Friday, July 27, 2018

Pulling Threads :: The Boarder



Sometime between elementary and my middle-school-age years we had a boarder.

The Colton's lived down the street. Mrs. Colton would sometimes watch me and my sister after school. She made the most fabulous fried chicken. I remember watching in awe as she made dinner.

The Colton's had one son at home who was near my age and an older son, Jay, I did not know. He was in prison for reasons unknown to me. The day came when Jay was due to be released and Mr. Colton would not allow him to live at home. Mrs. Colton, however, was desperate to help her son. She asked my mother to rent her eldest, convict son, a room. My mother, who was a single mother trying to raise two children alone, agreed.

Things were going okay for a while. I don't really remember a lot about that time. I know I felt uneasy and anxious about my mother's decision to have him come live with us. It didn't last long.

One evening Jay had a drug and alcohol induced break down. We could hear him in his room ranting and raving. He was hearing voices and talking to Jesus. Cursing and making no sense at all. It scared my sister and me to death.

My mother sent me to get help from the neighbor. The lady of the house didn't speak much English, but her sons did. Both were quite a bit older than I was. One had suffered brain damage as a teen and was lost in his own head. He would often spend his days standing on the corner dancing, waving at passer-byes and talking to himself. The result of a cruel joke when someone slipped acid into his can of soda.

The other son was what you might call a cholo. Rudy, a badass Mexican; the kind you would envision with tattoos, a bandana tied around his head, wearing khaki pants and a white tank cruising around in a lowrider.

His mother called him to the door and I told him about Jay’s break down. He ran with me back to my house. He could hear Jay's rantings as soon as he walked through the door. He instructed my sister and I to get behind the sofa. The voices got louder after he went into Jay's room. We could hear him trying to coax Jay out, but Jay wasn't having it. It ended with Rudy forcibly removing Jay from the house. As I peeked out from behind the sofa I could see Jay fighting to get free of the arms wrapped around his arms and chest from behind. The police were called and our badass, Mexican neighbor wrangled Jay across the street where a payphone stood. The police came and I never saw Jay again.

Examining the phone booth the next day, I found the receiver virtually broken in half. It would need to be replaced.

I forgot about this instance for a long time. I have always been uncomfortable around people who are drunk (particularly men) and afraid of people who are on drugs. I'm not much of a drinker myself.

Perhaps this explains why.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Pulling Threads :: The Babysitter

****This story was previously "half-told" in the Daddy Larry post, but both have now been edited.****



Not long after I was molested by my step-father, still about the age of five and living in an apartment above an auto parts store, there was THE babysitter.

My mother was getting ready to leave for work. The babysitter was about to arrive. I remember her having long Janis Joplin-ish hair. I had been throwing a fit all morning. My mother insisted I stop. She had to go to work. As she answered the door to let the babysitter in, I hid between a cabinet and the wall in the dining area of our apartment. I barely fit and had to squeeze myself into the corner. My mother physically dragged me out from my hiding place as I cried. As were the times back in the early 70’s, I was told to stop and behave.

I wasn’t crying because I didn’t want my mother to go to work. Again, this wasn’t a case of separation anxiety. I was crying because I didn’t want to be left with this babysitter. Like my step-father. She was evil.

This babysitter would beat me black and blue. She was going to take me to my grandmother’s house and she wanted me to wear a particular pair of shoes. I had a lot of shoes, but she wanted me to wear my shiny, black, patent-leather shoes. I don’t know why she was so insistent. She’d send me to my room to look for them. I couldn’t find them. She’d gotten my mother’s wide, yellow belt out of her closet and beat me with it.

“Are you going to looking under your bed?” whack-whack-whack

“Are you going to look in your closet?” whack-whack-whack

“Are you going to look.....?” whack-whack-whack

Each time I came back without those shoes she would repeat the cycle of questions, naming different areas of the apartment and beat me. They finally stopped when I found the shoes in my mother’s bedroom. I don’t even remember going to my grandmother’s house that day.

As I did when my step-father molested me, I would tell my Aunt Myrna about my abusive encounter. This time my Uncle Toby was present too. They had been called in to watch me while the babysitter met with my mother at work, who at the time was a housekeeper at a small Inn. I showed Myrna and Toby my backside covered with welts and bruises.

They were shocked and were not about to leave me with the babysitter when she returned.

Myrna and Toby snuck me down to where my mother worked to inform her of what the babysitter had done. Knowing the babysitter was there to talk to my mother, they had me hide in the bushes out front. Myrna stayed with me while Toby approached and talked to my mother. I don’t know what excuse he used for being there. Once the babysitter was gone and my uncle had told my mother why he was really there, he waved my aunt and me in to join them. I would be taken into a storage room to show my mother the marks on my body.

The babysitter was fired. I recall some argument between my mother and perhaps the babysitter’s parents because the police had been called, but I don’t recall if anything ever became of it.

__________

In my mid-twenties I was struggling and returned to therapy. I was discussing a therapy session with my mother and recounting the laundry list of abuses. She’d told me that there was more to the babysitter than the beating I took. However, she wouldn’t tell me what it was.

“If you don’t remember, I’m not going to tell you.”

When I shared this with my therapist she insisted I call my mother back and get her to tell me what else had happened. She explained that even though I don’t have a clear memory of it, it’s important to know because it would still have an impact on my life.

“She made you watch her boyfriend masturbate.”

This made sense. This explained why I hid that day and why I was so frightened of the babysitter before she beat me. Perhaps my fit that day made her worry that I was going to tell what she and her boyfriend had done. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am eternally grateful that I had someone in my life that I could go to. I had someone who would believe in me and listen to me. I had someone. If even just for a little while.

There is still some lingering anger, as with my other experiences. There’s a pattern developing. A laundry list of experiences with one thing in common. And when I think about them all together, when the list repeats in my head, and the pattern emerges, I feel angry and resentful. I feel worthless and unable to trust. I don’t feel safe. Fear and anxiety are overwhelming. I have trouble focusing.

However, through these writings I have begun to remember the good. There were moments I felt loved and heard and worthy and there were people who made me feel that way. Sadly, I don’t have any of them anymore and haven’t for a good long time, but yet, they were there. For so many years these childhood traumas have overshadowed everything else. Not talking about them, even within the family, has given them far too much power and is alienating.

So here I am. Shedding light onto my darkness.


More Pulled Threads

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Pulling Threads :: Daddy Larry (edited)



****Please be advised:: This post may have triggers, includes curse words, and involves molestation of a child.****
__________

I never liked Larry. I’m not sure why. I didn’t understand how I felt, or why. I didn’t have a father, so it wasn’t that I resented him for trying to take his place. I wasn’t particularly close to my mother either.

As I look back, I realize that I sensed evil in him. My intuition was strong. I just didn’t know what it was.

I recall a time when he and my mother walked into the house together and began to do a slow dance. It made me want to hurl. I was disgusted by him. But I was just five-years-old and I could’t articulate what I was thinking or feeling. I didn’t understand it myself. If I did exhibit any behavior or expressed any thoughts regarding Larry, I don’t recall and no one else took notice or listened.

I don’t recall being present for their wedding. Perhaps I was. To my recollection, it was held across the street from our home with a justice of the peace. I vaguely remember what my mother wore. I do recall sitting in the living room near a front window facing the street and crying. I had been left in the care of a family friend. Delores tried to comfort me. She tried to reassure me that my mother would be back, but I wasn’t crying because my mother was going somewhere without me. This wasn’t a case of separation anxiety. I was crying because she’d married Larry and would be bringing that evil back to live with us. I was just five-years-old though and I couldn’t articulate it. At the time, I’m not even sure I understood why I was crying.

I don’t remember the whole of this experience. Memories are like a skipping record. Bits and pieces go missing. I don’t recall all of the details. I don’t even have any other memories of Larry, except for the night he molested me. I remember my mother was at a club meeting; Homemakers of America, or something like that. I think it was a Tuesday night. She’d left my younger sister and me at home with Larry, our step-father.

He tried making it a game. I’m not sure how it started. The first thing I remember is not having my pants or panties on and he was on his knees behind me with his penis between my legs. My younger sister, who was two at the time, was standing on a chair watching. I recall looking down and seeing his penis sticking out from between my legs. He may have instructed me to touch it, but I don’t recall doing so.

The next thing I remember is walking towards the bathroom. Me in front of him with him walking on his knees behind me. He kept his penis between my legs. I recall stepping a little off balance at some point in the hallway and getting ahead of him. He put his hand on my shoulder and held me in a stop because his penis had come out from between my legs. Once he’d placed it back between my legs we continued to walk. He was erect the whole way. As we stood in front of the toilet, he said,

“See. Now you can pee just like Daddy Larry.”

That’s the last thing I remember. I don’t know if he actually urinated or if he ejaculated. Perhaps he did both. For years I heard those words in my head, “See. Now you can pee just like Daddy Larry.”

I felt so utterly uncomfortable, to say the least. It felt wrong. I felt bad. Horribly bad. Like I did something wrong. I was overwhelmed with angst and confusion. This wasn’t a game that any of my uncle’s played with me. But I was only five-fucking-years old. What did I know? You did as you were told. You listened to adults no matter what. It wasn’t fun. It didn’t feel like a game. I was confused and frightened. Unbeknownst to me, or anyone else for that matter, this would be the beginning of my life long struggle with anxiety.

I’m not sure how many days had passed before my Aunt Myrna came to babysit me. She was just ten years old at the time. I told her about the game Daddy Larry played with me. She jumped up and immediately insisted I tell my grandmother. When we got to their house, my grandmother was in the kitchen washing dishes. She told my grandmother that I had something to tell her. As I did, my grandmother stopped what she was doing and sprang into action. She called my mother to the house and broke the news to her about what had happened.

The next thing I remember is a huge argument between my mother and Larry as she kicked him out of our apartment. We spoke of what happened once. We were lying on the couch and she instructed me to tell her what Larry did. I didn’t want to. I had already learned that I couldn’t talk to her. I had already learned that she didn’t hear me when I did. She threatened me with something like going to bed without dinner until I told her. I’m not sure how. I don’t recall the words I used. But it was never spoken of again (and I’ve never written about it in such detail before). She didn’t console me, or tell me everything would be okay or that it wasn’t my fault. Instead it was like it never happened. I spent the rest of my childhood struggling with what happened to me....alone. Feeling like it was all my fault that she wasn’t happy or that she didn’t have a husband.

When I was 14 we had a counselor sent to our home because my sister, 11, had started experimenting with drugs. I initially refused to participate. Her drug use wasn’t my problem. I had bigger chips on my shoulders. Perhaps I was angry that my sister’s bad behavior warranted help and counseling and discussion, but my molest did not. It was swept under the rug. The counselor didn’t give up on me though. He came to my room located at the back of the house adjacent to the kitchen and encouraged me to come out. Initially I refused. He caught up to me later when I decided to get a glass of water. While we were in the kitchen talking I blurted out, in tears, how I was molested. He convinced me to join my mother and sister in the dining room where he asked my mother if I had been molested. My mother, in all shock and horror said,

“I had no idea she remembered.”

How would she when it was never spoken of? I learned early on that how I felt and what I thought didn’t matter.

I was five-fucking-years-old and my very being was shattered. All sense of wonder, curiosity, trust and playfulness damaged. If I hadn’t had Myrna and my grandmother I don’t know how long the abuse would have gone on. It was the first defining moment of my life. It’s when I learned I was not enough. I was not important enough, good enough, worthy enough, loved enough. The sweeping of it under the rug by my mother and pretending it never happened did serious damage to my emotional well-being. As long as I didn’t remember what happened, we didn’t have to talk about it and she didn’t have to face her guilt for bringing such evil into our lives. But I did remember. I never fucking forgot what had been done to me. And I never forgot how my mother swept it under the rug like it was nothing.

As you can imagine, this experience permeated every aspect of my life. Particularly my mother’s reaction and handling of these events. Aside from the damage it did to my developing sexuality, I didn’t feel heard. I didn’t feel seen. I didn’t feel as though what I thought or how I felt mattered. I barely existed. I wasn’t important. I wasn’t worthy enough or good enough.

Today, I can think about the abuse without feeling shame or quilt, but I have little-to-no self worth. I'm anxious and afraid of the world, which is an accumulation of all of my experiences.

When I think about how I felt as a child and how I feel today, I fall down a rabbit hole of darkness. When someone says to think back to when you were a carefree child...I have no idea what that means because it was taken from me. I have little-to-no memory of being a happy or carefree child. It still makes me angry.

But, I have art. Making art is a life saver. It keeps me breathing. It helps me to express myself. It helps me to process all the feels from dark to light.

I have memories, memories of making Peanut Butter Cookies with my grandmother or visiting her at the bakery where she worked to snag a donut and milk before school. I have memories of playing school and Crazy 8’s until the wee hours of the night with my Aunt Myrna. I have memories of tagging along with her when she hung out with her friends down by the river. I have memories with her of hiking at Pinnacles, and camping, and shopping. I have memories of living with my Aunt Marie in Arkansas and hearing her tell me she loved me every night before bed when she’d ask how my day was. I have memories of my uncle when I raced to the corner to greet him as he disembarked the school bus and the day he took me driving for the very first time. And let’s not forget the time he brought me my very own pie from Bumbleberry. My sister complained that I was cutting it crooked and he said, “It’s her pie. She can cut it crooked if she wants to.” He also kept me from falling as he walked me down the aisle to marry.

I have art and a basket full of cherished memories with people I can no longer make memories with. These are my life savers, my moments of peace and reprieve from the darkness that settles in my bones. These are my escape from the rabbit hole.
____________

Healing is a process, a journey, not a destination.




Sunday, April 1, 2018

Pulling Threads :: Stepping Back & Finding the Good

I decided to write and share this series of posts—Pulling Threads—to flush out my wounds, to pick at the scabs and expose my scars as best I could. To give them a new voice. To put them through the ringer and squeeze out the good. 

Sometimes it feels as though I am the only one. I know I am not. We all have wounds. We all have wounds from trauma, abuse, loses, choices we’ve made. The list goes on. Some of us experienced more than others. Some of us less. Some of us catapulted forward. Some of us got lost. Some of us had support. Some of us were left to cope alone. While all of our stories are different, we all have them. Some of us have been able to share them and talk about them. Some of us have not. 

I’ve been reading “Writing as a Way of Healing” by Louise DeSalvo. In it she writes, “We are the accumulation of the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.” 

The stories we tell ourselves. Most of my childhood experiences, like the one I shared here, explain the stories I tell myself; I’m worthless, unwanted and unlovable. I didn’t have many people in my life, or other experiences, to tell me otherwise. Does that make the stories I tell myself true? Are they the complete truth? Or is truth like a jig-saw puzzle that only reveals itself when all the pieces have been connected?

In regards to writing, she says, “We must write in a way that links detailed descriptions of what happened with feelings—then and now—about what happened.”

This is what I’m trying to do. To write in more detail than I ever have. This will make some of these writings triggers—for you and me. But something else Louise DeSalvo says, “Writing about difficulties enables us to discover the wholeness of things....we use our writing to shift our perspective.”

Certainly I’ve told these stories to the people who have been closest to me, my BFFs. I think I told my husband about them on our second or third date. Here’s all my baggage. If you don’t want to carry it, here’s your chance to get off the boat. I’ve shared these stories in therapy, but I couldn’t get them to move beyond the walls that made up the room. When I stood up to leave with a bounce of relief in my step, they’d notice that I had walked out and run on their tip toes to catch up with me. Sneaking up on me and giggling in whisper tones.  A constant shadow as I walked my path, silently sucking away my energy and light. I just couldn’t shake them. Don’t get me wrong. Therapy has always been beneficial for me. I’m a firm believer in therapy. And I’d probably still be in therapy if my therapist hadn’t suddenly passed away. 

As much as I have shared my trauma and abuse, the dark corners of stigma attached to it are still very real for me. There’s still a lot of shame and guilt and energy spent trying to cover up the scars. Anger ripples around the edges of my mind and curses my lips. Abuse and trauma seems to distort everything else and when your childhood is brimming with secrets and lies, it’s hard to know what is true. 

I don’t know why, but today I’m feeling called to pan through the mud and the muck of each experience at the bottom of the river, one by one, and find the gold nuggets. And to share them with you.

Including the gold nuggets. Perhaps, especially the gold nuggets. My first gold nugget is a tiny nugget, but it’s one of my most prized nuggets.

My grandparents owned and operated a cafe in the small town I grew up in. The kind of town where everybody knew everybody. The kind of town where when you were all grown up and working at the McDonald’s that finally came to town, the old timers would come in for coffee and ask, “Aren’t you one of the Brown girls?” Well, I was the daughter of one. These old timers had known my grandparents.

My grandfather spent a few years in the Navy and then defected to the Army where he served for twenty years. He passed away just a few weeks after my fourth birthday—cirrhosis of the liver. I don’t remember much about him. In fact, I have only one memory of him. It takes place at the cafe. 

I was sitting at a small table near the entrance drinking soda out of a clear glass. My grandfather walked in. As soon as I see him I smile. I snatch up the glass resting on the table and lift it to my lips, making sure I covered my nose. The only thing I remember about my grandfather is our game of “I got your nose.” As he approached, he laughed at my cleverness. I removed the glass from my lips and nose, giggling as Grandpa reached in to take my nose between his fingers.


“I got your nose!” 

-----


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Pulling Threads :: Secrets, Lies & Paternity

The first in a series I'm calling Pulling Threads. It's a long one, 3024 words.
Names have been changed to protect identities.
***Please note my disclaimer in the side bar.***

-----------

It was the summer of 1983 and I was living in Salinas, CA with one of my aunts and her significant-other when that fated phone call came from my 15-year-old baby sister. The one that would yank a thread loose on the fabric of my life. She’d called to share with me that she and I had different fathers. She began,

“I think since you’re going to be 18 on your birthday you’re old enough to know that we have different fathers.”

I insisted that she was mistaken, that I had seen her birth certificate and that we did, in fact, have the same father. She convinced me otherwise as she told me her father’s name and explained how she found out.

Initially, I wasn’t fazed by the news and ended the phone call saying, “You’ve always been my sister and you’ll always be my sister.”

The more I thought about it, the more I began to feel uneasy and confused about the news. My stomach knotted up as I kept asking myself how and why I could not have known this. How can this be? My mother would have told me. She wouldn’t have lied about something like this.  I chewed on these thoughts until my aunt returned home from work that evening. I told her about the conversation I’d had earlier that day with my sister, and asked her, “Did you know that Sally and I have different fathers?”  

She said, “Yes.”

“Who else in the family knows that we have different fathers?”  

“Everyone does,” she replied.

“Well how come I didn’t know?”  

She explained to me that my sister had found out we had different fathers when she was in the juvenile system. Apparently, my Uncle Cecil told my mother that she should tell me about my sister’s paternity, but my mother refused. For some reason she did not want me to know.

The more I thought about it the more upset I became. I was angry, hurt, confused and feeling betrayed. Everyone knew? I finally decided to call my mother and ask her about it.  To put it mildly, she was not pleased to hear that I had been let in on her little secret.  I asked “How come you never told me that Sally and I have different fathers?”  

She responded with a mix of panic and surprise, “Well, who the hell told you?”  

I explained, “Sally called me today and told me. How come you never told me we have different fathers?”

Panic and surprise turned to defensive and angry, “Because it’s none of your goddamned business!”  

I was shocked and furious.  What the hell does she mean it is none of my business? I cursed her out and slammed the phone down.  

That night, I went to bed and cried. My world had come crashing down upon me. I was restless and unable to sleep as I muffled my sobs. I kept thinking about all of the times my friends had asked me if I were sure that my sister and I had the same father. They would always remark about how we didn’t look anything alike. I kept assuring them that we did have the same father, that my mother said we had the same father and that my sister just looked more like him. My mother’s biggest pet peeve was lying! I was confused and heartbroken. My mind fought to put the pieces together. I couldn’t believe that my mother, of all people, had lied to me. I resented that she insisted on a standard of absolute truth from me and my sister. Why? Why did she lie? What was the harm in me knowing that my sister and I had different fathers? Why was my knowing that we had different fathers such a frightening thing for her? I became filled with guilt and shame for all the times I lied to my friends, for all the times I didn’t see what everyone else had seen. By morning I was pissed. I was overwhelmed with resentment and rage towards my mother.

I had decided that the answers to all of my questions were obvious. My mother had an affair. Why else would my father have deserted me? My mother had betrayed him. The only reason I grew up without my father was because my mother had pushed him away. If she hadn’t slept with another man and gotten pregnant, I would have had a happy childhood!

I soaked myself in this overwhelming rage.  I was overcome with emotion and I didn’t know what to do. It was then that I chose to let my mother know how much I hated her and I worked very hard to give her as much pain and grief as I possibly could. I had no regard for her feelings.  I didn’t care if she felt hurt. I didn’t care if she felt embarrassed. I was livid and I was going to make sure she knew it. I began to write her hate letters. Nasty, hateful letters filled with every accusation I could think of. I made sure she knew that I knew the truth. She had an affair, she had cheated on my father, she had betrayed my father, and that was the only reason I didn’t have a father. I hated her for it and I would never forgive her.

The time came when I had to move back to my mother’s house. It wasn’t easy. I had no choice. I was still in high school and my senior year was about to begin. The tension in the air, the anger and hatred that filled the entire house, was so thick it was suffocating. However, the silent treatment only works for so long. I had left my mother a note on the door as to my whereabouts, and signed it, Hate.  Apparently, one of her friends got a look at the note.  When I returned to the house, I was made aware that my “hate” notes had to stop. My basic attitude was, you can kiss my ass.  The tension, anger and pent up resentment, all led to a huge confrontation.  At the top of my lungs I shouted, “You cheated on my father and that’s why he left!”
“No! I did not!”

“You had an affair and that’s why he left. That’s why I don’t have a father!”

She screamed, “I didn’t have an affair!”  

“Then why did my father leave?!”  

“He’s not your father!”

Wait, Not my father? 

I pushed for the truth, demanding to know who my father was. I pushed and pushed and pushed.  

She could not take it any longer. With saliva spewing from between her lips, she screamed, 

“I was raped!”  

I was speechless. I couldn’t breathe. Everything I thought I knew was speeding off into a tailspin of lies. I was falling behind. The name on my birth certificate is just that, a name, a lie and I was never wanted. I stormed off to my room. Violent images flashed through my mind. This was my new reality.

There I was, 18-years-old, getting ready to go out into the world when I learned I didn’t know any thing. I had no idea who I was and I had no foundation to build upon. I was already battling low self-esteem.  My glass was already half empty. Everything I thought I knew was a lie. It was as if someone took a baseball bat to a water glass on the table...and I was the water glass. Shattered.and broken.and empty.

I reached out to a counselor I had worked with before. He wanted my mother to come in for a session. She declined the invitation and instead, left me a note with a very generic description of my father and his name. My feelings of resentment towards my mother grew.

Through the process of healing, I decided that I could no longer deny who I really was. I was not Dan’s daughter. That was a lie that I could no longer give life or energy to. I decided that the first thing I needed to do to accept my truth, to redefine myself was to hire an attorney and change my name. I chose to release Dan’s name and take on my biological father’s name. Understandably, my mother was not happy about this. I recall her screaming from the kitchen, “Why in the hell would you want to take on the name of a rapist?!”

“Because that’s who I am.”  

Like it or not, I had no connection to the name she gave me. To ease my mother’s anguish, I decided to also take on my grandmother’s maiden name. Taking on my biological father’s name was merely a formality; a gesture at refusing to live in denial. Taking on my grandmother’s name at the same time was a gesture in reminding me that I was loved and accepted regardless of the circumstances of how I got here. This simple legality marked the beginning of my journey towards healing.

I still needed to reconcile my feelings about being a product of rape. I didn’t know who I was, or where I came from. I didn’t know where to begin. The only thing I did know was that I could no longer claim that Dan was my father. That meant not allowing my mother or anyone else to claim him as my father either. My paternity might not be pretty, but it’s all I had. I take no shame in saying so. It is what it is. While I acknowledge my mother did the best she could with what she had, it just wasn’t enough for me. No matter how hard she may have tried to create a mother-child bond, it just wasn’t there. Her path in life took a sharp detour and spiraled out of control. She might say she’s loved me from the moment she knew I was coming, but I do not believe that.

About twenty years later I had a friend tell me that I should have never been told that I was a product of rape. I disagreed. I explained to her that it was a kind of blessing because it made so many things clear to me. As far back as I can remember I have felt different. I simply felt as though I didn’t belong. I didn’t feel loved or wanted. There was a gnawing sense that I was being treated differently. It was as though my extended family was trying too hard. I had no idea where these feelings came from. I just knew that there was something different about me. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. 

One of the clearest ah-ha moments I had was remembering an extended trip I made to West Covina, CA to visit family. I was eight-years-old. Upon my return home, as I carried my suitcase into the house, my mother said, “Well, put that suitcase down and give me a hug.” I didn’t know why, but for some reason, I had no desire to hug her, nor do I recall being happy to see her. I let her hug me as I demanded to go to my grandmother’s house. As I look back to that day, it was as if I was annoyed by her request. It was as if I knew she wasn’t sincere. I was eight-years-old and already felt as though my mother didn't really love me. My aunt's mother-in-law was present so we had to put on a good show.

Later that day, my mother took me to see my grandmother and my aunt. I ran into their home, hugging my aunt with all the love, enthusiasm and joy I could muster up. I found my grandmother down the hall in her bedroom, and ran full speed to greet her with the same excitement I’d greeted my aunt with. I recall hearing my mother remark, “Gee, I had to beg for my hug.” Her remark went into one ear and out the other. I was happy to be home, to see the people who loved me. While it confused me, I held no guilt over not greeting my mother in the same manner at which I had greeted my aunt and grandmother. Unlike with my mother, I seemed to have a clear sense of authenticity and sincerity in their love and acceptance. 

I never understood why I didn’t want to greet my mother that day. I never understood why my mother and I weren’t connected, why I didn’t feel bonded with her, nor why I didn’t view her love as sincere. I recall, at the age of sixteen, telling one of my aunts that I didn’t love my mother. A devout Christian woman, she immediately told me, “You can’t say that. She’s your mother and you have to love her.” I didn’t understand this lack of love that I had for my mother. I didn’t understand why we appeared to be so distant. It was more than teenage angst and rebellion. It was the way I had always felt, even as a young child.

My new reality put so many things into perspective. Now I understood. I understood why I never felt connected with my mother. Now I understood why I didn’t want to hug my mother when I was only eight-years-old. Now I knew why I didn’t feel love for or from my mother. So many things became clear to me. Once I got through the shock of finding out about my paternity, I felt a weight shift.

Today I continue the journey. I do not deny that it has been excruciatingly painful, and on some days, remains to be. This thread is one of several that has ripped the fabric of my being and dropped me naked into a pile of mucky crap. Knowing why things are the way they are doesn’t make all the anger, resentment and pain go away. How do you learn to love yourself when you’ve never been taught to love? How do you find worth in your existence when you have always felt worthless and invisible? How do you know what is true when you’ve always been lied to? How do you learn to trust when you’ve never felt safe? How do you come back from not being wanted? How do you find yourself when it’s buried beneath a fountain of lies, coverups and denials?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. Some days I think I’m on the cusp of discovering my value and my worth, but most days it feels as though I am dangling from a tightrope without a net. I do not maintain much of a relationship with my mother and often skip family gatherings to avoid seeing her. It’s just too much. It takes too much energy. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you want to continue with a relationship and not everyone gets that. I've been approached and told I am not doing enough to heal the relationship with my mother. I am asked if we're speaking yet. It's easy to judge others when you don't know their story.

I spend most of my days self-loathing, feeling unloved, unwanted, invisible and worthless. It takes me right back to my childhood. Intellectually I know that I create my own experience. I have to make myself feel loved and valued. I can’t rely on anyone else to do this for me. At the same time, as I am grappling to hold on, I wish I had someone close to me who acknowledged and understood depression & anxiety. Someone to stretch out the safety net and help me get back up when I fall.

I’ve told this story many times. I used to wonder why I hadn’t healed already, but recently I discovered this quote:


To heal from trauma means to face your pain and loss while simultaneously seeking solace and, at moments, finding joy. Doing this on a day-to-day basis is how you survive. Healing is an active state, not a destination. In that light, and no other, it’s a beautiful thing.—Alice Sebold


This is a life’s journey. There will be good days, and not-so-good days and horribly painful days. The thing I am learning is to notice and embrace the moments. The moments when I find myself giggling at the squirrels chasing each other in a game of tag. The moments when the steam curls up from a fresh, hot cuppa. The moments when I put on a sweater straight out of the dryer. The moments when something pleasing, peaceful or surprising happen. I’m learning that noticing these moments is essential, albeit, challenging.

Over the course of the last year, through the magic of an ancestry.com‘s DNA test, I have been connected with a cousin from my biological father’s side of the family. He passed away in 1993 and to my knowledge I am his only child. I haven’t spoken with my cousin much. It’s a strange place to be. A mix of excitement over finding a bridge to your existence and apprehension. What questions do I ask? How much do I intrude? Am I intruding? At the very least, I know that part of my story, his name, is true.


My memory is made of pockets.  Secretive, selective and full of holes.”
                             —Christina Rosalie


I hope as I share the threads of my fabric, no matter your life experience, you close your eyes, take a deep breath and whisper,

 “I am not alone.”   





[Footnote]: I have been asked on more than one occasion if I have considered that I am not a product of rape. It has been suggested that perhaps it was my mother’s way of coping. It was the 60’s and she was still a teenager. She has since said some things that are inconsistant and don’t fit the original narrative. Perhaps she had convinced herself she was raped as a means of self-protection. I don’t know. All I have to go on are the pieces she’s told me. If it was a means of self-protection, she believes it so deeply it’s difficult to contest. Only she can define her experience. Either way, those three little words keep playing over and over in my head.

Monday, November 13, 2017

I Was Talking To Me



in a fit of rage
rage at myself
i said it

those words struck her down
like a razor sharp knife
cutting through her heart

and i knew

i knew the moment they rolled off my tongue
that i wasn't talking to her

i was talking to me
     but i said it to her

srh 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Things That Occur to Me Randomly While Sitting on the Back Porch Watching Squirrels



sometimes the moments
are few and far between
the moments when she feels
a little more at ease
moments when the truth
doesn't hurt quite so much
because she recognizes
it's just what she tells herself

her issues are strong
so they keep coming back
haunting her days
dominating her nights
but the moments of ease
peace and grace
give her the moments she needs
for deep, healing breaths

srh 9/2017

Pulling Threads :: The Boarder

Sometime between elementary and my middle-school-age years we had a boarder. The Colton's lived down the street. Mrs. Colton would s...