Punching Bag

Perhaps you remember the post I wrote about Rex Ogle’s memoir Free Lunch. That book centered on the year Rex was in 6th grade and detailed the physical, verbal and emotional abuse he suffered while living as a child with his mother, stepfather and younger brother.

While I’ve never been physically abused, the book landed hard for me. The poverty and shame he lived with due to being poor, was something I related to strongly from my own childhood. I knew what Free Lunch was about.

Rex Ogle is back with another book detailing what happened in the years following what he had already shared. While Free Lunch was a book I comfortably shared with my own sixth grade students, his new book, Punching Bag, is a darker book more suited to older students.

Where in the first book Rex suggested the abuse he suffered, focusing more on the family’s economic situation, Punching Bag doesn’t hold back in relating the horrific violence and mental illness that was unrelentingly present in his life. It’s a difficult book to read and caused me to gasp, more than once.

My goodness, his mother was insanely toxic.

You know how so often what you need comes to you when you need it most? Well, that was this book for me. When it was published a couple of months ago, I immediately placed the title on my book order. Publishers, like so many other businesses, are struggling to fill orders and when it finally arrived earlier this week, I immediately started reading.

Sometimes the best escape can be someone else’s misery. It’s an incredible story of resilience and pain and hope and it’ll stay with me for a long time.

As is the case with so many books, the afterword answers questions not addressed in the body of the work. In a most remarkable way, Rex Ogle gave me confirmation that my decision to not become involved in my mother’s healthcare and life is the right one.

Here’s what Rex had to say about forgiveness and continuing to be in a relationship with a parent who inflicts pain instead of providing stability and comfort:

I did forgive my mother. I couldn’t forget, but I could forgive. and carrying around all that hate and anger and inside me? It didn’t do anyone any good. Especially me. It was better to let go of the past, to stay in the present, and to focus on happy tomorrows…

…I don’t have a true relationship with my mom. Or my stepdad.

…I don’t have a relationship with them, because it wasn’t healthy…

…As hard as it was, I chose to let go of toxic relationships and focus on positive connections.”

Rex Ogle

I made a difficult decision the other night. I was out for a run, mulling over the current situation with my mother and feeling overwhelmed by guilt and long forgotten memories. I realized that I do not have to succumb to pressure to be involved with my mother’s medical situation, or life, for that matter. I’m out. The next song on my playlist immediately confirmed that I had made the right choice – for my mental health, emotional well being and soul…

Let it Be.

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