I finally decided to post something today but wasn’t sure if you identify yourself by name or not, so I’ll send it to you and then you can post what you want.
Of course, for many years, Linda and I have discussed the vagaries of our childhood. Now that all of us siblings are reaching middle age, it often seems that it would require a tome of overwhelming volume to touch upon what I would like to say, so I have never attempted it…but the longest of journeys begins with a single step, or in this case- a single post!
One of my brothers and I were talking years ago and he said that for him the hardest thing about growing up with our mother was never knowing if she would be having a ‘good day or a bad day’ when we got up in the morning. We used the words, ‘walking on eggshells’ to describe life with her. Now we know that these are the identical words used to describe life with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder but as children we just knew it was constantly frightening and it consumed our lives.
My earliest memories of being at peace are of escaping outdoors, preferably with a dog. I have often been amazed at how that has shaped the rest of my life. To this day, I would say the same thing about myself- I live alone, with a dog, and spent as much time as possible outdoors! I love gardening and was thinking to myself just last night, “One of the greatest things about gardening is that I can do anything I want, try any new idea I have and the results are totally up to me.” That is excluding the vagaries of bugs, weather etc.!
When I was outside and away from mother, there was no one to watch me, criticize me and not many ways to get in trouble. Dogs will give you their undying devotion, listen without comment- all for the trouble of a dish of food and a pat on the head.
The hardships of homesteading and constant moving, the isolation and eccentricities of our life was not what was most damaging to us. It was the total inconsistency- the fact that the rules were always changing. I have trained dogs for more than forty years now and the surest way to cause yourself problems or ruin a good dog is to be inconsistent. If one day you allow the dog to sleep on the couch and the next day you slap it for climbing up for a nap; if you laugh at the dog for jumping on you and play roughly with it and the next day you kick her for leaping on you with muddy feet- you will soon have a dog that won’t come when you call or that cowers on your approach. Children are no different, and we never knew what to expect in our lives. Linda was always on the fringe- being held up to us as an example of what ‘might’ happen if we were ‘bad children’ ourselves.
We learned to be as invisible as possible, to have no expectations. It was not until I was nearing forty that I began to realize that it was possible, indeed normal, to have wants and desires of one’s own! I began reading self help books and remember reading a book that talked about feelings- how do you ‘feel’ when something happens? Do you ‘feel’ it in your stomach, do you feel shaky inside? I asked Linda, who was already somewhat experienced in the process of therapy, “What on earth is the author talking about?” I had so separated myself from ANY feeling that I barely knew where to start.
From childhood, it had become part of my consciousness that my feelings had no relevance in my life at all and through many years of adulthood I had so practiced ignoring how I felt, that indeed I was now an expert! My body and my mind were only tools to use in being in the words of Mary Poppins, “Practically perfect in every way”. Of course, I wasn’t- but that would have been my mantra if I had been able to describe it.
One of the most destructive things that happened to me was that I learned to distrust my feelings. When we might share what would seem to be a close and loving moment with our mother or with each other, she could suddenly turn into a monster and lash out at us. A yearned after privilege could be snatched away capriciously. It was better not to love, not to want, not to care, very much at all. When you allow yourself to care, you can and will be hurt.
well…once I get going…I need to get dressed and take care of my babies (poultry, that is)
I will call you in a little while,