Here’s to taking a deep breath and jumping off the cliff…

I was talking to a friend the other day and describing some of my childhood, and I realized that I haven’t written much about it here. I’ve written about it in vague, hidden descriptions only. Like a warning sign over my heart. Maybe because that part of my life feels like a minefield. I’ve dealt with a lot of those issues, but I never know when one will explode and hit me in the face.

There’s one I’d like to describe right now though, a behavior I described to my friend earlier. I’m going to call it Learned Pretentiousness. My dad, who completely believed that we would be the recipients of billions of dollars gifted us by God, taught us this interesting behavior. The first time I can recall using it was when we did a walk-through of a 5 million dollar house that we were going to buy when “The Money” arrived (which was an imminent event, of course). I remember assuming the behavior of a rich little girl, trying to pretend like my family wasn’t living in a tiny 3-bedroom apartment where I shared a room with my twin sister. Instead, I discussed what kinds of things we would buy to put in the living room, or how we would arrange the basements, or what the room above the stable would be used for.

I was 10 years old at the time of our little walk-through (and no, The Money has still not arrived 14 years later). There were so many times I put on the “little rich girl” throughout the years that I don’t even remember all of them. My family would often frequent 5 star hotels just to sit in the lobby and pretend like we were one of them. Or, more often than not, we would visit the local corporate airport to look at the planes, and MAYBE WE WOULD BE LUCKY AND SOMEONE WOULD MEET US THERE WITH THE MONEY! You could never be sure.

One time my dad actually talked a jet chartering company into flying a large corporate jet into Denver for us to see. My dad had great powers of persuasion and is probably the most charismatic man I’ve ever met. I remember sitting on that jet feeling like I was living a complete lie but struggling, trying desperately, to pull it off like I knew what richness felt like. I was crawling with anxiety and trying to hide the fact that I so obviously didn’t belong.

The behavior actually became so ingrained that if I walk into any luxurious atmosphere now, I have to be on guard so I don’t assume it and therefore assume a personality that is not myself.

Looking back on the strangeness of my life, I can easily see why alcohol and love addiction became such a big issue for me. First of all, I had no idea what living in reality was like, since my dad and therefore my family avoided it at all costs. And second, besides my dad creating this strange, cult-like family (me, my mom, and my sisters) and convincing us to buy into this delusional idea, he was also abusive and angry if we ever crossed him. None of us dared speak up and say that he was wrong about this money idea. The closest any of us got was my twin sister repeatedly speaking her doubts about God really saying it, and my dad spending hours trying to convince her that she just had to take it on faith. She eventually bought into it more than any of the rest of us. Yet the one time I remember my mom slightly disagreeing with him about his ideas, he forbid her from taking part in family conversations until she apologized. (About a month later)

By the time I was 15, I was at least slightly aware that I wanted to escape, and that was when most of my acting out started. It was like I was a snake itching to get rid of my skin, my isolated and bizarre little life. The anxiety exploded and I grabbed men, alcohol, a knife – anything that could get me out of the feelings I had of my life imploding on top of me. Outside, I was walking into 5 star restaurants and pretending my life was grand.

I am scared to post this. Scared to open up this part of my life. I’ve talked about it with my therapist and my close friends. But I think only to my therapist with as much detail, with the dots and lines that include every detail of how I was trained to act. And most recently, of the shame I have carried for buying into this delusional world. Because I did. I never thought I’d have to cook my own meals. I expected to marry a rich man, even a prince. I expected to wear Chanel and have my own horse or several. I expected to be able to travel to Dubai and stay in my favorite suite in the world. I have been ashamed for the time I spent buying into it all when I was a teenager. I’ve long since stopped believing the lies, but the shame remains.

I guess one of the biggest reasons I want to post this is to give back that shame by opening up my story to the world. It’s my way of doing what my therapist described yesterday about the day I went into Cartier when I was 16. I put on a $50,000 diamond ring (or maybe it was $25,000… I can’t quite remember), fell in love with it, and my dad embarrassingly slipped in a mention to the sales person that we would be back when his “investment paid out.” (Investment meaning God would give us The Money we had been waiting for) Instead of standing there in my embarrassment, pretending that I was a spoiled little teenager, here’s what I would want to say now:

“Sorry ma’am. My dad thinks God is going to give him 1.7 billion dollars, you see. Just out of thin air. He has it all planned out and is just waiting for God to give it to him. He has a company formed in the state of Colorado so that there is a place for the money to go. I have a trustee for a trust account that has no money in it. He even thinks a man in Iran is going to gift it to him, which is illegal in fact. So as you can see the whole idea is pretty laughable. This ring is gorgeous but I will probably never buy it. Thanks for the chance to put it on.”


Here’s an update to how I’m working through things with my family now… It’s Complicated

35 Replies to “Here’s to taking a deep breath and jumping off the cliff…”

  1. It takes great courage to face these things and even more to put them out there like this…shame is a coward as well as a liar and thief and the peace you seek lies with your willingness to call the bluff. Well done. If you do the hard yards now your age will gift you the “do-over” we all crave. Thankyou for your beautiful honesty. Respect REDdog

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words. I appreciate it as I continue to try and put words to my life and what it’s been, which also means addressing the issues that arise when I face truth! It’s tricky work.
      Thanks for stopping by and reading, I so appreciate it.

  2. Seems like you’re owning a shame which isn’t yours.

    If you saw another young, vulnerable girl in the sway of a domineering, emotionally abusive, charismatic, manipulative man, would you blame her?

    If you saw that she had been conditioned by confusion, youth and ignorance to go along with him, would you chastise her?

    If you watched her go along with his madness, knowing that she’d seen the cruelty he handed out even to her own mother, when she dared to behave in a way he deemed inappropriate, would you hold her responsible?

    You seem like a good person who has her head screwed on – I suspect that you’d tell her you understand, and that her behaviour is explainable. I reckon you’d have compassion for her and tell her you hoped that she’d find a way to get out from under his influence, so that she could start living in Truth, rather than lies.

    I don’t think you’d hold her accountable. I don’t think you’d tell her the shame was hers.

    And I don’t think I can, either.

    1. This post was kind of a way, for me, to say those words to her… to have compassion on my younger self for understandably falling under such a spell. And just to be clear – I do NOT own that shame. It is not mine. It originated elsewhere and I refuse it. But part of the way I refuse it, too, was to write this post and expose the truth! The truth of how I grew up and how insane it was!
      And if there was any way I could rescue my younger self from the situation she was in – I would in a HEARTBEAT. In a heartbeat. As it is I just continue to love her as she grows up and away from the madness.
      Thank you for what you wrote… for affirming the shame is not mine to keep. Thank you for witnessing this, I so appreciate it as it’s another really tough part in my story.

      1. Good – cos this line “I have been ashamed for the time I spent buying into it all when I was a teenager. I’ve long since stopped believing the lies, but the shame remains.” had me worried that you were hanging onto it.

        I, too, grew up in the thrall of a bullying father, and I know what it is to end up behaving like them, and hating yourself for it. I know it’s tough, and I applaud your bravery in writing the truth here.

        Keep on rejecting that shame, and writing your story for all to see. Transparency helps, somehow, even if only that by writing, we are forced to acknowledge the Big Sharp Corners of the matter.

      2. I am not hanging onto it by choice that’s for sure. I do a lot of work (and have done a lot of work) to reject the shame and hand it back to my dad, where it belongs.
        Ugh that part is the toughest for me, when I see myself behaving like my dad and go “ugh. UGH. I’m being like him right now!” That’s when I really have to 1. own that yes, I am behaving like him and 2. choose not to, and choose to accept myself in it. Choose to see that it’s just how I was taught to behave.
        I will – writing sets me free. I’ve always written to unlock the cages I’ve either been forced to live in, or have put myself in. It helps… it so helps for you to see it. And to see those big sharp corners too, like you mentioned.

      3. Also, be assured, that’s why I put this line in there:
        “I guess one of the biggest reasons I want to post this is to give back that shame by opening up my story to the world.”
        I am not interested in holding onto the shame. 🙂

      4. It all sounds like you have it under control (or, at least, you’re being mindful about moving forward from this, and are operating with a high level of self-awareness), which is great. And now I understand more, I can see why you wrote this the way you did.

        To be fair, I’m hardly an expert at ‘handing back’ – I think you’re a lot further on with that than I am – I only just realised how I could do it about two weeks ago.

        And yeah – totally with you on the ‘UGH!’ moments. Hate those.

  3. I love the end of this. I love that moment where you were blunt and honest and brutal even. I was raised in a sorta similar way, but only in that we made a good show of not looking dirt poor. I’m still rather talented at that.

    1. Haha you should have heard it in my therapist’s office. 😀 My therapist was a lot more sarcastic and brutal than this was.
      It is a talent to make yourself look more rich than you are… and I know what you mean, I could still make myself look filthy rich if I wanted to. Thanks, Dad 😀

      1. It totally could! I will whip it out if I need it… maybe I’ll become an international spy 😀 The name’s Works… Laurie Works… expert at international espionage, which includes knowing how to style an Hermes scarf, and exactly how far your Gulfstream jet will go before running out fuel… (Dear FBI – FYI I know these things, you better hire me…)

  4. Such a strange phenomen. Where is the line between “hope” and “insanity”?
    I hate that he was so committed to the idea, that he became abusive if you crossed him.

    We’re all entitled to dream, and work hard for our dream. But this was unrealistic imposed fantasy. I’m want you to hope for a life of abundance, and to work towards that. But reasonably.

    1. That’s totally what I see looking back… the unrealisticness of it. It’s still hard for me some days to be okay with wanting abundance, because this life triggers SO MUCH in me. But I’m slowly starting to see that abundance is one thing, and fantasy is totally another. And being verbally abused because I am not buying in to the fantasy is never okay and is a huge sign of dysfunction.
      I’m trying to learn how to approach abundance differently, but it’s HARD!

  5. You my dear have a story to tell and like so many others you were made to pay for the rights to this story without ever being asked if you wanted to own it. I keep finding myself wishing I could sit next to the girl in these stories so I could take her hand and tell her to just hold on, that one day the truth would visit, and it will set her spirit free. Sounds really cliche but I believe it nonetheless.

    I sat next to a girl who was maybe 7 in a church I was visiting with a friend. She had 4 brothers and a mom who kept shushing them and ignoring her. The preacher began to talk about healing and how “IF YOU JUST BELIEVE ENOUGH” you will be healed. My head was spinning and my stomach hurt as I watched this little girl raise her hands in the air. She believed with her whole heart. The preacher said that God saved him from the devastating May 3rd tornado that took so many lives because he prayed for God to keep them from its path ( and right then the tornado turned directions). I was sick to death of the implications of these words. The total misrepresentation of God and what Christianity stood for.

    I took the girls hand and bent down and I said “Bad things will happen and I don’t care what anyone says God loves you and he knows you love him.” Normally I would never speak to another persons child but she hugged me so hard as her mother continued to ignore her. She hugged me and started bawling. She told me a story that broke my heart. I told her God never promised to prevent us from harm but he promised to be with us through it.

    I walked away wishing I could have done something more. I saw God and felt him in that church that day but he wasn’t standing with the man at the front of the church he was standing next to a little girl letting her know he heard her.

    I don’t know why I just told you this story but I typed it all so I am leaving it 🙂

    1. Thank goodness you were there for that little girl. Sounds like she really needed you, and you were the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Not keen on your preacher, but I think you’ve managed to get the right message in spite of him *HUGS*

      1. Pray for her when you do – given the sound of her situation, I’d say there’s a good reason she’s on your heart. Poor kid.

        That you held her and listened to her and gave her the attention she so craved, that’s incredible. Not because I don’t think you’d do it, but just because you were prepared to step outside your comfort zone and reach out to her. I’m sure that will have made SUCH a difference, especially if she was an isolated child (sounds like she was pretty well marginalised, even in her own family). You might be a turning point for her – that you took an interest, and CARED…that’s so, SO huge.

        Each time I learn more about you, Sunset, I realise what an honour and huge pleasure it is to have your acquaintance 🙂

    2. Oh I have to come to terms with that almost every day it seems… this story I was given without ever being asked if I wanted it. Ugh. Thank you for your kind and precious words; I try to take care of my inner child as much as possible because I so, so wish I would have had someone to do what you just described. I don’t think it sounds cliche. I think it sounds necessary.
      I love your story. I love that you did that for that 7 year old girl. She probably needed that so very much. I’m so happy you gave that moment to her. I think you did just enough and I bet she remembers it even now and will for the rest of her life. Thank you for telling me about it.
      It kind of reminds me of a time when I was 14 years old at an altar call at a huge youth event. I was crying and feeling so lonely, and a woman touched my shoulder and said, “I don’t know you, but God loves you.” That was all I needed to hear and obviously, it still touches me and I remember it to this day.
      That’s why I say that little girl most likely remembers what you said and treasures it still…
      You’re wonderful, SW. So glad you are around. So amazed to know you.

  6. you know, I read posts like this (posts that touch me, make me really think and/or feel), and I come to comments all ready with my words…and then I read the other comments. The other thoughtful, thorough, perfect comments and I’m all, HEY that’s exactly what I wanted to say! So I apologize for not having something insightful, or unique to add. Just know that I appreciate being let into your world today. You’re an amazing, strong, dynamic human being who I’m proud to call a Sister Wife.

    1. Awww Beth – I’ll just pretend that you ALSO said all of those lovely things. Thank you so very much for your lovely soul, I so appreciate your presence, and so appreciate your heart. I am so very grateful and proud to know you too, Sister Wifey!

  7. I am in total agreement with Beth! I can’t think of anything original that hasn’t already been said in this thread. Still think you’re amazing and I’ll add phenomenal if you’ll let me share the comments with Beth 😉

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