Truth Roars Like A Lion

(Baby steps, friends. Exactly 2 months ago today, I wrote my first new blog post in ages. Then I recoiled. This started as a draft… nine months ago. Baby steps.)

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Huntington’s has robbed me of so much, but the hardest thing it’s stolen is truth. Losing my grandmother (70), my mother (68), and my aunt Pam (at only 49) were visceral losses–– concrete in their finality. Now, watching my younger sister struggle with it, keeps that loss perpetually in front of me. But before these three powerful women in my life died–– before they disappeared in bits and pieces, we lost clarity and truth. We lost the potential for healing through honesty. Huntington’s Disease cheated me of the chance to heal that, by robbing me of the chance later for honest exploration and putting some pieces back in place.

As children we speak honestly, with truth, unless we are scared or silenced. As a very young child, I knew truth. I knew sweetness, and the security of people who held me close and loved me deeply. For a short time, when I was young I felt cherished. I trusted the adults in my life; I felt safe and loved. And then so much changed, and I lost all of that–– lost to lies and trauma. I grew up with people who loved me, in a place that became my home. But, there was another family, and another home, that has followed me all my life.

Several months ago we saw the movie Lion, a 2017 Oscar nomination for Best Film. (I will not give anything away here, as this is a film really worth seeing.) I went into the theater thinking I was prepared; I thought I knew the story. As a huge movie fan, I go for many reasons, but often it is about escape. This looked like a great movie to get lost in. Lion was just stunning! Stunning. Everything about this film moved me. It was visually gorgeous. The story is heartbreakingly beautiful, and I was swept away on so many levels, for two hours. But I also left the theater completely shaken, and thrust into many nights of hard dreams.

In Lion, Saroo Brierley (the main character) faces memories he’s pushed down, through recurring flashbacks, which eventually lead him to the truth. For all of my life, I have experienced nearly daily pieces of memories–– flashes to moments, scenes, images, experiences–– many of which didn’t fit with the stories my mother told me. The math never added up, and I’ve struggled to make sense of it all. Like Saroo, it took a triggering event to send me on a similar journey to find the missing pieces. Saroo then goes on a journey to find the truth. I’ve been seeking the same thing for most of my life, but the journey changed directions two years ago. The movie Lion crystalized so many details that I’ve been grappling with since spring 2015.

Before Huntington’s robbed my mother of the chance to live out her days and find honesty, or let me unbury truth, she was already a broken woman. She was broken as a girl, and she never healed. Instead, Huntington’s dealt her one final blow, and robbed her of the chance to ever really heal. When she was diagnosed, in her fifties (as I am now) she was already deeply lost in dysfunction and lies. She deserved better, and I wish she could have learned that in her life. No child deserves to have their childhood stolen, for that I have enormous compassion for my mother.

But, she in turn stole my childhood. She robbed me of safety; she took me from the arms of sweetness and love, and took it all away. She lied to us, and led my brother and me to believe our father didn’t love us… enough. She abandoned us, literally (for 18 months) and metaphorically, just as she’d been abandoned by her mother. She was not there for me when I needed protection, so buried in her own history that she missed the one unfolding for her children. She did to us, exactly what she herself had spent a childhood and lifetime trying to recover from. At 54, I still struggle with the cruel irony of it all.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to understand my mother. I wanted to heal her and protect her, when I was a young child and should have gotten those things from her. I tried to forgive her, as the years went on and I watched her slowly die, though she never really heard my pain. Without knowing any better, I emotionally buried truth to preserve a false reality that she pressed on us. As children, we deal with trauma in the only ways we know how to. We push it down; we hide it; we create stories to help us feel safe. As adults, we either stay stuck in those patterns, or seek to move beyond them.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to move on. I’ve looked for the truth, to fill in gaps that have haunted me. I struggle with the knowledge that my fractured past, and broken pieces, have in turn impacted my own three children. I went into marriage and parenting knowing that I wanted to be a very different mother than my mother was to me. I wanted to break cycles of abuse and neglect that have been a part of my family history. But I didn’t have the tools or knowledge needed. My kids are grown now, and I have discussed much of this with them. It’s not easy; I don’t want to burden them with old pain, but I want them to know their mother as a fully fleshed person. I want them to see that I keep moving forward; I keep trying to change, grow and heal. If we don’t heal from trauma, I know we are bound to pass it on.

Sadly, many of the people who might have answered questions for me are gone. I’ve asked myself over and over: does it matter? Does the truth matter anymore? It all happened so long ago, and I am where I am. I struggle with how to let go of all the lies and simply embrace the truths I’ve learned. The truth has allowed my brother and I to finally begin to heal. I now know that he’s spent an entire lifetime feeling lost to the same lies I buried. Now that we can talk about them, and untangle all the knots, we realize that we were simply children, doing the best we could… albeit very differently, and without realizing we could have helped each other.

As I watched the final scenes of Lion, my response was visceral. I was no longer watching a movie, where a young man unwinds his own knots, but reliving my own fears and loss. I found myself talking to myself, reliving painful times that happened forty-four years ago. I cried and cried, and cried some more. Later, my husband told me that watching this same movie scene was the first time he really felt like he could understand what I’ve described for our entire life together.

I wish I’d heard the truth when my mother was still alive; I would give anything to ask her some questions that follow me everywhere. I wish she could have seen this same movie, and maybe realized what her lies have done to my brother and I; we all might have found some healing sooner. I wish she and I could have explored those truths, and maybe both healed… if wishing made it so. Instead, she took her pain with her, and I am pulling apart knots, and seeking peace. A movie reminded me that healing is always possible. I am a…

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GIPYPlease share your thoughts in the comments. I want to hear what you have to say.

KAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Flat-Lined

In my last post–– the one that marked my first baby step out of the hole I’ve been in, I acknowledged that I’ve been depressed. I shared that writing and blogging has been hard. I wrote a post to restart my engine and move forward, even if I’m not sure how much gas I have in the tank.

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I generally share my posts on both my personal Facebook page and the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page. I was taken aback by the friends who left comments, many sharing love and support, and letting me know they can relate to the sense of depression and stagnation that’s held me back. You all responded with so much love and support. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. Humbling and touching.

I also found myself a little startled. I felt naked. I forget that my invisibility cloak doesn’t actually work. When I put myself out there, well… I’m out there. Exposed. Vulnerable. Raw.

I’m not good at accepting help, support or loving words. It’s part of the reason I’m in this hole in the first place. My mother left me with a non-stick, life-time guaranteed Teflon™ coating, that deflects compliments, reassurances, loving words of support–– the kind of incredibly supportive words that so many of you have shared with me, since I put myself out there.

But the reality is not as uplifting. I read your words, and they slide right off. They linger for a moment, and then dissipate.

Don’t take it personally. It’s my shit. I deflect instantly, because I don’t know how to absorb that good stuff. I learned a long time ago, not to count on good things, and despite all the enormous positive in my life, I get stuck in a hole.

I deflect with sarcasm.

I deflect with thank yous and praise-back-at-you.

I deflect because my self-esteem is on life-support, and stats are low.

I deflect because I am taking baby steps, and figuring out how to process and absorb the positivity you all sent my way–– the positivity that surrounds me. But it’s just too much.

I’m grateful; don’t get me wrong.

I deflect because I’m hard wired to do that.

Pay no attention to that (woman) behind the curtain! I am the great and powerful Oz!

What you see, is not who limps along, digging out of the hole. Second guessing every compliment and kind word that comes my way.

I’m plagued by insecurity and dark thoughts. This isn’t something new, it’s me for as long as I’ve known me. Putting on a confident face, that hides the real stuff. Making jokes and filling up space, to hide.

Blogging has been my safety net for a long time now. But it also comes with lots of personal potholes, and I trip a lot. If you don’t read me; I feel like I’m not good enough. If you don’t hit like; I’m questioning why. If you used to follow me, and now you don’t; I take it personally. I second-guess it all. It’s a sticky, dark, internal game that messes with my head. And it isn’t about you; you can’t change it for me.

It’s my shit.

Please don’t reassure me, or tell me otherwise. Please don’t try to explain that I’ve got it all wrong. Please don’t try to assuage my internal shit-maker. This is my head and I know it’s a mess. I’m working on it. Just be patient with me.

I’m working on letting go of the Teflon™. When I hit bottom in May–– and it was a dark, self-destructive bottom which I’d assured myself I would never see again, I was really shaken. I was disappointed in myself for not pulling the parachute sooner. I was embarrassed by my own fragility. I felt shaken by the sense that I may never purge the dark stuff and really live in the light.

I shared it all with my kids, for the first time ever. Really shared. I told each one of them (and this is edited, because some things are still private): “I am wired differently. I’m acknowledging my childhood traumas make it hard for me to interact and connect in the ways I want to. I know I don’t respond and react the way others want. I have broken pieces (they) can’t understand, because we come from such very different places. I’m working on it. I keep working on it. But it’s exhausting, and I slip sometimes… into a dark space, where I feel infinitely hopeless. And climbing out is hard.” I told them I love them, and I am in it to win it.

I wanted my now (mostly) adult children (one with a child of her own) to know me not just as “Mom,” but as a person who sees her flaws and vulnerabilities and is asking for help. My kids responded with love and acceptance, and more shocking: they each thanked me for sharing all of this.

I was deeply moved. Inspired. Loved.

 

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And I felt a similar sense of hope and support in the responses to my last post. Watching all the comments come in the other day, and all kind words–– so many thoughtful, truly inspiring words, I also saw my stats jump for the first time in months. And the image of those colorful bars reminded me of a heart-rate monitor, blipping out my writing days. My emotional pulse, visually represented by my blog life.

Beep, beep         beep             Beep                    Beep                            Beep!

Flatlining, and then getting a jolt, when I took that step back in to the world of blogging and writing. The bright orange line, there on the right of the graph–– that’s you! And you nudged me forward.

I shared all of this with my kids, and now with many of you, because I’m acknowledging I can’t do it alone… but baby steps require patience all around. I’m owning my shit, and asking for grace. I don’t want pity. And kind reassurances only bounce off, because, well… Teflon™.

I know you all mean well, your words have really touched me these past few days. But for now, I’m really just grateful you’re here. I’ve always said this: I write to be read. I write to reach out. I write to connect. That my words connected with many of you this week, means a lot. It means everything, at a given moment.

My flat-line stats jumped this week, when I wrote something that connected with many of you. And while I’m not good at taking in the love and support you sent my way, I’m grateful for it.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for the support.  For now, just say:

Write on.

Beep        Beep       Beep      Beep

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And now for the marketing part of the show!

GIPYKAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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I Used To Be A Blogger

Remember me? I used to be a blogger.

I used to post three times a week. Some of you read my work. Some of you read it all the time, and encouraged me to keep writing. Remember when I posted regularly, and you all cheered me on. I do. I remember.

But lately, I’ve been treading water. No sense calling it writer’s block, when depression is the actual culprit. I suppose I saw it coming, from a distance. I started writing less and less–– always a sign that I’m losing my mojo, since writing is one of the surest ways I identify myself. “I’m a writer;” it took a long time to say that comfortably. No sooner did I start to get easy with the phrase, and I fell into a deep hole.

It’s been months of struggling. It’s been two years of processing and trying to figure out some hard things.

It’s been days and days of looking out the window and hoping this will pass.

It’s been visits with family and friends, where I push through and force a smile, and pull out the extrovert others expect–– while my introvert self flinches and cringes.

It’s been some days that were scary and darker than I care to write about… now.

It’s been tough. Really tough.

                          But, I am tougher

I am tougher.

 I’m a writer. I’m a blogger. I will take my baby steps in words and phrases.

I am digging out. I’m writing a post to get back in the saddle. I’m looking at the dozens of drafts and partially written posts (because, well, I’m a writer. I may not have had the motivation or ability to put it out there, or even get out of my chair by the window, some days, but I have occasionally dipped my pen in the well), and I’m figuring out how to ride this horse again.

I’m challenging myself to really move forward. Baby steps, I just told someone dear, who is down further than I am now–– but not so far down that I don’t remember the view. It’s all about baby steps. It’s all about knowing that healing is always possible.

Always. Always. Always.

I don’t say that blithely. I am not out of the hole. The sides are slippery and high, but I know I can get out, baby step by baby step. I know I can keep putting pieces together and move toward a happier place. I believe in healing.

Always.

And while I haven’t been blogging, I have been slowly but steadily editing my novel (yes, again) and submitting chapters to my writing group. Because, I’m still a writer. Those have been important baby steps that my writing women have supported me through. Gratitude in heaps to their loving edits and nudges. Along the path of healing, there are so many people who hand you a lifeline, if you can look through the blue haze and see it. Some days, that little bit of writing has saved me. The sharp edge was scary close for a long while. And I admit: I stepped too close, more than once. But I  grabbed the lifelines.

I used to be a blogger. The stats and comments meant everything. The reassurance from each of you was a dose of sunshine every week. And maybe I have to start all over. A lot of people figured I’m gone for good, and moved on. I miss some faces that used to make me smile. But, I’m back, and I’ll start where I have to.

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I started the steps forward with a new hair cut. I’ve always thought that cutting my hair is a great way to reset my compass. It’s shaved very short all around, with a longer strip down the top/center. A wide mohawk, some might call it. I shaved my head as a reminder of the razor edge I don’t want to stand on anymore. Each time I look in the mirror, my hair reminds me that I’m stronger than the depression, anxiety and issues that yanked me off balance. I’ll step back and take the baby steps, until I’m on steady ground again. Some people don’t like my new look, while others see the determination it represents. For me, it’s a daily message: I look in the mirror and remind myself that I own the edge; the edge doesn’t own me.

So, I’m back. If you’re still here; I’m grateful. You have no idea–– or maybe you do, how much it means to me. If you’re new, welcome! My last post was in honor of my father and was much longer. I posted it exactly three months ago. It’s been a long three months. Check it out, get cozy and stay around. I’ll be posting again soon.

I used to be a blogger, and turns out: I still am. I’m taking baby steps in blogging, and this is step one. I hope you stick around; I could use the support.

Check out the Daily Post and add your own thoughts about Overcome.

Here’s what I’m listening to right now:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syPzVZXrSlc

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GIPYKAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

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Bringing My Father Back: A Father’s Day Love Story

Some of you JUST read this, but I’m sharing it again, for Father’s Day, in honor of my father Robert Melville Quyle. He wasn’t here long enough, but he left a wealth of love.

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

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A very wise therapist told me to write about my father… for Mother’s Day. The fact I’ve thought about it nearly every day for weeks, but have not been able to put words to page, until now… probably means she’s wiser than I already believe. She understood what the challenge would mean, and why I should do it. However, writing it in time for Mother’s Day, while meaningful and symbolic, proved harder than I thought it would be. And, I realized, it would not be the truth.

I have not written much in nearly two years now. I’ve been struck–– paralyzed, by information about my parents, which I’d buried so deep, it came as a total shock when I heard it again. Even though I knew every word was true, as those words landed on my shaken self, it was as if I left my body, and watched from above…

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Can Watching Ellen DeGeneres Cure Depression

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No. Watching Ellen DeGeneres cannot cure depression. If it were that simple, we wouldn’t have an epidemic of depression and suicide in this country. No miracle cures–– depression is hard to shake–– but one day of watching Ellen DeGeneres more hopeful.

I’ve been in a hole for a few months now, but I really took a nosedive on Mother’s Day. So cliché. It’s not really about Mother’s Day, but that booby trap of a holiday, which I find a bit of a let down every year, didn’t help. I’d been slipping into this hole for a few months. It all started with a twenty-year old broken tailbone, which felt like a ruptured disc, but meant to weeks of pain, no bike riding, and losing the workout edge I’d worked so hard for. It started with old memories, buried and hard to process. It got worse with rainy days and insecurities. It led to some days when I didn’t feel safe in my thoughts, and some more when I just wanted to hide. Things piled up and there I was, in the dark sticky place I’m now struggling to get out of.

I don’t want to be around people much. Me, the person everyone thinks is an extrovert. People make me anxious right now. The grocery store makes my skin crawl. Running into people I know makes me cry, or want to hide. I don’t want to get dressed, when everything makes me feel fat. I don’t want to answer the phone, because I don’t feel like chatting. I want to work out and regain some of my fitness, but things hurt, or my motivation fails me. It’s a big hole with steep sides.

So today, after a long weekend of way too many social things, straining my ability to feel solid, I took a day to just sit on the sofa and watch Ellen DeGeneres episodes. I love Ellen; I always have. I thought her 90’s show Ellen, was quirky and wonderful. Her irreverent sweetness was always up-lifting. When she came out as a gay person, I thought it was so brave and inspiring. If Ellen could stand there in front of so many haters and still smile, then shouldn’t we all be able to step up and own our power?

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This hangs in my kitchen

Again, if it were this easy, I wouldn’t be spending a day on the sofa. Who else to turn to, if you are stuck on a sofa? Every week, I Tweet positivity at #ThinkBigSundayWithMarsha, and stress the message: we should all be kind. Ellen ends every show with “Be kind to one another.” It’s a true and important message. Ellen and I are twinsies that way. Ellen loves to play pranks; anyone who knows me, knows I’m a born prankster. Ellen loves to dance; I have a sign in my kitchen that announces “This Kitchen is For Dancing.” I dance a lot. Ellen is tender-hearted, I’m a bleeding heart. We’re both goofballs; ask my kids. Twinsies.

Ellen laughs a lot when folks are faced with her crazy pranks. For someone who ends every show with “Be kind to one another,” it bears noting that sometimes the pranks and her laughing don’t really seem kind. One celebrity guest, who was the victim of her ever-popular someone-jumping-from-the-end-table-prank jumped from his seat, then looked at the audience and Ellen and replied (very seriously) “It’s not funny.” He’s got a point. It isn’t funny to scare/prank folks and laugh, but again, twinsies… because I laughed so hard. My kids and husband have gotten annoyed with me for years, for laughing at their moments of distress. Have a bee chasing you? I might wet my pants. When folks drop through the floor, in Ellen’s game “Know Or Go,” I laughed and laughed, even though I know it’s not exactly fun for them. The game “Epic or Fail” is definitely a collective making fun of some poor fool, doing something very foolish. Again, there’s a slightly mean edge to all of these pranks and games. It’s a lot of laughing at someone else’s expense, but I did laugh. And I need to laugh right now. It makes my twin, Ellen, laugh too.

It’s not all pranks. The enormously generous and inspiring things that Ellen does for so many people, gave me a much better reason to cry all day. I saw an entire graduating class of an under-served school in Brooklyn, New York receive four year full scholarships to college (blew me away!); a family whose son has had cancer get all of their medical debt paid; an incredibly dynamic young girl from Australia get her dream to go see Vegas, and then cover the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. She’s given money to families who are working hard but struggling; to folks who are dedicated to helping kids in underprivileged communities; and to regular guests who are just lucky enough to be in her audience. Watching it for a day was nothing short of deeply moving and inspiring.

 

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I had company; Gracie loves Ellen too!

Today I spent an entire day on my sofa, watching episodes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was a sunny day, and lots of people would argue I should have been outside doing something, but this is what I needed. It didn’t pull me out of this hole, but it felt safe, restorative, and positive. Her edgy, dry humor feels like home to me–– reminiscent of the humor in my Boston roots. Her billion-watt smile and playful attitude speak to me. I was charmed by the children on the Season 14 recap of cute kids (if you need a few minutes of feel good, watch this!).  I laughed at the season 14 Funniest Moments. I enjoyed the interviews, games, give-aways, dancing and the sincerity that Ellen exudes. The heartwarming philanthropy alone is worth tuning in for (my husband calls her Ellen DeGENEROUS). The dose of Andy Cohen in the day was a shotski-kinkyboots-dollup bonus–– being a major fan of him and his shenanigans. Ellen DeGeneres can’t cure depression, but her brand of authenticity, fun and kindness, brightened the dark today. Right now, that’s something worth a few hours of missed sunshine.

Also read: I’ve been here before; I’ll work my way out. At least this time I’m (mostly) keeping better company! The same friend and the same sushi date are still worth a million dollars. Check out this post. 

Did you read my last post? Grab some tissues, it’s a biggie. Or, if you’re one those bloggers/readers who doesn’t like bloggers who share everything, skip it. You’re in the wrong place.

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GIPYKAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

 

 

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Bringing My Father Back: A Father’s Day Love Story

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A very wise therapist told me to write about my father… for Mother’s Day. The fact I’ve thought about it nearly every day for weeks, but have not been able to put words to page, until now… probably means she’s wiser than I already believe. She understood what the challenge would mean, and why I should do it. However, writing it in time for Mother’s Day, while meaningful and symbolic, proved harder than I thought it would be. And, I realized, it would not be the truth.

I have not written much in nearly two years now. I’ve been struck–– paralyzed, by information about my parents, which I’d buried so deep, it came as a total shock when I heard it again. Even though I knew every word was true, as those words landed on my shaken self, it was as if I left my body, and watched from above, as my entire life was untwisted from a horrible knot of lies. I stood there listening, my body still, as the world around me fractured.

It left me shaken to the core. It left me unable to find the words… when words have always served me and been my security. It stripped me down, and yet despite all the pain… it set me free. Now, I’m taking all of the broken pieces, and putting myself back together again.

Two years ago, on an early spring day, on a beautiful beach walk, in one of my very happiest of places, my father’s two sisters–– my aunts, who I love so much–– unknowingly, broke me open. The moment is seared in my memory: the words; my stagger backwards and then paralyzed stance; their confused expressions as they realized I didn’t know what they were talking about. I can still feel the shock when they, and then I, realized I’d buried the truth so far down–– to forget the pain of being abandoned at age seven–– and that the truth they’d always lived with, was in fact raw, hard news to me.

As the truth came out, I felt all the pieces of my life fall–– like shards of glass–– around me. I floated above us, and screamed, as my body stood still before my aunts, dazed. Two years later, that day still washes over me, in unguarded moments. My chest constricts, and I try not to feel all the feelings the moment brought forth. I try to remember: I am stronger than the moment, and I believe in healing. Somedays, I feel like I’m in a giant hole of lies, and I’ll never dig my way out.

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I was a little older than this…

When I was between six and seven years old, my mother abandoned me, and my two younger siblings. My brother is two years younger, my sister five and a half; they were nearly five, and eighteen months old, at the time.  My parents were separated at the time; we were living with our mother. However, she couldn’t cope with parenting, and she vanished for a year and a half, leaving my father to find us, alone and scared, in the apartment. I’ve always had flashbacks that didn’t make sense. I remember feeling terrified because I didn’t know how to change my baby sister’s diaper. I remember not knowing what we should eat, or what I should do. I felt the weight of the world on my tiny shoulders.

I remember these things clearly, and always have. These memories, and flashes of memories, have haunted me my entire life, but they never fit my mother’s narrative of how things were. I have no idea how long it was before my father found us, or how long we were alone in the apartment. Nobody does. The people who knew are all dead now. Fear, anxiety, abandonment–– the images which replayed in my memories, never made sense, until my aunts uttered a truth, they’d long believed I knew, but chose to see differently.

Over the years, too afraid to really believe my mother could do something so hard to understand, I projected all of those scared and hurt feelings on to my memories of my father. I believed my mother’s words: Your father was a good daddy–– he loved to play, but he didn’t take care of us. He wasn’t a good father. I had no choice but to bring you back East, where I had support.

Lies, lies and more lies!

As a young child, I didn’t feel lovable enough to prevent my parents from leaving me: Mom abandoned us, and then returned to steal us away from our father. My mother suffered with her own demons, and I always felt like she might fall apart, or leave us, any time. I learned to work very hard to prevent that, at a high cost to my own emotional wellbeing. I learned to be a parent at eight–– long before I was ready–– and I felt the burden of my mother’s mental instability as a constant responsibility. Even her Huntington’s felt like something I should have seen coming, and should have prevented.

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Months after my father’s death, I was grieving and wary. I see it in these eyes.

I adopted and carried my mother’s message–– your Dad wasn’t a good father–– with me to defend against a mother who left me, and who, I always feared would leave me again. I carried the message with me to make sense of the unthinkable: I wasn’t enough to keep my parents together. I wasn’t enough to make her happy, no matter how hard I tried. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men… I couldn’t bring my father back, and I felt immeasurable guilt for having left him–– regardless of the fact that I had no control over the decision. Ultimately, I believed my mother’s lies about my Dad, because if it was Dad’s inability to be a good parent, it wasn’t about what really hurt: I wasn’t lovable enough.

What really came back to me with shocking impact, on the day my aunts told me the truth my father did take care of us. He did love us. We were his world. The instant the truth came out, and I hovered between reality and shock, I remembered being truly precious to someone I loved very deeply, and who I lost forever.

After our mother left, Dad found us in her apartment, all alone. When my mother called him and said she “didn’t want (us),” he moved in with his grandmother, my great-grandmother Nini, and loved us with everything he had. He and Nini tucked us in each night; he taught me to ride a bike; they helped us feel secure and happy. Meals were at a set time, and a family affair. We brushed our teeth with a timer, and went to school in clean clothes. We were taught to say please and thank you, to show respect to our elders, but to play without worries.

 

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My father did everything he could to fill the hole my mother left. He filled our lives with childhood magic which came from: planting strawberries in Nini’s garden; teaching us to make a blade of grass shrill like a horn; swinging on the park swings, until my feet touched the clouds; watching a kite dance in the sky. We were surrounded by people who loved us and gave us constant security–– aunts and uncles, and great aunts and uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, and life-long friends of my father. We had a village. I walked to school each day, happy in the knowledge there was a lunch packed for me. I knew I’d be welcomed home at the end of the day, with a hug and a kiss. My siblings and I were beloved, and I felt it. I felt safe and good for the eighteen months my mother was gone.

And then it was all taken away.

I’ve always held inside me, buried deep and tucked safely, the knowledge we were precious… I was precious to someone. But when our mother took us away from my father’s security and love, that knowledge was replaced with the childish belief that my father somehow gave up on us. I believed he didn’t care, and had grown tired of us. I didn’t understand that he didn’t know where we were, for nearly six months. I felt the tension when he did start phoning us, as my mother listened in. I knew not to say what I felt, every time I heard his voice: I want to go home, come get me. As children, we’re not able to understand the complicated world of parents, marriage, and dysfunction. Our tender hearts are broken easily, and often, they stay broken. Every time I heard his voice, I just wanted to be happy again. I wanted to feel safe and loved.

My mother did her best, in so many ways. Her family loved us very much, and embraced us in our new life. They have been there for all of these years… However, it was all new to us then, and my brother and I longed for the life we had been pulled from. My mother was an enormously damaged and broken person. Despite her humor and ability to charm and sparkle, she didn’t know how to be a parent.

She discussed it with me from an early age, but in addition, I felt her guilt, her struggle to be a mother, and her own brokenness, all of my life. I felt it as something I needed to fix, or cover for. I felt it as a missing piece which flew in the face of all the truths I learned to bury. I internalized it, and allowed it to determine my own paths. I adopted her view, and put the blame on my father, and held onto those lies most of my life.

It wasn’t until a sunny day on the beach, forty-two years after all the damage was done, that the truth wrapped itself around me and I began to really work on healing… and finding my father again.

My father was a remarkable man. He wasn’t remarkable because I remember him that way, or because my childhood memories have created something to believe in. He was remarkable because so many people have told me he was, and because I remember his enormous capacity for joy, adventure and love. He was a free spirit who kept his surroundings impeccably neat; who would rather spend any day in wild places, and who showed his children a world full of beauty. At a time when men did not routinely have custody of their children, Dad moved in with his grandmother and tried to help us forget our mother had left us behind. He did everything he could to take care of us, and help us feel loved and safe. He wasn’t just a good daddy, he was a good father.

In pushing all of these things down, and repeating an almost mantra-like revision of the truth: “my Dad was a good ‘daddy-‘ he liked to have fun, but he wasn’t a good father- he didn’t take care of us,” I changed the course of my own history, and the truth of my past. In repeating this revision to friends, who wanted to know about my Dad; to my own children, who never knew their grandfather; to myself, I not only denied all of the powerful memories I have of my father’s love and our life with him, but I stole from him the truth of his love, and the very things which made him remarkable. I allowed lies to strip him of the place in my heart, and the place in my life, he worked so hard to create.

My father never saw us again, after my mother took us. He grieved our loss until the day he died, in a motorcycle accident, June 9th, 1973, just weeks before he was to visit us. His best friend has shared pieces with me; his sisters have shared parts with me, and I know  the truth. He grieved the loss of his children, just as I grieved the loss of him.

I was ten and a half years old when he died. The hole his death left has never been filled. I’m not sure it can be. The day he died, I knew I could never go home again, and happiness would always mean something different. Of course, I grew up and learned that happiness is not determined by any one thing or event. But, I lost a world of happiness when I lost my father, and that is not easily replaced. The shift that came with his death changed so many things about the way I saw the world, the choices I made, and how I lived my life.

Like him, I have always been a nature-loving, free spirit. However, I didn’t feel like those things fit into the life I lived with my mother. I learned to adapt to situations and play whatever role I needed to play. Like him, I am happiest in wild places, especially when I am alone and quiet and I can feel the Earth. I’m impulsive, adventurous and playful. The first trait I get from my father, the latter ones from both my parents. When people who knew my father talk about him, they always mention how readily he just stopped in to visit, or how happy he was in the wilderness. Family was important to him, but he could also be quiet and disappear. My father was impeccably neat. My surroundings are rarely uncluttered; in that, the apple fell far from the tree. I love fully, and hold on to connections, like my father did–– and because so many important connections were broken, when I was too young to understand it wasn’t my fault. I cling. I grieve ties that break… even when they should. I hope to fix, even the unfixable.

Everything felt like it was my fault, from the time I was eight until just recently. That’s a hard load to put down, after carrying it for forty-five years. I trip on it all the time: with my husband, my children, friends, and anywhere life throws me a curve ball. I feel the pressure to fix and assuage.

I’m working on changing the damage that was done so long ago. I’m working on healing. Some days it’s like being in a very dark, unfamiliar room and feeling around for the light switch–– you know it’s there, but it can be so disorienting to try and trace walls you don’t recognize, in order to find a small switch that will illuminate your way.

Part of me: a space where my magical child’s brain still lives, and was traumatically frozen in time, just wants her Dad back. I want to undo all the times I repeated the lies. I want to say I’m sorry Dad–– I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’m sorry for burying the love that you gave so fully. I want to be picking strawberries and flying a kite again. I want to go back and change the course of so many things that were forged in the knot of lies which became my life.

An equally big part of me knows I need to grieve these “new” truths; come to terms with the realities, and let them go. I’m grieving my father in a new context. I’m processing the rage and disillusionment I feel, in learning the truth. I’m trying to forgive my mother. I’m trying to heal, and move forward into a lit room.

Time did not stop. If my father were still alive, he would be seventy-six years old now, not the thirty-two year old father who died, in 1973, a year after we left him. I believe we would be close. Life has a way of making things hard, but I want to believe that he would eventually have found a way to be with us again. I believe the truth would have come out at some point, and all of my memories of being precious, would have filled the other dark places with something better. In learning the truth, I am seeking to rediscover his light. I’m working to embrace the love my father gave me, and finally feel whole again. I couldn’t write this for Mother’s Day; it would have felt like a further twisting of truth. I wanted this one story to be as true as true can be.

When we are children, we are often helpless to exert any control over our own lives. The adults we trust to care for us, and do what is best for us, are not always capable of that. And our brains do what’s needed to make sense of painful things. Sadly, parents do not always consider the long-term impact of their decisions on their children. As an adult, I now have the ability to choose for myself how to live my life, and determine what’s important in that life. Piece by piece, I’m restoring my father. I’m restoring the love that was given to me and is still there. I’m healing. Piece by piece. (*a must listen)

I’m writing this for Father’s day, but posting it on June 9th, the forty-forth anniversary of my father’s death. I’m writing this because I had a father who loved me. I lost him, but now I have him back. I’m writing this to heal and feel his love again.

Oh, to have this day back.

My brother and I on Dad’s lap.

Thank you Dad. Thank you for being there, and for loving me completely.

I remember.

To all the fathers who love their children and are there for them, Happy Father’s Day! 

To Cokie and Pat, who changed everything. I love you. 

I played this song over and over again, the year my father died. Time In A Bottle, by Jim Croce, who also died in 1973.  

Also read:

Check out The Daily Post prompt, Tender, and read other bloggers’ response to the prompt “Tender”
New Relationships, Old Trauma (Acupuncture Today)

On My Father’s Birthday,  A Letter To The Man Who Killed Him:  it was Fresh Pressed 2x

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In Honor of Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month: a new book about love, fear, and living with HD

I dropped the ball again! I meant to reblog this last week, in time for Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month. Getting back on a horse, sometimes takes many tries. I’m trying.

The Huntington's Chronicles

I don’t post on this blog enough; anyone who follows here, knows that. As I’ve noted in the past, fear keeps me away. If I hide my eyes, maybe it will go away? It, being Huntington’s Disease.

Anyone living with Huntington’s Disease knows that’s not true. HD follows us, and messes with us, inspires and drives us. If you have Huntington’s in your family, you know there is no hiding! This month, I want to honor my sister and my dear friend Sarah Parker Foster. Check out Sarah’s blog Huntington’s Disease And Me. She writes with visceral honesty and shares her journey with us all. In the past few weeks she has suffered an unbearable setback, and I am sending my love and support her way! Check out her work and add your love.

My family was blindsided by HD. My grandmother was a powerhouse and true…

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Posted in Honest observations on many things | 4 Comments