The letter I wrote to disown my mother:
May 10, 1988 (I was 36)
Dear Mom –
I cannot find the letter I began to you after your nest-to-this last telephone call. I wish I could as it came to me much easier than I think this one will. So I will have to begin again.
I feel that I need to say that I cannot be your daughter any more. At least not in the way I’ve been your daughter and you have been my mother in recent times. I say this because I continue to struggle very hard to deal with the reality of what I experienced during the first 18 years of my life. I say this because I am the Linda that existed then. Each day of my life I experience and continue to build upon the experiences that form the fabric of myself and my life.
For many years I have lived with a big hole in the fabric that is my life because I chose to deny the experiences of my childhood. I know now it is not wrong, but rather necessary for me to reclaim the reality of who I am and what I have lived through.
When you call me it is as if you are entering my life from a corner I am not able to protect. I could not protect myself as a child from your actions toward me. As a child you were a danger to me. As an adult, I have denied that reality.
I see no easy or gentle way to say these things to you. I just know that as a parent if I am angry and hurt my children, I hurt myself and I feel that inside. Each day I pray to be a better mother to my children, and God has answered my prayers.
I do not believe that you are able or have ever been able to see your relationship with me clearly. Because when I was a child I was hurt so badly by you I cannot trust you.
I apologize for my lack of courage that prevents me from addressing any of these feelings with you when you call. I think we both keep busy denying the reality of our past together. I must have integrity within my whole person. I cannot have that unless I address these facts honestly.
Years ago you told me that [D.P.] hurt you when she wrote that she could no longer be your friend. I’m sure you will similarly question this letter and my statement that I can no longer be your daughter. Yet unless and until the reality of my childhood as your daughter can be fully exposed and dealt with in a healthy fashion, this is the stand I am forced to take for my own well-being. You were not a good mother to me during the years I needed one most. I was battered, beaten, isolated and abused mentally, physically, psychologically and spiritually during all the years I lived under your hand. I will no longer be party to the denial about this that has continued in our family. To be healed myself I must face reality. And I must face it with you.
It is in part important for me to do this before my life becomes entwined with Cindy’s through the mutual sharing of our children and our family’s futures. [I was going to her town to graduate school] Your relationship with Cindy has nothing to do with me. It never has. Nor will it in the future. I mention this now to allow you to make your own decisions about how you feel about this. I want you to know that I will be mailing Cindy a copy of this letter in order that I also be open and honest with her about this new position that I am taking – which is very simply that I do not and never have had a mother. The fact that Cindy has you for her mother doesn’t bother me. (That is between you two.)
You used to tell me that they must have gotten the babies mixed up in the hospital, and that I couldn’t possibly be yours. After all these years I will say here that I’m not. You thought that then – I think it now. I also know that I cannot take these words back any more than you can take back yours.
I have buried the pain of my childhood away far and deep within me. I have also buried away the rage I feel at the things that were said and done to me. I can no longer pretend that their existence is not real. And I cannot carry on a real and honest relationship with you in their absence. So to free my own little girl inside of me I will say good-bye to you as my mother, and hello to you at some point as a woman I have known or do know in my life. Because from this moment forward I choose to be free to be me —- the me I have been since the moment of my birth into this world. For birthing me I will say thank you. For your love in my adult life I will say thank you. For everything that happened in between? I say “God be with you.”
PS. This may seem a drastic step because it is. I do not write this letter out of vengeance. I write it out of an acceptance of a reality that has been for a long, long time. And, Cindy, I do not in any way want you to be in the middle of this. This is between Mildred and me.
This is a copy of the note I enclosed with the copies of the above letter I sent both to my sister, Cindy, and to my father:
It would not surprise me in the least to see Mildred try, with any means at her psychological disposal, to interfere with – and if possible destroy, my relationship with my sister Cindy. I pray to God that Cindy is not in a position to allow that to happen. I also know that I am strong enough to handle that, though I would hurt and feel very, very sad. God help us all. Amen.
My journal entries for the days surrounding the writing and the mailing of this letter:
(This entry was made the day I wrote the above letter)
May 10, 1988
I know I dreamt about Alaska last night. Not the homestead so much as Eagle River. I remember crying and crying (grieving) in the dream. I wonder how my anger would show up.
We were driving down Eagle River road in a gray van. A small black horse raced from behind us and crossed more than once right in front of the van – we were going at least 45 mph. That horse, a little female and a baby belonged to some young man up there. That black horse was black with maybe a little white on him and seemed oddly misshapen.
I also dreamt about a big old house with lots and lots of stairs – ‘cept in this dream I said “I know when I dream about houses I’m dreaming about my body.” I wanted to show whomever was with me the stairs, even though I knew from other visits to that house that many had been in dangerous repair. Yet I didn’t find any.
As I went up and up on one floor that used to be vacant I found Kerensa’s [age 17] things cute and neat in rooms there and even in the hall, on the landing, and going up the stairs. It was light, airy and pretty – and NEAT – there, but I didn’t see Kerensa.
I wonder why I keep going back to Alaska [in my dreams] – Eagle River Valley – in my dreams. It must represent safety of some kind, because I always cry there.
I just wrote a letter in which I effectively disown my mother. I will take it to my therapist tomorrow and discuss its contents.
May 11, 1988
After writing the letter to Mom last night I dreamt about being very threatened by someone who was going to rape me – he had 2 big sharp knives, and I knew he was going to put one inside of me. There were others there, and somehow I was spared – I don’t remember how – but in the dream for a long time I suffered trauma.
Katie [my dogsled-mushing, farming, country friend] came in the dream and showed me some kind of weapon and a safe hiding place for it. I wondered how I would ever get to it in time.
I don’t know. I am about to start a brand new life. It’s strange that I’m aware of so few feelings as I look at this letter I have written. I suppose all the feelings will come after I mail it. Maybe I can start to grieve after I let go.
I wish to say that Glenda’s [my therapist] assessment that my mother’s actions toward me were in fact male has helped me to see things more clearly —
— Well, well, well – the second letter is completed. Still don’t know if I’m meant to mail it. Therapist, Kerensa and Ramona read it. I read it to [P.] Kerensa said, “You have to mail it” – don’t know – still want to deny and discount….
May 12, 1988
I feel – depressed today – wanting to believe that sending that letter to Mildred will make a difference – afraid I’d be doing it out of anger and looking for a quick fix – that I still have my life to deal with – that nothing would change ‘cept Mom would be upset – more “creating a crisis” than solving anything.
Hard to stop and just allow myself to FEEL!
Dear Heart –
You are caught between the past and the future – in your present unrecalled memories stir in forgotten places. I wander around in the present sometimes like a person lost. Lost and aching. Like this is my real life, but it isn’t, ‘cause I’m not all here
If I mail this letter will it make any of my neediness go away? Will I be able to meet myself half way?
Will mailing my letter set me free?
“I’m doing it, little girl. I’m setting you free!”
I mailed the letter. My 3rd divorce as Ramona [age nearly 12] calls it.
I called Cindy and read her the letter. She wasn’t a bit surprised. Ramona suggested I call her – She knew Cindy would understand.
Mildred – rape – that dream – rape/castrate – invasion of me – yet I was helpless, but also protected. She could not get to me. Yet I was traumatized in the dream. Paralyzed by fear.
I read the letter [to another art friend] today. He spoke of cataclysm and unfolding. Creation versus destruction. For a seed to fulfill it’s potential it must break. Take a new form.
When the inside becomes the outside. He thanked me for influencing his work.
Rheta and I went for pizza. She read the letter, cried and was silent.
This is related to my October 18, 2009 post today:
See this link also for events leading up to my writing this May 10, 1988 letter: