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Remembering Sally

Different Value Systems

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

Sally Caldwell became a friend, someone who helped me through a dark time with her kindness, humor, and advice on how to make sense of the indefensible. She instructed me to say over and over, “He has a completely different value system.”

Really, beneath the umbrella of injustice, regardless of the issue, it’s all about completely different value systems.

This week I’ve arranged categories of nail-biting distress along a spectrum. They are: The Cataclysmic, Of Great Concern, and My Personal Life, although each is personal. You understand the difference.

That first, The Cataclysmic, is where I’ve placed the latest National Climate Assessment. The report says it’s not too late to prevent the worst, however it seems we’re on the brink. And nearing nuclear war.

Under Of Great Concern is the use of chemical pesticides and other toxins. This may be advanced to Cataclysmic at any time. These substances not only pollute our world but also are linked to diseases like cancer and conditions like autism. (Google famous people with autism and you’ll see more Adam Lanzas than Temple Grandins.) Okay, this has been moved to Cataclysmic.

I’m fixated on those Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted in mid-April with more kidnapped this week and having difficulty with the placement, I guess because ecocide supersedes everything else, but as I think about the agony of those parents, begging for help, the other family members, and the girls, I feel terrible saying that anything is more urgent. I have hope that they’ll be rescued, not sold into sex slavery or killed, because I have to reach for threads of optimism amid all the despair about this dying planet. Big oil and its profiteers don’t benefit from a healthy Earth, different value system, you know, but their greed is also their doom. And ours as we witness increased floods, droughts, severe storms, wildfires, and crop failures.

President Obama, a master of contradictions, said, “…this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now…”—words, verbal inconsistencies, given that the U.S. is the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Let’s see what happens after the November elections—with the Keystone Pipeline.

(The Nigerian schoolgirls are now in Catastrophic.)

Here’s one for that final classification, M Personal Life: Dr. Sally Caldwell died on January 31, 2014. I just learned of her death. In October of 2012, I read Sally’s book, Romantic Deception, after I was, yes, romantically deceived. I did a search and found her email address at Texas State University. When I wrote, I included my phone number and the first chapters of my unpublished book, The Year of Living Dan-gerously. She emailed, told me our phone conversation would be long, provided a few time options and her phone number.

During the following months, Sally and I had several phone conversations and many email exchanges. Since those who haven’t had the “experience” don’t GET it, I figured she’d been victimized, that this inspired her book. When I asked, she said, “I check the obits every six months to see if he’s dead.”

I talked with Sally about the creepiness you feel, to know you’ve been lured and groomed by a false lover. A friend had said, “Once you don’t care about him, you’ll move on.” I told my friend that there was no him. The person I cared about didn’t exist, never existed. This is the mind fuck that’s so damaging.

That’s when Sally told me to repeat, “He has a completely different value system.”

Today, after reading Sally’s obituary, I looked through old emails and found this exchange:

December 7, 2013:

Missy Beattie here. Hope you’ve had that transplant and that you’re fine. I’ve thought of you often, wondering if you’re well, if you’ve returned to teaching.

She responded the next day with:

We must catch up.  Transplant was successful —— double lung —— some complications —- 5.5 months in the hospital and another month recuperating in Houston.  But I am home as of last Wednesday —— moving slowly, but moving around nonetheless. As I said, we need to catch up.  Perhaps we can chat soon.

I answered: “Sally, I’m so happy for you, that you’re home and recovering. Sorry there were complications.”

Another, from her: “We must stay in touch, Missy. There will come a time when I will land in your part of the country or you land in mine.  It could be the record for the longest lunch in history.”

“There will come a time…” No, but I hold onto Sally’s wisdom. She was right about different value systems, but this defines more than romantic deceivers. It’s the distillate of deception, period, and unlocks the question, how do they sleep at night? with the answer: just fine. Because their value system is so cluttered with insatiable greed there’s no room for empathy.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com.