To Whom It May Concern

You’ve fortified your boundaries.  You carry the cheat sheet in your bag.  Your backbone is stronger than it’s been in years.  You have a teetering stack of journals that proves the value of writing out your thoughts.  Most days you’ve moved so far beyond those old hurts that you can’t even remember the specifics.

And then it happens again.

He says something that cuts to your very core.  That one button is pushed – the one that only he can push.  The button you thought you’d melted and discarded months ago.  How does he find it?

You get off the phone and you shake your head.  Maybe you shake your head hard enough to erase the thoughts from your brain.


How do you erase feelings?  Can you shake them away, too?


You run down the list of your tried and true self-care procedures.

You loudly say, to no one in particular:

Those words are about him.

“I’ve heard words like these before and I’ve survived.”

“How did that get by my boundary?”

“When are you going to remember to screen calls?”

“Can you believe he had the nerve to say that?”

You think about the possibility of ranting to a confidante.  She’s heard this from you before.  It gets more embarrassing each time you tell the same story with different particulars.


If you make the choice to confide, you don’t want to hear any of the following:

“You misunderstood.”

“That’s not what he meant.”

“The delivery sucked.  I’m sure that wasn’t the intent.”

“Don’t be so sensitive.”

“He’ll never change.  Why do you let it bother you so much?”

You already know that he’ll never change.

You are craving a response that acknowledges the injustice of it all.  You’d give anything to hear, “OMG, I can’t believe he said that.  You don’t deserve those words.  Those words have absolutely nothing to do with you!  He never deserved to have you grace his life.”


After the third deep breath, you think about self-acceptance.

You think about how this is your issue to deal with.

You wonder what you could do – right now – to feel better in this moment, without having to bring someone else into the mess.


You open a new document and start writing.

You write about the injustice of the unkind words.  You write about how there is nothing you did – ever – to deserve those words or that treatment.  You write about how your path is bringing you to your own destination –  not his.  Your destination needs to meet with your approval – not his.

You write about your inherent goodness that will not be shaken.


Your fingers slam on the keyboard.

The kids may even ask, “Are you okay?”

You will look up and smile and say, “Yes! I am better than okay!”


Your closing paragraph will contain adjectives that describe the person you continue to become.  Kind, considerate, thoughtful, caring, real, unselfish.  Include some words to challenge you – courageous, forgiving and patient.

Close the letter with:


Write with large letters in shades of purple with a flowery font.  Sign with Xs and Os even if you never sign a letter with Xs and Os.

Insert some uncharacteristically ornate paper into the printer.

Find a stamp and a flurly sticker or two.

Address the envelope to yourself.


Make mailing this letter an event.  Stop at a drive through and buy yourself a grande latte with two pumps of vanilla and a packet of raw sugar – because you never do that and you deserve a treat – dammit!

Turn up the radio and find a station that’s playing something that fits your mood.  If you’re lucky, you’ll land on a station that has just started Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On.  Turn it up.  Drive up to a mail box.  Roll down the window, even if the businessman with his brief case can hear every note of the song coming from the radio.  With a flourish, drop your letter in the box.

As the letter settles onto the stack of mail, roll up the window, check in the rear view mirror, hit the signal and drive away from those hurts as fast as the law will allow.



On the day the letter arrives, you won’t have completely forgotten the hurtful words, but they will no longer be on your radar.  You will have filed those words along with the others in the box in the garage.  You’ll make a mental note to get a larger box.  The shelf in the garage sags with the weight of the box.  You’ll consider moving the box to the floor – or better yet, the dumpster.

You’ll shuffle through the mail and notice your handwriting.  You’ll smile and think, “Well, isn’t that a pleasant surprise.”

You’ll tuck the letter under the books by your bedside.


You’ll pull the letter out and open it the next time you feel the need for genuine understanding and kindness.


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  1. Is there a full moon? The crazies are loose!

  2. Z,

    I think they are immune to the pulls of the moon. They aren’t like the rest of us.

  3. You are right. I am still looking for a reason to understand it. I know what happened when he was little. I know he can’t help it. I try to ignore it, but I can’t comprehend how one can be so awful and not care. I called him out on email the other day. Oh man was he pissed. I did have our attorneys on it. Lol. But it was teetering on forgery and was certainly making commitments for me without my consent. I have a big problem with him having any say about my life at all so this is one of those. “YOU have to pick him up at school because YOU have to deliver him to me in xxxx at 4:30”. He forgets that I don’t take orders from him anymore. I put on my big girl pants this week battling the ex N and the N at work. I have found my only defense is to involve as many sane people as possible at the time it happens so I don’t seem vindictive. When I point out his abusive tone, he tells me to check my abusive email. Classic projection. One of these days, I am going to take one of the email threads and insert comments about what N trait is displayed. I bet I could get all 12 identified in one interaction. I am glad I feel spunky because exhausted is no fun.

  4. Z,

    That’s where I get hung up – like you said, “… I can’t comprehend how one can be so awful and not care.” I DO NOT understand how they can say and do the things they do.

    I believe they have an agenda. They wake up every day on a mission to like themselves, because (and we know this) deep down, they really don’t like who they are. Throughout the day, everything they say and do is about getting closer to liking themselves. If they have to put you down, or make fun of you, or point out your failures or project their screw ups on to you or list all their successes or talk of their fabulousness – it’s all so they can end the day actually liking themselves – even if just a tiny bit.

    Yes, we know they had it rough growing up. Yes, we know they can’t help it. But dammit, how come they can’t see the ruthlessness and the injustice of what they do to others. How come their treatment of others doesn’t actually make them look in the mirror and like themselves even less than they did when the day started?

    Is it a biological or chemical disconnect? Is an ingrained habit? I dunno. Is it pathological? How can they have absolutely NO empathy?

    Yes, spunky is so damn much better than exhausted and deflated, because it never ends.

    p.s. This week I needed some of those big girl pants.

  5. I know! I will never understand how they can be so cruel and feel good about it! I see his fb page now and again and find it infuriating and comical that his friends think I am the crazy one. He never comments on those posts, but I know he has portrayed me as the perpertrator. If they only knew….that what he said I did was actually what he did! I will never make the effort to tell them. It’s not worth it. I so want to move on, but he doesn’t let me. Isn’t the normal response to let it go?

    I believe they are predispositioned (by what I have no clue) to respond to the trauma in their lives with psychopathy.

    There are many days I seem to have lost my big girl pants, but I found them this week! xx

  6. Z,

    And that gets to what I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. Parenting (or the lack of parenting) is at the root of so many of these issues. If parenting was made a priority …. oh how the world could be. Parenting is given lip-service; placed on some sort of pedestal; touted as the be-all-end-all – but our society does not reflect that parenting is a priority.

    *slinks off of soap box to make more coffee*

  7. Hi Jesse,

    He never deserved you gracing his life. The positive outcome is the gift of Will and Jen. That is what keeps me going: the gift of my kids. Another thing I have been thinking about lately is that the good we do and love we express has a ripple effect even if it was seemingly squandered on a N. I think I have given up trying to figure out my ex N, but I am not allowing myself to believe good and loving efforts were wasted. Somehow the Universe uses such efforts for good.

    Now where did I put those big girl pants again?? I am sure I will need them. : )

  8. Lynn,

    You are SO right. Our efforts are not wasted, even if they miss the mark with the N. That love comes back to us through our kids.

    I once told a good friend the same thing – “He never deserved you gracing his life.” I needed to hear that. Thank you.

  9. I can never understand how parents could sacrifice being a parent to “look at the greater good” of their actions. Children need their parents NOW, not later. Even more disturbing is how the one that suffered without his parents could repeat the same rhetoric about his own. I was evil for saying he couldn’t move to Thailand by himself and that I wouldn’t move the kids and me into my dad’s house while he attended school in Chicago and lived alone. I am the reason he had to get out of the Navy because I wouldn’t move to Japan. NOT!

    I AM the reason he has any relationship at all with his son. That started when I left him. He has to prove to the world he is better than me so he tries hard… I will stop there.

    The missing piece is that it is not what box you check off that day for your child’s material needs or the silly little rituals that you perform, it is the genuine trust and love that binds you to your children that matters the most. A N will never get that.

    Ns don’t deserve true grace in their life, but the children absolutely do. xx

  10. Z,

    Children are an inconvenience to the N. Ns don’t have the ability to consistently parent – to be there day in and day out. They don’t have the desire to be there to help their child build a strong foundation.

    But the minute there’s an opportunity to grandstand or annex something the child has done – look out! Trumpets blare. The stage lights brighten. The “world’s best parent” will arrive to take credit for raising an amazing human.


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