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Be a Hell Raiser, Not a Chump

Mother Jones in tent city

Today, in honor of Labor Day weekend, I’m rerunning this column about Mother Jones. Raise a glass to hard-fought child labor laws and the 8-hour workday and I’ll see you back here tomorrow! — Tracy

I’m struck by how often the catalyst for an extraordinary life is loss.

A friend of mine posts various nuggets of history on Facebook and the other day she featured Mother Jones. (Not the magazine that is named for her, but the labor organizer.)

Mary Harris Jones had a shit hand dealt to her if anyone ever did. Born in 1837, she became a school teacher, married a George Jones and together had a family of four children. Then as a young woman, she lost her entire family. Her husband and all of her babies perished in a yellow fever epidemic in Memphis. The children were all under the age of five.

That would be enough tragedy to send you to the mental ward for life, but Jones rebuilt and moved to Chicago to work as a dressmaker. By all accounts, she was quite successful at it. And then the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 hit and she lost everything. Again. Her home, her business, and all her worldly possessions.

Can you imagine? She reinvented again. In middle age! For the rest of her life (she lived to be 100), she was a fearsome labor organizer — called “the most dangerous woman in America.” What was she fighting for? To keep children out of coal mines and in school. Yeah, radical stuff. There were no child labor laws back in the day. The protections we enjoy today, we owe to protesters like Jones. I like this quote — she said: “I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.”

She had a smart-ass Irish wit. When denounced on the Senate floor as the “grandmother of all agitators,” she replied: “I hope I live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.”

In 1903, upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a Children’s March from Philadelphia to the home of then president Theodore Roosevelt in New York.

The picture above is her outfitting children with shoes for that march. She was in her 60s by then — leading marches on foot, hundreds of miles. The children she marched with, many were missing fingers and limbs — maimed from factory work. She tried to get the president to give them an audience. Roosevelt was unmoved, but she never stopped fighting for workers’ rights.

“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

Take those words to heart, chumps. Loss can make you brave. When your world has been obliterated, it can provoke a fearlessness that is a gift. What can they throw at you that you haven’t survived worse? Could the pen, scaffold, or sword be worse than losing four children, a husband, and everything you ever worked for? They couldn’t touch her.

She could’ve let that loss kill her. Send her into mourning or the care of relatives for life. No one would’ve blamed her, it would’ve been the expected thing for a woman her age back then. But she did the unexpected thing — she became a fighter. She transmuted that pain into a courageous empathy that did some good in the world.

The futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

I love that quote. I first saw it as a tag line in an email from an organic farmer. I think there is great wisdom in that quote for chumps. You do not change things by fighting the “existing reality.” If that reality is infidelity, you will not change it with the pick me dance, by trying harder, by chasing reconciliation unicorns. To change, you need to build a new model — YOU — that makes the existing model (chumpy OLD you) obsolete.

You need to invest in an entirely new reality. A BETTER reality (leave a cheater, gain a life). So often we “fight” instead — we butt up against the existing reality of being cheated on. We fight by trying to prove our worthiness, by obsessing over the affair partner, by staying locked in unhealthy ways of relating, by being the marriage police, when what we need to do is make our old crappy lives obsolete. It’s harder to mourn something, when you’ve got a better something to replace it with.

Did you know Buckminster Fuller was another one of those extraordinary people transformed by loss? If you’re not familiar with Fuller, he was a prolific inventor, architect and designer, who is best known for the geodesic dome. He was also a futurist and humanitarian, and a total odd ball. (He was expelled from Harvard twice: once for spending all his money partying with a vaudeville troupe.)

By age 32, Fuller was bankrupt and jobless, living in low-income public housing in Chicago, Illinois. In 1922, Fuller’s young daughter Alexandra died from complications from polio and spinal meningitis. Allegedly, he felt responsible and this caused him to drink frequently and to contemplate suicide for a while. He finally chose to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

It’s a grandiose thought — to contribute your life in such a way to benefit “all humanity.” But then again, chumps — why the hell not? If labor marches and inventions aren’t your thing, find something that is. Invest in your better self. If you find your personal life destroyed by infidelity, yes, it’s tragic. It’s also an opportunity. Think of all the things you could be filling your new life with… making that past life obsolete. So what’s going to be next, CN?

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”  — Mother Jones 

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  • I love this post! Thank you, CL. It’s exactly what I needed on a Monday. Some perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in the victim mode or just feeling like life is a struggle most of the time and I’ve just been dealt a shitty hand. But it’s true. Life is beautiful and each day (without a FW) is a new opportunity to do something good for ourselves and/or others.

  • Thanks for continuing to run this important post for chumps, women and all citizens of the world.

    I have been feeling an urge to leave my various support and advocacy groups recently – exhausted by the effort and tired of waiting for karma.

    Mother Jones is an example of perseverance which I hope to see at the conference in November.

  • There’s a little Mother Jones in CL.

    Tracy has turned her loss into a benefit for humanity. She wrote a book and established this site that helps chumps (millions of us?) all over the world. Thanks, Tracy, for being an example of this quote: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

    The old model is the RIC.
    The new model is LAC;GAL.

    This is an inspiration to me! I may not write a book or lead marches, but I want to use my loss to somehow (and this sounds corny) make a difference.

    Happy Labor Day, CN!

  • I stopped looking the way my ex liked for one.
    I grew my hair long for the first time in forever.
    I got a cute diamond nose ring.
    I got a small tattoo (just to know I was brave enough to do it).
    I dress more trendy (instead of -gag- classic lady that my ex likes).
    So I obsoleted my look.
    I also forged a whole new career path since D-day. I had an opportunity & I seized (plunged? grabbed in desperation?) it (though it was at the worst frigging time in my life). I’m so glad I did though.
    My ex probably expected me to curl up & die, but nope I obsoleted my previous self instead. I even took the opportunity & changed my first name as I never liked my given name. I agree, the following days after D-day (while in our worst pain) that is our moment to grow & change.

    • I think it is so great you changed your name. I never really liked mine, but I do like my middle name. Why I didn’t just start introducing myself by my middle name I don’t know. But, I didn’t.

      But, I did other things so I am glad of that.

        • Oh, I am 74 next month, and given where I am; it is unlikely I will ever really encounter a new life. All my friends and most of my living family are like me, not going to change now.

          But it is fine. Also, my husband calls me kind of cute twist on my first name, so I like that.

        • Yes. Start now.
          I changed my grandma name when the kids were about 2 and 6. No biggie.

      • Susie Lee: it’s been hard too. I’ve had pushback from my family changing my name so that’s maybe why you didn’t change yours either. My kids, co-workers, & friends have mostly embraced it but not my FOO. My parents have outright rejected it so I still get called by old name, but intervene everytime they introduce me to someone & I insist the new person call me by my new name. I’m not sure why my parents act they way they do but I know I can’t change their thinking.

    • I am there with you. I never liked my given name growing up. Changed it when I took the FW’s last name and made my maiden name my middle name. Once everything settles down after 8 months of child support, son 20, daughter 18, and I are going to change our first, middle, and last names. All new identities for all 3 of us!!! We are super excited.

    • So worth it. My clothes and hair are totally different now. Every room in my house is a different color (something he hated), and I’ve been on several vacations that he never, ever would have done. I have a dog that sheds year-round and is truly my love-bug. He hated indoor animals, especially those that shed.

      I became self-supporting via self-employment and am probably better off than he is at this point.

      I know for a fact that he expected that I would never make it on my own because he told me so. At that point, I had way more real estate, legal, and investment smarts than he had.

      Yup. Doin’ just fine.

  • I guess I’m definitely a Mother Jones hellraiser. After my divorce was finalized, I decided I had enough of teaching math and science, and I got a job as a domestic violence advocate. I’ve been working at that job now for a couple of years, and I absolutely love it! It gave me a way to fight back against all the injustice I suffered. It also gave me a sense of dignity and self-respect. I love that the police call me for help, that the courts thank me for my work, and so on. My ex made me feel like no one would ever value me. Now I feel like it is his loss. I also filed a complaint in my church denomination against my former pastor for his handling of cases of abuse and infidelity. Five other women joined me on the complaint, and the pastor is now being brought before the Presbytery to answer for it. I had a lot of help from good pastors within the denomination, but even so, it has been a long, slow fight. The goal is to make changes to the overall system–to set standards for the churches in the denomination so that women aren’t dismissed, accused, and mistreated when they seek help from pastors. I don’t like being labelled a “hell-raiser” actually, because I feel like it suggests that I like to stir things up just for the sake of it. But I am not content to just sit by and watch other people suffer the same way I did. To the best of my ability, I want to be a catalyst for change.

    • You’re a “heaven-raiser”! Rasing women up to fight against abuse in the church. I too went to my EX-pastor for help and got accused, put down, dismissed, lied to and gaslighted. All this from a “godly man” a “man of God”. It’ll be interesting to hear what happens to your former pastor.

  • Inspiring post! What inspires me most are the stories here that emerge from the ashes of infidelity.
    The years of brute endurance and the many days it took to feel slightly ok. it is hard to believe the long Shawshank pipe I crawled through pre and post D-Day. Omfg.
    Today my focus is on being the wife to myself that I most certainly was to my ex husband.
    As my wife, I put myself first, now and always. As my wife I love myself best. I put my interests as a priority. I marry me forever and there will be no divorce! After all the legals were done I bought myself a new wedding band style of ring and it is personal to me, inscribed to celebrate me from that day forward, for better and better. I am not alone, I’m on my own. Nothing to do with who comes or goes. I remain with me, for life.

    This is my radical acceptance.

    I also own the remote all the time 🤣and to that end have been streaming the series about Blue Zones. It says one of the key things which contributes to longevity is the quality of our intimate relationships — our marriages and long term partnerships. These are hugely influential on our life span. When one spouse dies after a long term relationship or marriage the other spouse is 2/3 more at risk or more likely to die within 3 months. We all know the detrimental health effects of infidelity. I feel lucky to have survived it and it was the beginning of many health issues which I have worked at like it was a full time job. As a result, my “Mother Jones activism” is now about health, fitness and absolute wellness. To me this is being optimally well enough to reverse all the damage done to me by the one person on the planet who swore to love and protect me from harm but who did the polar opposite.
    It’s walking and training and yoga, art and movement. It’s poetry and dance and being light…living in integrity, not being dependent on external validation and learning that my own company is preferable to fake social nonsense. It is jumping on a plane anytime and not even worrying who will be there at the other end. It’s sleeping. A lot. That’s the start of it…

    The series also talked about a Japanese concept called ikigai (purpose) and moai (community). Our chump community keeps me on my purpose LACGAL and keeps me sane! Love to all chumps who have helped me make it through the mud! (And the mud slinging!)

  • I love how Mother Jones redirected her loss of her own children into protecting the nation’s children.

  • Thanks for this reminder, CL. FW didn’t ruin and end my life with his infidelity. He merely ended my life with him. I feel more optimistic about my future now than I ever did during 40 years with him!

  • Here in Ireland they made a TV program about Mary Harris Jones a couple of years back, or at least an episode of ‘Her Story: Epic Irish Women’ on the national broadcaster RTE. Not sure if it’s available somewhere online but it was fascinating.
    Her family had to emigrate from Cork to escape famine when she was a child so she had already experienced adversity at a very young age. Inspirational woman.

    • I think it helps to have a tradition of rebellion. Countries like Ireland that have been colonized and exploited for centuries are crucibles that tend to squeeze out a lot of nervous conformity but also some merry upstarts. My father’s family waffled a bit in between those two poles but maybe showed a little flash of grit by naming him after an Irish revolutionary. However small, I get the feeling that planted a seed because my dad was always such a rugged individualist and social justice maven and he expressed what his struggling family didn’t quite have the courage to but still carried in their hearts. In any event, if injustice was happening, he was there, whatever the cause. He even ended speaking for the NOW organization on enforcement of Title IX. He raised me to stand up for myself, equality and principles– whether I wanted to or not, goddammit (lol). Consequently, I’ve participated in a lot of causes since I was a kid. I think the tendency only gets stronger over time.

      I was reading about how political analyst Noam Chomsky was raised by a family who practiced something called “Mystic Kabbala.” As Chomsky describes it, it’s a form of Judaism in which it isn’t mandatory to actually believe in God (which Chomsky’s close family didn’t), yet the “practice” involves acts of service for the community. I think of it almost like it’s hedging bets that God might exist and if s/he did, then doing good for the community was probably the best all-purpose way to worship. I found that description very touching because my dad was a devout agnostic but, at the same time, I always had the feeling he was hedging bets that some higher power or unifying force in the universe existed that was based on love and helping the downtrodden. The spirit definitely moved him whether he believed in any spirit or not. I’ve since met many Irish writers, artists and activists who have a similar attitude. Even if a lot of modern Irish thinkers reject the church due to historic abuse of power, some still preserve whatever is best about faith and service in the form of some social justice bug. I think it’s beautiful.

  • On Labor Day, I’m celebrating my freedom from doing all the emotional labor in my marriage. It’s over and I am free.

  • So after my second cheater won over the pastors of our church, then ran to the next church to those pastors and lied to them with his on- line fiance behind him, flown in from California,ready for a wedding…I called out each pastor by email and the other pastor in person and called out my XH to them on his porn and multiple others, his inappropriate behavior with my own daughter as well.(His online GF was his cover. I’m told she’s a wonderful woman.) I went up to the conference level and told the wife of the president of our denomination who had just retired as Woman’s ministry director. I talked even when no one cared and at the peril of my life since XH is unstable and carries. Plus my protection order went away July 1 23 post final divorce. I was told to go away, but in order to change the lie that affairs are NO BIG DEAL, I had to speak out, even if no one cared.
    What I found out? If it’s ” just an affair’ you are supposed to suck it up and let your former husband be happy with his new life. That few men defend you and that woman back away. That if your cheater says he’s sorry to anyone, though not to you, he has Carte Blanche and you are the hard hearted one. Unforgiving, un Christian. That even if he spits out apologies to you, he does not mean it for long. He’s just worried about the cost and his stuff and his image. If I took my husband back and he left again, it’s on me. So many lessons. I’m still shaking from anxiety 9 weeks out of the divorce, but I’m changing my story by listening to my voice and my heart and speaking up. There is always a cost. I am leaving my church for awhile to gain peace and to evaluate my life moving forward Post horrible affairs. Im Going to help with another church service in a nursing home and then listen on line. It’s all I can do for now. I’m learning to stand in my own light( God’s strength and his courage) and put one foot in front of the other after 2 cheaters.

    • Thank you for fighting not only your own ex, but the SOCIETAL preference to consider adultery as no big thing and something that chumps need to get over so cheaters can go on and live the lie that makes these institutions more comfortable. They always prefer a “happy ending” over someone’s righteous pain. I firmly believe the incidence of adultery is so high because if it’s not only actively encouraged (which it IS in many quarters, like Hollywood and the media) it’s winked at, even to the point that DOZENS of women have to come forward to attest to abuse in Harvey Weinstein-like cases before anyone realizes how evil it is to treat people like garbage and it hurts just as much (if not more) if the garbage delivery is through sex and “romance”.

    • Gotta wonder how many of these church people are cheating. Some of the worst cheaters seem to be Jesus cheaters (or other religious types too). I think it’s the attraction of religion for some people – they live badly so they constantly need forgiveness because they spend so much of their lives crapping on others. Forgiveness means nothing without true repentance from the sinner. Jesus didn’t say to the woman taken in adultery – “Go ahead and keep screwing those Pharisees! Get a better rate!” He said “Go forth and sin no more.” Sinning is not just the specific act, in this case of illicit sex, it’s also all the things around it like the lying and deception, and keeping whatever rewards you got from the sin, like your new squeeze. You can’t be forgiven when you’ve robbed a bank and you keep the money! These churches don’t want any real morality, they just want things covered up because sin doesn’t exist if people stop talking about it…..

      • “Go forth and sin no more.”

        So many folks want to ignore this part. And another of my favorites “Oh Jesus, hung with sinners” No, Jesus preached to sinners and offered them the opportunity to “Go and sin no more”.

        I was so fortunate to be in a church where the Pastor fully understood the damage of adultery, not only to the sinner but to the victim. He told my ex very clearly that the only way out of sin for him was to renounce it and walk away from his adultery partner, and that their relationship would always be sinful for both of them.. He told him that his life would never be straight unless he did. He was right, the ex just kept digging.

        The ex tried for a while to lie and manipulate and sanctify his sin with the whore; but it didn’t work. He was now an exposed liar, so chumps got harder to find. Finally he gave up, went back to cheating (much to whores surprise per my daughter in law) and then on to massive gambling. I am sure the gambling gave him renewed thrills, at least for a while.

    • “I’m told she’s a wonderful woman”– guffaw.

      On the one hand there are chumps who– from the get-go– were gaslighted, lied to and conned about the values and characters of FWs. But, on the other hand, there are APs who had every reason and all the evidence required to understand that FWs are lying, cheating, duplicitous Cluster B pieces of shit. I think there’s probably more grounds to suspect that chumps are, if not “star-spangled wonderful,” at least normal, decent, law-abiding Joes and Janes. But when someone not only hooks up with but also enables an obvious two-timing, traitorous creep, they’re not “wonderful.” I’m not saying they deserve waterboarding. They might be stupid or genuinely sick in the head. But, let’s face it, the latter are hardly role-models or stand-up citizens.

  • Loved this post last year. Still do. So good. Thank you, Tracy. And Mother Jones. And Buckminster Fuller. And Chump Nation.

  • This is a comment for Tracy as a suggestion for a future topic (I don’t see that it’s been done before, might be wrong). One of my favorite topics in this area is that cheating is promoted by the culture and especially by Hollywood, the media, novels, etc and I strongly think this has affected how people regard it. Movies or TV shows like Dr. Zhivago, The Women, even The Philadelphia Story (I tend to see old movies) and also how casually it’s reported in the press. I’m sure there are many current examples of how cheating is promoted and encouraged to be winked at instead of showing the destruction and pain it causes.

    • The Women is one of the very worst, at least the original from the 40s (never saw the remake). A lot of great female stars, but the whole idea that cheating is the wife’s fault and it’s up to her to save little boy hubby from the big bad mistress, is just jaw-breakingly terrible.

      • The remake was dreck. At least the original was well made, though the message was terrible. What bothers me is that though that film is from a different time (a time before before feminism) meaning it can be understood as a relic of that time period, the same message is still predominant 3/4 of a century later. It’s infuriating. Even worse is that women seem to perpetuate it just as much as men, if not more. All those pick me girls love to claim chump wives are sexless nags who deserve it, that men don’t stray if their wives are submissive enough. They don’t actually use the word submissive, because that would give their sexist agenda away, but they imply it with phrases like ” You didn’t please your man” and “you didn’t make him happy.” It’s like the last 75 years didn’t even happen for those penis-worshipping fools.

    • Ah, all those novels and films created by creepy cheaters and side pieces to romanticize cheating and side-piecing. Ick. It’s like trying to force poison down our throats by adding sugar (“art”).

      As a third generation artist, I have a bone to pick with misusing “creative expression” to sell shitty, inhumane and shallow values. It happens a lot, probably because really shitty people are always doing manic PR to sell their shitty way of living. That’s why I particularly enjoy the autobiography of Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest composers of all times (in my opinion– though certainly one of the best in the twentieth century. Some might recognize some of his more popular work from modern film scores: The autobiography, titled “Testimony,” argues– among other thing– that “nothing good ever came from a rude man.” Using famous examples, he makes a pretty good case for the idea that people who mistreat women and children (or anyone vulnerable) can never be genuinely great artists or even great appreciators. He refuses to call cruel people and sadists “artists.”

      Shostakovich’s view is still considered “highly controversial.” But, the longer I’ve been alive, the less controversial I think it is.

  • I look forward your yearly post of the mighty Mother Jones. It’s a reminder I’m one year further down the road to meh, that I’m still standing, stronger than ever. I can see the progress since divorce final in 2018, when my daugther barely responded to my texts and would rather have lived with Asshat and HoWorker/Wife (house was too dirty for her to move into). She spent the day with me yesterday and we are planning a summer trip to Banff and Glacier National Park. It does get better………one day at a time.

    Thanks for all your hard work CL! The amazing CN is all thanks to your mightiness.

  • I took a class at the community college where I was working called “Women in American History.” They paid for it, so why not? And yes, we talked about Mother Jones and so many others who turned tragedies into social justice. I truly didn’t know how bad it was for women and children for so long and what it took to codify things like labor laws and equal justice.

    I’m semi-retired now and am working on a community project of tiny homes for the unhoused. The county figuratively wants to throw money at us for a feasibility study, so we are fired up and ready to go with all the research we’ve done on how other communities are handling this. It’s a big, complicated project, and I’m loving it.

    • I love the tiny homes and would love to live in a community of them. Maybe even an adult community where it’s warm.

  • I always love this post and I love MJ. She was wonderful.

    I needed to hear the message of making something good come out of the bad today. Last night I was told by my niece that my brother has been saying things about me which are defamatory and not true. This is the same brother whose reaction to the FW’s cheating was to yell at me for wanting to leave and say that he wasn’t going to stop liking FW because he had never done anything to him.
    Still after that betrayal, I have been kind to him because he is not well. He is a drug addict. Now he’s telling my precious niece that I hang up on him when he calls me, which is a flat out lie. He calls daily to rant and whine about not getting enough drugs. I always listen patiently, and when I try to say supportive things or give advice, he cuts me off mid-sentence and says he has to go. He is now trying to turn the non-Swiss relatives I have against me. I was livid after hearing this and felt like marching over and kicking his ass. I restrained myself.

    It’s hard to do anything good and kind when people won’t even let you. So unless he stops this lying and apologizes, I’m not going to be wasting my time on him. There are lots of other people who actually want support and advice, not just a captive audience for their pointless, self-centered bitching. This fool is angry because I didn’t move in with him to be his replacement mommy when our mom died. He drove her to an early grave from the stress of dealing with his addiction and his infantile emotional dependence on her. He’s not doing that to me. I already have a disabled daughter to care for. Apparently this makes me an uncaring, unkind person. 🙄
    So as of today I am freeing my time up to help people who aren’t selfish, back-stabbing users. No, I will not be made to feel guilty for not ruining my own life just to appease yet another narcissist.

    • Oh my God, fuck your brother for blaming and defaming you.

      As someone who turned my back on people in FW’s family and even a few members of my own extended family for discriminating against and turning a cold shoulder to my formerly severely disabled son, I relate to having to deal with people who– very gymnastically and against all basic human logic– manage to interpret things like devotion and attention to a special needs child as– somehow– evidence of self-serving self-absorption on the part of a parent (???). WTF.

      I think I’ve come to understand what drives that kind of gymnastic thinking. Really selfish people tend to only see children as “hope for the future” or reflections of family genetic pride, not as people in their own rights with emotions and individual needs. If a kid has a problem or disability and can’t provide that “hope and pride” kibble (particularly if the child has a pretty serious and very expensive disorder that might require family financial or time contributions), crappy family members may disappear in clouds of smoke trailing blamey quips in their wakes. Because it’s not really cool to be seen as outright rejecting and ejecting children for being defective, narcy family members of disabled kids often try to disguise their “disowning” of these children by finding random fault with the disabled child’s parenting. Like, “I just can’t stand to watch how X treats their disabled child. That’s why I never show up to offer respite or funds! Out of pure and abiding empathy!”

      It’s so nauseatingly common, tragic and evil. But, if you need a little schadenfreude, just imagine how that shitty logic is going to serve them in terms of financial and personal investments. Crash and burn, motherfuckers.

  • I love this one so much! It gives me so much optimism! What’s next for me is that I stop hiding at work after some really traumatic setbacks, and I celebrate 2 years from official signing of divorce papers this week.

  • I needed to read this and be reminded – the first year after finding out about the infidelity I was all sorts of fearless, and even reckless. I kind of miss that.

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