I hit a wall, I thought that I would hurt myself
Oh I was sure, your words would leave me unconscious
And on the floor I’d be lying cold, lifeless
But I hit a wall, I hit ’em all, watch the fall
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
When my mother died i thought it was the most horrible event of my life. I can remember numbness and shock. I remember 2 of my siblings shuffling around like wide-eyed zombies, and 2 of them giving voice to the pain and loss we were all feeling. Overwhelmingly though, the impression i took away was one of confusion and not a little exasperated and annoyed.
It was a start.
I hadn’t been close to her for the 2yrs or so prior to her death. We’d had a falling out of sorts, over an issue i won’t be discussing here. Suffice to say, she was punishing me by not only cutting off our relationship, but refusing to allow me access to my siblings. I’d been thrown into therapy almost against my will due to some family legal issues, and my mother did not care for the way things were going.
I was talking.
I was telling.
I was not allowed to do that.
It was implicitly known that whatever abuse was done to me had never happened, as soon as it was over. It was never to be discussed, and i know now from my own investigations into my past, that the few times she was confronted it was cleverly denied. (If it was a family friend, the friendship was suddenly over. If it was someone in authority like a teacher or social worker – we’d move.)
I was in a religiously run halfway house for women in crisis. The women there were both young and old, wealthy and poor, different colours and creeds. We were addicts, and we were battered, we were mentally ill, and we were sexually misused and maltreated. We attended classes on everything from addiction and treatment to life skills like how to balance your chequebook and how to get a job. We went to school and we did volunteer work. We exercised regularly and were taken to gyms and swimming pools. Each of us had a worker assigned to us, most of whom lived in-house with us, from whom we received one-on-one counselling.
It started in the classes at Native Alcohol Services. The home where i was did a lot of work with First Nations women, and NAS offered daytime classes and they accepted everyone, even non-aboriginals. I still remember the name of the woman who taught the class. Darlene told us about her life on Rez: the abuse she endured, her descent into addiction, and how she got sober and got educated and became an activist. She was tiny and powerful and i was mesmerised. She handed out worksheets and questionnaires and i filled them all out diligently. I wanted the teacher to like me. I want to impress her, so i work hard and i fill it all out as completely as i can.
I’m 21yrs old and i am realising for perhaps the first time that i was abused growing up.
My mom had so many wonderful qualities. She was warm and funny and highly intelligent. She knew a little bit about everything, was a great conversationalist and could hold her own in many an intellectual discussion. She was an excellent cook, a superlative baker, and had a gift for any craft she put her hand to: sewing, knitting, crocheting, fine needlework. She had perfect penmanship – i’ve never seen more beautiful. Although never more formally educated than her high school diploma, where girls those days could avail themselves of some intensive secretarial training, she initially surrounded herself with intellectuals and various highly educated professionals. She did so by incredible typing skills. Although slow compared to some at 65 words per minute, she almost never made a mistake, and had a gift for deciphering even the most illegible scrawl. She eventually made her way to a local university, where she ended up working for the head of the department. For extra money she would go in to work at night and type up grad students’ theses. She’d bring me with her and i’d wander the halls, never getting into any trouble, but i can tell you i had some adventures. She was well-liked and found herself invited to professors’ homes and student parties alike. I was brought along to these also, where i learned that if i sat very quietly and just listened, no one would notice me and so i wouldn’t be put to bed.
I don’t know exactly who or what got to her, but some of the people she hung out with were into some cutting edge new therapies. Self-exploration and self-discovery. What started with Gestalt therapy, Erhard and EST, took a wrong turn somewhere and she became involved with some bad people and some evil things. I didn’t understand at the time, but i do believe that’s when my mother really died.
I don’t know if i’ll ever be able to sufficiently describe my feelings for her. I loved her certainly, at least when i was a child, but her parenting was, from the very beginning, so selfish and self-focused, that i felt more towards her as one might their god. I was in awe of her. I feared her. Most children want to please their parents i imagine, but it was more than that for me – i sought only to please her. I would search her face for micro expressions, listen intently for tone and inflection, puzzle endlessly over her behaviours… Always, always to gauge how she was feeling, what she wanted, had i done right, had i done wrong.
I think some of her manipulations came naturally. It started as a natural human quality, and was likely skewed by the lack of attention and love in her home life. I can tell you absolutely that all of the therapy, counselling, and encounter sessions she ever participated in never ended up making her a better person – only better at screwing with others to get what she wanted. She was, at the end, an incredibly dangerous person, limited only by her appearance, or those either lucky or savvy enough to pick up on the sickness that was much, much more than skin deep.
Which brings me back to her funeral.
There were over 100 people at her funeral.
There were only a handful of people there who’d known her longer than i had, and no one who’d spent more time with her.
I knew maybe 2 dozen of them.
There was a receiving line afterwards, and all these people filed by that i didn’t know, telling me things that should have been gratifying, but thanks to the education i’d been receiving at the halfway house, they unsettled me instead.
The priest spoke of their meetings together and of her desire to convert and her love of and identification with, the Holy Mother. (Is there an are-you-fucking-serious font?!)
Woman after woman embraced me and told me she was their food sponsor and inspiration. (Um, did you notice she’s over 500lbs?!)
How she’d been through so much and had come so far.
Really? How far is that, because she still has a filthy house, a huge, filthy body, and she’s still beating the shit out her children that have the misfortune of being too young to get the fuck away from her.
Not that they would have, if they’d been able. I mean, i didn’t. I’d leave home and come back, leave and come back again. I had broken away from her because she’d put me out.
Our separation was her idea. Oh, how it must have rankled that the law had taken things out of her hands. The legal system had finally stepped in to do its job and was protecting me from further abuse by prosecuting the abuse that they could.
The loss of control must have driven her crazy. First thing she did was take my siblings away from me. Over the years she’d made the delineation between them and me more and more clear. It was like i was the unwanted, adopted girl, and they were the prodigal son, reincarnated and returned home. Not that being so spared them any abuse; no, their lives were full of pain and neglect. It was more subtle torture for me, a reinforcement of my otherness and aloneness. She kept me separate. Always only hers.
So, when i went to her funeral my sister and my brothers were afraid of me.
And that is the woman that all these strangers were mourning.
Are you beginning to see, reader, why i am so afraid?
My mother taught me hiddenness, she exemplified laziness, and though many believed otherwise, she was diseased and rotten inside.
I often feel as if i’m fighting against what i was intended to be. I’m often afraid that, deep down inside, i’m bad. That maybe i’m tricking everyone just like my mother did. You can say, Oh H, look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished…
Yes. Well. Didn’t they say that about her, too?
Yes, in the next thing that you will say you are quite right. I am not beating my children, my house is not filthy and neither am i.
This is why i blog. This is why i share my thoughts with you. Because as i’m typing i think it is the laziness that scares me more than anything.
She did less and less, until finally she couldn’t have saved herself had she wanted to.
She sat there on the couch, massive and naked and stinking, watching television while her children starved and her house fell apart.
I am terrified of that level of laziness. I fear that it’s inside me, and not too hard to reach.
I had so much potential: highly intelligent and gifted in many areas. Successful in most things i tried. Yet here i am, nearly 50 and with only a couple of years of basic, adult functionality under my belt. Could i have been more if i’d only tried harder?
Well that’s an easy question to answer. Brutally – yes. Yes of course. But i didn’t and so i’m not and it is what it is. So then the next question would be whether or not my reasons are valid enough to justify being at this point in my life rather than somewhere much further along in my personal development as a human.
Don’t worry. I’m just sharing with you what life is like as me. This is how my brain works and these are the thoughts that i have that are mine and are not yours because they are mine. Heh.
I know that the answer is that i am not bad, and while i struggle with laziness because it was so perfectly modeled for me growing up, i am not at that level. I am relatively successful, relatively functional, and reasonably good, with intentions, goals, and long term plans that are already in play to be consistently better.
While there will realistically be set backs, and perhaps even glorious failures, i know one thing as certainly as anyone can know anything:
I will never, EVER stop trying.
END, PART TWO