Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Left Brain, Right Brain

Talk about gifts wrapped in shit! Here's one for the ages. In case readers missed it, I'd truly recommend clicking on this link to Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk about her stroke, and the extraordinary gift she received as a result. It's an 18-minute video, but WELL WORTH the investment of time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Out of the Ashes...

Thanks to Conceição for sending me this link to a Yad Vashem site which tells the holocaust story of Irena Sendler for Accidental Dharma. A true inspiration...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Scar Tissue

With thanks to Angela at Reality Testing

About twelve years ago, when I first began speaking in coherent sentences about my childhood, someone very wise suggested that there would come a day when I would realize that my mother really did do her best to parent me well. I nearly ripped this person's face off then, and I might have, had I any money to pay my bail.

But, I remember his words today because this is what I know: he was right, and the day has come.

It occured to me long ago that I didn't have to take my parents' treatment of me personally. I used to struggle with this, because they treated my sister so differently. She was not abused less--just differently--and as a result of this, I came to see my abuse as something that was cooked up special, just for me, because clearly, there was something particularly unpleasant about the fact of my existence.

Abuse makes narcissists of us all, you know. When Anne Lammot referred to herself as the "piece of shit that the world revolves around" I totally related. This is what happens when people take time out of their regularly scheduled lives to pound the crap out of you in any way physical, psychological, or sexual. You begin to think you are different and somehow special. Special in a not-so-good-way, but special nonetheless. It's taken almost four decades now, but I'm beginning to understand that I wasn't special. I was just there.

"You know," my father once told me, "dogs are just like kids. You always ruin your first one."

My father owned show dogs. They always finished first. Internationally.

As you might imagine, this little adage of his really used to bother me quite a bit, given the fact that I was his first-born. Now, I see it as his only admission of guilt. His only attempt to take responsibility. My father hates himself for what he did to me when I was young. This is why he stopped looking at me eventually. It's why he stopped treating me like his daughter.

It was nothing that I did. It was what he did.

And when my mother began silencing me? Locking me away? Tearing me down? Threatening to leave?

It was still all about what he did.

I'll bet she couldn't handle "taking care of me." She couldn't bear to look at me. I know this.

But none of that was my fault. I just represented a truth she couldn't bear to witness.

The abuse was really nothing personal. I was instrument, that's all, and anyone who might have been born to them in my place or time would have received the same treatment. I don't think it was my fault (as much) anymore, and I certainly don't think that I deserved any of it. In a sick sort of way, it was all just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When children are young, they are often warned that lying begets lying. I can remember my mother telling me how one lie leads to another. I've shared this insight with my own girls. I'm sure that some of you have done the same. But when I think of the history of my family, the truth of that wisdom just takes my breath away. The destruction of my family truly began with one small lie.

My father crossed over a line that he should not have crossed over when I was very young. And one small untruth was told in order to conceal the facts. This lie gave birth to other lies, and they provided a distance between himself and my mother where continued abuse could unfold. By the time my mother was beyond denial, so much had happened that protecting me would have subjected her to an incredible amount of judgment and quite possibly, legal ramifications.

So, she did what she could to make it better: she taught me how to lie to myself, and she put a wedge between my father and I. And then she gave him another baby, so he could start fresh again. Clean slate.

You only ruin the first one.

I see how it happened, now, and it doesn't hurt nearly as much as it used to.

And Wendy--what you said--I know that this is true.

I think I'm at that point of letting go now, and there is sadness in that. I know that many of you understand this. Everyone has grief, and that's where I'm at.

I am so grateful to be walking forward, toward my bright, shiny future. I really am. It's just that every so often, I look back over my shoulder, hoping beyond hope that the mom I wanted might be there, and every time I do this, my heart still breaks a little when I realize that she isn't. I don't know how long I'll do this. Maybe forever. That would be okay. She's my mom. And he's my dad. But that's the stuff of another post.

Here is the real tragedy that I have yet to overcome: she hides from me and from the truth because she doesn't think I would ever forgive her. She is destroying herself bit by bit every single day because she hates herself for what she has done and for what she has failed to do.

All I ever needed was to know for certain that she would do the right thing now. But the fact is, my mother can't do what's right. She won't do what's right. She has remained an accomplice for all of these years, turning a blind eye when my father hurt me, and turning a blind eye when he went on to hurt God only knows how many other people. So she sits in silence with her self-loathing and goes about the business of slowly killing herself.

And because of this, she'll never know that I forgave her long ago.

So, this is sad.

But you know what? Sad is okay. Sad is way better than crazy any day.

And I'm so grateful for the fact that some of you know precisely what I mean.

Thank you.