At the beginning of my divorce nightmare, I requested copies of my counseling records. Just in case my ex subpoenaed them, I wanted to know what they contained.
My counselor told me that I didn’t need her services. She’d thrown me out into the world when I wanted to just sit and talk to her every other week. I thought I needed her. But, she assured me I’m more normal than I think I am and cut me loose. So, I figured her records would paint a glowing picture of a “normal” yet insecure woman.
I was shocked to see that she circled “Thinking Errors,” on the analysis page. Thinking errors! What??? That doesn’t sound “normal!”
I later found out she was referring to my tendency to magical thinking. She explained that it’s really a victim’s way to manipulate their awful circumstances and supply their world with hope. False hope. But, hope nonetheless.
For me, it went like this. If I take the job my mom tells me to take, she’ll be proud of me. (No, she wasn’t. She still thought I was a loser.) If I do the things that my dad says make a woman okay, then he’ll accept me even though I’m a girl. (No, a misogynist doesn’t like women, no matter what.) If I sleep with guys with no expectation of a relationship, they aren’t using me, I’m using them. (No, I was just making it super easy for them to use me!) If I marry the man my family wants me to, we’ll all be one big happy family. (No, I was just enlarging the circle of people to mock me and ridicule me.) If I wait on R, he won’t beat me. If I have a baby with R, he’ll love me the way he loves his last ex-wife. If the kids are quiet, he won’t beat them. (No, he was full of rage that was going to be directed on us no matter what we did, and he is incapable of loving anyone but himself.)
Unfortunately, I still, nearly two years later, have a tendency to magical thinking.
Recently I shared in my Change of Seasons post that my landlord offered the possibility of an owner carry contract deal with me. I was reservedly hopeful and strangely excited. The reality is that he and his wife lied from the very first conversation I ever had with them back in 1999. They’ve lied and treated us horribly for nearly fifteen years.
My landlord has feigned kindness since R left, but it hasn’t been a legitimate, transparent compassion. They’ve verbally maintained their desire is to stand beside me in my ordeal and they’ve been willing to accept “whatever I could pay, whenever I could pay, trusting I would always do the right thing,” but he has recently made several comments indicating he wants more rent from me. He says things like, “He won’t go back on his word and won’t kick me out, but………..” Or, he knows that if he were in my shoes he’d be wondering how long he could live here without paying a full amount of rent that is considered normal for our area. And, he let me know that if I didn’t purchase a brush cutter with my own funds and didn’t maintain the fire requirements on his 17 acres and he were to be fined, he’d pass that fine along to me.
At one point several years ago, we were paying over $350 a month just on propane, just to heat hot water, yet we were without hot water frequently. When I simply informed him of the problem, he got very snotty with me and snapped, “L! Why is this a problem NOW?!” Hmmmmm………….why is paying $650 in rent, $250 on electricity, and $350 for propane yet freezing cold in an uninsulated, unheated house and frequently having no hot water, often no water at all, a problem???? I dunno. Gee, Mr. Landlord, I’m sorry to bother you about “my” problems while you’re busying traveling the world. I’ll figure something out.
Just like we figured something out with every issue with this house. We’ve fixed pipes, heated water on the stove to pour over each other for “showers,” dealt with sewer backing up into the house, battled the bugs and the rats, patched the leaky roof, put out several small electrical fires, put the washing machine on 2x4s to keep it from shaking to pieces on the rotted floor, etc., etc.
When I spoke with him on the phone recently he told me that he just didn’t know what he was going to do with this place. None of his kids are interested in it, and his wife’s condition is worsening. He just doesn’t know what to do. I could hear his hand wringing over the phone.
And, the fairies danced in my head and sprinkled magic fairy dust all over my thoughts.
The magical thoughts swirled, and I envisioned a fair deal. As my landlord said, “A win/win situation for us both.” The colors grew brighter, and the magic stronger. I could log the property to pay for all of the needed repairs and have my micro farm and it would be an integral part of the wonderful home school experience I would provide for my children, my grandchildren, and other children who would come to frolic with us on the Magic Mountain. And, I would live happily ever after! The End.
I was hurt that not everyone shared my “vision.”
But, they were right.
As I began to do the leg work to find out what all would be required for logging, permits, and rebuilding, I found that my landlord didn’t actually buy this property, like he’d said. His dad gave it to him. A little old, childless woman died and bequeathed it to the church his dad pastored. His dad transferred it over to his own personal property and used it as a rental for decades. And, then gave it to his son who continued to use it as a rental. It has fallen through the cracks, never having been inspected since it has never been sold. My landlord never obtained permits for adding on to the house or for the septic. That means, this septic was illegally installed (which I already really knew because I’ve had it pumped twice, and the drivers told me, both times, it was a strange and illegal set up). Upon signing papers, I become liable for a fine should anyone find out about the septic. The faulty wiring, the structure, the well, the septic, none of it is proper, safe, or legal. And, somehow, the legal location numbers associated with this piece of property aren’t even for this property! They are for a property that is located over a mile away. So, when I called the DEQ to request the last septic approval date on this house, I was given information for a legally installed and approved septic done in 1978 for a four bedroom house! Matches up conveniently. Problem is, the tax and zoning department has this piece of property as having only 2 bedrooms, which it did until my landlord raised the roof on it and divided up the single car garage in 1998. Is this making sense to you yet? Naw, me either. Either they are just extremely lucky to have this kind of mistake happen in their favor, or they knew someone down at the county office.
I’d be okay if I never wanted to replace the house. If I could ignore the frigid cold, the cracked, shifting foundation, the faulty wiring, the plumbing that doesn’t work right, and never think of improving the situation. I’d be okay if I never wanted to eventually sell it.
Big, ugly red flags were beginning to pop up all around the yellow, green, lavender, and pink fairies and their sparkly unicorns.
Then, I got an email Thursday night from my landlord. He apologized to me for being so “lenient” on me regarding not increasing the rent on me. He is wondering how I could ever purchase this property from him when I can’t even pay a proper amount of rent. He seemed to be trying to infer that if he had forced me to pay a “going rate” amount of rent for a 4 bedroom house, I would have learned to be responsible enough with my finances that I’d be in a position to buy this home from him.
With that, the fairies disappeared one by one. Poof! The unicorns melted into puddles of iridescent nothingness. The rainbow turned to thunderheads.
I see what he’s trying to do! This man who has proven himself to be horrendously greedy over these many years is trying to MANIPULATE me into paying him more rent. Though he would never ask for more money from an unhealthy, abandoned single mother, he certainly would be happy to accept it should I place it in his bank account. And, though he would never kick me out, placing the kids and me on the streets–good Christian missionaries just wouldn’t do that–he will feel horrible that he had to sell the property, thereby displacing us, because he just couldn’t keep it anymore. He will feel oh so bad while he holds his reputation as a “fine, Christian man” intact. After all, he even went so far as to offer to sell to me. I, unfortunately, just couldn’t afford to accept his generous offer.
Concurrently, the same sort of thing was happening with the goats. As I also shared, we visited the goats on their farm and talked to the breeder. We wandered her property with the goats happily prancing behind us, horses with manes flying ran to greet us, and fairies sprinkled magic thinking fairy dust all over inside my head. And, the kids’ heads.
As I’ve prayed about the goats, clarity has swept away some of that silvery powder. And, I recalled the last part of our conversation as we walked back to the barns. I pointedly asked if her herd has been tested for CAE. She flippantly stated they had been two years ago, and she is just very careful about who shares a pen with them at fairs. Additionally, she only breeds her goats in the driveway, so other goats don’t come into her dry lot or pens. Then, she quickly changed the subject to their scoring and added in, without looking at me, “That doesn’t mean anything to you though. You don’t know what that means.”
Really? Yes, I actually did know what that meant. I mean, she was right. I didn’t know the scoring. But, I knew what her statement meant. “Don’t question me. I’m the goat expert. Not you. So, don’t question me any further on CAE.”
The magical thinking had convinced me that she was taken with my affection for the goats and she just really wanted to see them in my good, loving care. The truth is, a sucker is born every minute, and she thought I would buy her goats without requesting verification of medical testing for serious diseases.
The magical thinking had convinced me my landlord really didn’t know what to do in his current circumstances and would cut a deal with me. The truth is, it was a set up to justify what he full well knows and plans to do in his current circumstances.
I’m not certain I will ever fully recover from the Magical Thinking Dust syndrome, but the fairy dance is getting shorter. It isn’t taking me decades of pain and loss to see that I was lied to and that I can’t manipulate someone into doing right by me. It now takes me a couple of weeks and a little bit of research time to realize that the naysayers aren’t always trying to be party poopers. Sometimes they’re just trying to rain on my fairy parade. And, instead of getting mad or hurt, I should be grateful for their lucidity and honesty.