*MY 1976 LETTER TO MY MOTHER -STILL LIVING THE LIE

061309 my 101276 letter to mother

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Sometimes it is difficult to either accept myself or to love myself.  I found a letter I wrote to my mother dated October 12, 1976 among my mother’s papers.  I read the letter the other night and reacted with condemnation to the self that I was back then when I wrote it, tore the letter up and threw it away.

Then I participated in an argument with myself, and decided that it wasn’t ‘fair’ of me to work with my mother’s writings while refusing to face my own.  I retrieved the letter and taped it back together.

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I see my ‘sick self’ glaring at me from the past when I read my own writing.  How I survived that abuse and continued on living ‘as if nothing had happened’ simply meant that I had necessarily found ways to seal myself off from my own feelings and my own reality.  I didn’t know this, of course.  I didn’t know how wounded I was.  I didn’t know how damaged I was.  I didn’t know how depressed and hurting I was.  I never thought about my childhood at that time.  I did not enter treatment for alcoholism or start any therapy or recover for another 4 years after this letter was written.

I was, as the professionals might say, in complete and absolute denial.  As a part of my condition, I continued to have what I call a ‘phony relationship’ with my mother.  I did no differently than I believe my mother did to her mother for her lifetime, or even no differently than my mother’s mother did with her mother.  We pretended everything was fine, and never knew we had any other choice.

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I learned to apply my intellect to the problem of living my life without it being in any way connected to my emotions.  This 1976 letter is full of this intellectual existence as I knew it at that time, and had nearly nothing to do with who I truly was.  It makes me sad today as I read it to know that I was not present to my children, ages 5 ½ and 4 months, during this time of my life.  I was not present to myself.  I was not present in my body.  I was not present to my husband or to anyone else in my life.  I could not be.  I didn’t know what that meant, and I couldn’t have known how to change.

Cold as intellectual ice.  That’s what I felt when I read this the other night.  I felt myself reading the words that a machine wrote, a robot wrote, a puppet.  These are words that some mechanical satellite Linda had written.  This letter was written by a Linda that had been amputated from herself, and was not an isolated example of the distant, remote, unemotional, deceived Linda at a single point in time.  This letter was written by a Linda that had endured and survived 18 years of hell and abuse my this same mother she is writing to here, and didn’t even know it.

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!0-12-76 Tuesday

Dear Mom,

I’ve been trying to work on a writing assignment that’s due.  I think I came up with an idea, and at least finished the first draft.  So I don’t feel so bad about taking the time to do what I’ve wanted to do all evening.  I stopped by the post office on my way from school today, and loved it [her letter].  The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it came to an end.  But, then, I will reread it, and it will feel like it lasts longer.

There are so many things I thought about as I read it.  I had to laugh when you mentioned dong a rain dance.  I’d seen a movie on the Hopi Indians in class during the afternoon.  It told of the corn crops the Indians raise in the desert.  They believe that their prayers are answered when it rains, and feel their dancing pleased their God (Gods?).

For my Southwest Indians class I’m working on a term paper.  It’s a junior level class, and I was put a little back when I realized I’ve never done a college research paper before.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the prehistory of America.  It goes back to the time during the last ice age when the Bering Land Straight was dry, and prehistoric man wandered from Asia to the Southwest about 30,000 years ago.

My main problem with the paper is limiting the topic, and organizing it around some idea I can cover well in 10 or 12 pages.  It seems that as I followed the history of the migrations of the prehistoric man as he hunted the mammoths and mastodons, it follows to the building of the great pueblos.  I saw a picture of Taos in the movie today.  I remembered seeing them taking the round loaves of bread from their big ovens.  And I thought of you.  [ties to my 7th grade school year that we spent part of in Santa Fe, New Mexico]  In my readings this past week-end, I found the Hopi’s story of their “Emergence” into this world.  So far, documented archeologists’ findings can’t find a parallel between the native Americans’ traditions and scientific facts.  Seems something like the evolution of man vs the story as told in the Old Testament.  (What do you think of evolution?  Sure makes you wonder how long humans have been on this planet.  A long time….  Sort of makes me feel small.  And that, I guess is the miracle.  God still knows each of us.)

The thought came to mind tonight about the college in Anchorage.  Whatever happened there?  Is the City College now part of the University system?  I know it was in the news when I left Anchorage.

I wanted to congratulate Dad, and you Mom, and the boys.  So much work has been put into that land, and love.  I can’t believe God doesn’t smile on it in a special way.  And on you all.  I sympathize with David.  I want him to know I’d like to write him a letter, but I don’t really know what I’d say.

I’ve been around Leonard’s’ younger brother, and seen him go from a young boy when we were married to a young adult.  I think of David a lot when I’m around Lynn, and wish I could spend some time with David.  Just being there to watch the boys grow up.  You mentioned how we used to keep from being bored, us older kids.  I guess we were closer in age, and it seems we always had babies around.  I can remember David’s and Steven’s younger years so well.  Things I know they probably don’t remember.  Remember the smooth fllor of the little house we lived in next to Flowler’s [the year of my 9th grade we were in Tucson without my father]?  I remember how sick Steven was, and pushing him to sleep.  Around and around in the stroller of the buggy.  We all used to go for drives at sunset in Tucson.  Steven would go to sleep in the car, and the drives were always so lovely.  I remember being in the fourth grade on Gov’t Hill, and waiting downstairs in the [hospital] lobby as Dad went up to see you and David.  I remember [when Steven was born] David carrying Lovey Dovey around in his arms, waiting for Mom to come home with his new brother.

I know I’m glad I’m the age I am now.  Looking back on some of the years I had after I was 18, I wonder how as many youth make it through as do.  From what I’ve seen of the high school kids even around here in a small town (674) like Glyndon, it makes me wonder.  There’s evidently a lot of well-to-do farmers around here, and there’s a fair share of the fanciest, shiniest four-wheel-drive pickups racing around town.  From the hours you see them driving around, you can bet they do a minimal amount of work.  But, there are some parents that demand a little more from their kids.  I don’t know, but from watching Kerensa grow, I have begun to realize it takes a lot of strength to try to be steady for your children when you’re as shaky as a leaf, try to be happy when you’re feeling tired and pressured.  And everything entails responsibility.  I think there’s a lot of times one wonders how they are able to do half of what they find out they can do.  {parents or kids?}

Well, it’s getting late, and I think I better go to bed.  Leonard fell asleep an hour ago on the living room floor.  He feels a cold coming on, and I hope it’s passing.

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Well, good morning!  I have a few minutes here before I should study for my exam today.  One thing I wanted to mention would be the five acres.  Could you tell us how much taxes would be per year on five acres?  I really don’t want to plan on selling any of our five.  The only problem would be coming up with the money for taxes each year.  I think Sharon had mentioned at one time doing as Cindy mentioned – selling some to keep the taxes paid on the rest.  Our budget is pretty tight right now, but hopefully after this winter things will clear up a bit.  We’ve been told that the first year after buying a house is the hardest, but then you find that the payment, etc. stabilize, and hopefully Leonard will get a raise by next spring.  I wish Leonard knew how to survey and could spend a summer helping Dad.  It sure sounds complicated to me.  I’d really like to plan a trip to Alaska.  It would mean saving more money than we’ve been able to so far, but if one opened an account just for the purpose of putting money away for a trip I wonder how long it would take.

I put the wildflower postcards on the wall in front of the typewriter, and they’ll be there all winter for me to look at.  I really loved them, and Leonard was amazed when I told him the abundance of flowers that bloom from spring to late summer up there.  I can’t wait ‘til next summer to plan the seeds you sent, and it sure will be nice if they will bloom.

Ramona’s fussing downstairs.  Every time I go to study or something it seems that’s the time she decides she needs some attention.  Kerensa’s not in school today, so she’s down there to give her toys back when she drops them, and to let Ramona know she hasn’t been deserted.

I got a call from the Moorhead library last night, and they told me “Tisha” was in at the library so I’ll pick it up today.  It was out last week, so I had them put it on reserve for me.  It should be interesting to read.  (Just went down and changed and fed Ramona [she was breast fed].

Your description of berry picking brought back memories of the jelly you made, and how good it always was.  I remember sitting at the picnic table and eating vanilla wafers covered with the delicious skimmings from the top of the jelly pot.  This summer was the first time I’ve ever tried my hand at making jelly, and was surprised to find how easy it was.  Sure does take a lot of sugar, but it’s such a nice feeling – looking at all those sparkling jars of jelly.  And they always taste so much better than store bought.  I’d thought of buying some raspberry plants and trying to grow them here.  I really don’t think we have enough room in the yard to grow very many, though, and it wouldn’t be like going for a hike and picking all you can carry.

If we lived closer, I bet David and Steven would enjoy spending time with Kerensa.  I think the older she gets, the more she’s going to look up to them.  She was very happy you all like her pictures.  By next spring, I wouldn’t be surprised if you started getting little letters from her.

I should probably close soon, tho I feel I’ll keep remembering things I wanted to mention to you.  Well, I guess I’ll just have to write you another letter then!  Thanks again for your letter, it was so good hearing from you.  Give my love to the boys, and hello to Dad, too.  Will close for now.  Much love, Linda

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What part of being severely abused by this same woman for 18 years did I not understand by the time I was 25?  None of it.  Not one single part of it.  I was as oblivious as I had been the day I was born or the day I left home.

It is no small thing to learn that one’s entire life has been based on lies from the beginning.  – lies that were themselves based on illusions and delusions that from the inside of me looked real, seemed real, felt real and therefore WERE real.

I will write later about how this change began to happen for me after 1980.  What I will say right now is that at the time I wrote this letter in 1976, I had taken nothing apart and looked at it.  I was still living the lie and I didn’t even know it.

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3 thoughts on “*MY 1976 LETTER TO MY MOTHER -STILL LIVING THE LIE

  1. Your right–you must try and forgive yourself. It sounds like you did the very best that you could at the time–despite the fact that your were completely unaware of the damage that was done to you and how it indirectly affected your children. On some level, you knew not to treat them like your mother treated you. Many people continue the cycle of abuse as viciously as it was experienced by them as children. You did not continue the cycle. Now you’re in the position to help your children and grandchildren when they have children of their own. You’re also helping countless others with your stories and information. It’s a bad situation turned good!

  2. Linda, Don’t be so hard on yourself. You were only 25 yrs old–barely away from home for very long. These things take time to figure out. I remember when I went into therapy for the first time and described my childhood as normal because I thought it was normal. About one year later, it was so clear to me that my childhood was so very abnormal and I had been abused. It took time and my wonderful therapist ( enlightened witness ) to really help me see what happened to me as a young child and how it affected my life choices and behaviors.

    Be glad you kept the letter–tape and all! It is part of your history, your journey to healing. Some people go through their lives and NEVER figure it out. Look how far you have come. Give yourself the credit you deserve–keep going forward. The letter is good to read–it shows your progress.

    • Yes, it does. It is hard for me to know that my condition during the early years with my children was so not healthy, and no matter how much I loved them I could not be the mother I wanted to be — and didn’t know it. They are all OK, but things could have been so much better. Hey, this is an opportunity for that magic act – self forgiveness!

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