Monday, September 9, 2013

It's All A Process

I worked some more on the "memoir" today. Why do I feel the need to put it in quotation marks? Because I don't really believe in it, I suppose.
When did I quit believing in myself and my writing? Did I ever believe?
Yes. I did. For a brief, shining moment a decade or so ago, I did.

Well, maybe I can again.

Do any of you remember this?

Oh god. It used to be so difficult and so shameful to be a girl. We used to agonize about our periods. When would we get them? What would it feel like? What if we started bleeding in the middle of class and had no napkin, no belt with us? Would the blood seep (or pour?) through our panties, our skirts? Everyone would know! Everyone would see!
The horror. 
And I don't now about your mother but my mother and I both burned with shame when it came time to discuss periods and how to deal with them and how to wear the sanitary belt and how to properly dispose of the bloody pads so that hopefully, NO ONE WOULD KNOW I WAS ON MY PERIOD, which was fairly ridiculous, seeing as how my entire family shared one bathroom in those days. 

So much shame in my life when I was young. Shame at being fat and then shame of bleeding and shame of boys looking at me and of course the shame of what my stepfather did to me and there may have been pamphlets about how to deal with Kotex but there certainly was no pamphlets on how to do deal with a molesting stepfather. 

Perhaps it's not good to be bringing up these memories. It's stirring the pot and bringing up the scorch, the burned crud, to pollute the whole pot of stew. We all know that crud is down there and speaking for myself, I spent a good part of my life trying to pretend it wasn't and doing whatever I could not to disturb it but once I did disturb it, there was no turning back. 
The problem seems to be though, that it is impossible to dump out the whole pot, scrub the bottom and start again, short of a lobotomy. The best you can do is it to learn to love the stew, even with the burned taste, not to torture this metaphor or anything. 
But stirring it up again stirs it up again. That's just the plain truth of it. 

So I don't know. I don't know if it's a good idea to revisit it all right now at my age. 
But I seem to want to.

I seem to have a need, not to wallow in it or hurt myself with it, but to write about it. I think about people I have known who have suffered and do suffer horrible things and who deal with those things by staying constantly busy. These are the people who wouldn't even contemplate stirring that pot. Hell, they refuse to take the lid off the pot. These are the people who concern themselves very, very much with the world. The ones who seem to love being able to say, "I'm so busy I can't even think." Which I am sure is quite true and serves a purpose in their lives and it's valid as hell and those people get a hell of a lot done. 
And I get that. 
We all deal with things the way we deal with them. 

Tomorrow I'm going to go to town and do something with Lily and the boys and maybe Hank if he can and maybe May if she can. Something. Anything. I need to leave this property, engage with others. Be mama, MerMer. I have a tendency which becomes stronger every year to stay right here, probably too much in my own head, but that's me. And I am not afraid of my thoughts. Well, not unless I am in the midst of anxiety which I am not at the moment. And I'm not sure that that isn't more chemical than anything I do or do not do. I could be wrong.

It just occurred to me that I had raced along with that memoir until I reached the point in it where my stepfather came into my life and then I slowed and then...I stopped.
Funny how I never, until right this second, really gave that a thought. I think of myself as being quite open about the abuse in my childhood. I have been to therapy, attended groups. I have discussed it and written about it and cried about it and screamed about it and have, I believe, come to some sort of peace with it. 
Perhaps it's a lifetime process. Many things are. 
And there are those who would probably love to tell me to just get over it already. I don't blame them! 

I wish I could.

I wish all of us could. 

I know I certainly did come to a point in my life where I not only accepted menstruation, but came to cherish it as part of the cycle of a my life. A woman's life. And when it left me, that time of bleeding, I grieved. 
But that was a natural part of my life. And symbolic of my ability to create life which is pretty powerful. 

Being sexually abused, however, was not a natural part of my life and isn't a natural part of anyone's life and is all about the very opposite of having power. And unlike our monthly bleeding, it never entirely goes away. Not the effects of it, anyway.

Well, it's getting dark. I am not lonely. I have all of you! And rice boiling on the stove and I'm going to make one of the few dishes my mother used to make which were really good. A casserole of rice and spinach with eggs and cheese and milk. I make mine with brown rice and I slice tomatoes on the top before I bake it. I add a tiny bit of nutmeg to it. It is delicious and it reminds me that there were some things in my childhood which were nourishing and comforting. 
And tonight I will remember that and perhaps some small balance will be restored in my own tiny universe. 

Night, y'all. 
Thanks for being here and keeping me company. I mean that with all of my heart. 

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I hate that you were abused. Whenever I read that, I try to get my mind around somebody touching me in an adult way before I understood what that meant and I immediately feel afraid. And I'm 43. I'm so sorry you went through that. I remember how uncomfortable I was when I was around 9 and our cousins had one of the first generation HBO boxes and some movie called "Slapshot" with Paul Newman was on. There was a bed scene and the woman in bed next to him was topless and smoking a cigarette. For some reason, I wasn't intrigued, just sort of confused and scared. And all that was was just a flash of nudity on a television. Knowing how something as simple as that made me feel makes me even madder at your stepfather.

    Write your memoir. Show the world what it looks like when a woman has bootstraps and pulls on them like hell. The result is the beautiful family that you share with us every single day.

    Uggh. Sorry for that ramble. You know I love you.

    xo, KM

  2. I am in awe of you, so much, Mary Moon about how openly you talk of your life and your past. You are helping SO MANY, more than you can possibly imagine. I love you so much. I really do!

    I am not lonely either, knowing I have 'our' community.

  3. "Perhaps it's a lifetime process. Many things are." I have always imagined life as a continuum that circles around like a groove in an LP. If there is a scratch you are going to hit it every time you come around. But you start out at the furthest point and hopefully you can work your way closer and closer to the essence of the thing that caused the damage. The trace will always remain (a scratch, a scar) but hopefully it can become a part of the music and not the only thing we hear.

  4. I'm posting this anonymously because I don't talk about my past, except to my husband and brother. I also comment on other blogs and I try to be positive and I don't want to sully those posts with my past.

    I wanted to let you know we all deal with our demons in different ways. If writing about your abuse in this blog makes you feel better, then write about it and screw the people who don't understand.

    I was also sexually abused, but by my biological parents (both mother and father and their friends). I don't remember a time when I wasn't abused, one of my first memories when I was 4 or 5 is of sexual penetration. Being sexually abused was normal to me.

    I didn't realize that it wasn't normal until my younger brother started to sleep across my bedroom doorway trying to protect me at night. I think he was 9 or 10, which would make me 10 or 11.

    I honestly think that my being abused hurt him more than it hurt me - I am estranged from the rest of my family and he is still trying to get them to acknowledge what they did was wrong.

    I was not able to have children because of the abuse, which I think is a good thing.

    I love reading your blog because I like knowing that there is another survivor who was strong enough to move forward with her life. I love reading about your relationships with your children and grandchildren. I live a little vicariously through you. Your happiness with your family makes me unbelievably happy.

    Keep writing what you feel you need to write.

    I also want you to know that if you don't want to write about the abuse in your memoire right now, put a "Here there be dragons" message in the manuscript and go ahead and write about the times following it until you feel strong enough to address the abuse. I don't think anyone who cares about you will judge you. I know I won't.

  5. Gradydoctor- Oh, darling woman, it's okay. I swear. I love that you remember the bootstraps comment. You are a loving, compassionate woman which makes you a superb doctor and teacher. I'm mighty glad to know you.

    SJ- I don't feel brave. Maybe I just have a big mouth. And once I figured out that the abuse was NOT MY FAULT and that the shame and guilt weren't mine, it was easy to do.
    Thanks for being such a loving part of this community and letting me be part of yours.

    Joan- You have a point. No pun intended. And I seriously doubt it's the only think you hear but it does affect everything you hear from me, one way or another as it is all part of who I am.

    Anonymous- You rock. You are so brave and I am so grateful you took the time to tell your story here. You can't sully anyone's anything with your past. It is your true story and you are not dirty and I admire you for being estranged from your family. They may have hurt you badly and stolen so much from you that it makes me tremble in anger to contemplate but they don't have the right to be in your life now. Nor did they ever but that's another story. I wish your brother could come to that understanding- he will never be able to get them to admit that what they did was wrong.
    I just don't have the words to tell you how grateful I am that you are living a life, you are here. Thank you for your words here.
    I CAN write about the abuse and I will. It is only part of who I am and I know that. One of the problems, of course, is that in a home where there was abuse, there was so much else that was wrong to allow it to happen. It is an onion with layers that never end.
    I wish you peace and I wish you the knowledge that you are very, very brave and I love you as a fellow survivor.

  6. I don't know about you, but this post and these comments are making me cry. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," says Joan Didion.

  7. Here's the rest of the quote:

    “We tell ourselves stories in order to live...We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

  8. Ms. Moon, I got my pronouns mixed up. I should have used either two "you's" (as in any of us) or two "we's» but using one of each was clumsy and I apologize.

  9. Elizabeth- Yes. That is it. That is it exactly. We keep trying to make sense of it. We keep trying to freeze and dissect it and perhaps even make it come out differently.
    Thank you.

    Joan- I gotcha, baby. No need for apology. Ever.

  10. I think you might know the emotion this post brings up for me. I do hope you write this book at the pace that feels comfortable to you. And I hope to one day meet you and have you personally sign my copy of the book and hug you and look you in the eye and tell you exactly what you and your writing mean to me. I love you for everything you are. Sweet Jo

  11. Keep writing.

    Always keep writing.

    Sending love.

    xo PS Sue was the very first person to tell me about your writing. She used to say "Mary is a writer and she doesn't know it. I can tell by the letters she writes to me". I believe I asked her how she knew if you didn't! I was young, what can i say?

  12. Your memoir is stirring in you again and as you can see from the comments here its powerful stuff. It stirs us too. I'm glad you're diving back in, dragons and all. In glad to be here keeping you company. Good night sweet Mary moon.

  13. Such painful stuff, the abuse and the situation that allowed it to happen, both. I think you are very brave and very strong. The fact that you, YOU have created a life and family that is mostly filled with joy and love and light is just an incredible testament to your strength and essential health in an incredibly unhealthy situation. Despite coming through an effed-up situation you are strikingly un-effed-up.

    I love your writing. I love you. Let the sadness come and let it flow through you. Let it flow into the narrative. It's ok, it's not the end of the story. By telling your story you heal me and others with a similar experience.


  14. Wow. This post and these comments -- holy cow! People are such survivors. I can see how even if this is something you've dealt with in therapy groups and in previous writing projects that you would struggle with a certain amount of anxiety confronting it again. On the other hand, as you know, writing can help organize thoughts and fears -- work them out and manage them. I would buy your memoir. Let me just say that much.

  15. So glad to hear you are writing on your memoir again. Just the glimpse you gave us of the style of the recipes is really intriguing. I think the lightbulb of insight you just had as to why you stopped writing is spot on. Now that you've picked it up, Keep Writing! We know you have the courage, look what you've done with your life. x0 N2

  16. Mary – your blog is the only one I read regularly. I found you over a year ago. Back then I loved your writing and the hilarious comments, such as being a member of the church of the batshit crazy…I knew I found a kindred spirit! My uncle and a babysitter used to put their hands on me where they shouldn’t have. Uncle would buy me ice cream cones on the way back from visiting my cousin and do his thing. No, those memories haven’t gone away and it happened over 50 years ago. On the sanitary napking front: I was a fat kid and never could fit the belt for the kotex so we just pinned them to our bloomers. Some days we did not have pins… One day in the 8th grade I put an unsecured napkin (no pins!) in my drawers….went to a couple classes, caught the bus home. Later when I went to the bathroom, lo and behold the damn pad was gone! I’ve always wondered where in the hell did it slip out…. Why didn’t anyone holler, hey Jan you dropped something bloody on the sidewalk! You truly delight me with stories about your grandkids-omg they are neat! Keep sharing.

  17. Ms Moon,I guess it doesn't matter if sometimes you don't believe in yourself because we all believe in you enough to get you through the dark times, least I hope so.

  18. Sweet Jo- And may I say that I love you?

    Ms. Fleur- Yep. And when she died, I got all the letters back I'd written to her. Lynn used to say the same thing. Those women believed in me!

    Angella- I can always feel you, so far away, so close.

    Invisigal- The saddest thing to me is that so many of us had this to contend with as children. I will never understand that. I will never be able to not be angry about it. And my family is the miracle of my life.

    Steve Reed- Thank you, a man, for commenting. A lot of men would have seen that illustration and said, "Oh, not for ME!"
    Thanks for saying you'd buy my book, too. I mean it.

    N2- It was pretty obvious but took me so long to see. Isn't that weird?

    Janice- Yes. Kindred spirits, I would say! And here we are, batshit crazy, but alive and okay. Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.

    Yobobe- I think it's more the fear that the writing sucks than anything. Is that strange? Maybe it's normal. But thank you, thank you, thank you. I always think of you as a ray of light. Is your mother home yet?

  19. I never cherished my periods and I didn't grieve when they left. I did just accept it as a part of life. but yah, I remember the pads and the little elastic belt. my mother couldn't be bother to help me and pawned me off on my older sister. just one of the many reasons I was not close to and in fact did not like my mother much.

  20. That's not strange at all...maybe self doubt like all our other afflictions, is really a gift.
    Mother is home. more on that later.

  21. Mary, I was shamed in strange and baroque and public ways by my mother because I didn't have a period (which I found out many years later is a sign of a sexually molested child.) Of course as you know it was my mother who was molesting me. Anonymous thank you for posting here. It is crazy difficult to write about and we carry it like a badge at least I do a SHAME BADGE for the world to see or at least that's how I imagine it even now even at 60. Mary I love you every time you write about it as much as it pains me as much as it makes me anxious and makes me cry. I am so sorry for the hurt done to us all usually by those in our families. I am going to be writing a column at VIDA that coincides with Banned Books Month and one of the questions is what word would I like to see banned? The word that immediately popped into my mind was shame but even if the word was gone the feeling would still be there haunting us maybe forever.

  22. I believe in you and your writing, and I know you won't feel right until it's done, or at least until you're working on it, bit by bit, because it's asking to be born lady, and it will whisper for awhile but start to pound around inside and refuse not to be let out and it hurts, not letting it out. So let it out. Neil Gaiman says "Trust your story". That gets me through some days. And of course, as Elizabeth said, always Didion. Or how about this one, from Mark Nepo's book: "When did you last tell your story?--a question put to the sick by a Native American medicine man". So there it is. I send my love.

  23. "When did you last tell your story?"
    My, that has given me food for thought. Thankyou VAH!

    MM, the fact that you aren't ready to face writing about certain experiences kind of helps me accept that I am not ready to write about some of mine. Very different circumstances but nevertheless I simply find it too upsetting to re-read journals I kept at the time of my mother's dying.

    I had thought that a year after her death, I'd begin to edit them and they might help someone else navigate the dying of a loved one. But it's been eight years now and I just can't do it, and maybe I never will. It brings up too much painful emotion, putting me right back there in some ways.

    I wouldn't say it's because I (or you, in your case) haven't processed our stuff or been healing it. Instead I am asking myself, Why suffer it again? Would it really be of such huge benefit to self or others if I do? So for now I will leave it be, until it feels right to do it, if ever. I've felt the feelings and allowed the emotions and grown from it all; maybe rewriting isn't necessary.

    And it's okay either way.

  24. Ellen Abbott- I'm sure my mother had wished I had an older sister to throw the job to. I am glad you can flat-out say you didn't like your mother very much. Why are we all expected to like our mothers? It's not even possible.

    Ms. Yo- I suppose. I am glad you gave us a word.

    Rebeccca- I hope I don't upset you. I hope, I really do. This to me is the essence of the mystery of pedophilia and incest- how can it have evolved when it is so very, very damaging to humans?
    I wish I could hold you tightly and tell you that it's NOT YOUR SHAME even though you know that. It's like trying to eliminate the word- it wouldn't change anything but maybe a tiny bit. At least you could believe that I believed what I was telling you.

    Ms. Vesuvius- You know, I think I tell my story every day here. Every day. And I always think of that Elvis Costello song- "Every Day I Write The Book." But there are other stories to be told. Yes. I want to tell it. Thank you. So much.

    Stubblejumpin' Gal- Oh, I think I am ready. I think I just need to hunker down and grab some discipline out of the universe and claim it for my own. But no, no one has to do anything that makes them hurt more. I agree with that. The benefit HAS to outweigh the pain. But here's something I have learned over the years- the pain of reliving is never as bad (quite) as the pain of living it was. Close maybe, but not entirely.

  25. I think it's one of those things about bad stuff. The flashbacks.

  26. So hard to think about parents molesting their children or anyone molesting a child. Sick shit. I realize when I read things like this that there is so much terror and bad stuff that happens in families. So much that is dysfunctional and affects people for a long time. I'm glad that you are writing about it. Good to shine a light on the dark stuff.


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