Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Abandonment and Abuse

Double A's are a double whammy for a child, and they so often occur together. Not planning to write my memoir on this blog, these are, though, the under story of my childhood. With the review of this part of my life I am aware that so many chldren sustained these blows at levels even more severe than mine and so for some long years I thought, well, what happened to me is not so bad, certainly not worth writing about. No one pulled out my fingernails or chained me in a closet. No one left me alone for days at a time with no care. No one left me by the side of the road.

I left any idea of writing memoir on the shelf in my mind because I thought I had nothing to say.And then I began to tote up the number of folks I knew who grew up with alcoholics, or who were children of divorce, or isolated without friends or friendships, with no idea how to build those nurturing relationships. I began to develop an urgent interest in knowing who we are and how we got that way, particularly, and then incessantly, me.

What surfaced was a surprising intensity of recognition. I saw how insidious psychological abuse is and how very difficult it is to describe on the page. A good hiding is easy. A blow to the face easier. Scars on the heart are so much harder. Even with focused attention to building such a scenario, this kind of abuse comes out sounding like whining, sometimes.  Devaluing, demeaning, erasing a child is done inconspicuously, treacherously, behnd the back, hidden, with subterfuge. It is hard to call out the culprit citing actual deeds.

Children are adept at reading between the lines even when the message is obscured. They are even more adept at denying what they read. Children are unprepared to identify their villains as mommy and daddy, even when they can draw no other conclusion. They don't tend to tell their suspicions to anyone else. But they know what they feel and how they come to feel it. Admitting to themselves that they are the daily target for pain from those very people who are supposed to love and care for them is crippling.

When the abuse is physical, and hidden and sexual, a child hopes for a savior from the thing he or she can't talk about. Little children are not programmed to take on a powerful adult, to call him out, to find safety on that uneven playing field. When the perp is a trusted family member, the child gains a full understanding of how untenable is his place in this hierarchy.

As a young girl in such a position, my weapons were frightening and confusing to parents who had no ability to interpret them. As I acted out my anger and my fear, upping the ante with more and more outrageous and puzzling ehavior, they finally had to come to a clear suspicion that there was something terribly wrong with me, missing the reality that something terrible was happening to me.

Concurrently, my own rage reached such a decibel that I confronted my abuser with killing anger and threat to expose him to my parents, an act I thought could actully destroy me, but was the point to where I'd been driven, finally willing to risk anything to free myself of this person. As luck would have it, a neighbor told my parents that my abuser was harming his daughter. And told them he knew of my harm, too.

Terrible things came from that. I was now the brunt of their shame and then their suspicion that somehow I contriuted to my own sexual demise. At a time when such things were never discussed, when counseling was a word not even known, this was a wound within the family that was never addressed, and sat festering throughout our lives. We were left with a script without words, to play on the stage of our story with no strategy to walk our way to the completion, forever stuck at some chapter we couldn't get past.

I see this scenario played out in so many families, not necessarily with the same stimulus, but with characters unable to work out their pain and inflictions on each other of same. And we abandon each other with, well abandon. I do not believe it is easier, in the long run, to run away from ourselves and those to whom we are forever tethered. I do not believe sores should be left to fester. I do not believe we cannot heal each other. I do know that nothing healing happens without forgiveness and forgiveness is hard work requiring tough visits to th source of the pain. And with all the perps gone from my story, I'm left to write memoir. To write it down, look at it with a cold eye and recognize that these are the components that make me who I am and why.

Fortunately, life is not totally captured by those things.My life has been touched by truly great individuals who took an interest in me, sheltered me, encouraged me and recognized what tools I've been given and how to maximize them. I have come some long time ago to recognize the hidden value of abandonement to an orphanage where really good people planted seeds that grew to mighty oaks in my life, arming me with gifts I might never have discovered, left alone with my mother.

My story is worth telling, for it is in the end, a triumph over suppression, repression, jealousy and cruelty born of a woman whose own demons held her from knowing true happiness, something she could have achieved out of her own strengths, her own dogged determination, with which she survived her own forms of hell. In this walk, on this journey, I have come to know the inner workings of a woman of her time, whose own dreams were throttled by those times, who came from drudgery to elope out of it into a happy marriage truncated by widowhood, three kids, a war and depression to marry against her best judgement. And finally to be buried alive in a nowhere town wtih a nothing life of emptiness and bitterness. She made her kids targets of all that because she seems to have married for their security and found it was an empty gesture.

So many lives contain components such as these. That some of us, perhaps many of us, triumph over these boulders in the stream is testament to the  strength within ourselves to draw upon.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Barbie,
    I'm glad you are writing your memoir, and I'll be very excited to read it! You're right that these are topics that are usually hidden and yet need to be revealed.

    Keep writing; I'm reading!

    All the best!