How does one even approach such a thing? Such cruelty?

I’ve spent the better part of an hour staring at this blank page. It’s the worst case of writer’s block I’ve had in months. Writing becomes difficult for me when my feelings are running ahead of my thinking.

What’s worse, as usual I always attempt, especially in a case like this, to relate something back to my own life for context; of course, I have much context to offer...far too much and this draws up only more feelings to drown out the thinking. I could probably write for hours in response and still end up saying nothing that might actually offer anything comforting or supportive.

I know that you’ve learned to stand up for yourself and, also, that you are still coming to terms with this. Trust me. I learned to do it when I was fourteen, when I had to walk out of my own home and live on my own. And I’m still coming to terms with it. I even had some very positive, concrete, direct help from a marvelous therapist when I was in my thirties, after years of struggle and many terrible fumbles. He told me I had the right to say “no.” That even biology did not determine how I proceeded with my life moving forward. That previous decisions had no bearing on future ones. I could, freely, turn my back on the people who were genuinely destructive in my life.

As long as I was certain about the “genuine” part. Otherwise, I would always carry too much guilt. Too much doubt. And there would always be guilt in any event. And one comes to learn how to accept and deal with guilt.

Previously I had left behind two wives, one who walked out on me and one who I walked out on. In both cases I had looked closely at their families and seen—although not exactly what you encountered—things that disturbed me, ultimately, about my mates. You look at the families and you wonder, What’s going to happen to my spouse in the future?

I thought I had learned something. It wasn’t until later I realized that I, too, came from a strange family I regretted and began wondering what weird magic they had worked on me! What effect had those awful people had on me? Had my distancing from them done any good? Was I any better than them now? Would I turn into the monsters they had become?

And over time I’ve come to understand something even more crucial: How few monsters there are among us, especially as parents. It’s why the world of humans is as it is. No one knows what they are doing. Those who seem to often lose control because their parents didn’t know. And each generation goes on to face a new world where they only manage to engineer new mistakes.

How difficult it is for people to take responsibility for their own lives when their own parents don’t. So the families capable of doing what they did to you are the product of generations of cruelty and insensitivity. And they will probably never stop. They will go on being “genuinely destructive” in your life and the lives of anyone they touch. Generations into the future.

Possessor of Paul Newman eyes. Author of many things straightforward and strange. Some of them appear here. “Women zai shuo ba” as the Mandarin say. Born 2016.

Possessor of Paul Newman eyes. Author of many things straightforward and strange. Some of them appear here. “Women zai shuo ba” as the Mandarin say. Born 2016.