Archive for the ‘family’ Category

A patient of mine from years ago left this note after she committed suicide. I have rewritten it here.

Dear Children- I did not take care of you like children deserve. When other kids were getting ready for school, you were trying to wake me up. You had to walk to the gas station alone,  with change you found scattered around so you could eat. You thought no one loved you and you were bad kids. You missed school and events because you had no one to take you. You got teased at school because you had to wear the same dirty clothes every day. I would be gone for days and you were scared. You would sit up all night wondering what you did wrong. You had no one to teach you anything. You didn’t come home to hugs, love, or even dinner. You never knew what was going to happen. You were never allowed to feel safe in this world. You were so confused when you were taken from me. I remember you screaming for me, with your hands outstretched screaming “Mommy! Mommy! Please don’t let them take Me.!” I saw your hearts break when I walked the other way. Every time the phone rang for the next 10 years you hoped it was me, and you were hurt every time that it wasn’t. I see all the pain you are in. I see the fear, the depression, and the anger. I know the torture I caused in your heart. I know I did this. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Mother- I know the pain I caused you. You had no one to turn to. It was your dream to be a mother and give love. I ruined your only hope in life. I took and took from you. You sat up crying at night begging God to help me. You didn’t know how to help, because no one took care of you. All you ever wanted was a family. You thought that having a family would take all your pain away. You had to work 2 jobs to replace the things I would steal. Everyone judged you for what I had done. I destroyed your self-confidence. You felt like you failed and you had to leave. I see the guilt in your eyes. I have taken your life from you. I am sorry that this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Brother- I stole from you, I took your money, your car, and I took all of our parent’s time. This left you with little time with them. You felt ignored and it hurt you. You withdrew from the world and isolated yourself. You had to grow up way to early. You became scared and isolated. I saw that affected your ability to know boundaries and how to have relationships. I see that is all with you still today. I did all of these things. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Sister- I took all of your toys and hid them. I ruined the toys that you loved the most on purpose. You were just a little girl that wanted love. You didn’t know why I was destroying the family. You saw me and trembled with fear. You couldn’t understand why I stole from mom and dad who had worked so hard. You tried so hard to help. You needed their love to. We missed your dance recitals because I stole the car. Your heart was broken and you didn’t understand how someone you loved so much could do this. You grew up scared. I see your pain, even if you try to hide it. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Father- You wanted to have a normal family. You took me places and to events all the time.  You hated your job, but you still went every single day to support us. No one loved you when you were a child. You never felt love as an adult. You were lonely. You were afraid to come home. Your marriage was hurt by me. You became depressed, so you drank more. I became an embarrassment to you. My issues robbed you of much of your life. I see the disappointment in your eyes. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. I understand.

I know that this is how I will remember you all.

Dear Brother- I remember going to sporting events together, playing outside, and laughing together. I remember the time you were so scared that dad was going to punish you about the mailbox, so I told him it was me. I remember letting you stay at my house after you had nowhere to go because of your drinking. I remember the not so nice things you tried to do to me. You were scared and lonely just like I was, so I never said anything. I remember coming back from treatment and you telling me how I had ruined everyone’s life. I am sorry you forget about the times I protected you. I was in pain when I did these things, but I understand so are you.

Dear Sister-I remember holding you at night when you were afraid. I remember when you made a mistake and Dad started coming after you. I remember jumping up and doing something worse on purpose so he would punish me instead. I remember you calling me your hero. I remember you clinging to me when we were young for protection. I remember taking you to the park to get away, and teaching you how to do hair. I am sorry that you forgot all of that. I am sorry you are in pain. I understand.

Dear Mother- I remember before it got bad, when you would tuck me in and hug me. It was so safe to be with you. I remember your love. I remember trying to make you happy because you would be so sad. I remember when you couldn’t take it anymore and left, I ran down the street looking for you outside for hours. I remember praying to God that you come back. I cried at night in my bed wishing you would just call me. I promised I wouldn’t be bad anymore. I remember when I told you what dad was doing, how your heart broke. I begged God to protect me. I am sorry you forgot all the good, and I am sorry for your pain, and I understand.

Dear Father- I remember the first time you hit me. You bought me candy so I didn’t tell. When I got older, if I didn’t want to get punished I would watch your “special” movies with you. It made you happy. You cried afterwards. I am sorry for whatever happened to you, to create the person I knew. I see you were in pain. I understand.

Dear children. I love you, I did the best I could. You are angels. I just did not know how to love, and I was scared.

I always wondered if anyone noticed…

Did anyone see when Dad was punching me?

Or when he took me into the room to watch “movies” with him?

Did anyone notice me crying when Mom left, because I was afraid what would happen?

Did God hear me?

Did anyone see what those older boys were doing to me?

Or notice I would be gone for hours as a teenager and come home drunk?

Or that I took the blame to protect you from being punished like I was?

Maybe you did, and you forgot. Maybe you thought it was better me than you.

I kept thinking someone would notice and they would do something. But no one ever did. No teachers, classmates, or anyone. No one spoke up. I guess they didn’t see. Or maybe they thought it was none of their business.

Thank you for telling me I was the bad one, and the problem child. I went to treatment and I got to feel better for a little while.

Until I would come back. No one understood why I would do so well, and when I got out of treatment, I would relapse.

I’m sorry you never could make it to family night at treatment because it was “my issue,” Not yours. That you were “fine.”

Maybe now that I am gone, your problems will be gone.

If you find that you are still in pain with me gone, and start to think maybe you were part of the problem, I am sorry for your pain. But it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

Now that you have to look in the mirror, maybe now you can heal. It is the greatest gift I can give to you.

I used to wonder why God would allow such evil, poverty, and sadness on earth.

Then I realized, he is the one that should probably be asking us why WE ALLOW IT.

He gave us all the resources we need to live here equally. We have enough to end poverty, and help each other. He gave us all the tools we need.

We choose this.

We allow this, not God.

I love you all.

Alcoholism and Addiction are family diseases. Not every case is this extreme. However, the addict is usually the one acting out the dysfunction and is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you take the strongest one and heal them, and send them back to the dysfunctional system, it will not work.

If we do not start treating the system, we will continue to have an epidemic.

Will you notice? Will you speak up?

Silence is consent.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

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Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.” —Tupac Shakur

 

Parable of River Babies:

One summer in a small village, all the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, which was struggling and crying. It was clear
the baby was on the verge of drowning and facing imminent death if someone did not act swiftly.

Without thinking twice, someone promptly aborts everything to jump into the river and save the baby. Everyone’s heart had been racing in panic and confusion, rush to ensure the baby is safe. Just as things start to calm down, they notice another screaming baby in the river. Again, someone jumps in to pull the baby to safety.

Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river and all the townspeople were pulling them out and the entire village was involved in many tasks of rescue work: pulling the poor children
from the stream, ensuring they were properly fed, clothed, housed, and integrated into life of the village. While not every baby could be saved, the entire village spent all their day trying to save as many as possible. As everyone kept busy in the recovery efforts, two townspeople started to run along the shore of the river.

“Where are you going!?” shouted one of the rescuers, “We need you here to help us save these babies!”

“Don’t you see?” They cried. “If we find out how they are getting into the river we can stop the problem and no babies will drown!”.

“Don’t you see?” They cried, “If we find out how they are getting into the river, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown! By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem.”

“But it is too risky,” said the village elders, “It might fail. It is not for us to change the system. And besides, how would we occupy ourselves if we no longer had this to do all day?”

This parable explains the modern industry of human services. Another version would include someone jumping into the river and teaching the babies to swim. While it is fair to say that everyone in this situation is doing their absolute best to fight the problem, real change is only going to happen once we find out the core problem to eliminate more from falling into the river.

Is there some mysterious illness in these children? Had the shoreline been made unsafe by a natural disaster? Was some hateful person throwing them in deliberately? Or was there an even more exhausted village upstream that had been abandoning them out of hopelessness?

Everyone is pure and innocent at their core.

Just like with addiction and mental health, we can fix all the presenting symptoms, but there will never be long-lasting change until we can get to the root of the problem. Everyone is innocent and pure at their core.

The “Bad Person” Argument:

“She just pops them out and then we end up paying for them,” complains a clinician during a staffing session at a mental health facility.

“She just does this to get more drugs,” cries another in agreement.

This aforementioned client has just been admitted as mentally unstable and “just pops them out” refers to self-inflicted knife wounds in her abdomen in a desperate attempt to legally obtain
narcotics.

Without any background, experience, or education in this industry, any group of outsiders could unanimously agree that this behavior is not “normal.” But the behavior and actions are not the questions we need to ask in this industry; rather, the question should center around what is leading to this behavior?

Is it a choice? Is she just a bad person?

Would anyone, with a rational mind, “choose” to intentionally penetrate a sharp blade through their midsection just to score some drugs? Does anyone truly believe that jamming a knife in your stomach is the best available option?

This “choice” theory is still largely, and openly, debated in society. Despite the immense volumes of advanced evidence of addiction and mental illness, the stigma survives. The medical and scientific communities have proven these diseases through a plethora of research, studies, brain imaging technology, along with the work of the top neuroscientists in the world. Yet, the public disagrees.

Shall we debate how fish do not need to be immersed in water to survive and that is their choice?

Shall we debate whether or not the earth is round, the rotation, and how it orbits the sun? Shall we debate how fish do not need to be immersed in water to survive and that is their choice?

Why, as a society, can we not accept the overwhelming evidence regarding mental illness and substance abuse? This stigma we create and support is preventing people from receiving their inalienable human rights.

Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable,among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? Well, stigma destroys life; it doesn’t preserve it by any means. Where is the liberty, or freedom, for those who can not afford treatment
or are a part of a corrupt system of workers with misleading information? How can one pursue anything that resembles happiness when they are putting a knife through their abdomen just to get a pill that makes them feel “normal” for a few hours.

The stigma creates shame and disgrace within each individual. Despite being “created equal and independent,” society trains us how to act, talk, dress, express, behave, think, etc.

The training that takes place by society is nothing more than putting on a mask to hide ourselves from the world and conform to how others think we should be.

And for some of us this doesn’t feel right.

There is a lot of love in the world, but the world doesn’t seem to want everyone to feel this way. The world wants us to pretend. The training that takes place by society is nothing more than putting on a mask to hide ourselves from the world and conform to how others think we should be.

We know there is more to this pretend world in which we are living and we find it privately—with booze, drugs, food (eating disorders), gambling and other compulsive activities that help alter our consciousness momentarily. The rush of the activity or the substance allows us to numb our true feelings, so we don’t have to deal with them—which is what we always wanted.

Then we wake up in the morning and put on our mask before opening the door.

As the case of the woman with multiple stab wounds was being reviewed by these “medical professionals,” it reminded me of the first time I was able to see beyond someone’s mask.

The behaviors are not being pardoned by any means, but if there was no stigma with substance abuse and mental illness, people would be more willing to ask for help…

In discussing this topic, more specifically the stigma associated, we always run the risk of being viewed as an apologist or excusing the behaviors of the addict. The behaviors are not being pardoned by any means, but if there was no stigma with substance abuse and mental illness, people would be more willing to ask for help before some of these significant consequences began to surface and this destructive cycle could slowly disintegrate. Because today, asking for help is still largely considered a weakness, whereas the truth is that it is an incredible strength for one to acknowledge that they are in need of the services of another human to help them pursue a life of freedom and happiness.

Seeing Behind the Mask:

The first time we see beyond the mask is done so without a conscious effort – it just happens and we observe. I want to share a story about a woman who has just had her eight children taken away from her for neglect and abandonment. Emotional and physical abuse was a part of the daily routine. The children would be forced to kneel down in prayer before she threatening to beat them if they told anyone she had been drinking.

“It’s just a little cut, get over it!” she once yelled at her two-year-old that recently fell on an empty beer bottle. Unable and unwilling to do anything for the child, the 14-year-old daughter
had to drive the toddler to the ER for surgery.

In another incident, the woman fell and passed out on top of one of the kids. The other seven children all worked together to get her off, preventing the infant from suffocating.

The kids rarely attended school and when they did were usually welcomed to harassment, beatings, ridicule and bullying.

The oldest daughter took care of the children with what she had to offer. She cooked Ramen noodles on the grill in the freezing temperature as it was all they had to eat. The kids rarely attended  school and when they did usually were welcomed to harassment, beatings, ridicule and bullying.

Where was their father during this time?

Well, he was actually a doctor and a well-respected man in the community. But behind closed doors, he was an abusive alcoholic that lashed out daily beatings to his wife. While she was pregnant, he once dragged her across the room with a belt leading to a miscarriage—with the children burying the dead fetus in their back yard.

Around age 40, the father died of a heart attack, leaving the family in the hands of their alcoholic mother and eight children—most of them under the age of 10. This woman was left with a
healthy inheritance, but spent it primarily on booze. And when the money train stopped, the next train that came in was by the state department taking away her children to foster care.

She would call and harass the foster parents, but never took time to see them or get to know them. The kids moved on with their lives not giving her any sympathy as she was the monster who destroyed their childhoods. However, the oldest daughter continued to see beyond the mask. She continued to go back to the house and help her mother. She chose to believe there was more to this monster than what was being presented. In turn, the oldest daughter received the most abuse but continued to care for her and spend her young adulthood showing love.

The drunken woman continued the emotional abuse, creating permanent psychological damage to her daughter—the only one who ever showed her love.

Unknowingly, this unconditional love and compassion of this child is what recovery is all about.

Unknowingly, this unconditional love and compassion of this child is what recovery is all about. People do not need to be kicked when they are down, they need someone to see beyond the behaviors.
They need someone to tell them “you are a good person, but this disease is preventing you from being that beautiful soul. We just need to remove this barrier.”

Because what you will not know is that when this drunken woman was seven years old, she was babysitting her 5-year old brother before watching him get hit by a truck and killed. From this  point on, she was blamed for his death. A 7-year-old does not have the mental capacity to understand this is not true. A 7-year-old cannot tell if Santa Clause is real or not, how are they supposed to know the blame is not true when her parents label her as a killer, irresponsible and bad person? On top of that, both her parents were alcoholics that immigrated from Ireland and faced immense discrimination during the 1920’s on the east coast.

So beyond her mask is a pair of alcoholic parents that were verbally and physically abusive to her. She was blamed for the death of her sibling since she was seven. She married a well-respected man who was loved and adored by the community, only to have this same man beat her within an inch of her life when he comes home from work.

She began to believe all these things about her to be true, turned people away from her and “chose” booze instead of her kids.

Her husband was glamorized in public, while she was ridiculed. Her upbringing had trained her that you do not mention these things, so she buried it away, put on her mask and turned to alcohol. She began to believe all these things about her to be true, turned people away from her and “chose” booze instead of her kids.

At seven years old, we are innocent. Imagine back to a happy time when you were around that age. Getting ready to do something you love to do (in her case, dance class) and then to watch your 5-year-old brother wander into the street and get hit by a truck and killed. Life changes just like that. And then to be blamed your entire life for this without anyone ever letting you know the truth. Then the trauma continues to come in waves and waves, while others stand by at the dock pointing and ask:

“Well why doesn’t she get out of the ocean? Those waves are too high.”

So she lost her way, but how does the story end? When did she get out of that mess? The popular feel-good stories tell us the incredible journeys of those who overcome, get better and find
their way in the world. How does this one end?

The truth is many of us with mental illness and addiction suffer until we die. We die thinking we are monsters. We are all lost, but rarely found.

This story is not unique, but unfortunately, the norm in mental health and addiction. We observe and judge the behavior without taking a look beyond the mask. The behavior (mask) is going to stand out.

And the uglier the mask, the longer-lasting impact it will have on us.

And the uglier the mask, the longer-lasting impact it will have on us. We treat those with the ugliest masks, the worst. We use it as a guide as to determine the evilness of the person inside.
And until we can consciously look beyond the mask of each person effected by mental health or addiction, the situation will never improve.

I remember this woman’s funeral quite well. Her adult children all arrived from out of town, had not been around for years, but made their grand entrance for the spectacle. You could sense
the anger and negative energy in the room.

“She is going to burn in hell,” was the common theme among these kids who had not seen her in years and never really took a peek behind the mask. They never really knew their own mother. They were all in foster care before they were five years old, but made an appearance at her funeral to wish her well spending eternity in flames.

But the oldest daughter always stuck around, caring for her mother as she watched her slowly drink herself to death. Continuing to care for her mother, no one quite understood what made her return day-after-day and take on the abuse. They questioned her mental stability, courage and strength.

She did not listen to what others said about her, no one could prevent her from loving this “monster.”

While they thought she was weak and pathetic, they missed out on experiencing the strongest and most courageous person in their lives. This level of unconditional love could not be broken. She did not listen to what others said about her, no one could prevent her from loving this “monster.”

Every day, people would expect her to stop showing up, stop caring, stop loving and stop trying. She saw something no one else saw. And if you haven’t been there before, there are no words in the world that can be said to make you understand. And if you have been there before, no words are needed and you already fully understand everything.

The daughter never heard the words, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry.”

There is no storybook ending. The woman died without ever saying goodbye. But, this woman did get what she always desired—to believe she was a good, worthwhile human. She had finally received her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This woman finally felt loved for the first time in her life during the last few years.

While the daughter may not have noticed this new unconditional love was reciprocal, I did notice. And it changed me forever.

I saw it in the mother’s eyes and I know the daughter was right all along.

Now remember, my grandmother is this same, nasty old drunk I’ve been talking about for the past few pages, but she saw that I truly needed to have this football.

I know so because the drunk lady is my grandmother. And when I was nine-years-old and visiting, I was begging for a football. It’s all that mattered to me. I had to have it, I was impulsive,
I needed it. Now, remember, my grandmother is this same, nasty old drunk I’ve been talking about for the past few pages, but she saw that I truly needed to have this football.

My grandma saw I needed it and she understood. She didn’t drink that day for the first time in nearly 45 years, because she gave me her last seven dollars to buy that football, which I still
have today.

That was my Grandma. And the oldest daughter was my mother.

I love you Grandma. Mom, you are my hero.


Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.




grinchchristmas

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

“Maybe Christmas is not found in a store, maybe Christmas is about much much more.”

-The Grinch who stole Christmas

Our latest for wake up world

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Or their Facebook page here wake up world Facebook Page 2.9 million followers

We need the Grinch – We need someone to steal Christmas because we have lost the true meaning.

Christmas has become symbolic of all that is wrong with society, opposite of the original intent to bring out all that is right. Much like the Grinch, whose heart was three sizes too small; our hearts have diminished in size due to the culture of fear, conformity, and consumerism in which we reside.

In order to heal, we must overthrow the King. Yes, we need to kill the Western Christian version of God and change the way we celebrate Christmas.

This year, on Black Friday, I was reminded about the true meaning of life – and with that, the meaning of Christmas. I choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving, but rather honor the Day of Mourning for our Native American brothers and sisters. I surrounded myself in nature and spent time at a cabin in small-town Western Wisconsin. The sights and sounds were serene. It was a true “silent” and “holy” night with no one around, yet I was far from being alone as I was immersed in the picturesque landscape provided by mother earth. And it was here, at the local gas station, in which I re-discovered what the true meaning of Christmas was really about.

Black Friday has become as much part of the holiday season as Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Western world. Families anxiously await the moment the retail stores open for the extraordinary deals, and quickly abandon their feelings of gratitude and “thanks” by indulging on materialistic items.

I find it ironic how we published an article about the foundations of Thanksgiving and were slammed for “ruining Thanksgiving”, and being told “the meaning has changed and it is about being thankful and having gratitude.” While this sounds good in theory, it is not practiced. The day before Thanksgiving is the second biggest drunken night of the year in America – behind only New Year’s Eve. Then we have a phony meal together and cannot even make it a full 24 hours of showing thanks, as Black Friday deals start at 7:00 p.m. or earlier on the “Day of Thanksgiving.” It’s hard for me to buy into the concept of a day of gratitude when it starts with a hangover and before it ends we are ditching our families to wrestle with over others for materialistic items.

This leads to fights, people being trampled, arrests, and even a few deaths all in an effort to purchase “things” to provide for our family for Christmas – in the season of giving. This is what Christmas has become; it is about money, consumerism, and materialism.

The Season of Giving

The United States retail industry generated over three trillion dollars during the holidays in 2013, with the average person spending about $750 for the holiday. Additionally, 33 million real evergreen conifers will be purchased around $35 each for a market of $1.16 billion in Christmas tree sales.

It is estimated, by a United Nations world hunger project, that it would cost approximately $30 billion per year to end world hunger. Think about that. Only $30 billion to end world hunger per year; yet, on the season of giving, Americans will spend $465 billion for our own material possessions. This is not suggesting to abolish Christmas altogether, but if every family reduced their Christmas budget by fifteen-percent ($116.25) and contributed that to a world hunger fund it would meet the United Nations forecasted amount to end world hunger.

Wouldn’t that make a better gift? Wouldn’t that make for a better Christmas story if all the resources in the world were utilized to making a better life for everyone rather than benefiting the few?

In fact, this is how the original story of Santa Claus arose. St. Nicholas was a monk born in the third century. He lived near modern-day Turkey and was admired for his kindness and compassion. Legends suggest that gave away all of his wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. Over the years, we have created a mythical creature to symbolize this monk.

But, instead of going around and donating his wealth to the poor, modern-day Santa Claus runs a foreign sweatshop enslaving people to work around the clock to deliver material items to the richest nations.

Living in a Material World

As a child, I remember this holiday used to be about sharing love, giving, and caring for one another. I have seen this idea evaporate as the years have passed in which I refuse to further participate in this lie. So, this Black Friday, while millions were out searching for bargains, I found my own bargain – peace and tranquility for free. I find the word “bargain” quite ironic when talking about retail prices. One must realize that these really are not as great of deals as advertised.

The markup prices are astronomical. Many United States corporations employ workers in sweatshops overseas in countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Haiti, etc. They pay below minimum wages in deplorable working conditions – typically 14-16 hours per day for seven days per week. It costs pennies to make this material and it gets marked up to allow for enormous profits for the CEO of these corporations. Here are the top ten salaries of the CEOs of retail corporations in America in 2013:

Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie and Fitch $48,069,473

Gregg Steinhafel, Target $19,707,107

Leslie Wexner, Limited Brands $19,230,484

Michael Duke, Walmart Stores $18,131,738

Paul Marciano, Guess $14,399,134

Terry Lundgren, Macy’s $13,840,531

Michael Balmuth, Ross Stores $12,478,239

Gregory Wasson, Walgreens $12,041,058

David Dillon, Kroger $12,024,543

Steven Fishman, Big Lots $11,924,662

Christmas is not a complete lie, we just need to understand that it has to do with symbolism. Santa Claus no longer has anything to do with St. Nicholas or helping the sick and needy. Santa Claus now represents the fat and jolly CEOs listed above as they showcase good but inside they are running sweatshops for elves overseas. The elves also exist, but they don’t do work in the North Pole. The elves symbolize sweatshop workers that get paid nothing to work themselves to death while providing your material possessions. Perhaps the reason they are so small in stature, is because they represent the 10 year olds working 16 hours per day to provide wealth for their respective Santa Claus.

Then to tell children he delivers only to the “good” girls and boys create further separation. Again, it is symbolic, he delivers toys to those who have money and wealth. How do you explain to a child in poverty that he did not get gift this year? By this mythical logic, it would infer that he is a “bad” child because Santa did not bring him gifts.

This tale of Christmas we share is 180-degree difference from the true story of St. Nicholas. He helped those in need, but today we only help those with greed at the hands of the poor.

The concept of sweatshops is industry as it sporadically pops back up in the news. You see, it has never gone away; we just selectively decide when we want to pay attention. It was all over the news in the 1990s with Nike and Gap having 10-13 year old kids working in these shops as slave for their profits. The public outrage led to changes to be made; but once we saw the “great deals” on Black Friday we forget about the torturous conditions it takes to make these items.

Every few years, there is a story on the slave labor that produces the clothes we wear. Then the corporation tells us they have looked into things and have made changes. Yet, just a few years ago a factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing thousands of people and we come to find that Walmart, Gap, Target, etc. were all having clothing made at these factories.

It is a mass marketing scheme and manipulation of people. We have a group of people watching television, listening to the radio, or surfing the internet and the marketers simply pay money for air time and tell people what they need in order to fit in. Once they have these items, then they will be ok. It is based on fear, fear and consumption. A quote from Marilyn Manson says it all:

“Because that’s not the way the media wants to take it and spin it, and turn it into fear, because then you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, you’re being pumped full of fear, there’s floods, there’s AIDS, there’s murder, cut to commercial, “buy the Acura”, “buy the Colgate”, if you have bad breath they’re not going to talk to you, if you have pimples, the girl’s not going to fuck you, and it’s just this campaign of fear, and consumption, and that’s what I think it’s all based on, the whole idea of ‘keep everyone afraid, and they’ll consume.”

The Christian Rebuttal

The real genius-work behind this big façade is the connection with Christianity. This too, stems from fear. We tell our children that if you are good, then you will spend eternity in the clouds with a nice guy, or, if you are bad you will burn in fire with a man with horns. We decide to instill this into our children’s minds when they are impressionable, that way they believe it is true. In connection with Christmas, they are told that if they are good, that a man from the North Pole will fly his reindeer all over the world in less than 24 hours and deliver presents to them.

It is a way to control children by manipulation. It is a cycle that continues from generation to generation. Then your kids go to school, and those that do not participate in this lie will not receive presents, and become the outcasts. So the pressure is put on them by their peers, it is put on by television, and it is put on by society, and by this so called “Christian nation.” They will say,

“What you don’t believe in Jesus? You don’t want to celebrate this man who preached love and acceptance? What kind of person are you?”

My answer is No. Your god is dead. He has to be, in order for us to move forward. This version of God has done more harm than good. This fairy tale version of God has caused fear in children, it has caused wars to be fought, and has caused many secrets which lead to shame. It has caused the manipulation of generations and it is all celebrated on this day. So this version of God needs to die.

As George Carline once eloquently stated:

“Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there’s an INVISIBLE MAN…LIVING IN THE SKY…who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time…but he loves you.”

“He loves you and HE NEEDS MONEY. He always needs money! He is all powerful, all perfect, all knowing, and all wise. Somehow he just can’t handle money! Religions take in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.”

Many of the patrons inside the church that stand so faithfully behind their religion that stands for unconditional love and kindness, are the same ones that walk out the church and instantly abandon these teachings. The same people who complain about the poor receiving “handouts” are part of a church that can build a million dollar church without paying a dime in taxes while the poor go on without food or shelter.

In June of 2013, newly appointed pastor of Sango United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, reverend Willie Lyle spent four days disguised as a homeless man living on the streets. He wanted to see what it was like to truly live without anything and see who would offer food and assistance. Then, he transformed back into the role as pastor while delivering his sermon and addressed the congregation:

“Too many of us want to serve God one hour each week. That doesn’t cut it. That is not God’s plan.”

Similarly in November of 2013, Mormon bishop David Musselman did a similar experiment by posing as a homeless man outside a Taylorsville, Utah church one Sunday morning. At least five people asked him to leave the church property, some offered money, and some were indifferent. He addressed the congregation stating that his point was not to be so quick to judge one another.

“Many actually went out of their way to purposely ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he said, “I’d approach them and say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Many of them I wouldn’t ask for any food or any kind of money, and their inability to even acknowledge me was very surprising.”

Saving Christmas

Spending my Black Friday in this small town it occurred to me how I am forced to conform. It is impossible for me to neglect Christmas; for if I were to not purchase my children presents then they would feel that I do not love them. I was really struggling with this as I pulled up to the gas station and noticed an elderly woman carrying a few turkeys and other groceries in a pull cart. At the time, I thought nothing of the lady or this scene.

However, it did allow me to reflect on some of my religious upbringings from the past. While people literally would put on their “Sunday Best” before walking into church to bow, chant, hug, and love each other; we were really just putting on an show for each other. We all put on our masks and went through the routines. Once walking out of the church, if we were to see an elderly woman such as this, we would be told not to do anything because they were likely trying to scam us out of money, abduct us, or kill us.

This is how extreme the fear-based society has become. We are guided with fear, rather than love; which creates separation, as opposed to our natural instinctual reaction to connect.

This is where spirituality differs from religion. Spirituality is about finding a connection to the world outside of ourselves, finding a sense of purpose and meaning, and living in harmony in the present moment with our surroundings. Spirituality teaches us that we are all one interconnected being and that at our true core there is only unconditional love.

Religion is a type of spirituality. It is meant to offer all of the above. In fact, if you look into the basic teachings of all religions, you will find this exact same message. However, as these messages get misinterpreted throughout the years we have received the opposite message. Religion starts to create separation and judgment which is the opposite of its intent – much like Christmas.

As explained by Don Migeul Ruiz:

There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play the game with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, &Okay, let’s play the most wonderful game, but you do what I tell you to do.& Brahma agreed and following Maya’s instructions, he created the whole universe, the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets. He created life on earth: the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.

Maya said, &How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create an animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your own creation.& Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start.

&We will start right now,& she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece inside every human and said, &Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try and find yourself!& Maya created the Dream and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. When you awake from the Dream, you become Brahma again and reclaim your divinity. You now know the trick of Maya and can share the truth with others who are going to wake up too.

This story explains how we are to find ourselves, and find God, in every person we encounter. We don’t do this buy purchasing items at a store, but by helping those in need, and showing unconditional love to each soul we encounter.

As all these thoughts were going through my mind, my friend comes out of the store and starts speaking with the elderly woman. As they continue to chat, I got out of the car to see what was going on. As I approached them, I noticed the woman’s wheel on her pull cart was missing.

“We are giving her a ride home,” my friend told me without asking. She never hesitated, she saw an opportunity and did the right thing without thinking or judging.

We packed her bags into the car and drove her about another mile to her house. It was a very cold day and her bags were awfully heavy. There is no way she would have been able to make it that far on her own. Many people saw her, but no one did anything, which was probably all based out of fear. Fear of a disabled, elderly woman on Thanksgiving.

I was overcome with emotion, and was told by my friend not to talk about it. She said “that is just what we should do, so I do it.”

I thought that is so true and so simple. We should do what we should do. Yet, no one seems to do this and I am not excluding myself. This is the difference between being guided by fear, as opposed to love. As John Lennon said:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from lie. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

This is the real meaning of life. This is the real meaning of Christmas. To help, to give, to be with others and to love unconditionally. It doesn’t have to be some big act.

“People who move mountains begin by carrying away small stones.”

Christmas and life is about helping the elderly lady. It is about loving each other on a daily basis. It is about calling your parents, family, and friends and just being there for anyone and everyone. If we treated everyone like they were a piece of God, maybe then we would realize behave differently.

It doesn’t matter what we call our God, it is all the same. It is similar to the story of nine blind men that were all reaching out and touching an elephant. Each of the men were touching a different part of the elephant and describing what they felt. One is touching the elephant’s leg and says “it is a tree”; another is touching its tail and says “it is a rope”; another is touching its trunk and says “it is a snake”; another it touching a tusk and says “It is a spear”; another is touching its body and says “it is a wall”. However, they are all touching the same elephant. Imagine if they all fought and killed each other over this argument. How silly that would be? They are all blind, and they are all right. But they are fighting over their perspective.

The same way we fight wars over who is right about religion. Is it possible we are all right? And we are all wrong?

We are told we need this God in our lives to survive. But, in essences, it is the opposite. For it is this created God that is leading us to killing each other, phony holidays, and self-hatred and destruction. This holiday symbolizes all of the above. In order to survive, we need to remove the mask of God and remove the mask of Christmas.

How the Grinch Saved Christmas

While we like to claim the Grinch stole Christmas, it is clear he did the opposite. He saw the true meaning of Christmas and put an end to the charade. While his means were extreme, by stealing all the presents; he learned that the real meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with exchanging gifts, but exchanging love.

The Grinch was not the bad guy. The Grinch was a revolutionary but was misguided with fear, which led to his acts. But once all the gifts were gone, the masks were removed, everyone lived together in harmony.

For it is Wall Street, Corporations, and organized religions that “stole” Christmas by hijacking the holiday and changing the meaning. It comes from St. Nicholas who gave up all material wealth to help those in need. Yet, after the title was stolen it has turned into a celebration of consumerism and greed.

We need the Grinch to steal back this holiday to help us remember the true meaning.

jonahjakcryanlarge

“If you touch the phenomenal realm deeply, you touch the ultimate realm. The ultimate is Nirvana, it is God, and it is available to us 24 hours a day.”  -Thich Naht Hahn

By Cortland Pfeffer

When Irwin Ozborne and I met in early recovery, we discovered we both loved baseball and began coaching as a sober activity that allowed us to try to give back to the community.

We have coached baseball together for many years. One year of the many, sticks out. It is the year we met Jonah.

The team was from a small and well off community. We usually coached the poor communities to try and give back. The cities that had no money, and no resources. This year we were recruited by an old friend to coach this wealthy community, the challenge was that they were small and moving up to play all the big schools. No community this small had ever done this successfully, so the challenge was intriguing.

We reluctantly accepted this challenge, thinking that these rich community kids have everything.

We thought, “this won’t be fun, these guys have it all figured out.”

Boy were we wrong. We found out they were much sicker, they only masked it better. As it turns out, money can buy you a nice fancy mask that is hard to uncover.

We walked into the first practice, the kids were still just kids. No different. They did not see money. This is always true of kids, they have not been domesticated yet.

We were told of one particular kid on the team, Jonah, who was the best player by everyone’s account.

We get to the first practice and do the normal speech regarding who we are and what the season will be like.

When we were talking, Jonah seemed to space out. Was he not paying attention? Did he think he knew everything? He is the star player we were told, so we wondered what this was about.

Then we start practicing and he is awful. He is dropping balls. We were thinking, is this the same kid everyone told us was so amazing?

Yes it was.

So we start playing games, and we have him in the lineup because everyone else knows him better, and assures us he will be amazing. He drops balls, strikes out, makes mistakes constantly, and costs us a few games.

One game in particular, he is in tears running off the field in embarrassment, no one is able to console him and he runs off into the old rink at the field and will not move from it for about 6 hours after the game.

At this point we needed to find out what is happening as this appears to be more than just a baseball issue. We talk to him, and he tells us that his parents are divorcing, he is scared and confused. He has to take sides. It is a chaotic environment in his house.

It would be best described as putting a rat in a maze and starting the maze on fire. How would you expect that rat to behave?

We decide to talk to his parents about what is going on as this kid is struggling. They confirm what he has said, they are divorcing and it has been a bit chaotic. His parents are both emotional people, and you can tell this has become an issue as they fight in front of us and try to get us coaches to take sides.

Jonah’s Dad was a great baseball player in his day and knows a lot about it. You can hear him screaming at us during the games about coaching decisions. His Dad is also screaming at the umpires. You can hear his Grandpa screaming at us as well. They watch our practices and attack us verbally, even as we practice.

They love their baseball. They are great people, as we have gotten to know them well over the years now, and still talk to them today. They were good people in a rough situation that year.

His mother was kicked out of a few of our games for screaming as well. She went out of her way to attack Jonah’s Dad in front of us and the other parents. If they did it in public, you can imagine what would happen at home.

During the meeting with the family, they told us important information. Jonah not only was struggling in baseball, but he had been struggling in school this year. So they had taken him to the doctor before baseball season and he was diagnosed with ADHD and placed on Ritalin.

As the season continues, Jonah struggles and is spaced out. It is heartbreaking to watch. He is losing friends, and he is losing his purpose.

He is the rat in the maze with fire.

We of course being the way we are, show up 3 hours ahead of game time and prepare for games. After a while, we noticed something, Jonah would notice how early we were, and he would start showing up early every single game. He was there an hour before practices and 3 hours before games.

He loved the game so much, but also, his parents didn’t want to deal with him and he did not want to be in the maze on fire as well. The medication wasn’t enough to slow him down, so they had dropped him off as early as they could.

I remember one pre-game Jonah crying to us, he said, “coach, this team is my family now, and it is the most important thing in the world to me.”

He didn’t care that we had benched him. At this point we could not have him play much, as the team was getting close to qualifying for the state tournament, something that no team from this city had ever done. Jonah still showed up, played when he could, and cheered on his teammates. He became the teams emotional leader, He cracked jokes, he was happy when he was at the field. He was energetic and it was contagious.

Eventually, things started to cool down at home and he was with his Dad for the end of the summer. As things stabilized at home. Jonah started to perform better. We started to have him play more as his confidence gained. He never became the player we had heard of, but he was not dropping the balls and his focus was better.

We had made it to the big tournament to qualify for state. Everyone was there from the city. They were trying to be the first group from this town to ever make it. It was loud and a lot of great teams were there trying to qualify. It was unusually cold and rainy. The energy was amazing.

We had to win the last game to make it. We had run out of arms to pitch. The kids were tired, the parents were tense. We could have all the pitchers pitch about 2 innings each and try to win that way.

We had a meeting with the assistant coaches. We said “how about we let Jonah pitch?”

The response was “so we are trying to lose now?” ‘

Or “It will ruin all the kids’ lives. You are going to embarrass him more than he already has embarrassed himself and his family.” or…

“He is a trouble maker and he will embarrass the city. He was only good when it was not against these good teams, look at how he behaves. You cannot be rewarding his behavior.”

It was a resounding NO from everyone.

We decided we were going to do it anyways. We pulled Jonah aside, who had not pitched all year long and it never was even a thought.

We said, “Jonah, how do you feel about pitching the final game?”

His eyes got wide open, his smile was the biggest I have ever seen still to this day. His eyebrows popped up. It was the most happy I think I have ever seen a human being.

“Really coach? I will shut them down. This is awesome.” He gave us both huge hugs.

We did not care at this point what happened and if we got run out of there by a mob of angry parents. It did not matter to us anymore. We were set on this now. We went to tell everyone the news.

It was worse than you can imagine. The parents were up in arms, they were yelling, and cursing.  They were verbally aggressive and right in front of Jonah. It was sad, pathetic, and the moment we decided not to ever coach these guys again. The parents were too sick. They were like a mob ready to kill us. They were talking about how bad this kid is right in front of him and their kids. So THEY could WIN a baseball game.

The kids look bewildered and were all watching their parents. This is who is going to guide them the rest of their lives. Parents who were so obsessed with winning at all costs that they had turned into animals.

However, in the background you could see the look on Jonah’s Dad’s face and it was the same as his son. He was proud. They had a rough summer, his Dad had become the outcast of the parents group. He sat by himself now as they called his Dad “crazy,” and “Schizophrenic.” He was isolated.

His Dad still yelled at us from afar, but he was usually right. We enjoyed it because we knew where his heart was at. We learned to appreciate the yelling, he had great baseball knowledge. So we knew if he wasn’t yelling, we really were doing well.

The big game begins as the parents and community had turned on us in a second because we had ruined their dream in their eyes.

But something else happened, the other kids loved how much Jonah had cheered them on during the season. He was their once best player and was struggling. He still showed up every day. He still cracked jokes. He still hugged them when they made a bad play. They saw true leadership in him, and so did I.

The other kids couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on in Jonah’s life, but they saw the yelling, and they saw the chaos. They also saw Jonah crying and scared. They all were as excited as he was to watch him pitch finally, as he had been begging us all year. They were more pumped up than anything to play. They were all screaming and jumping up and down.

Some of the parents came to the bench and said to their “be quiet, you are embarrassing the community.”

But they could not come in the bench.

So Irwin said to the kids on our team, “You get told to be quiet everywhere you go, school, home, church, and you just want to yell. So go ahead, yell, and play like animals. No one is going to tell you to stop today.” He had given them the ok to be kids.

The team we were playing was one of the better teams in the state. We knew we were going to lose. But we also knew we were not coaching this community again after this, and we saw what this whole thing was really about, so we didn’t care either. It was a bench full of kids and us, with our masks all off at once.

If there truly is a heaven, or nirvana, that’s what it is like, no masks, no negative feelings, no man made problems, pure unstoppable love and energy at its full force.

We all have moments that we see this piece of nirvana, or heaven on earth, this was one of those moments.

Jonah took the mound. The first batter crushed the ball as we all expected, no one cared except the parents. The ball was flying long in the air, our center fielder ran and ran, and there was no way he was going to get to it. But he sure was trying. The energy and love had infected him. We looked at each other and laughed, “This will be fun. I hope we don’t lose by 20.” But it was the happiest the kids had been all season.

He dove all out and as he stood up he had the ball in his glove! We didn’t see it, but we heard the screaming and turned around. We could not believe it! Both our mouths opened at once. The whole team went crazy!

Jonah pumped his fist against his glove, smiled, and pointed at us.

The next hitter hit a line drive towards the 3rd basemen who dove, and grabbed the ball. Then an amazing thing happened. Jonah, with his new confidence, struck out the next hitter. The team was so happy for Jonah. After that first inning they all were running and jumping towards us. They got to the bench and all were hugging him and screaming. We looked at each other and didn’t say a word. We knew we were going to win. We didn’t have to speak it.

When you experience heaven, or nirvana with someone else, you do not have to speak, you just feel it. We both knew what we were experiencing, a thing like this bonds you for life with someone.

The kids on our team were all diving all over the place like they never had before. The other team was crushing the ball off of him all day. But it did not matter. If we played this team 100 times, they would have beaten us. But not today. Not on this Sunday. This was Jonah’s day.

The parents rolled their eyes, and acted disgusted. They were hoping we lost. Saying “He can’t keep this up.”

But it wasn’t just him, it was all of us. We all were in on this. That is where they were wrong.

It was the best team effort of the year. They all knew how important this was to Jonah and they showed it. He did not pitch well. But well enough. The team made play after play. Then as the game went on. Jonah gained confidence and started becoming the old Jonah, the one not in the maze, the one with his mask off. By the end, he was the player we had been told about.

I think he had been forced to wear a mask earlier than the other kids. So they saw it, then they saw it come off on this Sunday.

But this other team was great and it was a big city that had always gone to state. This was a major upset for us to even be there. They had their best pitcher on the mound. It was 0-0 after the top of the last inning.

We went in to the bottom of the last inning tied 0-0. There was 2 outs. Jonah stepped up to the plate.

He had maybe 2 hits all year. The first 2 pitches came from a kid who is now in the minor leagues, the ball zipped right by Jonah, 0 balls 2 strikes. No one could come close to hitting it off of this kid all game. He was the best pitcher we had ever seen.

On the next pitch, another fastball, and Jonah hits the ball. It is high in the air, and it is far. It keeps going, the kids all get up off the bench. They all start looking, and screaming. The parents are looking. Jonah’s Dad is over the fence where he always sits trying to make the ball come over with his hand gestures. It fly’s and fly’s, and then it goes over the fence!!

The kids are jumping up and down screaming. The parents are doing the same. Everyone is in complete shock that was not inside the bench of nirvana.

We are going to the state tournament!

Jonah has led us there. On this day, out of the maze on fire, Jonah has done something no one thought he could.

I watch him round first base and slap Irwin’s hand, I look at his face, at the crowd, at the rain, at the clouds, at his Dad, at his Grandpa, and I am in tears coaching 3rd base waiting for Jonah to get to me. I am crying as I write this, remembering the look on his face as he came to me.

He comes to me and slaps my hand, he holds it tight, and I am in tears, I say “I love you Jonah, you did it, and we did it!!”

The atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was running, screaming and hugging in the cold, windy rain. We all forgot it was raining outside. That’s what Nirvana does, everything else goes away.

The energy finally died down.

We went up to his dad. We talked for an hour.

Then as we are ending the conversation, he said “thank you for giving him the chance, it has been a rough year. He needed someone to believe in him.”

We said, “those meds really started to kick in after a while I guess. Those ADHD meds you had him on.”

His Dad, you know, the “crazy” one, said, “What? I had him for the end of the summer, I took him off that stuff about a month ago. I don’t care what anyone says, he is not sick, he is just a boy going through a rough time.

A few years ago Jonah was named an all state athlete in 2 sports, in our state. He is going to college on a full scholarship.

He never took ADHD meds again.

Our kids take their emotional cues from us, maybe it should be the other way around.

Thank you for Nirvana Jonah.

americandream

“They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” –George Carlin

The Washington post reported that there was 462 people shot to death by police in the first half of 2015. The author also stated on NPR that all this information is normally something that is voluntarily reported. Police are not required to report these things. The reason the number is so high this year is because the Washington Post is keeping track.

We then see the communities blame each other, the riots, and the protests. We all want a victim and a villain. We all want change. By that, we mean we want the other side to change.

In my over 20 years as a patient and staff member, I have met some interesting, amazing people. These 2 people’s stories who I am about to share had a great impact on me. I became close to both of them. They told me their stories and I learned of them through the chart, family, and getting to know them.

They grew up 45 minutes apart. You would never know it by their stories. Read their stories, and tell me which one is the

“bad guy.”

Jerry was born a few months earlier. His height and weight for a newborn was normal. He had no physical difficulties. He passes all the tests needed. He is cleared as a healthy newborn baby. He is allowed to go home with his parents and his 2 older siblings.

The young couple is unsure of how they will handle this financially. The father did not have a job or an education. The mother worked as a secretary for little money. She worked long hours and she was not home often. When she was home, she was tired and not in the mood to cook for 2 kids and her husband.

The marriage was not well either. Neither of Jerry’s parents had a normal childhood growing up. There was alcohol, and at times there was drugs in the house. The father did not have the skills to be a father, as he was never taught himself. So while the mother was away, Jerry and his brothers were left to fend for themselves.

The first stage in a child’s life, age’s birth to 18 months, is important. It is when the child develops a trust or mistrust of the world. They decide if it is safe, or if it is unsafe.

Jerry was left in his crib most of the first year of his life. He was held and fed. He was given enough to survive. He was changed 2-3 times per day. The family needed to save on diapers and food. The mother was resentful of the father for not working, and she was tired from work. She held Jerry when she had the energy and did the very best she could.

The father was around, but he was beaten severely as a child and did not know how to care for an infant. However, he was the one home. He stayed outside and worked on the car most of the day and drank.

The older siblings, ages 3 and 5, tried to take care of Jerry. But they had no idea how to do this. They were rough with Jerry. They were kids unsupervised, so accidents happened.

Jerry developed severe rashes from not being changed. At one time his brother broke Jerry’s arm at age 1.

The family went to the hospital and the social worker examined Jerry and concluded it was an accident. The second time, she called it in to child protection.

Child protection came out and did a family assessment. The mother was working, the father was attempting to get on social security, and the house was clean. The children were not in “imminent danger.”

The social worker has 45 cases with loads of paperwork on each case because the county cannot afford more social workers. So she gives her card and closes the case.

The siblings were beaten harshly for Jerry’s injury.

At about the same time, in another part of the city, another child is born. His name is Ashton. He is born at a normal weight and height. He passes all the tests and is sent home with his parents as well.

His father was in the army for 10 years and was now working at the Airport as a mechanic. He had served in the War. He was considered a hero to most. Ashton’s mother was a Dentist and she had her own practice in town. They were very involved in the community and a well-respected family by all in the town. Ashton was the only child born to his parents.

Ashton grew up in a home that believed in performance and image. His mother was at work often. Ashton’s father was excited to teach him everything he could. He did not give many hugs or much affection. Ashton was taken to the best day care, and he was placed in the most expensive classes for kids. He was given the best food and the best clothes.

Ashton’s mother loved him, but she really never wanted children. She had grown up in a dysfunctional home and her way of escaping that was by performing. She was very unsure of herself even though she was smart and excelled at everything she did. She was a great mother, but she did not believe herself to be. So she stayed away, almost in fear of ruining her child.

That is where Ashton’s father came in, he took charge. He set the rules and the way things would be. He was the general. This comforted Ashton’s mother and made her feel safe. It also made Ashton’s father feel very important and powerful.

Ashton did not get much more hugs and affection than Jerry. However, it appeared on the outside that he did. In fact, he may have gotten less. He was always with some “expert” on some sort of child care. Jerry at least had his misguided siblings holding him.

Now they are toddlers. They are both learning to build self-esteem and autonomy. Learning new skills and right from wrong. When a child fails here, they can feel shame and develop low self-esteem. A child can also start to gain confidence at this point.

Jerry is growing up in the same home. It has gotten worse. He is older now, he can walk and talk. His brothers often use him as a toy. His father has gotten on disability so he has money. It is being spent on alcohol as he sits with his friends and drinks all day. There is rotten food in the refrigerator that the children eat during the day. They often only eat once per day. They go outside on their own and come dangerously close to accidents all the time. It somehow never happens.

Jerry follows his brothers around and is beaten a lot. He is teased, and no one is really there to protect him. No one is there to encourage him to try new things or to teach him. He sometimes watches TV, but often his father is watching a sporting event. Jerry watches sports. His dad will at times reach over and hug him when his father’s team is winning. Jerry loves this.

Jerry’s mother will come home and the fighting will start. It is getting pretty bad. The father beats the mother in front of the children when she argues or complains that nothing is done. The children run and scream. If they are too loud, they get hit as well. They learn to hide downstairs in the filth and dog feces.

The kids get sick but are not taken to the doctor, there is no health insurance. Now there is an added fear of the social services being involved. The older kids are in school and Jerry’s mother gets them off in the morning. They look decent enough that it is not worth it to the teachers to do anything. The teachers in Jerry’s school have 40 kids in a classroom. Many are worse off than Jerry’s family. There is nowhere to put these children if social services takes them away. Jerry’s brothers slip under the radar. No visible unexplainable bruises, they are clean, and not starving. So no one pays attention.

Jerry sits at home with his father. Jerry has accidents and his father will hit him very hard at times. Jerry is 3 and has no idea what he did wrong. Or what he should do. He learns to stay away and not speak up.

Around the same time, Ashton’s life has continued. His father is teaching him right from wrong and he is pounding his beliefs into Ashton. “We” are the “good” guys. “They” are the “bad” guys. He tells Ashton when they watch the news. He points to criminals on TV and tells Ashton “they are the bad guys. We have to protect people.”

He buys Ashton his army toys and his police uniform and toy guns. When Ashton plays along, he gets hugs and high fives from his dad. He is accepted, so Ashton now knows this is what he does to get attention. So he does it. He is rewarded for this.

When Ashton’s mother sees him crying, she will go to give him love. Ashton’s father steps in and ridicules her. She is insecure and does not believe in herself. So she listens and stays away. She hears Ashton’s dad spanking him extra hard for things that Ashton knows nothing about, but she sits off to the side. She goes to work and performs. That is how she has always coped.

Ashton’s parents are well regarded. Ashton is beginning soccer and tee ball. He gets special coaches and teachers to make him the best. He is taught all the time how to succeed. He must keep up the family image. When he does well, it is fun times. If he fails, not so much. If he cries about failing, that is worse. Then there is punishment.

The children continue to grow up. Now in preschool and kindergarten. This is the time children begin to copy adults and start to create play. They begin to experiment with what they think it means to be an adult. This is when the exploring begins and the “why” questions happen. The child may start to feel guilt over natural desires and goals.

Jerry goes to preschool and kindergarten and is a very rough kid. He is very sensitive as well. His feelings are hurt easily. But he knows not to show that by crying or speaking up.

However, it is acceptable to show anger in his family. His dad shows it often. So Jerry hits and kicks. It is what has happened to him his whole life, and so when he punches back he is sometimes rewarded. His dad has the boys have boxing matches for his own entertainment.

Jerry’s mother is withdrawn and depressed at this point. It is a complete disaster in their house. She does not care. Once every so often, she still stands up to Jerry’s dad. She will get the wrench, the belt, and it is getting worse.

Jerry and his brothers have learned to hit and kick their mom when she does not serve them as well. It is what they do now. “Get me my pop.” If she does not get it for the boys, she is hit and punched by her own son’s. This increases her withdrawal. She gets them to school and that is about all they see of her.

They get good enough grades to pass and fly under the radar. At conferences, the kids will get a beating if there is a bad report. The teacher knows that if she tells the parents, that these kids settle down for a while and that makes it easier on her. She has bigger problems in her classroom. So she threatens to tell Jerry’s parents if he is “bad.” Jerry learns to hide even more.

Ashton goes to the best preschools and kindergarten. He stands out and performs well. He is advanced, not because of his intellect, but because of all the training his parents have put him through so it appears that way. Ashton is told he is the best now by the teachers, the parents, and everyone. He is the star. He begins to tell the other kids how to act if they want to be “the good guys.”

He no longer does it for affection, he knows it as his truth. He does cry for his mother at times, but that is fading. She comes less and less. She will sneak him an Ice Cream and some hugs at times. She is spending more time at work.

Ashton’s father does not allow tears. Or talk of emotion. He studies and takes his classes and the family does their public appearances. They see family for a while, but never too often. You cannot keep up this image for too long before it cracks, so they make quick exits.

They prefer to send out emails and cards speaking of accomplishments and vacations. We “don’t have problems.” They say. “It is great. “

They have the image. Truthfully, there is not fighting in their house. Ashton’s mother is not home enough to fight, and she is too fearful and insecure to fight. So there is not fighting, but there also is no love.

The children begin to grow. They are now school age. They are learning new skills and knowledge. This is when the friends begin to have a major influence. A child can develop inferiority at this stage and low self-esteem if they have unresolved feelings of inadequacy.

Jerry is not allowed to have friends over at his house. He does not want them over either. Jerry goes over to his friends’ houses all the time. He is avoiding beatings by his father and his brothers. Jerry being gone gives his family one less mouth to feed and less problem.

Jerry’s mom eventually leaves in the middle of the night and no one knows where she went. Jerry gets the brunt of this for a couple years. He is the most caring, so he is the target. He begins to stay at friends’ houses more and more. There is older kids at his friends and they begin to introduce drinking, sex, and drugs to Jerry. He loves it. He feels at peace for the first time in his life. He finally is free. He begins to do this every day. He is bright enough to pass his classes.

Ashton is going to a private school. He has a little more competition than he or his father would like. His father gets on all the school boards and makes sure Ashton makes all the sports teams. Ashton starts to have a hard time, and other children are able to beat him at academics and sports. His father becomes angry. He demands Ashton practices more, and they hire more coaches. Ashton’s mother is told to work more in order to pay for the extra training. Ashton is starting to learn how to cheat to win. As if he wins, his father is happy.

He performs well and learns to cheat well. His father gives him accolades. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, you have to beat the bad guys for the good of the world. And we are the good guys.”

His father teaches him about the “scum bags” and the “losers,” and how they need to be locked up and put away. Ashton is ridiculed by his father if he does not have friends.

Ashton goes to all the family events to hear his father and mother talk about how amazing he is. This gives him purpose. Ashton sees another kid cheating on a test and reports him. He is awarded at school and at home for stopping this awful behavior. He is told he is a hero for stopping it.

The kids go to high school. They are developing their own identity.

Jerry is a full blown drug addict. He skips school and eventually drops out. He is sensitive so the girls like him, until he hits them of course. That is what he does. He drinks and uses for that peaceful feeling. Jerry cannot find a job. His drug issues land him in court a few times.

Jerry moves from place to place. Eventually he is placed on social security like his father was. He has a girl that stays with him for a while. She becomes pregnant.

They have a child and Jerry changes. Jerry loves his little boy with all of his heart. He hugs him and kisses him and he doesn’t care what people think.

He cannot beat his addiction on his own. Jerry still gets frustrated and has no idea how to deal with things. He hits his girlfriend often. She stays for the child, and because she sees how much love is still in Jerry’s heart. They are on support. They live in a subsidy. A one bedroom apartment.

Jerry starts seeking help, he goes to psychiatrist and although he misses appointments much of the time. He is trying. He has some brain injuries from his childhood that make things harder for him.

One night, Jerry comes home and his girlfriend is crying holding their child. Someone broke in to the house and stole the food stamps and money. Jerrys son is crying uncontrollably. Jerry does not know what to do. He screams at his son and his girlfriend to stop crying. She yells at him that if he wasn’t out partying and had a job this wouldn’t happen. Jerry is about to cry. All the shame and inadequacy comes back. He doesn’t want to hit anyone. He leaves the apartment. He is scared, he feels like a failure. He has no confidence or self-esteem, and he has no idea how to deal with emotions. He leaves in anger, he has to find out what happened. He has to provide for his son. He has to make this right.

As Ashton goes to high school, he fades as the academic all-star and sports star. He begins to lose his whole identity. He knows that when he serves a “justice to the community,” he is applauded and rewarded and at least not ridiculed. He sees kids having fun, partying, and skipping class and he makes sure they are found out. He begins to tell on his own friends.

Ashton will go to the parties, go to the events and fit in. Then he goes right to his father and the principal. This gives Ashton accolades and self-worth. He starts to get excited, and feel superior, as if he is above them and is able to deceive them. He is motivated to catch anyone who crosses him or anyone who makes him look bad.

Ashton graduated high school with a 3.4. He got decent ACT scores. He did not get accepted in to the best colleges so his father was greatly disappointed. So Ashton stopped applying out of fear. He told his father he was applying, but he wasn’t.

When Ashton’s father finds this out he tells him to leave and that he is on his own. He needs to find his own way and learn to struggle and to be a man. Ashton is heartbroken. His mother tries to hug him, Ashton’s father stops it. At this point, Ashton resents his mother so much for not helping him, he doesn’t care. Ashton has no idea where to go or what to do.

Eventually he is sleeping in his car, and surviving eating ramen noodles. He has no money. Eventually Ashton goes in to community college and it is easy for him. He is drawn to becoming the law, because that is “who he is.”

He is a child that has been taught this. In his mind he is sure who is right and who is wrong, who is bad and who is good. This is for him. He thrives and graduates in 3 years with a degree in criminal justice.

After he is in the program, his father begins to help him out again. Ashton is now waiting to become a police officer. His father uses his influence to get Ashton a job right away, which is rare for police. Usually they want people with life experience. Ashton, at age 21 is now a police officer.

Now in reality, their lives never crossed. However, this is a very likely scenario if they ever did:

On this night that Jerry has gone out after he has been robbed, Ashton is working the street.

Jerry sees a pizza man walking alone. Jerry runs after the pizza man and demands he hands it over to him. Jerry steals the pizza and in his anger he kicks and punches the pizza man. He is bringing this back to his family.

Ashton gets the call. He arrives on the scene and talks to the pizza man and knows he has to bust this “creep.”

He spots Jerry and chases him down. Jerry has the pizza in one hand and his pants are falling off. He has to get home. He reaches down in his pants to pull them up, as it’s the only pair of pants he owns.

Ashton knows this is his chance. Jerry is not going to get away. BAM!

Jerry is dead. Ashton has killed him.

This is how a police shooting happens.

Now Jerry is dead and his community is enraged. They are protesting, they are against the police force and riots ensue. They set fires. Eventually police are being attacked.

Ashton’s community is giving each other high fives, saying “no one steals in our neighborhoods. No one. We got him.”

They think it’s great that a “bad” guy was caught. Over a pizza.

There is a tape of the incident. Ashton is arrested and charged with murder. His community is outraged. His father is embarrassed and his mother is devastated.

Ashton is found guilty and is sentenced to 25 years in prison.

His family abandons him. He is alone. He is an embarrassment, and he has a very hard time in jail. He is beaten and attacked routinely. He spends most of his life in jail.

Jerry is dead. His girlfriend becomes involved in drugs and Jerry’s son grows up in a worse environment than he did.

What happened to the real Jerry is he did rob a pizza man and beat him that night. That is a part of his record. He now is in prison, for multiple drug offenses and never sees or speaks to his son.

What happened to the real Ashton is he has been to treatment multiple times, he is no longer on the police force. He lives alone and drinks daily with no contact with his family.

Both destroyed. It does not always end happy. There are many others like them out there suffering.

The crisis divides us by race. But what if I told you Jerry was white, and Ashton was black? Would that change your mind on who is the victim here?

What if I told you they both were black? Or they both were white?

Would that change your mind?

I do not need to tell you what race they were, because it doesn’t matter. This is more than a race issue.

This is an inequality, poverty, abuse, and a mask issue.

What happens is the system tells you how to behave, who to like, and what is acceptable. They tell you to get married and have certain cars and houses. They tell you what you need to be, they create many masks.

Then you do all the stuff the mask makers tell you to do, and we are all walking around depressed and don’t know why.

It is because it is their dream, not ours.

Then when a crisis happens, it creates an “us vs them” issue, when it is in fact a “we” issue.

Those that are profiting off the mask sit by, keep making money, keep creating masks, and are slipping away while we all fight against each other.

You know how to stop them? Stop fighting each other and start loving and accepting each other. Then the mask makers will go away.

But we need a villain, a “bad” guy. We have to take “sides.” There has to be a “right” and a “wrong.”

We are taught that as kids. It is all over the cartoons. Batman punching the “bad” guys.

What if there is no such thing as “good” guys, or “bad” guys? What if we were all in this together?

This is one story, but behind each crisis there is a story that holds the truth.

However, we choose not to look behind the mask, we choose not to look at the real issues, and we choose not to look in the mirror.

That is partially because of the images shown to us over and over again. The images enrage us and creates a false story that gets us to take sides. The same people showing us these images are profiting off of our masks. How do they profit? Well they get higher ratings, and they can charge more for commercial time then.

Until we start to love and accept each other, this will never change.

We all are responsible for Jerry and for Ashton. How many times a day do we see a child struggling, or a family hurting, and look the other way? How many kids are starving throughout the world while we eat double cheeseburgers in excess?

Then a crisis happens and we react and blame each other. Which only breeds more hate, more violence.

Maybe they both were victims. Of all of us. Of society. Of the masks.

There is a solution.

It is simply to look in the mirror, and remember who you truly are, and dedicate yourself to love that day.

It is not just up to the families. How many people came across these kids and had the chance to be the one to love them in their lives? We cannot fix these broken systems over night, but we can give love to someone who needs it.

One person giving either of them unconditional love and acceptance, would have changed this whole story.

They both were chasing love their whole lives. Jerry to get rid of the shame and pain and feel like he is a good dad. Ashton was chasing love by getting the “bad” guys. It was not even real love they were chasing. They had that within them, no one ever showed either of them. They chased the false love and masks passed on to them.

It is time to stop making people chase after false love, and give them real love.

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“Sometimes you have to break down someone’s walls and take off their mask to see who they truly are.”

By Cortland Pfeffer

I’ve created a website and blog which all stems from the notion of removing our psychological masks. It is time to lead by example and remove my mask.

This information has never been shared before publicly or privately; hence, I have been wearing a mask for protection. I preach about inner peace, tranquility, and serenity is the direct result of “taking the mask off,” so that is what I am going to do.

I left my ex-wife. We have 2 little children. I have left her twice.

There you go, I said it. That is all the information you need to make a decision about my character and place me in the category of “good” or “bad.” It really is that black and white. I am the bad guy and she is the victim. This is how our society works; we create a villain, and then demonize him/her, which allows for justifying complete blame.

This starts from the time we are children: Batman is the “good guy” and the Joker is the “bad guy.” We categorize everything and everyone into two black-and-white categories of “good” vs. “bad.” While this is entertaining in movies, television shows, and stories, it is highly detrimental when we place all of life into absolute categories.

In elementary school when they try to teach us about American history and we seem to skip over essential parts of modern history such as the Korean War and Vietnam War. When asked about it, we like to describe it as the communists are “bad” and we are “good.” We had to invade others homeland to stop evil from spreading in the Pacific. If you tell any story from the perspective of the villain, you will almost certainly understand the reason behind the actions.

So, let me go along with this mask that society has placed on me as the villain in this scenario. This alleviates blame off of everyone else which makes the mask so appealing for everyone else.

As I remove this mask, let me start by apologizing to everyone that I have let down by my horrendous actions:

First off, I need to apologize to my ex-wife for the pain that I have caused. On the days that I left, she was so devastated that it put her body into shock. The mental anguish created physical debilitation to the point she was hospitalized and had intent to end her own life. She did not deserve that kind of pain, nobody does. She grew up always doing the right thing, went to school, got good grades, on the honor roll, graduated from college, and then helped me raise my daughter. We started our own family and everything in her life was going as planned, as it should when you always do the right thing. She had always been in control of her emotions, but hearing these words literally took the life out of her as she could not breathe, talk, or walk because the emotional pain was overwhelming. This turned her mad, angry, and untrusting of the world. I am responsible for this and I am sorry. I will never forgive myself and I am sorry for the tremendous pain that I have caused.

Then to my children, who now live separate lives. Their entire world is now shook up as they will have had to adjust to living in different homes, with different rules, and making difficult decisions. Children do not deserve this type of cruelty. They will have to hear about how their father destroyed the once-happy family from their mother and vice versa from their father, creating dissention and confusion. I did this and I am responsible for this pain. To even think about how lives have been changed hurts me so deep that it brings about physical pain in which I can never fully recover.

To her family that took me in, accepted me, befriended me, and tried their best to include me – I am sorry for letting you down. They saw me as different and I did not fit into their culture, yet they accepted me as one of their own as a part of the family. Then, I broke their daughter’s heart and left her devastated. They needed to stop their lives to pick her back up, get her on her feet, and begin her new life. As I watched this play out like a scene from a movie that is too difficult to watch that you need to look away, but I couldn’t look away. Because I created it and I had to watch it play out with remorse, shame, and regret.

Then there is my family. After years of failures, letting them down, and hurting them, I finally had stability in my life. I had struggled my entire life to rebuild this trust with my own family, only for them to watch it all implode once again. They had to watch this horror scene unfold and couldn’t believe that they had been so foolish to trust me with their hearts, knowing that this is how it would always end.  They were forced to pick sides between me and my ex-wife, and they were able to empathize with her as they have been on the receiving end from my hurtful actions in the past.

I am also sorry that it took me so long to speak and I am sorry that I have been wearing this mask for so long. Life really is more beautiful when we take off our mask, we get to see the world as it is. When we expose our flaws, our shortcomings, and our weaknesses, only then can we grow and evolve.

Now that you have seen behind my mask, let me see behind yours.

To my ex-wife, I am sorry that the pressure of being “normal” became too intense for you to bear and you rushed into a marriage with someone you truly did not share a spiritual connection. Because of this, there was resentment because the man you married does not fit the mold of “manly.” I am sorry that I am not into hunting, fishing, fixing cars, yard work, and repairing things around the home. I apologize that because of this, resentment grew to the point that communication was cut off with your husband for not being someone he never was. You did exactly as you were told and were sold the concept of the “American Dream” and would do anything to achieve it. I am sorry that your desire for “normalcy” grasped you like a drug-addiction to the point you sacrificed lifelong morals and values in an effort to inflate your image. You moved in too soon with a man you barely knew with his teenage daughter without developing any type of true relationship for society’s acceptance, and I am sorry the world pushed this on you.

I also feel the need to apologize that society lied to you about how life was supposed to be and that you believed in this illusion of the American Dream. Sometimes you do everything you are supposed to do and things still go astray. We all have a script of how we feel life is supposed to go and sometimes those scripts do not match up. I am sorry that this was your first encounter with this reality and I’m sorry that I didn’t fit your knight in shiny armor.

Later, you were told you were not able have your own children which altered your life plan to the point of having a mental break down along with verbally attacking the person closest to you – your husband. I am sorry you felt these verbal assaults on others were your way of coping with life’s adversity that we all face. And I am sorry that once your world started to fall apart, that you chose me as the scapegoat for all life’s problems. And I am sorry I accepted this role.

I am also sorry that you believed if you changed enough externally, it would fix things internally. Big house, fancy cars, and material possessions will always fade away and will only create temporary happiness; whereas, true joy can only come from within. You were led to believe that having a baby or two was the missing link to your lack of joy. I’m sorry that after paying for in vitro and having two children still did not change anything. And I am sorry I could no longer wear my mask at your family functions and pretend everything was OK.

I am sorry that our kids saw us fighting, screaming. I am sorry that the kids started going into the corner and screaming and fighting as well. I am sorry the kids looked scared all the time.

So yes, I am sorry that I left you. I am the villain.

I am sorry my actions shook up everything in your world, your fairy tale world in which the beauty trains the beast to be civilized and they live happily ever after. I’m sorry for destroying your mask and deciding I was no longer going to participate in this phony play you were showcasing to the world.

I let you see behind my mask and I wanted to see behind yours. I was the Phantom and you were Christine. I showed you the deformities behind my mask and my need to be loved, my need to be real, and my need to be myself. I need my kids to see real love and genuineness, rather than build them a mask of their own.

But, this is not just the Phantom of the Opera; this is the Phantom of Society – it seems real, but it really doesn’t exist.

To my children, you will not have a life like that of your friends. You will get to see a mother and father that are happy; you will get to see love. You will not have to see me repressed, unloved, or unhappy. You will not have to see a marriage which is silent, bitterness, or anger. You will not see a fake life and then try to imitate it when you are adults. You will never hear a bad word about your mother from me and you will never see us fight ever again.

As my role as the villain, living with a mask under the stage, I would like to apologize for my actions. I knew something was wrong and I could not do it anymore, I need to be loved. But I am the villain, and I am sorry for playing this role.

And to my ex-wife’s family, I am incredibly sorry that you taught her that her self-worth is based on being married and having children. That your traditional beliefs were so engrained in her head that she never got to express herself and develop a true identity. She has the intelligence and work-ethic to be many things, but she only found her worth in being a housewife. She wanted to be a doctor and had the ability, but was pressured into social work. I am very sorry that she had to see this fake life while growing up and then mimicked all she knew to be true. She was domesticated to the values of getting together and hugging one another, then leaving events and not speaking for one year. You created a robot to take center stage and I apologize for spoiling it to her that it is just an act and everything you taught her was a lie.

Now, everyone in your small community knows. You have a divorced child, and in your inverted values, feel that you have failed as parents. I am sorry for the anger you have towards me and that you had to see you daughter suffering. And I am sorry for exposing her to the truth and destroying your play.

She is now going to nursing school and following her dreams – not the ones you built for her. But, I the villain, am sorry for allowing her to be herself.

And to my family, I am sorry that the dysfunction led to us developing unhealthy roles and that I was chosen as the scapegoat. This allowed for you to focus on someone, rather than looking in the mirror, which prevented you from ever experiencing growth for yourselves. It gave you relief when I made mistakes, as it allows for these roles to fulfill. I am sorry that by acting out in dysfunction that it eased your stress and enabled you to point fingers and blame. I am also sorry that because of all the finger-pointing, it forced me to seek help and treatment and better myself while you continue to stay stuck without ever being able to look in the mirror after all these years. I am sorry that because of taking the role of scapegoat, it has prevented you from addressing your own issues.

While you are living the “American Dream,” you are depressed on the inside.  As Kanye West once said in his lyrics, “We’re told we’re living the American Dream; but the people highest up have the lowest self-esteems; the prettiest people do the ugliest things.”

I apologize that I am  no longer living that dream, but that is what happens when you wake up. You stop dreaming. In which, I am happy to understand it was all an illusion. But, I am sorry for being the villain in your play.

I am sorry that we live in a society that as soon as we are born, we are told about the
“American Dream.” That we grow up, go to school, learn what the teachers ask us to remember, get a job, pay bills, get married, and have children. I am sorry that those that tell us this are making money off of the tuition, weddings, mortgages, vacations, and even the toys for the kids. The American Dream is a marketing scheme and it always has been.

I am sorry that we are taught we can only love one person, even when it goes against everything that is in our hearts. Then we are told if we break that vow, we are set to spend eternity in a fire pit. We get pressured into getting married at a young age and having children, then told we are evil if we realize that the marriage was not meant to be. So, in my first thirty years, I am supposed to find my soul mate that just happens to live in the same geographic area that I was born?

I am sorry that people still think in black and white, that if someone leaves, that they are a bad person. I am sorry people cannot look beyond that, and see the whole picture. It is acting out of dysfunction. Life is not about who is right and wrong. It is about love. When love is missing, things go terribly wrong.

I am sorry that love is not ever really missing, but people are afraid to show it, from shame, pain, and hurt. It all forces us to put masks on and when that happens, love gets withheld. I am sorry that people do not see that love is all that matters, it is all we have. We are here for only a short time, and most of us are living a fake life.

I am sorry people think there is only one way to raise happy, healthy kids, and that is by living this lie.

The current divorce rate is 50-percent, and those still married, but unhappy, is about 35-percent. If you have that deep emotional connection, marriage can work and can be good. But we are all so busy just trying to be “normal” that we end up depressed. Then we wonder what happened.

I am sorry that I ever believed in the “American Dream.” I am sorry for you if you still do not realize that it is a lie. I am sorry to everyone that cannot see the truth.

I am the villain, the bad guy, and I am

Sorry.