manipulation, the fine art of

Words are a powerful tool. They persuade. They excite. They confirm. But words can also destroy. As a writer, I have the luxury of editing and re-editing my words. So when the final product is published, every word is intentional. There’s no taking back what I’ve written, once a reader “owns” it. What was once strictly in my thoughts, is now in print, roaming around the internet universe. Good, bad or indifferent, my blog is my legacy. I take responsibility, with the understanding that readers have the choice to subscribe, or to turn a deaf ear to what I have to say. It’s not quite the same when speaking one’s mind.

In an earlier post, I referred to my 84 year-old mother-in-law’s life-long belief that once spoken, harsh words can never be taken back. So she has lived her life refraining from speaking hurtful words. And as a testament to her, all of my husband’s family relate to one another with loving consideration. It was within this enivironment that I learned to love and value myself.

I’ve also spoken of my mom in previous posts, preferring to speak mostly of her strengths. But among the many good ones, there was one which dominated, and not in a positive way. My mom was a master manipulator. Her words could warm me one moment, and cut right through me the next. With no father to turn for support or comfort, and older siblings too concerned for their own survival, I could only wait until my mom favored me with her love once again. Until her death some years ago, I was never free of being emotionally manipulated by the one person whose approval I always sought. I’m certain I remain in her grasp to this day. My only solace is that I have blocked the past from my mind and my life. Dr. Daniel Amen’s book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life has helped me move forward by killing the “ants”  (automatic negative thoughts) which kept creeping into my brain to attack what positive gains I had made. Of course it’s an ongoing struggle, but at 61, I’m living my best life with my loved ones by my side.

Because of my own personal experience, I have tremendous compassion for those who struggle physically, and emotionally. I write to encourage, to bring hope, and to do battle with negtivity wherever it dwells. My greatest concern is that it can even reside in well-wishers, whether innocently or intentional.

Those who seek to counsel, whether invited or not, have their own agenda. It can be based upon genuine love and concern, but it could just as easily have self-serving ramifications. Oft times one who is in distress has difficulty seeing that she is being manipulated into dependence upon the one offering comfort and solace, until it is too late. In all relationships, there is either equality or inequality. Participants may be equals in that one is better at somethings, while the other is better at others. Inequality exists when one person dominates, regardless if he is better or worse at anything. He “owns” his environment by virtue of his narcissistic mentality. He manipulates everything to his benefit. The sadistic truth is when he convinces his partner that he has her best interests at heart.

Manipulation occurs in all relationships, but some are inherently more devastating. The unhappy reality is that it can be years in the making, and just as many years in recovering from its effects, one issue being trust. How does one ever trust again? How does one ever believe in oneself again? And how does one unravel oneself, from one’s manipulator?

Just as scary a thought is hoping you never unknowingly become the manipulator, of your children, for example, as my mother was of me. That is a fine line which we parents walk every day of our lives.

the greatest gift, to let our children be…hugmamma.

“hugmamma,” where from

Thought I’d explain the choice of “hugmamma,” as my username. Have had viewers to this blog who may have visited, not understanding its content. Among other things, my primary goal is to share information that might be useful in parenting, in finding solace, in looking for spirituality, as well as for practical purposes like recipes, medical tips, books to read. 

“Hugmamma” was derived from an 80’s or 90’s children’s TV series featuring a dinosaur family. One day my daughter and I had been reminiscing about the show, during the preliminary stages of my decision to blog. We were laughing about the antics of the baby dinosaur who always reminded her mama and papa to “Hugga the baby.” The proverbial “light bulb” moment occurred. And so the name was born, ” hugga the mamma,” which was my username on another blog site, which quickly evolved into “hugmamma” on a second site, which I retained in this, my final attempt at blogging. 

As I’ve been writing, I noticed that many of my blogs dealt with “parenting,” probably because it’s an issue near and dear to me. As a result “hugmamma” took on a second, more spiritual significance, it became an homage to my mother whom I always called “mamma.” She was perhaps the stereotypical Hawaiian in her warmth and friendliness towards all. Her ready smile and hardy laughter greeted friends, as well as strangers. She always lent a sympathetic ear, and offered heartfelt advice, genuine tears flowing on occasion. She really did exemplify the “Aloha Spirit.” 

“Hugmamma” may have originated as the result of a child’s show, but its use has taken on a sweeter, more personal representation. For good or bad, I believe daughters become their mothers, for they are our first role models. While she was not perfect, for she had human failings, my mom exemplified someone who cared about others, a true Christian at heart. She left me that legacy, and I hope I can pass it along to my daughter, a generational gift to be shared.

hugs for…my mama…hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.