Have y'all been here for the 49 other blog entries? Proud to say this is the longest running blog I've had in years. Whether entries were added in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, I've learned a lot by writing my thoughts here. I've gained valuable feedback and perspective from YOU, my readers, and I DEEPLY appreciate all of you!
Seeing as this is entry number 50 (are you sick of my ramblings, yet?) I wanted to make it a good, meaningful one. I know I've been absent for a while (as far as my blog is concerned - I've been present everywhere else!) and I apologize for this extremely delayed update. I seem to be experiencing a little bit of writers' block - this USUALLY doesn't happen too often. But lately, it has been happening a lot - I don't know if it's because I've spoken on just about everything - but I know as well as anyone else, life is a bottomless pit when it comes to things we're struggling with, trying to make sense of or simply need to get off our chests. I am no different - I've just gotten caught by an invisible tree branch, and am, for the time being, hanging in limbo. The things I COULD write about are swirling around me, I imagine in bright, neon sentences. And as I stare at the words, they resonate as pure gibberish.
Do I write a letter to one of my abusers? We all know I PROBABLY have a lot of not-so-nice things to say to these people. But no, that's not going to do tonight. I'm not feeling this - and I'm guessing a lot of you are not, either.
Do I talk about the kids? Because, really, we don't know enough about their typical nonsense, do we? I have a feeling that this wouldn't be appropriate for tonight's entry, though they're starting school on Monday and this week, their pure ridiculousness has been amplified with the acquisition of their school clothes, sneakers, supplies and other needs that have successfully drained my wallet and bank account.
Do I talk more about my wonderful mother, whose drama has been a constant since childhood? And do I talk about something she said to me recently that I'm STILL pissed off about? No one wants to hear about that, I'm sure - as much as Oompa is a favorite topic around here, there's become a need for me to experience her in small doses - this does include writing about her.
The thought dawned on me to write about the power of memories and how these memories can certainly explain some of the self-proclaimed odd behaviors we display today. I was watching "Castle Rock" on Hulu tonight (if you've seen this series, please - no spoilers - we're only on episode 4!) and one character asked the other, "what's your first memory?"
I remembered mine right away. (Don't you love when TV shows inspire deep thought without intending to? It's all squished in between dialogue and while your characters are talking about a song or a picture or a smell from their childhood, YOU find yourself doing the same thing, trying to isolate your earliest memory, just so you can 'play, too!')
My memory has nothing to do with music or smells or even anything I heard. It's purely visual; given my hearing impairment, everything was, even from the beginning. Perhaps that is where I get my gift of advanced perception - I see FAR MORE than is offered at times. We've all heard of the possibility of heightened 'other' senses where there is one lacking. I have found this to be true for me, as well as some slightly clairvoyant tendencies that I've never really tried to explain before.
I was in diapers, standing up in my crib. I know we rarely retain memories from that far back, but this one is clear; it's possible I was roughly a year and a half old. I was in my bedroom, the same room that I stayed in for as long as my father lived in that apartment. When my parents divorced, my mother moved in with my grandmother and I spent weekends at my father's, and this bedroom was small but still "my" room until I was roughly 11 or 12 years old and he bought a house in the 'burbs. There used to be a picture hanging over my crib. Two, actually. One was a clown needlepoint that my favorite aunt made for me while I was still in utero. I still have this particular needlepoint - it rested in my son's room when HE was a baby but he's since decided that thanks to Stephen King, he's not fond of clowns and the picture has been ordered removed from his room when he was still a toddler. I guess they're not for everyone...
There was another larger picture hanging on that wall, too. I want to say there was some sort of nursery rhyme. The Jungle Book is coming to mind. Perhaps it had something to do with that. I AM pretty 'smart' but I don't think I was reading at this age. I do recall that hanging picture having words and it being there for years into my childhood, though. Now, though, it is drawing blanks.
So there I am, bouncing up and down from behind the bars of my crib - perhaps this was before things would taint the person I was destined to become. This is perhaps before my life's 'script' changed. But I was happy. I didn't remember sadness nor fear. My mother and father were both there. When I was a baby, my great-grandmother used to say my father looked like Jesus. He had long hair, a beard, and was Jewish. I'm not sure he ever wore sandals and a robe, but my Italian great-grandmother used to remind him of his resemblance to the son of God every single time she saw him. He was a very handsome man in his day - today he more closely resembles Jeremy Irons. My mother, when she was young, looked a little bit like the late Brittany Murphy. They were smiling. They came in when they saw that I was awake, and made faces at me. They spoke to me. I don't think I heard or understood their words, but there was no doubt - they both loved me. They knew I was deaf before I was able to stand - so they would make sure I was always able to see them because not being able to hear them would likely scare me in my young age.
And that's it...there are only a few more memories from that apartment - I had one of those Sit and Spin contraptions. Mine was blue. It was a round thingy I sat on, with my legs crossed around a middle piece/wheel that I would turn in order to spin myself as fast as possible, until the room and everything in it was a blur. I remember the couch we had - blue also - and quite ugly, I'd add. I remember toddling down the hallway from my room to my parents' room and sitting on my Sit and Spin while my mother sat in a rocking chair and read.
As I got older, I'd soon be introduced to the idea that not all memories were good ones nor would they make sense. It's possible I do not remember many of the happy times in which my parents were together because they were divorced by the time I was two. Being a non-hearing child, it's also possible I witnessed NONE of their fights, there was NO sign that these two perfect, happy people were having problems. And so this 'earliest' memory of standing in my crib waiting for my parents to appear is the only one I have that still makes me smile today. And I've been called "silly" because "it's not possible to remember things from that young," but I certainly do, right down to the room being filled with sunlight, the pictures on the wall, both my Mom and Dad walking in and putting on their, "oh, MY, LOOK who's up from her nap!?" faces. It was a truly peaceful and serene memory.
There are OTHER memories from childhood that when I look back at, I am NOT filled with this same sense of security. In fact, I don't think ANY further memories award me this feeling. Perhaps this is why it stands out so forcefully when I try and pinpoint my earliest, happiest recollection. In fact, I'm betting on it.
Other memories, although not definitive, also play a role in why I suspect I behave in certain ways today.
In the memories to follow, I am older. Definitely no longer in diapers. I am at my grandmother's house - so, SO many memories take place here. This was also the house my mother's brother lived in, and still lives in today. When you stepped into the main entrance, there were 2 doors - both were always kept open. One led toward the left and a small hallway took us to my grandmother's part of the house. The other led straight ahead toward a flight of stairs that would take us to my uncle's apartment, upstairs. I remember sitting on those steps, just sitting there, so that I didn't have to be around those 'boring' grown-ups in the apartment downstairs. In fact, I didn't want to be around ANYONE.
Now, I'm pretty sure it was around Halloween or Thanksgiving - my grandmother was big on hanging up these paper decorations she'd tape to the windows or onto the walls. Now that I think of it, it may have been Thanksgiving/the fall because I'm now remembering two smiling Pilgrims - a boy and a girl - it was just their heads - they were smiling and perhaps it said 'Happy Thanksgiving' across the bottom. The girl had on a bonnet...the boy had on a top hat and a smile, there were freckles scattered across his nose. There might have been a turkey somewhere, too - Grandma had them all as well as a witch's head, a vampire's fanged smile, a pumpkin, a cornucopia, taped to these walls, her kitchen walls, her fridge, etc, in observance of the fall holidays. After Thanksgiving, she'd replace them with Santa-themed decor - but she always kept up with them as ALL holidays were celebrated at her house. She didn't have a large house but it was, by default, where we were every Sunday for pasta and 'gravy' or during any holidays that required family-style observance.
I remember some of these decorations being a point of focus. I'd simply stare at them for several minutes at a time. Hard to explain but it's possible the one on her fridge was the one I focused on the most. The layout of her kitchen was an odd one indeed. Her fridge was actually against the wall BEHIND her stove - so whenever we needed to go get something from the fridge, we would have to exit the kitchen, walk around the corner and into another small hallway to where the fridge 'lived.' Next to the fridge was the bathroom and across was a bedroom.
Whenever I slept at her house, I'd be in the bedroom directly across the fridge. The bedroom or bathroom doors NEVER closed properly - not sure if it was because she'd never gotten the hinges fixed and my uncle was about as useful as a potted plant when it came to assisting his mother with the cleaning or maintenance around the house, but I do remember the presence of the fridge being sort of (or not 'sort of' but 'definitely') ominous and unsettling because when I was laying there trying to sleep, all I'd see was those ugly white doors, the decoration (usually a Pilgrim or character head) hanging on it. In my brain, I'd 'hear' threatening, foreboding tones (or at least my idea of what these would sound like) and I'd ATTEMPT to close the door so that I wouldn't see the fridge or that freaking Pilgrim, but my grandmother would 'peek in' and the door would be reopened several times during the course of the night. I am not sure if this is even important to mention, but whenever I slept there, my uncle would 'tuck me in' and tell me a made up 'scary story' before bed. The stories never scared me as much as amused me - he was NOT good at thinking up new content - most of his stories were vampire themed and all started with "Once upon a time, in Transylvania...." I was always in the stories. And I was always the one to drive a stake through Count Dracula's heart at the end. My cousins were the ones who would flee in fear and I LOVED being made the heroine, even though I knew it'd never be any other way. As MY memory currently serves, he would leave after the story and I'd begin the task of trying to sleep but there was always that feeling of uneasiness, not related to his story-telling, but more so with my surroundings and the feelings accompanying them. It may also be worth it to mention that this was AFTER I seven years old and AFTER an investigation into my uncle had yielded nothing. Then in the morning, after I'd slept horribly, my grandmother would make scrambled eggs and he'd come downstairs with this brand of cereal - Puffed Rice - that he ate religiously every morning. For some reason, I remember that cereal - I'm disgusted today by it if I walk past it in the cereal aisle in the grocery store.
Sleepovers at my grandmother's were a regular thing as my mother would be anxious to ship us off to Granny's whenever she wanted or needed a night out. However, we were three girls and we never were together when we slept at Grandma's. One week, she'd take me, one week, she would take the middle sister, one week she would take the 'baby.' They do not recall ever having any problems sleeping - but I don't think anything was ever done to them, either. The middle sister was born when I was seven - the investigation had already been completed and I'd like to think this was when any possible CSA had already stopped on account of perhaps my uncle being spooked. They've made no mention of him tucking them in or telling them bedtime stories - I've also never asked. But today, they are fine with him - it's only me who has developed a profound hatred toward him. They, along with my mother, though, have stopped questioning me as to why. I've given the same story for the last decade: I hated watching him allow my grandmother to live in such disgusting, unsanitary conditions. And this is what I'll continue to tell them if asked - the rest is just too complicated to try and explain.
Perhaps, though, this triggers the need I currently have today for all doors to be securely closed when I am in my bedroom ready to sleep. If at some point I see a door is open, I have to physically get up and close it. And now I have a cat who knows how to open doors that have a handle-style knob rather than the rounded sort - this is pretty much EVERY knob in the house! In order to effectively keep him from opening our bedroom door in the middle of the night, we now have to lock him out of the rooms we don't want him letting himself into.
Anyway, there is one other issue I have when I'm trying to sleep. Some of you may remember the light sensitivity issue I've brought up in the past but I will remind you if you're drawing blanks. I absolutely cannot be able to see ANY sources of light, no matter how big or small. I need for it to be completely dark - pitch black would work best. If I do not have these conditions, I cannot sleep well. If there is an open door, that is one of the biggest issues because I'd have light coming in from neighboring rooms. My grandmother would sleep on the couch whenever I was there, and so the kitchen light would pour into the hallway until she'd finally shut it. Even so, I could still see that godawful refrigerator...not sure if it's because I knew it was there regardless.
There were two windows in that room. She had blinds on those windows. I would sometimes attempt to look in a different direction while trying to sleep. Instead of looking at the fridge, I'd look toward the window but that wasn't much better, either. There was possibly a streetlight that was located not too far from that window and these blinds were NEVER able to completely filter out the outside light, so I'd see whenever cars drove by at night, there would be bright lights every so often. And I remember HATING that I could see the light coming in from the windows, enough to occasionally try and bury myself underneath the blankets in order to get the complete darkness I craved. Gawd, I spent HOURS trying to fall asleep and sometimes didn't sleep at all!
Today, I take extreme measures to ensure that every stray light is covered, even if it means draping a sock over the cable box to cover the small, red power dot that I feel is too bright. I will cover my phone or flip it face-down, since while it's charging, a green light is constant. If someone is awake (usually by the time I go to bed, no one is) then I will assume a light is on in the room outside my bedroom and I will lay a towel or clothing garment down across the maybe 1" space between the bottom of the door and the floor.
I KNOW it sounds awfully odd - I can't figure it out, either. It's probably one of those things that I will need to consult with small-child Capulet one of these days, should she become more forthcoming with the details that would explain these behaviors that have carried over into adulthood. I do know that I'm not "afraid" of the light - I know it cannot harm me. I'm not sure if the light is even what bothered me as a child or what the origin of this even IS. Was there light once, before I was old enough to remember the reasons behind this irrational fear, and I 'saw' something that scared me?
I just do not like that unsettled feeling that almost always seems to reappear whenever there is "spare" light when I attempt to go to sleep and it's dark outside. Funnily enough, if I attempt a daytime nap, although I do try and block out as much of the natural sunlight by closing the blinds and drawing the drapes, I can still see everything in the room. Even so, I can still fall sleep or nap in a room that isn't dark (although the door still MUST be closed!) as night.
Grandma also had a basement that terrified me. And as much as I was scared by the three-room layout of her basement, I still would venture downstairs when I was bored. It was EASY to feel bored at my grandmother's house - she had some toys there but there were only so many that interested me, so I would seek out other ways to quell the boredom. The first room was where most of her 'junk' was stored. A lot of it was my mother's and uncle's and aunt's accumulated junk that none of them had thrown away. The second room (let it be known there were no doors in the basement; it was all 'open' and one room simply 'fed' into the other) had a washer and dryer and one of those wooden racks that was for clothes hanging. There was a small bathroom in the second room but I do not remember that bathroom ever being usable. The third room was always pitch-black, the only way to see anything in there was to pull a string (that sometimes took a while to find) on an overhead light. I was never able to reach that string, so I never ventured past that second room. But I could still see those two holes in the wall, they were literally holes that we were able to see outside through - next to one another. I'm not sure how those holes came to be. The house was pretty old, though. But the way they were positioned next to each other made them appear as "eyes," especially during the daytime hours when they'd actually be the sunlight coming in through those two small holes. I'd call those the "eyes of the beast," and I would repeatedly peek toward the third room from either the first or second, to make sure the beast was still there. It always was. I'd realize I was still afraid of 'it' and would go back upstairs. At night, though, of course, the 'beast' wouldn't be there.
Again, this house was never maintained - my grandmother had her skills but house-cleaning and upkeep was NEVER one of them. Everything was rickety and dirty, we learned to 'ignore' the occasional roach we would see crawling around on the walls or floors. One of the adults would pull off a shoe and put it out of its misery if a big deal was made, but her house was literally infested by the time she did pass away in 2002. This was also what 'flipped the switch,' I looked at my uncle and realized that despite remembering nothing 'off' from childhood (before age six or after) I loathed him. And from that point on, I exorcised him from my life. I think, though, I also eliminated the possibility of ever being able to get any answers from him, but perhaps that is okay - perhaps the answers will present themselves in different ways.
Either way, these are just a few memories that I have of childhood. As you can see, a lot of them circulate around her house. A lot of them have to do with my uncle, her bedroom, and being afraid in the evenings. A LOT of time was spent in that house - a LOT. And until she died, I was a frequent visitor. Perhaps my reason for being able to sail through all the sleepovers, family gatherings was because it was what Grandma truly enjoyed and I loved her VERY much. And when she died, there was simply no more reason to return to that house for a visit. And that afternoon we'd gone there after her funeral HAD indeed been the last time I set foot in that house. Her death somehow 'freed' me from that house - and brought forth a slew of memories, emotions, recollections that I'd learned to effectively ignore for a long time - to include my attitude toward my uncle. THAT was the thing I noticed the most, in fact.
That tells me something, even though it's nowhere near the 'everything' I need to know. In time though, perhaps I will understand more.
Memories are THAT powerful. And lately, I've been making note of the things I do remember. Ways I behaved. Every little feeling, every emotion. There are other things I've done as a child/pre-teen that I'm still hesitant to share here. For now, those are mine and only mine to sift through, but sadly those, too, make sense and are 'in line' with the other suspicions I have. And these are things that bring me sadness as well as anger - sadness because they exist and anger because there's nothing I can do to change the past.
Memories sure are complex, aren't they? They can bring us peace, or they can bring us further turmoil. They can make us smile, they can make us laugh, they can make us cry. They can confuse us while at times, they provide a sense of clarity. And sometimes while they may repress, they cannot be erased, as much as we'd love for them to be.
In honor of this being my 50th blog entry, I've an announcement (of sorts) to make. I've decided that my life has been 'in limbo' for far too long. I focused only on raising my children and my family for the last twenty years, give or take. I quit school and subsequently put my professional aspirations 'on hold.' I was only two semesters shy of my Associate's, and I was majoring in English when I became pregnant with my first child and life just didn't allow me many opportunities to go back and finish what I'd started.
And, so, I've decided that I'm going to get the ball rolling and soon go back to school. I am also going to change my major from English to Social Work and obtain my BSW (Bachelor's in Social Work). I feel that to choose English as my initial major was a result of simply not knowing where my calling was. That's traditionally what people who like to write major in - English. At the time, it felt that was what I wanted to do with myself, since I spent so much time as a child and teenager writing. Twenty years and SEVERAL experiences later has shifted that focus, though, and I feel that I can truly contribute more toward a job in social work than I could as a writer. I mean, I'll still write, but I think that being able to tap into my own personal experiences in order to help others make sense of their own, will be extremely valuable in this new venue.
And so, I'm going for it. I am soon going to be making a lot of changes in my life. Rather than feel 'stuck' on where circumstances have landed me, I am going to now embrace these circumstances and use them to strengthen me in my new career choice. When I told my mother of my plans, she made a face that resembled one she'd make if I'd shoved a dozen lemons into her mouth, and said, "don't you realize how much WORK that is? And that you're going to have to talk to a lot of people and you're hardly going to make any money?? I thought you'd be better suited to go into something to do with computers!"
I told her to enjoy her lemons. I'll not explain this to her as I don't feel it's worth the aggravation - all I said to her was that my choice was made; I was going to do what I want - after spending the last 20 years doing what everyone else wanted or expected of me, it's now time to make something of myself. I refuse to choose a field that I won't feel accomplished in. Computers may be something I use daily, but I do know I'm capable of far more than writing code or trying to de-bug a virus-riddled PC. No, I'll pass on those headaches.
But to you guys, I'll honestly say it is NOT about the money. It is also NOT about the amount of work, because as far as I'm concerned, I've already put in a significant amount of work into understanding how the mind works from a survivor's standpoint. I have a natural understanding of it, mostly because I spend a great deal of time trying to make sense of my own mind. I do know that others' work differently - of course they do! But I think that having a basic understanding of the impact of sexual abuse/assault and its long-term effects will enable me to be a better advocate. I truly feel that this is where my true calling lies - and by helping others to heal, perhaps I will eventually be able to consider myself healed as well. I feel it will also give me a greater sense of purpose - for being a survivor of DV as well has greatly diminished my self-value in addition to putting a limit to what I could do with myself. It's time to build myself back up and if I can, bring others up with me. I want to make a difference in myself using the cards I've been dealt, the memories I've collected over the years, and to be able to pull something positive out of those negatives. Because they're there - they're hard to see right now and I've still got quite a bit of work to do on myself, but I DO recognize that those positives exist and they are simply waiting to be recognized.
I'll be keeping everyone informed of the process, of course! I'm excited for myself, for the first time in years!
Here's to 50 more entries. Hopefully they'll flow a little bit quicker than the last few have, but you betcha they'll be here. Thank you all again for being here and for hearing everything I've had to say. You are all dear to my heart.
Peace, love and light - (darkness for me, please!)