I need to write this morning – some aftermath thoughts from last few intensely focused hard-work days on those volumes! I am thinking about ‘articulation’, how I need to articulate in written form. Is that the same thing as needing to write? Did my mother NEED to write?
Just the sheer ‘volume’ of the words I have tackled in this process with my mother’s writings is staggering. At the same time I know all the writings did not survive (most fortunately from my point of view!). Yet how many people really would have had the desire and the motivation to chronicle even such a story as dragging your family to the hinterlands of Alaska to homestead?
Do we today not notice our desire to articulate, express our self and communicate because advances in technology let us do it now with imperceptible ease?
On all the levels within my own self that are being affected as a result of this process I am involved with, some breach the surface in different ways at different stages. Right now as my mother’s words are nearly exactly in linear place along the line of time that covers her story — and at the same time covers my childhood — I realize that in very serious and comprehensive ways I was never allowed to ‘grow up’.
In some distant, remote and very, very LATE ways I am going through some of that process now. As I record in digital form the tales that my mother tells I find there are points when I actually feel stunned to realize how OLD I was, and how OLD my siblings were when some of the events Mildred describes occurred. Because of the severe abuse I never got to ‘leave something behind’ as I grew up. The same ‘crimes’ that I had been ‘guilty’ of committing starting with my birth were attached to the history of the child who was Linda so that they dragged right along with me like an unending series of cannonballs attached to my body, mind, soul and self.
I was never allowed to outgrow anything, and looking at the ‘story’ now as I proof its complete text, I see that the invisible parts of the story my mother did not record are as present to me as I work with the span of time that was my childhood as are the memories of what she DID record. That long, long, long terrible chain of connected cannonballs is still here – because all those things were beat into me over and over and over and over again — until I simply ‘left home’.
There never was a transition from being an infant to a toddler, to a young child, to a prepubescent, to an adolescent and then into a young woman. I was never given ‘privileges’ that advanced along with my expanding age range. I was never complimented, encouraged, recognized for any growing ability to do anything — except to be increasingly beaten for the ever-longer list of crimes my mother always remembered as being who LINDA was.
I am not sure that I can articulate this. According to my mother’s disturbed and distorted sense of the passage of time, and because that was all tied up with her ‘splitting’ and projection of evil-badness onto me, I not only had to remain in a continual state of peritrauma (in the midst of ongoing trauma) but looking at this time line now, my mother remained in that state herself. Nothing ever changed, nothing ever got better, nothing was ever examined as useless or harmful and then discarded. Nothing was ever learned from the consequences of repeated patterns of mistakes that she made (made together with my father).
I suspect on an underlying and as yet unexamined level, I believe that an extremely young-early-formed force literally dragged my mother forward in her life. It seems strange to me, but what I name that force — that both dragged her forward at the same time it beckoned her so that she blindly followed it (and yes, this feels like a sinister force because it was so ‘sick’) — is HOPE.
I am not talking about healthy hope here. I am talking about hope that is supposed to form itself right into a newborn’s growing brain structure and operation, into a newly forming body and nervous system. I am talking about hope for life that keeps a human being alive (any creature) at all costs.
The fulfillment of HOPE is what a safe and secure attachment provides for us. (I’ll write more of this in the future.)
For now I will just say that I had no hope as a child. It was all but murdered by my mother (and father). Without that hope, and in the presence of great harm, there was no chance for me to be celebrated into my growing-up life. Hope did not sit within me as my friend and guiding light. And without hope, time did not exist. I did not exist as a separate HUMAN BEING moving forward through the growth and developmental stages of my childhood.
What this means at this moment is that I do not recognize myself as being increasingly older, in a bigger body, having made significant advancements in my childhood. I read my mother’s ‘story’ from some remote, depersonalized, disembodied viewer’s point of view — because I DID NOT exist as a person as I went through my childhood.
None of my siblings did either, really. We were my mother’s props. All her children started out as cute baby dolls (except me – but she could at least tolerate me better when I was tiny and could not express being-a-real-person). She kept having babies (doll babies) as long as she could. She had no idea what a child was.
So how does a prop (object-projection) look at itself as having a feeling-felt autobiographical history over time?
It is not as easy as some people might imagine it to be to go back over a story that was one’s childhood and snatch out the truth — like it is all passing by on a conveyor belt and you can pick out the GOOD and ignore the BAD and let it slide right on by.
My mother’s severe, chronic and terrible abuse of me killed my hope as a child except for one solitary, amazing, grand, majestic and perfect thing. I HOPED for that mountain.
When severe infant-child abuse keeps a developing human being in a permanent state of peritrauma (the trauma never stops), the trauma becomes an integral part of their physiology. It cannot be ‘picked’ off of the assembly line and tossed away. It has built itself into the molecular operation of the entire body-brain of the survivor.
In my case, the existence of that mountain and our existence ON it and WITH it had such a positive effect on me that my capacity to HOPE remained pure, untarnished, untainted, uncontaminated and helpful to me. In fact, it saved my life. My hope capacity had simply remained dormant and was waiting within me with all its powers until I met Alaska and that mountain.
I am naming these volumes of my mother’s writings “Hope for a Mountain” because the same thing happened to her. But there was one critically important difference between how that “Hope for a Mountain” operated for my mother and how it operated (and still operates within my physiology) for me.
My mother’s capacity to hope was contaminated in her infant-childhood. That fact will become clear when I reach the stage of being able to write “Unspeakable Madness.”
The entire multi-volume story of my mother’s is about contaminated hope. My story with that mountain is a story about UNCONTAMINATED hope.
I could sit in awe of the miracle of human resiliency that it is, that the experience of HOPE was still possible for me as a child by the time that mountain became a part of my life, and the life of my family. Yet at this point AWE will get me nowhere. Perhaps admiration for my own little self? No, that won’t do anything for me (yet) either.
Water naturally flows downhill. Pure hope naturally exists.
When water is prevented through some aberration of its natural inclination from flowing downhill, we have a thwarted natural process — and/or a contaminated one.
At this moment as I try to articulate for myself that as I ‘watch’ my mother’s story that covers a span of my childhood, I am seeing that her hatred of me (who I was to HER) prevented me from moving, or flowing forward, through the stages of my childhood. To her, I was still all the horrible ‘things’ that I had always been (and the pattern is there in her writings – and I intend to bring them forth clearly in “Unspeakable Madness”).
I simply had the capacity to hope from the time I was born. My capacity for hope was not allowed to ‘come forth’ into the world – or even into the operation of my physiology much past the most basic levels of hope for water, food, sleep or use of a toilet (all of which was interfered with at times by my mother’s abuse).
My mother’s infant-childhood patterns, I believe, were very different from my own. That also belongs in another, separate body of my writings. BETRAYED hope, CONTAMINATED hope. That was my mother’s early experience.
That’s far different from having no hope fulfillment at all.
Yet because the capacity to have HOPE is evidently one of humans’ most powerful resiliency factors, once I ‘accidentally wandered’ through a young life course (being put there by my parents) to a PLACE where my HOPE could flow — well — it would be hard to find an example in anyone’s childhood experience where HOPE could have been more pure, powerful and REAL than it was for me.
My mother DID feel it too. I think we were equally in love with that mountain. In that love both of our powers to experience PURE HOPE were equal. HOPE is a shared human experience — and we WERE both human.
But my mother could not STAY there. She never realized the reality of her own NEEDS that her being on that mountain met. Everything my mother had hoped for since she was born ‘came true’ when she was on that mountain. But she didn’t KNOW that.
Her hope for that mountain was a hope for the healing of her soul, her mind, her personality, her childhood woundedness that she could never ARTICULATE no matter how many words she scribbled on her thousands of papers. And like water through a sieve, her hope disappeared with every breath she ever inhaled and exhaled on that mountain. She, herself was the sieve at the same time she had an insatiable thirst for the ‘waters’ of pure hope’s fulfillment.
By the time I was six and a half the mountain took form in our family even before I had ever seen it. The hope my mother had, and my father had for that mountain and for their homesteaded 160 acre piece of it, was the most healing force that ever flowed through our family. But that’s just it: It flowed right on through like transfused blood would flow through someone’s gaping-open mortal wound.
I, however, was not an open ‘hope sieve’. The relationship I had between that ‘place’ and my ‘self’ — well — it worked! The hope and love and my experience with the land flowed into me entirely and it fed me, sustained me, helped me, fed me, healed me and allowed me to grow new brain and body and mind and soul connections inside my growing self that, in the end, not only kept me alive but let me ‘grow up’ in a good way.
As I write this post, as I am articulating what is inside of me, and therefore what IS ME at this moment, I have to say that I don’t believe it is possible to separate these four aspects of being here on this planet: Life, the Life Force, Love, and Hope. I believe they all exist together and are in reality the exact same thing.
Every single one of us has all four of these aspects operating or we would be dead. The problem with my mother was that they were ‘all mixed up’ (a term she used many, many times in her writings) because her experience in life had been contaminated by attachment trauma.
As counter-intuitive as this might seem, I suspect that it was exactly because of the moving my mother did up and down the mountain and off and on the homestead that was like the high-powered fertilizer that nourished my own power to hope. Like Heidi in the story book, my very life force was invested in BEING ON THAT MOUNTAIN. With every move our family did on and off the mountain, my life force ebbed and waned at the same time my safe and secure attachment body-brain connections grew and grew and grew.
WHY? Because our attachment physiology, which forms the core of how our body-nervous system-brain-mind operates in our body, has to be exercised through PATTERNS OF RUPTURE AND REPAIR. As long as we returned at some point to the mountain so that I could repair the rupture I had when we were away from it, I was fine.
Believe me, I was allowed to PRACTICE growing my hope body-brain circuitry. Leave the mountain – hope for a return – return – hope fulfilled. Leave the mountain – hope for a return – return – hope fulfilled. Over and over again (as you can see by reading the volumes I have provided the links to).
But the passage of time itself only existed to me within this particular attachment relationship that I had with that mountain and the wilderness the homestead was a part of. Time in the natural world exists primarily through patterns of rainfall and snowfall, patterns of wind, patterns of freezing and thawing, of new plant life, bearing blossoms and fruit, seasonal death and rebirth, yearly growth of bushes and trees. These passages of time were not marked for me in any personal autobiographical-Gee!Whiz!-this-is-me-growing-into-adulthood way. They simply happened.
When I titled Chapter 7 in Volume One, “Little Pieces of This Rock,” I was certainly talking about my own self as being a piece of that mountain. In some ways I believe we all were exactly that. The time of my childhood thus more closely matched the time of an unfurling fern, or the time of a coming wind down the valley flipping each leaf over in succession until the mountainsides turned silver instead of green with its approach, or the time of the movement of the snow line up and down through the seasons high above the mountains’ timber line, or the time it took from my hearing the first faint calls from a massive V of migrating geese until I watched them glide far above the mountain peaks until the sight and the sound of them vanished — until the time they passed over again going in the opposite direction.
This writing I have done this morning has allowed me to articulate a profound level upon which I stand in relation to this ‘story’ of my mother’s. I have articulated how my experience with hope fed, sustained and healed me — in permanent ways.
My mother’s experience with the feeding, sustaining and healing powers of the mountain and of her relationship with it continually appeared and then vaporized over and over and over and over again. She had no way to step aside from the grownup body she was living in that had already formed itself within an environment that gave her shattered hope experiences and betrayed ones.
My mother was taken (at least during summers) to ‘the country’ when she was growing up. Love of the natural world was a part of her life — but she was RAISED in the city and I know the powers of the land did not have a chance to form and heal her on the levels that it did for me, nor did those experiences have the power to counteract all the other attachment trauma and suffering she experienced as a child within her home. (This is a major theme in her story I will focus on in “Unspeakable Madness.”)
But her ‘buried psyche’ recognized through resonating love for the natural world those experiences of her childhood as being directly connected to her experiences with the LAND of Alaska. But she could not consciously understand what all of this MEANT so that she could use her Alaska experiences with the land to CHANGE HERSELF into a more healed person.
Her deep connection with the wilderness did sustain her, but she could not sustain her healthy, healing hope. Yes, there were all the details of being an adult and of being a parent that presented all the obstacles she describes in her writings. But the Mildred that COULD have been present to face those obstacles — and here I must say IN THE PRESENT moments of her life — was all tangled up in trauma-altered developmental ways that nobody ever understood.
That she happened to hate me and torture me for the eighteen years of my childhood because all I could ever be to her was an ‘evil figment of her imagination’, was just one piece of the story of my mother’s life that she writes about (or I should say, DOES NOT WRITE ABOUT) in this collection of her words I am working with.
The bigger picture of her life was HERS alone, and the ability to sustain healthy, uncontaminated hope was barely, barely a part of it.