Sunday, November 13, 2011

Y'all Don't Have To Read This. It's Mostly For Me.

I just took a good long walk in this beautiful day and even though I was listening to a book on CD while I walked, my mind was racing. I realized I felt stronger than I've felt in a long time and I know that every time I allow myself to talk about sexual abuse OUT LOUD, I feel lighter, better. I no longer feel that I must remain silent, of course, but there are cultural mores about such talk. There is even the threat of sounding self-indulgent, self-pitying.
Self, self, selfish.

The book I'm listening to was in itself a catalyst to my thoughts. It's not Great Literature and I've almost abandoned it several times but the narrator is good and there's just enough to keep me going. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is the title and it's about a little girl who ends up being her crazy mama's caretaker until the mother dies and then she goes to live with a great-aunt in Savannah and it's got every goddam southern stereotype in it and every cliche, but honeychile- you know a lot of those things are based in reality.
And there is some wisdom in it, even if it is delivered too sweetly and too neatly and too lovingly to resemble real life as I know it.

But as I was listening, there came a part in the book where CeeCee is able to remember some very good moments with her mother before her mental illness took her over and that made me wonder why I have no good, magical mother-daughter moments in my memory bank. I swear, I do not. I know there must be some. There must! My mother loved me. I know she did. But every memory I have is tinged with fear and sadness. And I know that a lot of that fear and sadness came from her and her life which was filled with both of those things. And yes, she suffered depression deeply and although she did not do things like CeeCee's mother did to publicly shame me, she did things that I could not fathom. She said things that scared the living shit out of me.
I do not think she could help it. I swear. I don't.
But it happened. That's life.
But I wish I had one memory, just ONE of pure joy in my mother's love. I yearn for that with all of my heart.

And I was thinking about that and then I was thinking about my damn need to suffer. My inability to accept the joy and light my life is quite frankly filled with now. I have always pondered this question. Why do I feel the need to suffer?

And I think I answered it in this morning's earlier post. And filled in the outlines on my walk.

First, there was the example of my mother who so obviously suffered. She lived with a dangerous alcoholic. She suffered poverty with him and probably abuse and she suffered shame, too. The shame of having a husband who was a bad, bad drunk. The neighbors knew. I know they did. I remember at least one time being sent with my little brother to a neighbor's house when my daddy was on a tear and had been screaming at her.

And then when she left him, finally, she suffered from the depression and surely grief at the loss of a marriage, even such a bad one. She suffered from the shame which was then put on women who were divorced. She suffered from having to go back to her father's house and protection. She suffered from being miserable in her vocation. She suffered loneliness.
She suffered.

Suffering was obviously what women did. That's what I learned.

And then when she married my stepfather and the abuse began, I, who had been her caretaker (and there is no other way to put that- I had been her confidante and caretaker from the age of six) found myself in the unthinkable position of protecting her from knowing what her husband was doing.
I honestly believed she would kill herself if she knew.
She'd threatened suicide on many occasions so I had reason to believe that. I was nine years old- what did I know? And so my pain and my fear and my confusion became my way to keep my mother happy. Or, at least alive. Add that to the fact that I was so filled with shame from the abuse that there was no way to speak out anyway. I didn't have the words. Quite literally. The only other example I knew of a father doing such things to his daughter came from the Bible when Lot "laid" with his daughters after they got him drunk in order to be impregnated by him.

But. Back to the point. My suffering kept the family together in my nine-year old brain. And in my ten and eleven-year old brain. In my twelve-year old brain.
If I told, the shame would be too much for anyone to bear- I had to keep it all INSIDE OF ME. And, Mother might well just fulfill her suicide promise if I allowed it to leak out.

And so, in some sense, I became a true martyr. I suffered for a cause. Happiness was not an option. Freedom from fear was not an option. Relief was not an option. One moment of inattention was not an option. One night of peaceful sleep was not an option.

Not moving away when I was eighteen was not an option.
I had to do it.
I finally had to save my own life and don't you know I felt so much guilt? Not at abandoning my mother, but for abandoning my baby brothers because by that time, they and their lives felt like my responsibility too.

But you don't just walk out a door and move across a country and take a deep breath and become a happy person after a lifetime of that sort of suffering and pain and martyrdom. Oh hell no. You may have slipped the traces of the home but you carry the messages and the beliefs with you.
You do not quit believing that your own suffering is personally and universally protecting the world. It makes no sense, but there it is.
And, AND, you have no sense that you deserve anything BUT suffering. It is not, at this point, just your job in life to suffer, it is your heritage, your training, your very sense and essence of self.

Okay. This is what happens when I have time to think about things for more than twenty minutes at a time. Occasionally, I have, if not an epiphany, at least a small break-through. And, if you are like me, you might have to write this shit down and put it out there because that's what you do. You send it out to the world and you hope that maybe one other person who can't drop the pain and suffering and doesn't know why might be able to crack a little light onto their situation. Because if there is one thing I learned all those years in a sexual abuse survivor group it is this- no matter what happened, we all came through the abuse with certain things that were the same.
Shame, guilt, fear, depression, a proclivity towards substance abuse, sexual problems, relationship problems...the litany is long but we all shared it.

And I know that just because I now have a better answer as to why I need to suffer, that need will not disappear. But. Perhaps with the knowledge of where it came from, it might lose its almost totemic role in my life. Perhaps, when I feel it most strongly, I can examine it from a different angle now. Perhaps, over time, it will fade.

As Owen says, "Maybe!"

At the very least I feel lighter right now than I have in ages. Lighter and better. As I said in the very beginning of this post. The feeling may not last too long, but I'll take it for this moment. Oh hell, YES, I will take it. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon where it is so quiet in my beautiful house and my beautiful yard and in my beautiful life.

I can accept the light and the deep satisfaction of my life within it. For this moment.
I still have a lot to think about, a lot to process. But it's a start.

Wow. Maybe I don't have to suffer.
Does this mean I could maybe be...happier?

Lord. I'm not even going to go there. Baby steps.

Now. Off to the garden. Out to the yard. With lighter steps.



  1. Oh my fucking GOD ! That 13th paragraph...."you don't just walk out the door" THAT is exactly - truly EXACTLY what I have been thinking all these past few months of reading you. Trying to put into words how this thing works. Trying to unravel the injustice of this burden ... I am gobsmacked at your ability today to clarify and illuminate.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is why when I found you, I felt that something profound was happening.

    It's like we are both in the same place (well, without the happy life part for me...but not to worry, YOU are bringing me happiness) only I was a little too afraid to put the pieces together - although I work the puzzle diligently. But you have found a courage to sort the thoughts with typed words - real words - and............something is happening! A shift I didn't think I could ever get to. A certain kind of toxicity is dissipating, un - fucking - believable !!!!

    It's all still an uphill climb for me, but I'm beginning to slowly but surely take some of these fucking heavy rocks out of the pack on my back.

    I love you mary

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  3. The need to suffer -- I've got that one also. Sometimes, especially lately, I've been thinking that's why I don't want treatment, and so am looking closely at it.

    This is a great post Mary! You've touched on a lot of stuff today for many of us. :)

    My mother was something else also and certainly couldn't give any sort of nurturing. I don't think she could help herself either but I do think if she had known more psychologically and had been able to get help, she would have been less abusive. Still taking care of her here. Yikes!

  4. I hope it sticks, Mary. I truly do. And even if not, I hope it's a stepping stone. I know you do deserve without question to be happy, and free of fear and guilt.
    Even though my situation is different, you've given me a lot to think about.

  5. Oh Mary, I wish you had not one moment but a lifetime of joyous moments with your mother, as your four children do, as all children deserve. It often amazes me that you go through this life with so much love emanating from you after all you endured as a child. That is such a testament to the strong, loving person you are.

    I hope these thoughts and insights you are having today will stay with you for a very long time. You so deserve to be happy.

    And as always, I love and appreciate you and your words which never fail to ring true. You are a precious gem.

  6. you know what, mary? you really kick ass.

    i'm glad you write.

  7. Both your posts today make the world a better place. Truly.

  8. I read this quote last night and liked it very much: "Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are." -St Augustine

  9. I know there is no way to fill, absolutely, the sad hole that your childhood left you with. You are creating so many wonderful moments with your children and grand boy and husband. Those are your wonderful moments. Hold on to them and absorb their warmth as balm to your heart.

    Sending love. N2

  10. Sometimes your posts blow me away. The clarity of your heart, so open, so often of pain and then of complete joy.

    I don't think I can comment anymore than you have such a loving man in your life and the best of children...that is what matters. That our past so often wants to rear up and crumple us and we in turn fight back with all our strength...tell it to go to hell.

  11. Oh of course I'm reading--always reading and sending love and good thoughts your way.

  12. I love you, honey and the life you built, from your pain and sadness. I love your man and your kids and Owen and the chickens. Sometimes what grows from the ashes is a blessing to us all.

    Your friend,


    PS-was my daughter, not my son. I don't have any of those. ---but I do have Milo, my grandbaby!

  13. i feel like recovery for me has been moving a mountain of shit a teaspoon at a time, and occasionally, someone lays more shit on that goddamn mountain just to spite me, to further humiliate me, and to shame me back to silence again. but it doesn't stop me, i just keep moving forward, one teaspoon at a time,


  14. The shame and the fear of any abusive relationship can be paralyzing. It was for me--i was afraid people would know that my father drank. I had some concocted notion that the family needed to be "normal"--and the dysfunctionality was something that I didn't get over until I had been in Al-Anon for a while. I do think that airing this stuff, shining a light on it, does help.

  15. Ms. Moon, I would like to e mail you and tell you a story about something that happened in my family, if I may. I don't know that it will help you but sharing about pain can sometimes help.

  16. mary, your courage is extraordinary. please keep speaking your truth as often as you need to so it doesn't have to be a weight inside you. i love that you feel lighter after speaking it out loud. and look, all the people you are helping learn to speak their truth, too. you're a warrior woman. mother, sister, wise woman, lover, friend. we need your voice. we need you.


  17. Whoa! You're doing good work, good good work! I'm glad you are making your way through the fog.

    Every single person I've ever known who has suffered from this kind of abuse goes in and out of thinking THEY are crazy... and they are so NOT, although I'm sure it feels that way when the triggers start up.

    Mary, I"m so rooting for you to find your way, to let yourself go, and feel happy and solid.

    Marc has been going to anger management counseling and the oddest thing happened. About three weeks ago, his counselor gave him permission to NOT save the world, and it oddly has created this huge shift. (who knew?) It was such a simple thing, but for some reason, for him, it was enough. He was able to make a huge shift. I'm not saying we're out of the woods, but he is MUCH better at regulating himself.

    I guess I'm telling you this because I was thinking... if I could take away the bad or just give you permission to feel good and strong and happy, I would do it.


  18. I know I left a comment earlier about this remarkable post.

    I wish that I were a woman then as I am now and I'd have swept you up in my soft arms and held you close.

    That you speak your truth and live your life having known such pain and suffering, yet give back so much joy and know so much joy is a miracle.

  19. Liv- I am so glad we have found each other. And listen- even if we can only toss one small pebble away, that's enough for a moment. And is good.

    Rubye Jack- I wish for you NO suffering. Of any kind. I wish for you clarity and health.

    Jo- A stepping stone is a good thing. Thank-you, baby.

    Lulumarie- YOU are a precious gem in my life. And in the lives of many.

    dottie- I am glad you write too. I mourn the loss of the ability to comment and tell you so.

    A- Well, if we were queens of the universe...
    Beautiful quote. Thank-you for giving me that.
    Anger and courage. Yes.

    N2- They are why I am still here. Absolutely.

    Ellen- Yes! Tell it all to go to hell. Sometimes that's exactly what we have to do.

    Lora- Thank-you. I feel your sweetness from here.

    Beth- I'm so sorry! Sorry that it was any child but you know what I mean. A grandson named Milo. Beautiful. I'm sure he is. As are you.

    Mrs. A- I call it the never-ending layers of the onion. But yes, the teaspoon of shit at a time is a very apt metaphor.

    Syd- Shame (undeserved shame) is such a killer, isn't it? And it's so hard to shed.

    Birdie- Please do. My e-mail address is over there in the side-bar.

    Angella- Your words make me feel more deserving of this life than almost anything I know. Thank-you.

    Ms. Fleur- Isn't it funny? As if any of us could save the world. Here's to corners being turned!

    Elizabeth- So much joy has been given to me you know. And I am MOST aware of that. Most grateful for it. You are definitely one of those joys.

  20. I was just recently thinking sort of the same thing - but not so deeply or eloquently - about why I hang on to that feeling of being unworthy of good things. I`m learning to accept.

  21. What could I possibly add to all the above comments but I did have one thought.

    You write about the lack of joyful memories you have of your mother and how from her you learned that suffering was what was expected. Of all the behaviors/habits/coping skills you inherited from your mother, you have seemed to rise above the one thing; you have become a joyful part of your children's' and grandchild's life.

    Love and hugs to you Ms. Moon.

  22. I'm so glad you feel better. And I'm sure you're making many other people feel better and have lightbulb moments of their own.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.