I am in great need of being able to acknowledge my own self and my own reality. I need to be able to validate myself. My mother demanded me to allow her to devour me. I could not allow this to happen. It was impossible and against ‘all rules of nature’.
The more I tenaciously endured in spite of her years of extreme abuse of me, the more she abused me because of it. In facing her writings today I am working hard on a REALITY CHECK that remains extremely difficult for me to obtain. I will not give up my fight, even if it takes indomitable courage to transform!
Me — the one my mother tried to consume and obliterate — is precious. I want to experience. My mother did not allow precious me to live my life in the 18 years of my childhood. It is an almost overwhelming task to let precious me REALLY LIVE in my life even today.
My Introduction to My Mother’s 1957 Diary Entries about Linda
During all the time I have been transcribing my mother’s diaries I have been ignoring the last one I have in my possession, the diary for 1957. I had decided to ignore it for awhile because there are so many, many 1957 letters written between my parents beginning the summer of that year after my father had left for Alaska and my mother and his children had been left in Los Angeles while he began his new job and looked for houses for us. I didn’t think this 1957 diary had anything new to offer to that already long list of 1957 correspondence.
I was wrong. Last night just before I headed to bed I picked up the diary from on top of the pile of papers piled near my computer and randomly opened it. Before I read what was written on the page open before me, Thursday, March 21, 1957, I flipped through the book before this entry and found that nearly all the pages were blank. Yet beginning on this Thursday and running through the next four pages including Monday, March 25 were pages she had written that concerned, specifically, me.
I read the first of these five entry pages and immediately felt disoriented and shaken. I quickly closed the book, set it back on my desk and walked away. I had to spend a few minutes convincing myself that this gold mine of pages truly did exist – in my hands, at this time, and for a reason. Only one other time in going through the hundreds of pages of my mother’s writings have I encountered even one passing reference to the truth of how she treated me (in her January 28, 1955 diary entry). That one had been about my torn dress that she wrote I lied about when I was three. I only very vaguely remembered that incident as I read it, and did not allow myself in the present to gain any closer access to the memory.
But I remember the ‘episodes’ as she calls them that I encountered last night. Before I went to bed I forced myself to sit down, pick up the diary again, and read those five pages – as best that I could. I felt like I was sucked into a time warp, spinning as the world shifted around me in confusion. Here in front of my eyes was my mother’s reality version of what I have always thought of as the Bubble Gum Incident.
Of course I know intellectually that her side of what happened, the little bit she actually DID write of it, HAS to be and therefore IS distorted. Yet I am, even at this moment, faced with a terrible and terrifying confrontation between what is MY reality and what is hers, Having her words in front of me as I prepare to actually transcribe them now seems to place me at the edge of a bottomless abyss, and edge that feels dangerous to approach because it contains a dangerous truth that I have to struggle even now to protect myself from.
Knowing that my mother is dead, knowing that this ‘episode’ as she calls it, happened over 53 years ago, does not seem to provide me with a whole lot of objectivity against the reverberations within my body caused by a direct confrontation between my mother’s words and the experience of my own life’s memory.
A thought comes to my mind of the witch hunts, and about how powerless the innocent were to prevent their own death at the hands of their persecutors. It also makes me think of being in a forest as a huge tree begins to fall, of tripping and falling down, being injured and trapped, unable to escape as that I watch that massive tree falling directly on top of me. I know I will be crushed.
Only the falling and the crushing never end. It is like being captured in a bubble of memory that has no resolution. Perhaps if the Bubble Gum incident had only been a single isolated experience and had not been just one of thousands of such buried-in-my-body irretrievable events it would not be quite so difficult to face my mother’s 1957 account of it. For my entire childhood I was forced to stand in the line of a massive wrecking ball that swung in my direction without warning. I was paralyzed and completely unable to get out of its way. It seems as I prepare to process these newly revealed diary pages I am again placing myself within her line of fire.
Simply attempting to create some present-moment vision of safety and protection is not going to do the trick. I am agreeing with myself to fight a battle now that I am not convinced I can win. Because this single memory somehow implanted itself so firmly in a line of conscious retrieval I both love it and hate it. While I am in some ways thankful that I have retained within myself my own ‘living proof’ of the discrepancies that existed between my mother’s version of Linda and the reality of my own experience, I also detest the fact that so much of my childhood was forced to be removed from my awareness because if I could actually remember all the specifics of what my mother did to me I could not consciously bear it.
At the same time that I choose to physically, in the present, let my eyes fall upon my mother’s handwriting on these very real diary pages, and let my fingers transmit these words onto my computer, I am also physically aware that I feel inside like every cell of my body is quivering in terror. I turn and look out the window at the brilliance of my blooming flowers outside as they are being washed with the first summer gentle rain.
Behind them the outline of the mountains is dimmed within the veil of a transparent cloud as the desert shrubs and sparse trees receive the once-a-year rains that gives them the life they hold onto for all the dry months in between. The soil and each plant leaf releases the most marvelous smell as each drop of water is welcomed by a landscape that is now being washed clean.
I hear the sound of a passing car’s tires splashing through water that lies on the street. In a less arid landscape this rain would leave little mark on passing awareness on any given today. But here, in the high desert that I so love and cherish, the coming of rain marks a return of verdant life.
At the same time I think about all the billions of tears my mother’s treatment of me as a child caused me to shed. How do I turn that reality of sorrow into a reality of new, ongoing life? Or is it that all I have to do is trust the ongoing forces of life itself to carry me forward with each breath I take into an unknown future that can be better than my past? Does any of this work I am doing with my writing contribute in some good way to that process?
I do not know. I cannot know. I guess that this is what trusting is all about. I have to trust that just because my mother could make me disappear when I was a child does not mean that she can make me disappear now.
My Mother’s 1957 Diary Entries about Linda
Thursday, March 21, 1957
We kept Linda home – only the 2nd time in her life for lying from a movie we attended tonite. – “Westward Ho, The Wagon”. I must find some effective punishment. She accepts punishment so easily that it’s hard for it to be effective. I told her we were going to the park tomorrow for a Holiday picnic and we would take her little friend Debby. I hope it will be the beginning of a new week and start for Linda. I read the children the story of Lincoln and Washington and emphasized – telling the truth and their good virtues. She listens so carefully but goes on her own way. Well, we’ll see!
Friday, March 22, 1957
OH NO! AGAIN!
Can she help it – Yes, she just doesn’t want to badly enough.
Saturday, March 23, 1957
Bubble Gum Episode
One lie leads to another – and that leads to another. How can she be so crafty?
Sunday, March 24, 1957
– 1. Always be honest
– 2. Be careful to keep your promises
– 3. Always do your best.
These are the 3 rules by which I live my life and hope to train our children to live theirs. Today I am so unhappy. I feel I have failed completely with Linda. She lies no matter how I try to teach her that honesty is the best policy and pays. I truly am broken-hearted by the lies and deceitfulness.
She started at least 3 years ago – as soon as she could talk. She will accept no criticism no matter how sweetly and tactfully put. As a little girl if asked nicely to do something she would give you a ‘dirty look’ and bang her feet going down the hall – why? She can be sweet and nice IF nothing crosses her.
For the first time in her life she has been whipped soundly.
Monday, March 25, 1957
Perhaps it’s the one thing that has been needed. I always thought love and kindness was the only way but she has only taken advantage of that.
I gave her a room to herself and moved Cindy in with the baby. I will try rewarding her and praising her for her good points and see if I can’t do away with little criticisms such as “pick up your room, play nicely” – because if she has her own room it will be easier for her to keep it picked up and her play won’t matter so much! I must conquer this lying. It has gone on much too long now and she’s getting too old.
She knows better and has a marvelous memory for the things she wants to remember!
NOTHING ELSE IS WRITTEN IN THIS BOOK UNTIL JULY 3, 1957
She did not write in this book that three weeks later she found the package of bubble gum I was accused of taking and lying about inside her own top dresser drawer.
SOME OF MY COMMENTS ON THESE DIARY PAGES:
“We kept Linda home – only the 2nd time in her life for lying from a movie we attended tonite.”
I have no idea what she is referring to in this part of her entry. What possible lie could I have told about a movie? Is she saying she kept me home from kindergarten – at nite? This sentence makes no sense to me. Because I cannot remember creates a sense of doubt and guilt within myself, “Maybe she was right and speaking the truth? Maybe I did lie. I cannot remember. How do I know?”
At the same time I can sense little Linda, cowering in fear and terror as she attacks me for this lie – the same one I question, “Did I lie? Did I not lie? Was she RIGHT in responding the way I know she did, even though I don’t remember it?
Tears are behind my eyes. I nearly stop breathing as I write. My stomach is knotted. I am frozen, only my finger tips are moving on this keyboard.
“I must find some effective punishment.”
As a child I was so confused, not understanding ANY of the punishing I am forced to endure. There is no reason for it that I could comprehend. There is no connection between the world as I see it as a young child and the one that my mother believes is real. There is no safe ground for me to stand on, not even within myself. Nothing I have ever known inside of myself is true or real to her. I have no power. I cannot speak. She will not hear me, even if I try.
I refuse to cave in because I am trapped within this paradox. I cannot completely change what I know inside to make it match what she tells me through her violence is true and real. It is not possible for me to do so. I don’t do it because I can’t do it because it’s impossible to actually make myself BE HER.
In her mentally ill projections she did not KNOW I wasn’t her. She never saw me, as if she was dreaming and she could therefore do whatever she wanted. Nobody cared that she was compromising ME, that she was trampling on ground she should NEVER have been allowed to trespass on. She wanted to be inside of my mind. She wanted to claim that territory as her own by divine right. Nobody ever stopped her, and I was powerless to stake out my own boundaries of who Linda was as being separate from her.
“She accepts punishment so easily that it’s hard for it to be effective.”
What would have constituted ‘effective’ to my mother? Would obliterating me entirely have meant success to my mother? What choice did I EVER have but to accept her punishment? I could not protect myself! I could not escape! I could not defend myself. Of course I accepted punishment easily. I was a thin little girl being attacked by a giant, powerful raging monster! For her punishment to have been effective she would have had to kill me. That is the only way she could have eliminated the presence of me, little Linda, from the body that I had no choice but to inhabit – no matter WHAT she did to me.
As I read these pages I understand I am exactly correct in my understanding that her psychosis was in ‘full bloom’ already by this time. It did not just instantaneously appear at the time that she wrote these pages. It had been there from the moment of my birth, even though being able to track it in her own written word prior to this time is impossible. I want to give myself permission to track her madness as I KNOW of it, as it is stored within me, as it is encapsulated within the memories my body has of all the other times, prior to this incident, that the exact same patterns had operated.
For all the power my mother had over me, she did not possess the power that she actually wanted the most. In order for her to be satisfied, she would have had to have imprisoned me in a dungeon forever. She would have had to have created a substitute Linda that she could occupy and control entirely. Her desire to punish me was not satiated no matter WHAT she did to me because this was a battle for my soul, for the essence of who I am. Her rages knew no boundary short of murdering me because she could not punish the ESSENCE of me no matter how hard she tried. That act was the effectiveness she most desired.
It was nothing I did that prevented her from obtaining her goal. Life itself does not allow for one individual person to ever BE another one. Life itself designs life itself in this fashion. It wasn’t MY FAULT she could not possess my essence, though I was continually punished AS IF by her being denied possession of the essence of who I am I was the one that was willfully and intentionally denying her.
She believed I was willfully resisting her no matter what he efforts were to ‘correct’ this willfulness. She believed I was willfully not participating or even agreeing to participate in this impossible paradox. I was therefore ‘guilty as charged’ of stubbornly refusing to comply with her demands, no matter how hard ‘I made her’ work at punishing me.
Changing the essence of who I am as an individual person was an impossible task. She was on an impossible quest with a mission to do so. I knew it was impossible from my insides because I COULD NOT DO IT. She never knew it was an impossible task so she kept on trying, and for the 18 years of my childhood, she never gave up.
“She listens so carefully but goes on her own way.”
My own way being the crime of continuing to live as Linda, a little person, separate from her. I was guilty of that crime.
As soon as I read the line about going to the park with my little friend Debby I knew where her diary entries were heading, and I was correct. They were going to the Bubble Gum Incident, which began on the following day, Friday, March 22, 1957.
That’s what she titled her diary page with, Bubble Gum Episode
I could not win. I could not, in any way, alter the course of her actions. I could not change what she believed. I could not change what she did to me for the next 3 weeks after this date (as I explain in my own story of this event).
“For the first time in her life she has been whipped soundly.”
I KNOW this is a lie. I remember both the Bedspread Incident and the Toilet Bowl Incident, both of which involved extremely severe beatings well before this date. I know there were more that are too overwhelming to remember. I can’t even ask how she could make this statement. I need to learn to understand that my mother thought what she did, believed what she did, did what she did because she was NUTS. Because this kind of thinking distortion was presented to me from the beginning of my life, I could not differentiate her truth from my own on any level but on the most essential – the level where I existed as a soul entity separate from her.
She accuses me of beginning to lie when I was 2 years old, when I started talking. How could she have accused me of lying before I could speak a word? I believe that it was at this age when I learned to talk that her psychosis was forced to confront the FACT in real time that I was a person individually and separately from herself. She could not deal with that fact. Therefore, everything that she twistedly interpreted as a statement from my own reality HAD to be a lie because I could not possibly MATCH her version of reality – because I WAS NOT HER!
I was doomed by the very fact of reality that I was a person separate from her. Her psychosis needed to be able to project all her own internal badness COMPLETELY onto me. That could only work if I stopped existing as myself. I could not do that. I was doomed.
Every single interaction my mother ever had with me during my childhood was colored with this distortion. Her overriding intention was to ‘change me’ into this impossible form of herself that I could not become. That made even her ‘sweetness’ and her ‘niceness’ equally a part of her attempts to control and change my essence as her horrific violence was.
Every single interaction I had for the 18 years of my childhood was translated through the filter of her psychosis. I could never be at peace. I was never safe, nor was I ever secure. The first of the terrible beatings that happened during the days these diary pages cover happened, I see now, over the weekend when my father was home. He did not interfere. He believed her! I am certain she NEVER disclosed the truth to him that she found that gum right where she had put it. NEVER!
That fact alone is enough to give me a glimmer of how she controlled what my father ever knew about the truth of what she was doing to me. Not that anyone should EVER stand by and let an adult beat the living crap out of anyone – let alone a small, young child. He is still guilty of THAT.
I can do no more at this time for myself or for my readers to try to shed light on how the underlying structure of my mother’s chronic abuse of me was constructed. It is all here, though. I know it is. When I can, I will scan my mother’s pages into my computer and publish them along with my writings. For now, this is the best I can do with the very words my mother wrote about five-year-old me.