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Archive for the ‘The Examined Life’ Category

I’ve been toying with this blog post for a long time. I have been, well looking at my blog, I’ve been quiet for significant length of time. I have not written much in the way of fiction. I’ve actually found it difficult to focus on the words on the page. I know what I want, but cannot seem to get the words out right. I read what those around me have written and I cringe at my own prose. And I fall behind as I angst over this lack of style and I fall behind in my writing schedule and then I angst over it.

I angst a lot. If you’ve ever read any of my personal musings over the years, this is not news.

This might be news to you:

My parents were abusive. Even now as I have started accept this as truth, I feel uneasy saying it. There were very few incidents of physical abuse in my childhood home, but abuse is not merely bruising a child’s skin. I still have trouble expressing this at all. I want to say that my mother is not a bad person because she treated me poorly. That she came from an equally abusive home. That my father was mentally ill and when he was cognizant of his actions, he was a wonderful father.

The truth is that my father’s mental illness made everything more difficult. Losing my keys could lead to hours or days of constant interrogation and supervision. Locking my keys in the house, even if I could walk into my room and produce the keys, meant changing all the locks in the house. Did my father mean to be so unreasonable or harsh? I don’t think so. When his illness kicked in, fear could drive him to say horrible things. He never beat me, though I did get a belt to my fanny on a few occasions.

He was generally an understanding man, but I learned to deal with his eccentricities. I learned to lie, though never well. I learned how to pick locks and to deny everything, when being an only child made that seem foolish. I never doubted that my father loved me, that he valued his difficult opinionated, diffident daughter.

I wish I could say the same about my mother. I can’t think of a single time I got unmitigated praise from my mother. I can’t remember a time when I could disagree with her without it being an over emotional mess. I can’t remember a time where I got more than a quick hug. Hell, I can’t remember a time when she and I ever spent time together that was enjoyable without my father being present.

Anger and disagreements were not allowed in my childhood home. To be angry with my mother was not to love her. My father would withdraw whenever things got heated, when my mother hauled out the large emotional guns to batter me down. Where her parents used physical violence against her and her brother, she used words. They were very effective.

I was an angry child. I acted out. I slammed doors. I bit classmates and got into fights. I attacked everything as if it was a fight. I had all this rage and no idea how to deal with it. My parents sent me to a counselor and when my anger became an issue, they ratted me out to the couselor, who then wanted to talk about my rages. The therapist told me that when I was ready to be helped, I could call them. I never did. Even at twelve, I was stubborn. My angry fits grew closer together. I punched my mother and then ran away because I was horrified at my actions. They tried to get me into a “reform” school. They told me that I was rejected because I was too violent.

Surprisingly, the one thing that never happened was the family counseling. Instead, they turned to their pastor. Their pastor who threw me down on the floor of my own home and beat me. And then dragged me around day after day, when he went on this pastorly visits and announced that I was a bad kid. He was determined that by beating the word of God into me, that I would straighten out. And he wanted to make sure that everyone in the congregation was going to help. Community wide shaming of a adolescent.

I suppose it worked in way. I vacillated between anger and terror. My parents would be five minutes late getting home from work and I would go into a panic. The rapture had come and because I was a horrible child, I had been left behind. I was bad, I knew I was going to get left behind. I lived in terror, since this was the end of days. (Don’t think shit like this is important? I STILL have to check myself from wondering what I did wrong when people are cruel to me. Because in the back of my head is the constant whispering about how I am a bad kid.)

You might notice one thing missing here. By this time in my life, we knew my father was ill. And now I was bad. My mother? She was a strong Christian woman, stubbornly sticking to her family because it was the biblical thing to do. She had heroicly overcome her difficult upbringing to marry my father. She had defied nature and doctors to give birth to her only child, when she had wanted six. She valiantly stood by my father as he suffered and stoically suffered through the childhood of her very difficult daughter. She was a role model, a sweet gracious woman, a hero in the eyes of the community.

She was horrible to me.

I once asked her why she was so viciously mean to me, when she acted so merciful to others. She expected more from me, than she did anyone else. I was to be a pinnacle. I was to be perfect. I was to have no faults. But of course I had faults, I was a bad kid. I was the reason she was going to drive her car off a bridge. Or I was too much for her to deal with, so she was fine with me taking a bus going anywhere far away from her. Or I am mean because I would not call her new husband “dad”.

I am very much like her in ways that I do not like. I can be vindictive with people I care about, even when I don’t mean to be. I have had to work hard to respect my husband as a man, which he deserves. I struggle with believing that I deserve to be praised, or succeed or even be happy.

I have been very blessed that this late in life, I have found people that have reached out to me and tolerated my quirks and bad temper. People willing to tell me what I had trouble acknowledging. People willing to tell me that I was abused. That I did not deserve what had happened to me. That I was not a bad kid.

It has been very hard to get to the point where I can admit that what was done to me as a child was wrong. To actually say out loud and to write that the actions of my parents were wrong and there is no excuse for the way I was treated. It has now been six months since I have spoken to my mother. I am not sure when I will be able to speak to her again.

Right now, I am working on being me. On changing those thoughts in my head that plague me. I’m working to be able to focus on writing stories again and not be crippled by my interior monologue. Thank you all for being patient with me.

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I’ve added the Tenants for the Examined Life to that blog.  I’ll be trying to post there at least once a week, picking an issue.

Those of you who have posted on my blog here are more than welcome to join me.  Just…  Well, if you are not a fan of debating, it is probably best to avoid it.

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