I am Strong

This is a letter for those like me suffering from emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist. I’m here for you and I want you to know you mean something, you are strong, and whatever they are manipulating you to think, it’s not true. Let’s break down a letter I recently received from a toxic person who I had to cut out of my life.

“It’s your Dad.” – a reminder of his authority over me. Capitalized. It seems as though I’ve forgotten this “fact” and I need to be reminded of it. This is not a soft, “let’s make amends” approach. This person means business and is reiterated in the next line.

“I think this has gone on long enough don’t you think?” Here we see the authoritative tone more clearly and aggressively. After years of silence, HE has had enough, HE is intolerant, and HE thinks my silence is getting to be ridiculous. There is a shaming tone to it; one that attempts to force the addressee into submission as if she is a tantruming child. In my body I feel the wild and crazy-making whirlwind of a life-time of injustices that THAT child has fought so hard against. She will have to take a seat for a moment because we’ll be flying to higher altitudes for the benefit of others who might be hearing similar words. These words are meant to bind and control. If you are feeling old, unhealthy patterns come up in your body, this is a red flag for toxicity. Simple words that set you off and have you scrambling. You are fighting against the image they have for you and you get clouded in their vision. Close your eyes. Remember who you are. You are not that child anymore. You are strong. You are powerful. They only have power if you give it to them. Sit with that child in your lap and remind them that they are not ridiculous. They have felt so much pain. They are not unworthy of love as these words imply. They ARE love.

“I would like to meet with you.” He states his needs. A person in authority has no requirement to communicate in an empathetic way to those they see as beneath them. He has not had some major epiphany that has opened his eyes to the fact that you’re a self-sustaining, strong, amazing human being. It doesn’t matter why HE wants this. It doesn’t matter why YOU don’t. He just wants to meet. Period. End of story and that should be good enough. No. This is not good enough for someone who has stood strong, went ZERO contact, and who has found an amazing life beyond the slug of the old ways.

Let’s look at the structure of these 3 lines together: “It’s your Dad. I think this has gone on long enough don’t you think? I would like to meet with you.” This is pure manipulation. I’m the authority figure. You’re being ridiculous. You need to give in to my needs because I said so and you do not matter as a person. If he were to say this without the thin veil of power dynamics, we’d all think he was a horrible person. With the veil, though, this narcissist is able to play the authority figure while also playing the victim. I’ll say that again.

This narcissist is able to play the authority figure while also playing the victim.

This is what they do especially when you stand up for yourself. They try to cast themselves in the best light possible while at the same time illustrating you as the crazy out of control person. You are not crazy and you are only out of THIER control. Would this look different if they were in a jail cell or completely devoid of power over you? Do you, a person who has never met my paternal DNA source, feel under his thumb? To the outside perspective, this looks normal and that’s the point. There is a whole other world just beyond the charming smile and surface persona. A world that doesn’t exist to anyone who has never had the pleasure of dealing with a narcissist. Let’s move on.

“Your home, a neutral location or a restaurant. Or your office at the Child Academy.” This statement works to create a facade of safety. If the pattern holds true, his first choice is my home. He always puts his needs first. Absolutely not. Not my sanctuary. “A neutral location or a restaurant.” Safe and possibly nurturing at the same time! He is either oblivious to the situation or in denial. My money is on denial, since that is the MO of a narc. Here’s where we get to the facade part. “Or your office at the Child Academy.” This person is bitter. He truly believes I’ve been manipulated into “running away from home” because of the organization I once belonged to. He refuses to believe that I cut him out against the wishes of my therapist. He wrote the checks for my therapy to make amends for my childhood trauma. When he wanted to buy my little girl underwear, it made me feel uncomfortable (we’re talking visceral, coming out of my skin, I think my dad molested me level of uncomfortable). When I asked him to get her something else, the checks stopped coming and the guilt-tripping and manipulating started up again. I went zero contact and told him why. He showed up at my house. He showed up at my office (not named the Child Academy) and made a scene in front of my class. Does he know the name of this organization? You bet he does, but flippantly disregards the details. I’ll accept this as a bit of a stretch, but stick with me. A person who is humble and self-reflective would take the time to know a person, where that person spent 5 years working, where they went to therapy together trying to make it work, and who they signed the checks to for almost a year. Not petty, just telling. It’s a tiny detail that colors the whole message.

“Please Valarie no one holds anything against you.” The projection here is that the addressee is a scared little girl who is running from shame and rejection. That is the only conceivable reason one could possibly have for not communicating with their family. Projections are powerful things, especially when you’re in the thick of it and don’t realize how manipulated you are. I’ve been zero contact for many years now. That time away has been like a detox for my system. I see my shadows pop up and I see so clearly that I can recognize them and do the healing work immediately. This entire letter, holding the slug and piecing it apart, is cathartic for me. I can find what’s real and what isn’t. I am not a scared little girl. I am a strong woman who doesn’t have time for this manipulative nonsense.

“We just want a life line for the healing process to begin.” On the surface this is benign and almost had me. Until I realized I’ve already done an immense amount of healing and my life and relationships are like nothing I could have ever dreamed. I don’t say that to gloat, but what can you possibly offer me? After an aggressively authoritative letter that puts your needs first, how can your toxicity possibly enrich my life? This is the crowning glory to the tone of the entire message. This narcissist wants to play the authority figure while also playing the victim. He wants to heal on his terms and nothing short of his terms. If he can’t have the healing process his way, he can’t have it at all. I have become the excuse for him to not do any healing work.

Let’s play it out for a moment for my fellow narc survivors. You give in because you want healing for this person you once loved or you feel an obligation to love. They’re the wonderful person you remembered and everything is sunshine and roses. That is until the world revolves around everything THEY want and you’re being selfish for wanting anything. So you suck it up and you play along hoping for the best and you tell yourself they’re working on themselves. First it’s one excuse to not go to rehab or therapy or make a single choice that supports your mental health. But you don’t want to upset them because you want this to work. You don’t want to make them angry because they are insanely volatile when provoked. You end up back under their control with no way out. They threaten you, they hold things over your head including, but not limited to, every time they’ve helped you in any way whether it’s finding a lost earring or a down payment on a car. EVERYTHING will be fair game. In their book, you OWE them, they OWN you, and you are BENEATH them. Every attempt to mirror and stand up for yourself ends with you in tears fighting so hard for change and healing. Wait a sec, aren’t THEY the ones suppose to be working on change and healing?

To my paternal source of DNA: I’ll tell you what, you do the healing over there. When you’ve got some pudding you want proofed, we’ll talk. I don’t have time for your narcissistic, manipulative, one-sided, drama infused, half-assed attempts at a meaningful relationship and I sure as hell will not get my family involved in your walking disaster. Any response you have short of a soul-shaking self-reflection is manipulative garbage.

To my readers who are also narc survivors: You are strong. You are not crazy. You are not wrong. You might be hurting and/or suffering. I can’t promise that walking away is a one-size-fits-all. What I can tell you is that you’re not alone. This person that I cut out loved to throw in my face that blood is thicker than water, implying that family is everything. What he obviously didn’t know is that the full quote is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” This means that the relationships you make by choice, with intention, and with passion are more powerful than the relationships you’re born with. Once I learned who I am, I began attracting my tribe. We are strong and powerful people. My chosen family is full of beautiful human beings striving for healing and change in the world. Not a single one of us is perfect, but we found joy and acceptance through thick and thin. Find who you are. Know who you are. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Layover in Minneapolis International

I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning up this past month (and suffering with back/leg pain) trying to organize my thoughts and get my portfolio together as I embark on a new journey. While sifting through some old college papers, I ran across a poem I wrote two years ago after traveling to Missouri. It made me remember how much I love writing, so here is my effort to keep my blog alive and keep writing.

Layover in Minneapolis International

I'm ready for adventure!
I'm ready to see the world!
ok, so I'm heading for Missouri
to an area remote and rural.

But I'm going to meet new people!
who speak in different ways!
but with all my eavesdropping,
everyone sounds the same.

I search for an open breezeway
to take in the Minnesota air,
but the building is sealed tight
against inclement weather

and it dawns on me as I watch
the arrivals and departures
to and from
exotic places

Here in the exhale of foreign lands
may be the closest I come to adventure.
So I wash my hands
and exit the tornado shelter.

Dreaming Big

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

~ Harriet Tubman

I am FINALLY ready! It’s been almost a month since my epiphany and I’m taking baby steps toward my dream.

On July 7th, a friend of mine invited me to sit in on the Spiritual Counsel Meeting for her sanctuary. I had been to the previous month’s meeting and was impressed beyond words. Of course I wanted to stay!

In this meeting, we did a guided meditation to perhaps get a preview or gain some insight as to where the sanctuary is going.

Backstory

Over the 20 years she has been helping animals and growing her sanctuary, there have been major exoduses just before major growth. When I say exodus, I mean to say many older rescued animals in her care choose that time to say goodbye. It’s bizarre how how it happens and before you suggest that she has a hand in “killing” these animals, let me assure you that animals are everything to her. If anything, she may have been guilty of keeping them alive longer than they wished. She has grown wiser over the years and has fine tuned her incredible ability to listen to the animals. It has been the pattern, though, that when they see large scale losses and they’re disheartened and mourning, somehow pieces click together and opportunities seem to appear out of no where. They suddenly were able to move to a larger property or branch out into other states or connections are suddenly made to further their rescue efforts.

The Spiritual Counsel Meeting

Anyway, we just faced a major exodus of several matriarchs within the past few months and we’re all feeling disheartened, lost, and mournful and my dear friend is able to lift her head enough to remember the pattern and wonder what is coming next. So she brings up the question in this month’s Spiritual Counsel Meeting.

I can be a bit skeptical when it comes to ANY spirituality. I grew up Christian, but didn’t see anything miraculous in anyone I met. I love the idea of smart women being in touch with nature and knowing the healing properties of herbs and meditation (aka witchcraft). I love the idea of creating my own magic. I want to be able to sense things on other levels that aren’t well understood by pedestrian science. I want to speak with the animals and understand the world around me. But who am I to have any kind of super powers or special abilities?

And I find myself here in a room with the most amazing healers who have been drawn in by the sanctuary. I’m in total awe and feeling so out of my depth wondering why I was even invited. And then we began the meditation.

I kept seeing a place that I saw about a year ago in a dream. I knew then this was the next sanctuary. This time, a white hawk was added to my vision. My hand itched to capture on paper what I was seeing: a cliff, tall grass, a stream in the distance, and the hawk. I wanted to paint it. I wanted to bring it to life! In this meditation, I finally embraced my identity as an artist and healer. My calling is to help people express themselves through art. I left that meeting with the goal of becoming an art therapist and bringing my skills to the school within the sanctuary.

The Plan

My first goal is to start out small. I will be joining art groups within my community and working on my craft. I will be posting my portfolio to my instagram account to remember where I came from.

Additionally, I’d like to create sellable art in honor of specific animals to raise money for their care. We recently took in a lost and sick grey tabby cat who we found on the street in the gutter on the edge of death. After taking her to the vet, she looked so bad and I wasn’t sure she’d make it through the night. I didn’t want her to die without a name, so I called her Primrose after Katniss’s sister in The Hunger Games. (We named the last cat we took in Katniss, who was also a grey tabby.) We have 5 dogs and 3 cats because we are horrible fosters and we can’t do more animals. But I can’t turn her away either. I’ve been posting all over social media and one lady commented that she wishes she could adopt her, but her husband is allergic. At that moment I wished I could send her a plush Primrose so that she could kind of adopt her and perhaps help with the growing vet bills. I also realized this would be a great way to fundraise for other animals as well!

To further my passive income efforts, I’ll create sellable clipart and designs that can be applied to merchandise on RedBubble, Society6, and Cricut.

My next step is to create meetups where people can gather and work on their projects or learn new skills. I’ll do paint and sips for adults and drawing classes for kids. I’ll create curriculums that can also be translated to online education.

Ultimately, I will make my way into an art therapist space where I help people express long buried emotions through art and creativity.

Trash or Optical Illusion

I have been on a journey of self-discovery for years and have finally made some headway this weekend. Although I don’t want to get into the details just yet, I wanted to post a video that metaphorically illustrates my epiphany.

My art, talents, and life just seems like a series of jumbles and jots, but I have to keep reminding myself that it will all come together in a bigger picture.

I may not know exactly where this path will take me, but I can say with confidence (finally) that I am an artist.

My Epic Birthday Weekend Fiasco

So Friday afternoon when I was supposed to be cleaning up and getting ready for the weekend, I decided I wanted to paint my nails. The top of the bottle of the color I chose was sealed shut. Yes, there were plenty of other colors with perfectly removable tops. I love OPI and I have a ridiculous collection of nail polish. I wanted that one. I poured nail polish remover into the top and swirled it around and wiggled and twisted to no avail. As my twisting turned to absent-minded pushing, a random squirrel started to yell at Kobe, our tiny 13-year-old, blind min-pin. The bottle finally gave up the fight, while also having the last word. I snapped the cap and broke off the top part of the glass bottle. For half a moment I wondered how doable it would be to paint my nails with the shard of glass still attached to the lid. That is about the time I realized I sliced the back of my left index finger wide open and was about to bleed profusely if I didn’t hold the wound closed. I calmly put the bottle down, rinsed my hand in the sink and quickly checked the severity of the cut to make sure I wasn’t being over dramatic. This wasn’t easy being a hemophobe. It oozed with a whole lot of NOPE so I calmly and casually yelled to my husband across the house that I cut my hand open. He rushed out with all the calmness of a first time expecting father and drove me to urgent care.

While in the waiting room, I had to laugh at all of it or my brain would linger too long on the thought that I might have sliced myself down to the bone. It’s just as well, I thought at one point. Now that it’s all over my hand, I’m not so fond of the color anymore. (If you know me, you’d know I’m notorious for putting on nail polish, changing my mind, and promptly removing it.)

I ended up getting sutures to close the inch long gash on my finger and strict orders to not get it wet. Perfect Val timing because my husband had a birthday surprise for me in a few hours – a lovely evening of pottery making! Of course I had to ruin the surprise because he had to explain to the doctor what he had planned for me. I made two sad bowls, but had a wonderful time checking one more thing off my bucket list and spending time with friends all while rocking a quite fashionable surgical purple glove.

The next day, we attended a volunteer party and because I can’t keep a secret, I got us tickets for Don’t Tell Comedy for our 18 year anniversary. They don’t tell you anything until the day of, so I couldn’t have spilled the beans even if I wanted to. It turned out to be a great evening with three great comedians and one obnoxious guy. It was BYOB, so we packed dinner and a few exotic drinks we wanted to try. The hard kombucha was good, the cherry cider was down right awful, and I don’t even remember the beer as it’s only function was to get the awful taste out of my mouth and give my mouth something to do when I felt the need to heckle the chauvinistic idiot on stage.

We stopped at The Alamo after the show and finished the night with a pitcher of margaritas.

I spent my birthday tired and perhaps a bit hungover, but it was a pretty great weekend.

Oh please, not more drama …

I hid my previous post recently because I thought I was finally done with my family drama and I can go back to blogging about normal stuff … in all my free time. That is how much I’d rather not talk about it. I would prefer to hide it and sweep it under the rug. It’s horrible and I don’t enjoy highlighting the crappy parts of my life. This blog is supposed to be for my writing and art.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to blog about the things that I really want to write about and Mr. Crazy Stalkerman has contacted me again. That’s right, Richard R. Meza has reached out to me AGAIN. The first message was relatively harmless:

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I only saw it because I have to occasionally check my junk box for real messages that have been flagged as SPAM. Not a big deal. It went to my junk folder and I can just continue to ignore it.

Then I received this email this morning:

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 2.10.12 PM.png

… “We need you help please.” What is it that I can possibly offer? Do I somehow now have more money than you and you need it? Does she need bone marrow? Am I somehow a match for her blood type? Maybe you molested her and you need me to be a character witness for you. Who knows. You need my help as much as that nice Arabian prince needed help with all that money he didn’t know what to do with. (He too sent a very kind email dripping with grammatical errors.)

Sarcasm aside for everyone else reading, this is what manipulation looks like. It pulls on your heartstrings or gets in your head. If you take the bate, you’re sucked back into the toxic relationships. If you ignore it, you’re guilted by the concern and wondering if you’re a horrible person because this innocent child needs YOUR help.

And that part eats at me, I’ll be honest. So I can come to terms with it in this way: if this child truly needs life-saving assistance, I will help. I have one condition, though. Richard Meza and Kimberly Lowe will need to sign a contract that states they will never contact me again for anything. Ever. And I owe you nothing.

I have no desire to return to mental and emotional abuse. I am making this choice for my health and the health of my family. No one is telling me what to do. No one is pulling my puppet strings. I am an intelligent person perfectly capable of making my own life choices despite Richard Meza and Kimberly Lowe threatening my therapist, claiming I’m under the spell of a cult, and insisting my husband is controlling me. I’m in a good place and I love my husband, my daughter, and my life. I don’t ever want to go through the crazy-making drama of being bullied, guilt-tripped, and mind-fucked.

For survivors like me, you don’t have to put up with it. Get yourself out of those toxic relationships and give yourself permission to love and enjoy the life you’ve been given. Don’t let those toxic people (family or not) control your happiness.

Update: my mom has no idea what he’s talking about, so it’s obviously not life and death.

Can you hear me now?

Richard MezaI hate airing dirty laundry, especially on social media. I need to get something out, though. There are a few members in my audience who are not into reading and only look at the pretty pictures, so I will get to the point. I will continue to fight like hell to maintain the sane and peaceful life that I’ve worked so hard to obtain.

Picture this: you’re a 12-year-old girl. It’s a Saturday morning. The birds are singing and the morning sun is peeking through your window. You look forward to a relaxing weekend of sleeping in and being lazy after spending a few days with your mom’s family … who doesn’t interact with you much except to pray for you. As you’re enjoying your cozy bed and blankets, you feel the blankets gently lift and your 300-pound father slip into your twin-size bed with you. He pulls you close, smothers you with his enormous body, and breaths his rancid morning breath in your face. You can’t breathe. You feel dizzy. You know you can’t say or do anything because he will fly into a rage. A survival reflex kicks in and you push away, tears streaming down your face. The inevitable happens: he pulls you by the hair and drags you over the hamster cage that is on the floor next to your bed and rakes your back. You feel blood ooze through your pajamas and the warm searing pain the metal bars left behind, but you cower covering your face as he demeans and berates you. He is in a rage.

This is what every interaction feels like with my father, Richard Meza.

I’m no angel. I’ve had a pretty fucked up childhood. I spent my early adult life acting out and living life the only way I knew how. Then I learned a better way. I worked hard in therapy to stop creating drama. I learned about self awareness. I learned kindness and compassion. I learned how to communicate more effectively. I was creating a life I never knew was possible. I’m happy and the world is full of potential!

Enter Mr. Richard Meza … crawling into bed with me.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a part of me that feels jealous on Father’s Day or when I see the amazing men with their little girls. There are times I wish I had a dad. He went with me to therapy a few times, but after every cathartic session (and in secret) he would “remind” me that none of what I experienced or remembered was true … thus nullifying each session. It was a sucker punch to the … I don’t even know where he hit me. I wanted so badly to have a relationship with him, but he bullied me, mind fucked me, and guilt tripped me so badly I would be reduced to a non-functioning mess of sobbing and snot. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t help myself, let alone my very young daughter. It wasn’t easy at first to just ignore him and push him away. The battered little girl inside of me still wanted her daddy.

I wanted so badly to end it then. I didn’t want any more drama in my life. When my therapist requested that I give him a chance, I reluctantly complied. “Dad,” I said to him on the phone one day, “When you bully me, guilt trip me, demean me, devalue me, and destroy me, I do not want to be around you. Please stop.”

Time went by. Things weren’t perfect, but they weren’t … well, I still had a pulse, so that’s good, right? In March of 2012, he wanted to give my daughter a gift: underwear. As I heard him utter the words over the phone, my stomach jumped in my throat, but I had to pretend it was as normal as could be. Underwear? I told my husband, who was appalled. I told my friends, who were gobsmacked. I told my therapist, who was shocked. It wasn’t that I wanted to talk shit to everyone I met. I had to check my own sanity! I felt creeped out, but I wasn’t sure if I was having the “right” reaction. Perhaps I was being crazy and a grandfather a million miles away is perfectly within his right to buy his granddaughter special gifts … of underwear. Right?

I responded to his request via email on April 7, 2012:

Dad,

I love that you love KC and want to give her something. I think that the only person who should buy her underwear is me, her husband when she is married, and if she wants a lingerie bridal shower, her girlfriends when she is going to get married.

Call me old fashioned, but I would prefer you get her something else. Thank you so much for loving her.

Val Smith

His response came two days later:

Valarie,
 
When you were both over the other night Angela noticed how KC enjoyed the softness of John’s blanket when they were playing the piano.  I found a very soft luxurious blanket at Costco for her bed.  Nice lavender color. The Barbie underwear was Angela’s idea which we were both going to present to her in a bundle of other gifts. I understand “old fashion”. I made it a point to avoid the traps of being an “old fashion parent” when it came to raising girls. That is why I spent so much time taking you shopping, dining, trips to Grandmas when Mom needed a break from you two and she would stay home to sleep/rest. The old fashion typical Hispanic Father would not do a fraction of what I did for my daughters which includes changing diapers and bathing you. Going to the office to defend my daughters against false accusers. I could have easily had your Mom deal with these issues and more. You are my daughter and I chose to have an active role in your life. Yes I made my mistakes but the spirit of my intentions were all good and never meant to harm you in anyway. Now I am made to feel like I have no identity as a Father or Grandfather.  
 
On a separate note. Our financial situation has changed drastically without notice, therefore, I will not be able to continue with my monthly support for your sessions. Our original agreement was that I would commit to 6 months at $100.00 per month and then have a progress meeting in February. I never did hear from you or your counselor regarding any progress. I fulfilled my commitment. I will let you know when things get back on track again.

A memory about underwear haunts me to this day and I remember it vividly. I remember wrestling sessions with Richard Meza when my sister and I were small. Sometimes our pajamas would fly up exposing our underwear. I had holes in my underwear very often from wearing jeans or washing too much. To this day I get holes in one place: my crotch. Was it neglect from my mom because it was her job to make sure our clothes weren’t tattered? She was as warm as a block of ice and just as nurturing, but the holes represented poverty to my dad. They were a reflection on his identity as a bread-winner. Sure, I can forgive him for being angry and having his ego damaged. What I find hard to forgive is when he saw my hole-riddled crotch, he put his finger into a hole touching my vagina and ripped my underwear off my little body. As he berated me for having holes, I ran into my room and hid under my bed in shame. I felt violated.

I expressed as much to him in a group session. He questioned in the group how anyone could touch a child so inappropriately? He pat himself on the back for doing things typical Hispanic fathers would never do like changing diapers. He then described in detail the intimate, magical experience of wiping his little baby girl’s vagina, cleaning it up, and replacing the diaper. I felt dizzy and excused myself to the bathroom. Is it really normal for dads to feel this way about the changing table? A friend met me in the bathroom and reassured me that it was very creepy.

In my next private therapy session, I had a body memory of being molested as a very young child. I could feel rough, calloused fingers touching my vagina. I remember panicking and wondering if what I was feeling (physically and emotionally) was normal. In my memory, I could say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was my father, Richard Meza.

The survival reflex kicks in. Time to push away.

On April 23, 2012, I wrote:

Dad,

I remember you tickling me until you molested me. I cannot imagine having a relationship with you unless you express sincere remorse and decide to go to therapy. Even then, I am not sure. I have no desire to press charges. I only want to feel safe and to keep KC safe. This memory explains a lot to me. I don’t know what else to say. I will not tell anyone why I am no longer in contact with you. I will just say we don’t get along.

Valarie

His response:

Who are you?

So here is my problem: I’m living with dirty secrets. I’ve promised to keep them a secret, however, Mr. Richard Meza refuses to leave me alone. He has been sending nasty emails and occasionally he’ll say he’s going to stop by. He has stopped by my house while I was at work and then he came to my work and made a scene. I’ve installed cameras and extra locks. Lately, in his emails, he has been addressing my 10-year-old directly and saying creepy things like “I’ve been watching you grow up from afar.” The other day he said “I meant to tell you that you have a beautiful dog. She/he seems so friendly and kind just like you.” I’m pretty sure he’s watching from my blog. Richard Meza, if you’ve made it this far, I encourage you to read the whole damn article. My dog, my best friend died.

I’m currently faced with a dilemma. I can ignore this part of my life and pretend it never happened. I can run and hide. I can change my name. I can leave the country. I can flee the situation that ultimately drags me down into a deep, dark depression that has put me on the brink of suicide. But that’s not what I’m going to do.

This is the story of my life. These are the challenges that I have faced. Just because it is in my past, it does not have to define me. I will acknowledge it and I will grow wild and free.

I will no longer allow anyone to berate, belittle, bully, manipulate, mind-fuck, or otherwise abuse me emotionally behind closed doors.

8/9 UPDATE: He emailed me on 8/6, so I made this blog public. He wrote:

How can someone with so much bitterness and hatred toward her parents and family be capable of promoting a healthy loving environment for my granddaughter? I am very concerned as to what you are being fed by your “people”

KC my dear granddaughter I love you and have not nor ever will give up on you and your parents. I pray everyday your hearts will be filled with joy and love.

It’s funny you should ask that. I’ve never known a healthy loving environment growing up, so it’s funny that you would judge the environment I’m creating for my daughter. She is able to know a life of deep family love that I never knew. She is privy to the truth. She is allowed to express her truth. She is getting the kind of love that I never got as a child.

As far as your comment about my “people”, I’m not being fed anything. No one is controlling me as you seem to believe. I’m a fully functioning adult capable of making my own choices. You are toxic and I do not want you in my life or my daughter’s.

You sound like you will not stop and you will not leave us alone, so I have no choice but to be very public about your actions. As I mentioned before, your bullying will no longer happen behind closed doors.

Update 8/21

Message received from Richard Meza:

Valarie,

First, I am sorry to hear about your pet dog.  I had no idea.  My last experience with him/her was the day Angela and I dropped off $200.00 worth of school clothes and supplies at your back door since you were not at home then again that same afternoon after we had our brief encounter at the counselor’s office where you expressed your position.

Knowing you would not allow KC to accept our gifts and possibly throw everything in the trash so we went back to take back the packages.

About the blog.  I am not into blogs nor do I follow them our any other social media devices.  I will ask you to remove any mention of me and these falsehoods within 48 hours.

Confirm with me that you understand what I am asking of you.

It’s funny how you demand that I confirm that I understand what you are asking of me when you don’t understand what I am asking of you. I’ll be more specific so we’re on the same page: Leave me alone for 30 days and the blog will come down. Contact me again and it will all go back up for another 30 days in addition to our correspondence. Show up at my house and I’ll add the video recording and photos of your face in addition to calling the authorities.

Don’t even try to gaslight me. I know what happened to me and you’re lucky that all I’m asking is for you to leave me and my family alone.

April 7, 2018

So I got a strange follow today

Needless to say I’ve blocked him. I also checked my junk email like the idiot that I am.

So here we go for another 30 days.

I have absolutely no interest in being bullied by you or anyone else. Do not think for one moment you are entitled to me or my family.

You do not mention any self awareness or self reflection about how you created this. I am not interested in defending my decision or explaining for the millionth time.

You still can’t hear me, but I’ll say it again: leave me and my family alone and stay away.

April 8, 2018

And the stalking will begin again. I’m now posting to keep a record. I need to keep my family safe. This is how his bullying starts and will continue to be more aggressive.

I’m starting to have nightmares again about his verbal and sexual abuse. The more he contacts me, the worse they get. I wish he would leave me alone.

April 16, 2018

Received this threatening email:

To the attorney reviewing this blog, please know my only wish is to be left alone. I’m not asking for money or anything from my biological father. I want him to stop bullying me and my family.

Life by the Bucket

It has been two months since I lost my best friend and I can’t help feeling the twinge of regret. I wish I spent more time with her. I wish I was more available to take her on walks. I wish I did more to help her or be there for her.

As I lamented all the things I didn’t do while she was with me, I decided I don’t want to live my life in regret. I’m going to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m going to Bucket List. I’m going to do all the things I want to do before I kick the proverbial bucket.

In September when Ebony was sick and I had just finished my summer semester, I made my first attempt at Bucket Listing. I continued reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and I finally learned how to knit. Every time I took Ebby outside, I sat with my needles and yarn practicing. It became my timer. When I finished a row, it was time to go in. It was far from perfect. It had random holes where I must have accidentally dropped a loop. I had no idea what I was doing, but I pushed on any way. I had no idea what I was making, but I pushed on any way. Finally towards the end of December, after weeks of picking it up and longer spells of putting it down, I finished a skein with a two foot by two foot…thing…with holes. I looked at it and thought what the hell am I going to do with this? I looked back on all the moments I spent with it, with Ebony. All the sleepless nights. The times I wanted to occupy my hands to momentarily forget about the suffering. Every memory was woven into the piece. What took me four months to knit was unraveled in under an hour. The time I spent with the yarn will never be forgotten. I started over. I found a simple pattern for a cute slouchy beanie in method I was already familiar with and had the tools for: crochet. I had cut my losses and started again with a small bite. I normally try to start monumental projects that are difficult to finish. I was able to finish one beanie in under a day. By New Year’s I finished two! I achieved big results with small steps.

When I finished my fall semester and marketing degree, I made a second attempt at Bucket Listing. I’ve been saying for over a year that when I’m done with school, I’m going to sign up for Skillshare, take classes on Coursera, and do Kahn Academy more. I finally signed up for Skillshare last month. So far, Ive completed ten classes including Japanese, guitar tuning, drawing, illustrator, and singing (to name a few). I’m now able to work with Illustrator more fluidly and my graphic design work is more efficient!

On New Years, I decided that life is too short to be so overweight and feeling like I do. I want to feel good. I want to look good. After a lot of deliberation, I signed up for a gym membership. I’ve been to the gym three times this week. I’m sore AF, but I feel alive! I’ve always wanted to try Zumba, so tonight I jumped into a class and gave it my all. It was amazing and I loved it so much!

I don’t like “resolutions” because they’ve become a kind of joke. We make resolutions (with the best intentions) and without fail, we break them. I made one this year, but I’d prefer to call it a pact. With my whole body, mind, and soul, I want with the greatest intensity to live smaller. I wish to purge everything that is holding me back and filling me with regret. I wish to make time for things that really matter. I wish to make space to breathe and welcome in new adventures. I wish to live like it is my last moments on this earth. I want to treat people like it’s their last moments on this earth. I want to build habits and a lifestyle that would accommodate that goal. Never again will I hold anything so precious and take it for granted. I will live my Life by the Bucket.

Ebony

When I walk through the house, I’m suppose to hear the soft pad of her paws on the carpets and the click of her nails on the wood floor when she misses a runner. She hated the wood floors, so we got her rugs to help her walk. When I walk down the hall, I’m suppose to be slowed down because she wants to lead the way, but then waits for me to walk in front of her to tell her where to go. When I’m in the bathroom, I’m suppose to see her black nose in the crack of the door as she impatiently waits for me to come out. When I sit on the floor, I’m suppose to feel her hot breath on my face just before she licks my cheek … and my arms … and my neck … and my legs. I’m suppose to hold her head in my hands, caress her snout up between her eyes and over her ears and feel her soft fur on my thumbs, her thick main in my hands, her forehead on mine, my arms around her shoulders as she wiggles in my embrace trying to kiss every inch of my face.

But she’s not there

Instead, I’m greeted by the images of the last two and a half months. The panting and pacing. The extra skiddishness. The late nights of getting her to the yard to eliminate because she can’t get up on her own. The smell of diarrhea and urine. The fear of losing my best friend. The realization that she is suffering and everything I can do for her is just a bandaid fix. The realization that she is choosing to not eat because she is fully aware of the same.

When I’m met with the empty void, I’m smacked with the memory of carrying her in my arms and how oddly comfortable it feels as we walk into the doctor’s office together for the last time. Letting her lay on my body with my sweet baby girl on my left and my adoring husband on my right as we squeeze together on a tiny couch meant for two very small people. The panting and wheezing. The sudden burst of love when the doctor administers the anesthesia and she can’t feel the pain any more. The stillness and softness of her breath. The weight of her body. The limpness when she was suppose to be so rigid and reactive to my every movement. Laying her on the floor expecting her to look up to see where I was going. Not being able to move because she hates being left alone, and in a doctor’s office no less! Realizing I’m the one who is, and perhaps always was, afraid to be alone.

ebonyShe hid so much of her pain. When she would chase her ball as we played in the street, her paws became so bloody, but she refused to stop running and playing. When I hid the ball to take care of her, she would limp and then lay down. She always took care of me and hid what she was feeling. That strength she showed was the only thing that made me leave her lifeless body. She had so much courage for me. I needed to have the same courage for my family, put on my big-girl pants, and go on living.

But where does the grieving process fit in? With so much work to do, a house that has been neglected in the chaos, a family to take care of, and a marketing degree to finish, who has time to just fall apart? How do I efficiently and effectively answer the question of “How are you?” without losing my shit and yet wanting to be real with my close friends and family? I know I’ve been on the other side wanting to comfort someone who has suffered a great loss and it’s tough. I never know what to say. Now here I am suffering the greatest loss of my life and I’m trying so hard to keep it together. I’m trying to keep my focus on the ball and forget that my paws are bleeding. To the many sweet and loving people who have expressed concern: I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say or how to be. My world is upside down. Thank you for loving me. I have a drive to reciprocate and take care of you, but I can’t and I feel shitty for it.

Right about here, I’m compelled to add that if you’re reading this and thinking “it was just a dog,” I must encourage you to stop reading now and find your way to a compassionate life that embraces and respects all sentient beings and abandon the “us” and “them” mentality; its making you a miserable human being.

There is so much more I have to say, but since it’s almost time to get to work, I must leave it here for now.

December 16, 2016 – It is one month later. I’ve finished my finals and life has slowed down a bit. I still feel the loss every day. There is a new set of tiny clacking nails on the wood floors, but it’s not the same. There were so many days when I was in absolute disbelief that she was gone. How can she go from walking around just fine in July and then gone four months later? At breakfast on November 8 after we said good-bye, I had the realization that someday she will be a distant ghost of a memory. This being that was so close to my heart would someday be so far. Dogs will come and go and I will love them all. We may move. I may change. Life will happen. The world will change and the beautiful wooden box will still hold what use to be her. Will I keep her box forever? Will it somehow become a special family heirloom? 

Here is my wish …

I wish I could bury her as a tree in a place where I could always visit. It would not be a place to morn, but a special place to remember that death is part of life and every part of both can be beautiful. It would be a special place to remember my purpose and from where I came. And all the others that come into my life, who find peace, who find enlightenment would be able to join her creating a beautiful forest representing the beautiful beings that once graced this earth. And someday, I will be buried in this Forest of Ancestors and someday my children and their children will forever be able to come to this forest to find peace. They may not know of Ebony or me, but the feeling would be the same no matter who they are visiting or why they are visiting.

Déjà Vu

Cassandra woke up screaming for the third time that week. Sweat beaded on her forehead; her body was cold, damp and heavy. Remnants of a nightmare clung to her brain; the terror caught in her throat and chest. Each night she had the same dream, yet the vision and memories were slower and slower to fade. Each night the dream intensified.

Crying, she sat up, wrapped her arms around her legs and buried her face in her blanketed knees. She heard the crash and clambering that could only be her dad running down the hall half asleep. She peered up at the clock on her dresser. It was just after two in the morning. She was thankful for summer break. Rest was not coming easy these days. She was glad to stay in bed after these episodes that left her exhausted and emotionally drained.

Through the darkness, she could see her dad’s crouched shadow looming in her bedroom door. He walked clumsily to her bed and wrapped his arms around her.

“Did you have a bad dream again?” He held her and stroked her hair. He was always there for her.

Cassandra nodded, but something inside kept scrambling and confusing the words she desperately wanted to tell him. She looked up into his eyes, happy to be in his arms, yet she struggled to articulate, struggled to remember. There was something she had to tell him.
Hopeless, she cried harder and buried her face into his chest.


The next morning she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling the dream had left. As odd and as troubling as it was, she couldn’t help feeling as if she felt this same uneasiness before. She felt a little silly holding her stuffed bunny like she use to, but it always made her feel better.

I don’t care if I am fourteen, she thought to herself as she cuddled it tighter. She normally kept it on a high shelf in her room as a memento from her young childhood, but something drew her to it.

As she stroked the fur around her bunny’s eyes with her thumbs, she remembered how her mom gave it to her in the weeks leading up to a trip to her grandmother’s house miles away from home. She had just turned six that summer.

“I know you’re feeling nervous about your first week away from home,” she remembered her mother saying, “So I got you a little something to take with you.” She was so warm then.

It was true she was a little nervous about being away from home for a week, but her anxiety felt like so much more than that.
Her mom presented the stuffed floppy bunny with a pink ribbon around its neck and then gave Cassandra a comforting hug.

She looked at the now old and dirty bunny in her lap and remembered how it use to smell just like her mom. She remembered breathing in the smell deeply to make her anxiety go away. She felt the uneasiness then just like she felt it now. She breathed in deeply. It smelled like old forgotten tears. Memories began trickling back into her consciousness. The nightmares. Helen.

She cried again reliving the memories.

She tried to warn her mom. She didn’t want to go to Grandma’s house. It wasn’t just a fear of being homesick. She saw. Her nightmares told her, but no one would listen to her. She found it so strange, so frustrating that she could tell her mom and dad about other dreams and nightmares, but the ones that seemed so real and so terrible could not be articulated no matter how hard she would try.

That was the summer she lost her sister.

Helen was only four. She didn’t understand. The pool looked covered and she thought she could walk on it. Not wanting to be bossed around by her older sister, she stepped out onto the tarp that covered the pool in their grandma’s back yard. Cassandra watched in horror as Helen sank like a stone. Cassandra ran to get help, but by the time she came back, Helen was wrapped up in the tarp, still and cold, just as she had been in her nightmares.

The therapist called her story of the nightmares her way of coping with the tragedy. It was just a story that Cassandra contrived in order to believe she could have stopped it from happening. She eventually let the memories fade from her mind.

Her mother was beside herself. She became withdrawn and distant. She has never been the same since. She missed her mother terribly.
A fresh wave of emotions consumed her and she cried herself to sleep.


When she woke the next day, she was fully conscious of her dream. Although it terrified her, she no longer woke screaming. In her dream, she felt her heart catch in her throat as the phone rang for the third time. Picking it up, she tried to steady her hand. She pressed the receiver to her ear and felt the dread drain the blood from her face. She heard a man’s voice it was Officer Kipley, her dad’s buddy who dropped by from time to time. There had been a robbery at the bank. Her dad was dead. She felt her stomach drop. Somehow the phone left her hand and she was retching on the kitchen floor. After that, everything went dark.

She knew deep down that this was not just a nightmare. She knew this was a premonition just like the one she had so many years ago. She knew she wouldn’t be able to tell anyone and even if she did get the words out, she knew no one would believe her. Perhaps if I cannot warn him, she thought to herself, perhaps I can change his fate myself.

She threw her covers off, jumped out of bed with determination, and ran downstairs to the kitchen. Breakfast was sitting on the counter: bacon and eggs with toast. Her mother was sitting at the kitchen table gazing out the window, as she so often did. She didn’t seem to notice Cassandra when she came in.

“Morning, Mom.” She wrapped her arms around her mother’s shoulders from behind and kissed her on the cheek. Her mom touched her arm lightly. Cassandra always thought this was just how she was, but she could suddenly see the never-ending sorrow from losing her baby.

She needed to come up with a plan to keep her dad away from the bank, but she was suddenly consumed by the loneliness she felt in her mothers presence. She ate her breakfast slowly, wishing there was something she could do.

Just then her dad came into the kitchen gathering his keys, wallet, and phone.

“Ok, I’m running out for a bit before my evening shift. Need anything while I’m out?” he asked as he quickly grabbed a piece of toast to go.

“Eggs.” Her mother said. “We ran out of eggs.”

“Where are you going?” Cassandra asked.

“I’m just going to run a few errands. I need to make sure this check gets deposited and then I can pick up a few things from the store…” he looked around for a notepad and pen. “Ah, here we go.” They were hiding in the junk drawer. “Eggs” he said scribbling in the notepad.

“Please don’t go.” Cassandra begged her dad.

“I’ll be back soon.”

“Let’s make your favorite cookies instead! We’ll cuddle and watch football!”

“First of all, honey, it’s summer. We’re in the off season. Second, we’re out of eggs. Can’t make those cookies without them. We can make cookies after I get eggs, and after I deposit this check. Maybe we can even smuggle them into an air conditioned movie theater.”

“Can I go with you?”

“To the theater? Of course!”

“No, can I run errands with you?”

He looked down at his watch. “How fast can you get ready?”

“I’ll be ready in five minutes!” She ran upstairs, threw on the first outfit she could find, and quickly brushed her teeth.

They were out the door in no time.

She felt so grateful to be with her dad. She savored every moment. They talked the whole way to the bank. As they reached the driveway, she could feel the anxiety catch in her throat. He parked in front of the front doors and ATMs.

“I’ll be quick. You can wait here.”

“I’m coming with you.”

He looked confused. “Ok.”

They both jumped out of the car. As she reached for the doors, she saw him stop at the ATM. He pulled out his wallet, inserted his card, tapped the screen, took out the check, placed it in an envelope, and inserted it in the machine. He gave it a few more taps and the machine spit out his card.

“Ready?”

“Uh, yeah.” She was both confused and relieved.

They continued talking and bonding throughout the rest of the errands. She felt so lighthearted and grateful. She had an amazing day. It was so simple yet so meaningful. They made cookies together and snuck them into a matinee like he had promised.

When they returned home, the three of them sat down to an early dinner. They all talked like never before. Her mother even seemed to have some of her old sparkle back. After dinner, her dad went upstairs, changed into his police uniform, and kissed Cassandra and her mom goodnight.

After dinner she and her mom cuddled on the couch and fell asleep watching reruns of old TV shows.


The phone rang, startling her out of a deep sleep. The TV was still on and flickered with police lights from some breaking news piece. Her mom must have turned down the volume before she went to bed. Her heart was racing and her head was spinning. In a daze, she tried to wrap her head around what woke her up.

The phone rang again. Mystery solved. How long had she been asleep? It was dark outside. Everything seemed wrong and yet so familiar.

Then the phone rang for the third time and her heart caught in her throat. Déjà vu.

She picked up the receiver and pressed it to her ear. “Officer Kipley.” She whispered.

“Hey kiddo,” He sounded like he was trying to keep chipper. “Is your mom available?”

Something about the television caught her eye. It was a helicopter view of the same bank they visited earlier that day. “Why are there police cars at the bank?”

“I’m so sorry, Cassy. I was hoping to call before either of you saw the reports.”

“What’s going on?”

“Listen, there was a bank robbery. It ended in a shootout. Your dad was shot.”

Already knowing the answer, she asked with hope “Will he be ok?”

“I’m so sorry, Cass. It was a fatal wound. Please, let me speak to your mother.”

She walked the phone slowly up the stairs thinking about the last time her mom received devastating news. She was so afraid of what this would do to her. She gently woke her mom and handed the phone to her. She sat with her as she received the news. The phone falling from her hand. Her mom screaming in agony. She wrapped her arms around her and together they cried.

“Mom,” she said between sobs. “Please stay with me. You’re all I have left. I need you to be strong. We can get through this together.”

And just like that she saw that, although she may not have been able to change anyone else’s fate, she had the power to change her own.