I’ve Looked at Leaves

I’ve looked at leaves from both sides now
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From up
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and down
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and still somehow, I don’t know leaves at all.

Facades – we all have them, don’t we? We have the faces we show to the world, the brave faces, the smiling faces, the faces that say “it’s all okay, it’s all just fine”. But are these always our real faces, or are they illusions? Do we really know each other at all?

The song sung so beautifully by Joni Mitchell back – when? 80s? used clouds as its symbol, but I believe it was really about knowing one another. About the illusions we sometimes present to the world. About how sometimes we think we know someone, and then we find we don’t. Not really. And that’s okay. Sometimes illusions are good. Sometimes we don’t want to share everything there is about ourselves with the world. Sometimes we share only with very close friends, and maybe some things are never shared at all.

But sometimes we hide things that we should not. Recent news items, primarily concerning football players, have made me think about the horrid things people do to one another. Have made me wonder what makes someone think it’s okay to knock out someone we say we love, to drag them down a hall. But it also makes me wonder what makes the person who has been so badly treated accept that treatment and subsequently marry the person who abused (and probably continues to abuse) her. Why?

And then there’s the football player who abused his child – whipping that child with a stick, it is reported – leaving abrasions and major bruises. The case that created a maelstrom of discussion about spanking and its validity. But wait! I say – this was not “spanking”. This was beating. This was child abuse. There is a difference, in my mind. Sometimes a swat with an open hand gets the attention of the child, makes them really think about what they have done that caused this action from their parent. But whipping? Using a stick? No! Not spanking! That’s abuse.

And we keep quiet about being treated this way. We keep silent. Maintaining our facade, our illusion. So that no one really knows us at all. These actions are not tolerable, and should not be tolerated. They are dangerous. They are life-threatening. I have never been in this situation, and I do not understand why the victims keep silent – not really understand. I get that for many women it is financial security. It could be a fear of being able to support themselves and their children without the income of the abuser. It could be a misplaced passion or love for the abuser. It could be the abused has been brainwashed by the abuser, or even those who raised her as a child, to believe it is her fault. To believe if she changes, the situation will change. That she can make it all okay. I’ve been there – not with physical abuse, but with a man who was hell-bent on destroying anything good in his life, any relationship that might make him feel he was unworthy of having. It took me a very long time to learn that I could not change myself to make it okay. I could not make it okay. But I could leave, and I did. Finally. And I survived.

The answer? I have no idea! I do not know how you get to people in this situation. I do not know how you break a learned manner of dealing with frustration or anger that results in violence. I think our world has a problem – not just this country, but many countries. We resort to violence, we declare war, we shout, we strike. We do not communicate. We do not listen. We do not hear the cries for help, the pleas for understanding.

We look at leaves and clouds and people from both sides, from up and down, but it’s the illusions we see. We do not really know many people at all. It is a sad situation.

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About Carol

I'm me - nothing unusual, just me. Widowed, 2 grown children who are my best friends, 2 dogs, 1 cat, retired, loving being retired. I am woman, I am strong.
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25 Responses to I’ve Looked at Leaves

  1. Robin says:

    It IS sad, Carol. I wish I understood how and why it is some of these things are still, in this day and age, hidden. I have a friend who married a very abusive man, and there was no talking her out of it. Several people tried, even after she married him and they had two children and he still continued to abuse her. He taught the children to call her “bitch” instead of mom or mama or mother. He isolated her from her friends, and threatened those of us who tried to keep in touch. I kept in touch anyhow until she asked me not to anymore because it made things worse for her. They kids are grown and they are still married. I think she believes she deserves to be abused, for reasons I can’t fathom.

    Your leaves are beautiful.

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  2. Dear Carol,
    This is an excellent thought-provoking post–one of your best. We all have our public presentations that we show to the world. The best writing is probably that which takes our readers closer to our true core selves (as this post does) and shares our deeper thoughts and concerns. Thank you for sharing it–I feel I know you better for having read this post.

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  3. Kathy says:

    It’s true, I don’t think we know people as well as we think we do. We can only see certain sides of a being–not their who multi-faceted positive and negative self. We see what the person wants us to see, or we often see our own projection of what we think a person is. The truth seems to be that we humans are capable of both incredible good and terrible evil. Sometimes unintentional. Sometimes intentional. So often coming from the mentality of being “not enough” and lashing out or reaching out from that… This is a real thought and emotion-provoking post, Carol.

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  4. Joanne says:

    I don’t understand why people stay with abusers either, Carol. All I know is that we can’t change another person, we can only change ourselves. And we control our own actions, and no one else’s. I don’t know what the answer is, but if more people would realise that they should get away from these situations, as you did (I’m so sorry to hear that you went through something so traumatic, my friend,) it may encourage the abusers to seek help, when they find that they are being deserted. Perhaps. I really don’t know. But yes, it is so very, very sad.

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  5. suzicate says:

    I guess we’re not meant to understand the choices and lives of others but to focus on our own journeys. I sometimes become baffled when trying to figure out why people do what they do. I have a hard enough time understanding myself, ha!’Love the photos of the leaves, gorgeous!

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    • Carol says:

      Perhaps we are not meant to understand, and yes, we need to focus on our own journeys. But still, shouldn’t we reach out, shouldn’t we pray for those whose lives and experiences have led them to tenuous situations? The news these days makes me want to cry.

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  6. What a strong message and… you completely took me by surprise – with my morning coffee in hand – I was thinking I will just admire some beautiful creations of nature, but… I have been thinking the same kind of saddening thoughts, not so much about what’s with those abusers in news from the USA, but rather about what’s going on with countries being at war, like Ukraine or going through disaster crisis, like Liberia and others… and how there is nothing, absolutely nothing I can do about it, and how reading news from there makes me sad and frustrated and so much more willing to have a possibility to contribute, to change… Thank you so much for this moment of … truth and reflection, greetings from Brussels

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  7. Wow. This certainly hit home. Admittedly, Carol, I have not read any posts (from anyone) on WordPress for several months… until today. Something told me to open yours up and read it.

    I am one of those people who spent her life living with/married to an abuser. I KNOW the reasons why… I lived it. From 1977 to 1998 I was with a series of abusers, bringing four children into the fray with me. I am not proud of it, but I did what I had to do during that time to survive. I won’t go into specific detail about reasoning, unless you live it, it’s very hard to understand. But I think I’m inspired to write about it on my own blog, which has also been neglected all summer. Maybe I’ll work on it tonight.

    Oddly enough, from my point of view, I don’t understand how others cannot understand what motivates a woman (with or without children) to stay with an abuser.

    Gorgeous photos, as usual!

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    • Carol says:

      I am so sorry you went through that for so long, Tamara. I think, as with so many things, it is hard to truly understand situations you have not lived. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your blog.

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  8. Carol — Thank you for this thought-provoking post. As humans we tend to see what we want to see (selective vision), and/or what other people want us to see (selective masking).

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  9. keaneonlife says:

    This is a well written post, and something we all need to think about. I am one of those persons with many sides to me that no one really sees. Who knows why? Do you think it’s possible that the abuser acts the way he does because he hides his dark side too much? Perhaps if he let someone really know him, he would be better able to control his dark side? Not excusing it, of course, just considering…

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  11. A wonderful and thought-provoking post, Carol. I too can never understand people who abuse others and those who accept the abuse. I think it is partly financial security, but I also think sometimes these people think they deserve the abuse. Or fear keeps them in chains; they just don’t have the confidence, courage or energy to escape.

    We all do have sides we don’t like to show to the world; because in fact we all are made of both bad and good. No one likes to show the bad. I try in my blogging to share my insecurities and my faults, even making fun of them when I can, but I’m not even successful at opening myself up all the time. We all are facades to some degree.

    I’m really glad you had the strength and courage to leave your situation. Look how confident you are as a result of that action. I’m sure it was a struggle, but you did it. That demands the utmost admiration. 🙂

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  12. Dawn says:

    Thought provoking…confusing, complicated issues. That’s for sure. We could all stand to learn from others experiences and we all need to discuss this.

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  13. Heather says:

    I don’t know why famous people are treated differently. Well, obviously it has a lot to do with buying silence, but why does the public allow it? Why are football players exempt from scrutiny? Why aren’t there more inquiries, considering how this seems to be so pervasive? And why wouldn’t it be? All those guys are paid to be aggressive.
    As for those who stay, I suspect shame and guilt play a large role. (Speaking from personal experience here. Not physical abuse, per se, but emotional and sexual.) I never wanted to admit, really even to myself, that anything was wrong. I don’t know why it’s so embarrassing, but it’s like admitting you’ve messed up in the worst way possible. Fortunately, once you truly move beyond it, it’s easier to stop blaming yourself, and easier to help see when the same thing is happening to others. I even think I managed to help a few teenage girls escape a couple of those relationships and see them for what they were.

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  14. lisa says:

    This is such a thoughtful, provocative, disturbing post. Yes, we all have our facades and many people are very adept in hiding their true colors. My heart is saddened by the recent reports of abuse at the hands of celebrities and athletes. Many times it’s a cycle of abuse and unless it’s stopped, can destroy families and lives…celebrity or not. This type of abuse should never be kept a secret. But I agree, there is a definite line between a well-placed swat on the rear and whipping as discipline.

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  15. Hi Carol – so many complex issues here. I just came from another blog where a woman described a friend in a physically abusive relationship and asked her readers for advice on how to be with that friend. Issues of abuse often have their roots in unhealed wounds (both for the abuser and the abused). Abusive relationships also create Stockholm Syndrome in the victim which is the reason why they stay, even in life-threatening situations. It’s amazing how the human mind can distort reality in order to adjust to the most frightening situations.

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