When Someone Breaks Your Trust

When someone willfully breaks or damages the trust that you once had in them,

It is hard to believe in that person again.

When their actions and words (or perhaps their inactions) are no longer reliable or acceptable,

The connection you once had with them has been damaged, and it may be gone, for good.

When someone breaks your trust, there is no person or thing: not sex, earthquakes, tornadoes, alcohol, drugs, a material thing (like a new house, car, apartment, money, or job), a new lover, or the threat of impending death that has the power to bring it back.

Yes, a temporary remedy may stop or numb the pain that you feel when what you valued, or made you feel safe, is absent and no longer there.

But trust is an abstract thing; it is something that you give to the ones you love.

It is not readily available, or growing on trees for anyone to gain at will.

When the trust you have with someone is broken, or taken for granted, it is hard to be trusting or to give it again.

What will mend a broken trust?

For me, it takes many steps, and thus many thoughtful acts of penance, for a person to regain my trust.

The first is to “fess up,” to be honest, and to break through layers of denial.

However, a person who has learned to be dishonest cannot and will not sustain honest behavior,

And definitely not when being dishonest has become their way of living and moving in the world.

And, if almost everyone around them is being dishonest; or, if their environment enables them – and others – to pretend that everything is “all good”,

At best, there will be many empty and broken promises.

They will often repeat the words “I’m sorry”, and more times than you probably care to remember.

Perhaps, they will also say that they intend to change, but their actions will make them contradict themselves, a lot.

Does this make the dishonest people that you love “bad” for you?

Should you write them off, throw them away, and try to forget about them?

Only you know the answer to that question.

Unfortunately, I have also learned that a dishonest person cannot be trusted

Until they are willing to be honest with themselves about who they are and about what they have done to discredit themselves that damages your ability to trust and believe in them.

When someone breaks your trust, there’s really nothing you need to do until the one who has broken it is willing to admit their mistakes, and their problems.

But, I don’t believe that many people have that kind of fortitude.

In this world, it is much too easy to hide from the truth and numb the pain we have caused with all kinds of fixes and elixirs.

And, it is not your responsibility to make anyone an honest person when the world that we are living in enables us all to lie and pretend, as if that is the best that we can do.

The world is full of those who have mastered the art of lying, manipulating, and behaving badly to get the results that they want.

Being dishonest is a dominant way of relating to others and to the Earth; many believe that it is acceptable and normal to act this way.

Therefore, when someone breaks your trust, you must decide if they are simply worthy enough to get it back.

© 2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

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“Reclaiming My Time: I Now Recognize MYSELF!” It’s Why I Write Today

On February 27th, 2019, I was watching the Michael Cohen congressional testimony. As the broadcast got underway, I watched as Congressman Elijah Cummings from Maryland managed a very chaotic start to the hearing. I say “managed” because there were others, namely, Congressman Mark Meadows from North Carolina and Jim Jordan from Ohio, who attempted to stop, postpone, or better yet, control the hearing. I was cooking breakfast on that day, so my attention was in and out, but when Mr. Jordan attempted to override the chair regarding a last-minute vote that was taken to table a motion to postpone the hearing per Mr. Meadows, Mr. Cummings, who was chair of the committee, took back the control of the hearing and prefaced his opening statement by saying this: “I am reclaiming my time; I now recognize myself.” Of course, we have heard those words before in other congressional hearings. In the last year or so, it has been a phrase that has been associated with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is another veteran congressional figure , and she is a woman who I have respected from afar for her political career.

I am writing this blog because those words – I AM RECLAIMING MY TIME; I NOW RECOGNIZE MYSELF – were like music to my ears. They resonated with me deeply on that day. In all honesty, my response had nothing to do with Michael Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Mark Meadows, or Jim Jordan. I heard them more subconsciously and in relationship to my own life’s journey.

Over the past several years, I have written about surviving emotional abuse and the breakdown of an important personal relationship. In my scholarly and professional endeavors, I have consistently written and presented on matters of racism, sexism, heterosexism and many of the injustices that we are living with today. That said, my affair with writing goes much further back than my current academic career in and with matters pertaining to urban planning. I was a United Methodist clergywoman before I ever thought about pursuing studies about the politics of planning. Although every part of my life has brought me where I am today, it was there, as a preacher, that I first learned to speak up and to advocate for myself and for others.

My life as a black woman has not been easy. In the words of Langston Hughes, in his 1922 poem “Mother to Son,” “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Indeed, it has had cracks in it and at times it has been very painful. I never would or could have imagined many of the things that have happened to me. Maybe there were some situations that I never wanted to contemplate for myself. But, it is what it is; life is what it is. The things that have happened to me have made me realize and admit to myself that I don’t control life. And, I do not believe that anyone does. No one controls life. It is unpredictable, random; and, at any given moment, things could change for the good, the bad, or the ugly.

On the other hand, I am responsible for how I manage the persons, places and events in my life. And that includes me: how I handle myself. I am responsible for how I react to the events and people that life may bring. I suspect this is why those words were so powerful to me:

I AM RECLAIMING MY TIME

I NOW RECOGNIZE MYSELF

I believe that one of the greatest things that a person can ever do is to recognize her or himself. And it is an even greater thing when you are in a situation where someone or something else is trying their best NOT to recognize you; to ignore or negate you. Reclaiming your time and your person is a power move; it is an action that says: I will see me even if you choose not to; even if you choose to ignore and negate me. Thus, reclaiming your time and recognizing your own presence lets others know that their attempts at not seeing you and not recognizing you are NOT WORKING. Despite their best efforts, you matter, and who you are and what you have to say matters. That said, recognizing yourself is a step towards personal freedom, which could not be more important to many of us today.

When I was a child and an adolescent, and when my parents were upset with me, they would put me on punishment. In response to something I had done or something that I had said, they sent me to my room where I would not be allowed to speak or to be heard. Consequently, I would write out my feelings on paper and post my notes on my bedroom door. I would do it so often that my mother would say, “Go to your room, and don’t you put up any damn notes on your door.” I can’t remember how I responded to her saying that, but, I am sure that it was not good. To lose the ability to voice my thoughts and my feelings, even on my bedroom door, was very, very painful.

I still feel that pain today when someone that I know and love does not want to hear me out. I associate their refusal with the same power and control that my parents had over me as a child. And, back then, when I was a child/adolescent, there was very little that I could do about it. I was a dependent, at their mercy, and, I had to comply or risk being in even more trouble. At the time, I was very helpless.

However, it is not like that today. I am not a child, and I can do something about it when I am not seen or heard by those with whom I am in relationship, and who claim to love me. I am not helpless any longer. I can and I will, like Elijah Cummings or Maxine Waters, find a way to speak: to give voice to my feelings and my thoughts. When someone who says they love me, yet they attempt to rob me of my time, my voice and of my very being, I can act. I can set limits and boundaries on their selfish, controlling, abusive behavior; and, I can reclaim the power they are trying to take from me. I can recognize myself. I don’t have to let their attempts to ignore and disregard me go forward. I can exercise my power with my voice and through my actions to stop their attempts to silence or control me. On the one hand, I am always willing to work with those who want to change their actions and behaviors for the better; but now, as an adult, I can also choose to disassociate myself from abusive and hateful people, if need be. I don’t have to be with such people.

I suppose that my childhood experience with being punished and silenced is central to why I write today in public spaces. There are many people who write and who put their voices out in the world. When I consider all the great African American thinkers and activists, I need not look far to see their written works and thus their legacies. They wrote about their lives when others tried to keep them quiet; and, because they resisted in print, it is much easier for people like me to write freely today. I am grateful for their dedication to themselves and to the written word.

In conclusion, I do not suppose that those great writers wrote their poems, stories and books because others would read them. The more that I write and the more that I consider my own relationship with writing, I believe they wrote in resistance to being silenced and ignored. And, I believe that the Harlem Renaissance was grounded in that idea. Simply put, they wrote because they realized their own worth, and they knew that they had valuable things to say. They wrote in protest, and in spite of the many attempts to stop them from being seen and heard. And, they wrote, as I write today, because they believed in themselves and the power they had to recognize themselves; and, most of all, they wrote because they knew what the creative use of that power was able to do.

© 2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Misogyny: A Definition

Anger and hate from the past destroy relationships of the present

Because everyone else is to blame but the one who numbs and denies his pain from women who are dead and gone, no longer a part of his life or able to hurt him

He fills his mind and body with angry and hateful messages spoken by angry, hateful, incredulous others who make women their loyal servants and concubines

Some of the women he hurts manage to go on to the future and recover from his hatefulness and angry acts

While he stays painfully and tragically stuck in the past, haunted by the women who undoubtedly hurt him

He is bound to be angry and hateful again

He will hurt other women again

To subconsciously make them pay for the hurt he endured in the past

And this he thinks this is normal or even acceptable

Worthy of of his own life – that he is willing to sacrifice to the ones who didn’t have the capacity or the courage to love him so very, very long ago.

When with conscious, thoughtful work and support, he could be free to love himself and others, without destroying his own hopes of happiness and those of others along the way.

Instead of unfortunately believing, due to his own angry and hateful actions, that he will never find the happiness and peace he so desperately desires.

© 2017 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

You Call Me Out of My Name

You call me out of my name every time you ignore me or my calls

Every time you walk out and act as if I never even existed

Every time you accuse me of owing you for what you allegedly gave to me out of love

Every time you pretend that what you said and did were not intended to hurt

Every time you threaten to strike me with your hands or your words

Every time you dismiss me and my feelings like they mean nothing to you

Every time you refuse to acknowledge your part in destroying what we built together

Every time you put what we had in unnecessary danger or jeopardy by neglecting to take care of yourself

Every time you let your anger and self-righteousness demolish the trust we came to cherish

Every time you negate the love that some black women have given to you, including me,  because of the actions of those who did not

Every time you despise and hate me for what others did to you

Every time you blame me for your fears, shortcomings and failures

Every time you fail to understand the difference between the past and the present

Every time you assume that you know more than me or are better than me because you are male

Every time you forsake your own integrity and happiness

For a drink.

© 2017 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Shoulda Been Gone: When Is Enough Enough?

Certainly, there are times when I have asked myself: why did I stay in that place, that job or that relationship as long as I did? Weren’t there signs or events that happened that should have made it easy for me to move on or move out? I suppose that out of a genuine need to feel that I did all that I could do in a certain place or in a relationship that I have struggled with timing an exit or an ending. Like many, I have struggled with drawing a line in the sand and letting it be. Leaving that line there or saying enough is enough in a place (such as a city) or even in an employment situation is especially difficult when others don’t want you to go or when they expect you to stay (perhaps stuck and unhappy in a city, a job or a relationship like ~ ahem ~ they are). Detaching, particularly where human relationships are concerned, is not always an easy or pleasant thing to do.

I don’t think my struggle with detachment is all that unusual. Compassionate, healthy, loving human beings want to make good decisions, and they worry about others’ feelings, not just their own. On the other hand, selfish, unhealthy, or worse yet, narcissistic, dishonest and delusional human beings could care less about how their decisions affect others; they want and justify what they want no matter what and no matter who suffers in the process, and they frequently inflict a lot of emotional pain and confusion upon themselves and others. How I appreciate displays of compassion and mindfulness. When it is a personal decision (and not the result of emotional or physical intimidation or violence), I respect that sometimes we as human beings keep trying or hoping for better situations or better behavior in people (all the while as we too are doing our best to improve or address our behaviors). Committing one’s self to gaining the best possible outcome is a very respectful, humane effort.

Nevertheless, back to my question: exactly when does one pack it all up and move on down the road? When is it time to let go of a place, a job, a person or even an idea (like a god or a religion) that is no longer fulfilling or that has run its course? There are times when people, places or things are only temporary; when they no longer provide us with a sense of meaning or safety. When that happens, it is time for me to let go, and I have learned that saying “enough is enough” is, at the end of the day, my decision. On the one hand, in making decisions of whether to stay or go, I often talk it out with others ahead of time, but it is not up to the situation or the person or the idea who is no longer enough for me to determine whether I should stay. A conscious movement away from a place, person or idea (especially one that is causing me unhappiness, stress, confusion or misery) is never easy, and to be sure, the act of severing ties with anyone or any thing can be accompanied by unbelievable grief, anxiety and loneliness. But, moving on, no matter what others might say or do to keep you from leaving, or pressuring you in to not doing what you want because they are afraid to end or bring closure to undesirable or outdated relationships with people, places or ideas for themselves (which is something I have personally experienced when exes and/or children are in the picture…and when it comes to gods or religion), is a very powerful act of self-love and self-affirmation. In a world that is constantly abandoning us and encouraging us to abandon ourselves and our agency and to conform to the status quo, it is important that we learn how to 1) take ultimate control of our own lives and choices, and 2) exhibit that power when necessary.

When should you be gone from people, jobs, places or ideas that no longer work for you? Be gone when you have had enough, and only you can be the one to say when that is. The others, the ones who are left behind and not happy with you for moving on and taking charge of your own life and destiny will just have to get over it. Or not.

© 2015 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

On the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.: From an Atheist

On occasions, I am asked if I would date a believer, or a person who believes in a god or supernatural being, such as a Supreme Being. Being an atheist, there was a time that I said unequivocally no to that question. But, about two years ago I began to soften my response. For example, in 2012, in an NPR interview with Jamila Bey, I said openly that I was “flexible.”

Recently, I met someone who is a believer, and we connected. Although he is not what I would call a religious enthusiast or fanatic, at times he talks about his god and his faith with subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to inform me that his god is real. Because of my feelings for him, I overlook it, and there are times when I engage him gently with questions about his religious thoughts and philosophies. I am willing to be in this kind of critical engagement with him because 1) I understand his actions; I once did the same kind of thing – used every opportunity to “witness” or share my faith (often when it was not requested) with others; and 2) because it is another way for me to get to know him and the basis for his everyday actions or behaviors in life. And, I have yet to encounter a Christian who does not feel compelled to be vocal about his or her faith. It goes with the territory.

So, what did it for me? How could I allow myself to be in an intimate relationship with a man who believes in something that I don’t? On what grounds is it conscionable that I get along or share myself with a man who does not share the same ideas or philosophies that I hold? These are questions that I am contemplating at length on the 29th anniversary of the Martin Luther Kr., Jr. national holiday.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who challenged the white racist ideology or philosophies of his time. By the 1950s and 60s, those white racist philosophies and socio-political expressions of whiteness were incorporated into federal, local and state policies and institutions, such as urban renewal, which was a federal housing policy that had a disparate impact upon former urban Negro communities, and at a time when urban blacks were fighting institutional oppression at an alarming rate. Throughout my lifetime, I have come to understand Dr. King as a man who stood against social division and exclusion on political and personal grounds. I have also come to know him as a man who believed wholeheartedly in achieving a peaceful coexistence despite everyday unjust behaviors and inhumane practices, here in the U.S. and beyond.

With regard to my political and personal commitments, I have come to realize that I do not want to section myself and my life off to only those who think or behave like me. I want to meet and know others whose lives and philosophies are different from mine and without the compulsion or the need to willfully mock or dismantle their thinking or beliefs, just because they are different from mine. On the other hand, there will be times when I will be openly critical of ideas or philosophies (including religious ones) that are expressed in public that I reject or disagree with; that is something Martin Luther King Jr. did with the power of the spoken word, and he did it mainly from the pulpit, as an American preacher. Likewise, I am fundamentally empowered by the freedom of speech as we know it in a Western way. And, it is that freedom of speech that I rely on, as an atheist, to say publicly that I do NOT believe in gods of any kind. I have that right, even though the majority may respond to that statement or position with hate, rejection or discrimination.

In addition, what I have come to learn is that I am not responsible for the thinking or the belief of others, which, I think, is one reason that I can spend my personal time and person with a man who believes in a supernatural god or ideas. I am not his keeper. I am not responsible for what happens to him when he dies or really at any time for that matter. I do not choose an intimate partner on the basis of what he believes, but on the content of his character. In other words, my being with a man is essentially not predicated on where he lives, or how much money he makes, or how supportive he is of my thinking or behavior. My decision to be intimately involved with a potential partner is not determined by whether or not he believes in a god or whether he shares my worldview. Rather, my being with a man, or being with any person for that matter to accomplish any goal, is rooted in a healthy engagement of ideas and critical thinking. At the end of the day, I want to know who a man is overall. I want to know if he is committed to doing good; to being the best person he can be; I want to know if he is willing to use his talents and skills to help and empower others; and, is he a peaceful, loving person, even when his ideas are not supported or he does not get what he wants.

Indeed, this is not the kind of behavior that I have seen from many atheists or theists who use their positions and philosophies like weapons to discredit those who don’t ascribe to their ideas or theories of reality. These are extreme and unjustifiable attitudes that I cannot support, because the truth of the matter is that others may not choose to walk in the paths that I have taken. We each have our own paths to attend to. When I think of Martin Luther King, Jr., I don’t worry about whether he was a Christian believer or not. I respect and honor him because he was a great human being who courageously endeavored to bring about fairness and equality, and not exclusively for his own clan or Christian friends. Of course, I know that there will always be those who choose to remain divided over philosophies and ideas, but I have lived long enough to know that there is no future in divisiveness, and fortunately I know that there are those who have found the wherewithal to accept those who are different or divergent in thought, word and deed without resorting to contempt, hate and violence, but they are also not willing to let injustice and hatred go unconfronted. This kind of boldness and willingness to speak compassionately and thoughtfully, I think, is a significant part of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. And it is, in my humble, atheist opinion, one of the attributes that made him one of the greatest human beings who ever lived on the face of the Earth.

© 2015 annalise fonza, Ph.D.