even most of the time, but sometimes, I do feel angry. I feel angry because I see so many people working hard, doing everything they can to build a better life honestly, putting their children first, helping others, and then I see these asshole liars flitting through life, making messes virtually without consequence.
I know, life brings consequences eventually. One day, these lying liars will wake up past their prime and all alone. Namaste.
Will they though? I think about my own father who, according to some sources, is about to end his fourth marriage. He barely has any relationship with one child, has no relationship at all with another, and only has a relationship with the last one because he enables the same terrible behavior he engages in. I would bet he doesn’t sit down at night and think, “Man, somewhere down the line I really fucked up.” No. He sits down and tells anyone who will listen how every bad thing that has ever happened in his life is because somebody else caused it. Maybe, on some level, he even believes that.
I don’t want to care about any of this. I want to take the advice I give to my children, which is to simply worry about living well myself, and pray for everyone. “Let go and let God.” But I see this lying, and I see that people seem to just put up with it, and it makes me angry. I don’t want my children to grow up and put up with people who treat them that way. What if some guy comes along, someone like my father or my brother, and hurts one of my daughters?
I’m not afraid to say it. I think I would kill him.
To be fair, I actually don’t think my brother is as dangerous as some. He’s certainly not as dangerous as my father, or as two other lying liars I’ve had to deal with. But that’s only because he’s not as smart or as disciplined, and I have to imagine he will improve with practice.
The most dangerous type of lying liar is the kind you don’t seem coming.* The kind who is well-educated and has a good job (probably something that lends credibility to his integrity), and seems to come from a decent family (even if he isn’t that close to some of them, which I’m sure he will be able to explain). The kind who remembers to open doors and always picks up the check. The kind who finds some way to make you feel special. The kind who has some kind of story about overcoming adversity and doing it without a chip on his shoulder. The kind who is gifted not just at lying, but also the subtleties of manipulation.
These people are dangerous because long after you see through them, other people will not. Even after you recognize what is happening and take steps to distance yourself, other people will not understand why. “He doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, he always seemed so nice. You really don’t want to give it another chance?” or “No one is perfect, but he is your father,” might be phrases that greet you regularly. And the answer is some form of, “He actually is very bad, much worse than I could explain without my therapist present, but thank you very much for your concern. It’s always nice to know people have room in their hearts for assholes.”
All people make mistakes. I make mistakes. Even my cherubic children sometimes make mistakes. More than that, sometimes people make bad choices. We just do. That’s normal too. But normal people take responsibility for them. We admit we did wrong, apologize, try to make it right, and try to do better. Even if we eventually fuck up again. That’s how it works when you have a conscience.
It’s the people who refuse to take any real responsibility, or only go through the motions in order to achieve some higher manipulation, that are the problem. And that is a form of lying. Pretending to do something for one reason, but actually doing it for a selfish reason, is lying.**
And really, friends, this is why I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place. I saw a lot of lying and manipulation and bad behavior when I was very young, and I believed becoming a lawyer would keep me safe, and would allow me to keep other people safe. I didn’t want to be someone who saw bad things happening to good people, but couldn’t do anything about it. I wanted to protect myself, but I also wanted to make a difference. I felt weak and powerless, and becoming a lawyer was the only way I could see to make sure that would change.
I don’t feel weak or powerless now, and I don’t feel I have anything more to prove, but I do feel like I would be stronger and more powerful if I could file papers in the state of Florida under my own name if the need arose. To be clear, I do not want to get my license because I want to do something to or about the people who have hurt me. I want to do it because I know I am not the last person to be treated that way, and while I appreciate the value of a shoulder to cry on as much as the next person, sometimes that’s simply not enough. I do not want to take the bar exam because I am angry, although I am, and I wish I were doing it out of anger, because I would probably be more motivated to study thoroughly.
I want to take the exam because I want to do more, and I feel the need to do that now. I know I can’t fix everything, and right now my priority is simply to keep the tiny humans I brought into this world safe (and that is a full-time job, to be sure), but one day very soon, I will do more. Even if it does mean I have to take another bar exam.
*There are a few tells I’ve learned to notice, and I’ll write more about that tomorrow, but most of the time, those of us who don’t live that way, are too busy living to notice them, and those around us are too afraid to say anything.
**I’m not talking about the normal, every day give-and-take that is a normal part of relationships, but that will be easier to explain when I discuss the “tells.”