The first book I wrote, The Language Professor, was about the life-changing encounter I had with the Director General (DG) of the junior college where I was working as director of admissions. I ran afoul of this DG when I refused the application of the non-qualified son of an influential friend of his.
When my supervisor asked me about him, I explained my decision. When he asked a second, time, I re-explained my decision. The third time he did not ask, he told me, admit him, and I did.
Well, the DG did not forget this instance of lesé majesté and hit back a year later when I was scheduled to resume my position after having taken a year’s leave of absence approved by all instances of the college. He couldn’t fire me because the employee group I belonged to was unionized, but he insisted on assigning me to a non-job in another department.
The guillotine had fallen. My world was turned upside down. What happened to the contract I had signed while I was away, the letter I received from the personnel office telling me all was in order, to the merit pay increase I had been granted because of the excellence with which I had performed my duties the preceding year?
I had met my very own, personal Humpty Dumpty: 'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” Whence the title I gave the book.
Of course, what the DG was doing was illegal from a union point of view but that did not stop him. The only thing that stopped him was his own neck: his mandate was coming up for renewal in the spring and he wanted the mess he had created with me out of the way. Especially since I had been elected as representative of my association to the college’s Board of Governors which would be deciding the question of his renewal.
I had succeeded in getting my job back, but I had been thoroughly chastened; more, my innocence had been destroyed forever, words did not mean what I thought they meant, they meant only what someone stronger than me thought/said they meant. I had entered the world of “experience”.
The mandate fight on the Board deepened this “experience”, since Eugene’s supporters were also masters of contingency, of twisting words and bending facts. At one point during the struggle, I remember having come home and moaned to my partner, “they are so ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly.”
My political education was complete.
The Language Professor, Strategic Book Publishers, Durham CT 06422Group.
I have been thinking about my second blog.
I think I have it wrong.
Where is the daughter’s anger with her father?
Has she misplaced that anger onto her mother and sister?
As for the anger with her father—never having been a victim of this kind of abomination, I think I need to pull back any advice I would give this person.
As we would say in Yiddish, “We should not know from such tsures.”
Here is another example of needing to let go.
I recently read a book about the sexual abuse of a daughter by her father. The daughter cannot let go of the fact that her mother and older sister do not believe her. The author thrashes about during the entire book, setting up meeting after meeting, trying to convince mother and older sister about what happened to her. The book ends on that note.
I would love to meet the author and tell her that her mother and sister are never going to change their minds. And since they are never going to come around, she is the one who has to come around, she has to give up trying to convince them.
This does not mean she is giving up thinking what she is thinking, it simply means she is giving up trying to change their thinking.
Giving up trying to change their thinking acknowledges a very painful reality but, at the same time, it will give her back her life. For it will remove this futile festering that has consumed her and free her to expend all the energy released thereby on her children, her brother, her friends, her career, her life.
I believe that the gist of what I learned from dealing with my father over his long life can be applied by other people.
We cannot change what we don’t like in the other, be they mother or father or child, for that matter. What we can do is back off and let go.
Thinking we can change them is the mistake.
In my case, my mistake was to think I could reason with my father, that explaining things would help, that elaborating on what hearing aids and puffers were for, would help, that explaining the tax difference between interest income and dividend income would help.
He was deaf in more ways than physiological. And that it took me years and years of wasting my breath before realizing this—and even then, I did not realize this on my own, my partner helped me realize this, since I had reached my limit and had become furious and hysterical.
I had been trying to communicate with someone who was not listening, period. I had been wasting my time and getting more and more frustrated because I was unable to get through. Relief only came after I stopped trying, when I applied the Dalai Lama’s dictum, you say something once and then you do not say it again.
Suddenly, freedom and inner peace were mine vis a vis my father. I was no longer trying to change him—it was hard for a teacher at heart, which is what I am, to stop trying to teach, to inform, to help.
I do believe that this “hands off” approach will work in other situations as well. In the case of
selfishness—he or she is not going to change, so stop being disappointed when they don’t;
intrusiveness—he or she is not going to change, so ignore and go your merry way;
narcissism—he or she is not going to change, stop expecting them to;
tactlessness—he or she has no idea they are being tactless, ignore;
cruelty—stay far, far away, no one deserves to be shat on;
parsimony--don’t expect anything.
why i write
My goal in writing is to communicate and share my thoughts about the people I know and the events I have experienced with the hope that my experience can be of help to others. The gist of my experience in The One of Their Relationship is: letting go.