The “worst parent in the world”. It’s a honor far too many seem to be trying for, it seems.
Today I read the story of a mother and son. And although it angered me, and though this boy has surely endured hell, it also reminded me…that no one’s ever truly helpless…
I came across the story this weekend as I browsed pictures of monkeys (yeah, random, but whatever). I have, of course, read some messed up stuff before when it comes to parents and children.
As we all have.
I know there are stories of rape and murder. I know there are accounts of slavery and trafficking. I know there are even parents out there raising their kids as Red Sox fans.
It’s just disgusting what some parents do.
But for whatever reason, this story in particular had me thinking for days. This parent was just so absolutely thorough in her abuse.
So messed up.
So fucked up.
So evil, really.
The “kid” in this story is 28 years old. And for the entirety of his life he had been physically abused by his mother, until only recently actually, when he finally mustered the courage to defend himself.
Beaten with anything she could find for the most arbitrary of reasons.
He says, that while the physical abuse was awful, what’s far worse is the verbal abuse.
And the verbal abuse is constant.
Everyday, at every opportunity, she belittles him. Calls him stupid and fat, useless and worthless.
She reminds him constantly that he was a mistake, that she never wanted him, that she doesn’t want him, that the only reason she even birthed him at all was to keep his father from divorcing her, from leaving her.
Which of course didn’t work.
And despite it all, in school this man achieved far more than ANY should have expected given all he deals with – the total lack of support, the cuts and bruises he’s given, the incessant abuse his mind is polluted with, the love he never recieves.
He was smart, though. And somehow – somehow - this boy was able to achieve straight A’s throughout middle school.
For his excellence he was offered a full scholarship to a private high school some distance away.
The kind of place that would get him into any college. The kind of place that could change his life.
But his mother refused.
Like his father before him, she feared being left. She feared he’d leave her.
And so she forced him to reject the offer. She sent him, instead, to the local public school. And when he did too well there, she pulled him out of school altogether, again fearing that his good grades would lead to college, to her being left alone.
Where is the man now?
Well, now he’s a high school dropout. Because she made him one.
He works at a convenient store near their home for the minimum wage. And all his money goes to his mother.
He wants desperately to earn his GED but his mother won’t let him. In fact, she won’t let him leave the house for any reason but work.
She drives him to and from, and allows him nowhere else.
He doesn’t know a single person outside his home.
He has no family.
She never even taught him how to drive, because she feared he would drive right out of her life.
He’s only barely more than a slave.
And all-the-while the verbal abuse continues. The physical abuse continues. His nightmare continues.
She has literally stripped him of any opportunity. She has purposely made him as worthless to society as he is to her.
Yet for whatever reason she’s done everything within her power to keep him there, to keep him within range of her insults and beatings, to keep him dependent emotionally on her abuse.
She has created this poor man’s world; one where she is God and judgment.
He wants to die, he says, but won’t do it, can’t do it.
What he really wants is a way out.
“I feel helpless.”
“I feel hopeless.”
“I can’t change.”
…my immediate mental response to such pleas of helplessness is simply: “Get over yourself.”
Outside of chains on your ankles, it seems, there’s always a way out. It’s just a matter of finding it.
But stories like this make you pause.
Cause you see that things are never truly as easy as we’d like them to be.
Cuase imagine this poor man’s life.
Imagine what he’s endured everyday for 28 years. Imagine the kind of thoughts that run through his mind – the inferiority and negativity, the lack of any worth or love, the total hopelessness and despair.
Imagine now that you are him; that it’s you who’s lived that life.
When he says he is helpless, he means it.
She has left him nothing. Even the idea that there’s something better, that he has any chance of surviving alone in the world is completely outside his reality.
Her abuse did that. She did it on purpose.
And so I could not tell this man what I would tell another in a lesser circumstance. Because while the truth is always the same, how we consider that truth often requires empathy and consideration.
I would simply say this:
There exists within us all the leverage to change whatever in our lives we determine requires it.
There is a point where the pain of continuing whatever life we live, in whatever circumstance we live it, becomes simply too much to bear; where waking another day as we have woken every day becomes the last thing we will ever accept again.
There comes a point where we say “No more” – to the crappy job, to the crappy relationship, to the abusive parent.
And when we reach this point we are presented with a choice.
For many, it is the first choice they will ever make consciously. Because like the man in the story, they have been jerked around and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of.
They had no choices.
And whether through fear, ignorance, or coercion they came to accept their lot in life - that they were too stupid or fat, lazy or worthless; that they could find no other relationship or no better job; that the power and influence of those who’ve hurt them was too strong to overcome.
Their life was never their own. Never something they constructed conscously. Never something they themselves decided. But something instead left to the whims of fate, and simply how things have thus far played out.
Most, then, choose what is familiar.
They choose to keep the life they know – however terrible - rather than face they future they fear - however promising.
And if such is the case, then the problem never did reach its true boiling point. The scales never reached a tipping point. They accept their problems willingly now, and are as participatory in their suffering as whatever it is that afflicts them.
But for those who’ve reached that point of “no more”, of total helplessness, the only acceptable solution is the end of the problem, or the end of them.
We know what far too many choose when presented with this choice.
They end their life, and thus their suffering.
And I understand the desperation that would lead to that kind of action.
Because that man, living in that home with that woman, knows a pain and worthlessness I will never know.
He knows a helplessness and a weakness that doesn’t come from a simple bad day at work, or a relative passing, or a relationship ended.
He knows a hopelessness that’s been taught since birth.
Forced in him. Engrained in him.
And he knows no other life, no other beliefs, no other way fo thinking or being.
Death is little to him, then, who has never lived; who seemingly dies everyday he rises.
But when we’ve reached the point of “no more” – when what has been our only option becomes a non-option – realize then that all possibilities are now open to us. Because all possibilities are preferable to what we now have.
That’s emotional leverage. That’s realizing that helplessness ends where choice begins.
And so if I were that man, I would be gone tonight. Screw that I had no money. Screw that I had no friends. Screw that I had nowhere to sleep.
A roof over your head is of no value, when what’s under that roof is killing you.
I have life yet to live, and I will live it, and I will do anything to see it better.
Because I deserve it.
Because fuck her.
Because those who torment you, those who abuse you, those who ruin you, don’t deserve the satisfaction of your failure, or the pleasure in your suffering.
Take a single step, then…
…any step – towards change.
Each step from the present you now hate is a step towards the future you now desire.
When the problem is bad enough, when the situation is unbearable enough, when what was once unfathomable becomes reasonable, and what was once scary becomes necessary, the most difficult choice becomes easy.
“I won’t take this anymore.”
And leverage makes it possible.
Because leverage overcomes helplessness. Because every scale has a tipping point. And when that point is reached - when you reject, completely and forever, what you now endure, then all that scared you previously – all the obstacles, all the hindrances, all the problems that lay between you and the future you want – become as ant hills next to mountains.
And so it’s true…
Nothing has been more difficult than what you’ve dealt with already.
But nothing would be more difficult than staying that course.
So change course instead.
Cause feeling helpless created the problem, and it won’t soon fix it.
And the helplessness ends, and the change begins.
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