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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I frequently have days when I feel this. I used to believe it was a unique personality flaw--an inability to accept human companionship on a casual level, and move through life without constantly yearning for deep connection with people I love.

I don't believe that anymore. I think most people have moments when they feel invisible; when connection feels impossible, and when making the effort to build that connection feels too difficult. I think others have days when they are certain they've been forgotten by the entire human race, and no amount of social interaction seems to make a dent in that belief.

This does not mean that I'm waiting for someone to contact me--to assuage my loneliness and disprove my assumption that I have disappeared. It simply means that my life feels distressing right now and I've not yet figured out how to change that. I know that I will figure it out eventually, but it might take awhile and in the meantime, I feel lonely.

A couple of years ago, when this feeling began lingering, I would immerse myself in something: work, exercise, meditation, cleaning...

I've been to the gym this morning. Two hours of expended energy has had no effect. I'm a bit baffled by that.

I have a list of things I need to do, so I will start on that next. But before I do so, I'm allowing myself five minutes of self-pity because being lonely feels really sad today and I'm sort of tired after my gym time and besides, sometimes I think it's okay to just sit for a moment and feel overwhelmed by all that "stuff" inside.

Also, if you're someone who loves me, it would be okay to tell me that today. And if you're not someone who loves me, it would be okay to tell me you do anyway. I'm not above believing falsehoods if they make me feel happier. :-)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A few weeks ago my father asked me if I would be willing to drive my mother to Utah. She wanted to attend "Time Out For Women" which is a conference intended for LDS women (one which, for reasons of my own, I abhor). I didn't want to, but I understand the risk of allowing my mother to drive by herself. So I said I'd be willing to do that. My mother offered to by me a ticket to the conference but I said I'd prefer to spend the weekend with Tabitha. Darrin and Adam were planning to come, but had to work. My sister-in-law also wanted to go, but called me the day we were supposed to leave to let me know she was ill. So it ended up being a road trip with just my mother and me.

Talking with my mother is challenging. Her memories have merged and she has no concept of time. A story that began in 1995 might combine with events of yesterday. In her mind we have always had cell phones and  her grandchildren morph from childhood to teenagers in moments--and some of those grandchildren aren't yet in their teens. However, I allowed her to talk without challenging her fantasies and she rambled on for hours.

My mother has spent the last decade denying that she was ever abused. As she wandered from one topic to another with dubious chronology, moments of terrifying violence at the hands of her father slipped out. She told of his abusive words and punishing hands. She talked of seeing her sister beaten for defying that father. She told me that she was never allowed to have an opinion and there was no such thing as conversation with her father. Today my mother will have no memory of our conversation. Sometimes I think that's okay.

I left my mom with my eldest sister and went to a friend's house for the night. The next day I picked up Tabitha and we went to the airport to get my youngest sister (my mom had invited all the sisters in our family to join her at the women's conference). We joined my family for lunch--my mother, five sisters, three nieces, Tabitha and me. Then we took my youngest sister into the city to see a friend and rejoined everyone at a restaurant for dinner. Finally, Tabitha and I went back to my friend's house for some quiet time before I had to take her back to school.

I spent the next day and Sunday morning with Tabitha, then my mom and I went home. Another long trip with stories filled with startling honesty and false fantasies. At one point my mom mentioned one of my brothers. She feels slighted by his attitudes about mental health. He believes anyone who must rely on drugs or therapy to counteract the effects of depression is weak--not trying hard enough. This particular brother is so messed up mentally that most of us just ignore whatever he says, however, it was clear that his words had been hurtful to my mom who cannot function without antidepressants and anxiety medication.

I said, "He's very certain about his opinions, but please notice that his personal life is horribly unhealthy and he, himself, is emotionally unstable. I think you should consider the source."

My mom nodded, then said, "Do you think I take too much medication?"

I thought for a moment, then said, "Mom, can you imagine if you'd had access to that medication when your kids were small?" I began to list the benefits, the types of relief she might have felt, but she interrupted me and said bitterly, "I wouldn't have been such a horrible parent."

We've had this conversation before. My mother admits that she did awful things, that her parenting and discipline skills were often lamentable. I've accepted her words which are always accompanied by apology and requests for forgiveness, and pointed out that her life now is different--that she has grown past those things and become a very lovely person.

This time I stopped her. "Mom--that's not what I'm talking about." She looked at me blankly. I said, "You were in an incredibly stressful situation. You had eight children--plus extended family who often dropped in for visits--plus whomever I felt like bringing home with me. We lived in a four bedroom home with one bathroom. You were expected to cook three meals daily, keep house, care for children, work in a huge garden, sew clothing, do laundry, entertain whenever necessary, make certain homework was finished, and do whatever else might pop up. Add to that the fact that you were deeply depressed due to a chemical imbalance, you had no examples of good parenting in your past to use as a resource, and you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Without that last part, your life would challenge anyone. When you put it all together, I'm guessing your days were filled with stress and sadness--I know they were. I saw you crying."

I looked over at my mother who was weeping uncontrollably. She whispered, "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm crying now," then made a quiet comment about how helpful it would have been to have the relief of an antidepressant and anti-anxiety meds. Then she said, "I can't seem to stop crying."

I said, "Anyone would cry, Mom. It was a sad, impossible situation. I think it's okay if you cry about it."

But I think more than sadness about her past, she wept because for the first time in her life I showed her compassion. I didn't just accept her apology and acknowledge that she was a pretty awful parent--I let her know that I understood. And while I don't believe that abuse is ever an acceptable coping mechanism, I do believe that sometimes good people are put in positions where they simply do not have the skills to cope with the stress presented to them, especially when they, themselves, have been abused.

I think my mom cried because for the first time I offered understanding and empathy rather than judgment and condemnation.

And maybe she cried because she knows that in spite of everything, I love her.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


We all make them. Sometimes we're correct, but often we're not. A couple of days ago, due to some assumptions he's made about Josh Weed and the organization, North Star, Mitch Mayne made the decision to be absent at this year's Circling the Wagons conference.

Before I continue, I think maybe it would be good to introduce the characters and organizations in this post:

1. Josh Weed: You can read his own words about himself here. If you've read my blog(s), he figures prominently in those as Jason Lockhart, which was his blognym before he began his personal blog a couple of years ago. I retained his anonymity in my blog until he came out this year, at which point there was no reason to be concerned with people knowing about his friendship and association with me.

2. Mitch Mayne: His blog is here. I have not met Mr. Mayne, nor do I expect I will do so, as there is no real reason for such a meeting. However, he is a high profile person in the LGBT community, so many members of that community know him or know of him, especially those who are or who have been formerly members of the LDS faith.

3. Circling the Wagons: I admit to not being completely knowledgeable about this, not having attended a conference before, but this is a portion of their mission statement:
The goal of the Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conference is to create a space where LGBTQ or SSA individuals and their families and allies can gather to acknowledge, explore and honor shared experiences.  No issues strike more deeply than who we love and how we understand and honor God.  These issues carry an especially profound weight in Mormon communities and have been the source of a great deal of misunderstanding, judgment and hurt.  Consequently, gay Mormons are deeply divided over how to address same-sex attraction and negotiate the choices they face.
The rest of the mission statement (which is a little longer than I wish to publish in my blog, but is worth the read) found here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

4. North Star: This is an organization with which I've been associated since its inception. I know, personally, most of the board members, and have friendships with them. This is their mission statement:
The mission of North Star is to provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders. North Star serves those who desire the spiritual and social support that strengthens faith, builds character, and empowers men and women to live in joy and harmony within their covenants, values, and beliefs as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Values Statement:
North Star appreciates the importance of supportive fellowship and friendship with others who share their life experiences, values, and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. North Star seeks to facilitate these relationships and to create a community where individuals will find joy in the gospel, help one another more fully understand and apply the atonement in their lives, share their experiences and challenges without shame or fear, and discover ways to contribute their unique gifts and talents to the work of the Lord.
Recognizing the uniqueness of individual circumstance, North Star takes no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual feelings and attractions but supports all efforts consistent with the gospel that help individuals live in more full harmony with their covenants and attain greater peace, fulfillment, and sense of individual worth, while affirming that the most essential and eternal growth and progress come through the power of the Savior and adherence to the teachings of His prophets.
North Star holds that the power and grace of Christ enables each individual to renounce behavior and manage thoughts that will prevent him or her from returning into His presence. North Star testifies Jesus Christ has the power to reach and transform every life and every individual can find genuine peace and hope in the promises of His gospel. 
In a recent blog post, Mr. Mayne makes the following assumptions about North Star:

1. "...North Star, an organization that positions LGBT Mormons as 'struggling with same-sex attraction' and encourages them to change or suppress their orientation."
2. "North Star encourages LGBT Mormons to view themselves as broken and afflicted..."

In the first assumption I am uncertain as to the source of Mr. Mayne's quote. Members of North Star's board have been careful to gauge homosexuality as a condition some members of the church experience which is unique and is frequently accompanied by feelings of loneliness, depression, and shame. The point of North Star's existence is to be a place of support for homosexual members of the church who feel a need to remain faithful to covenants and live the gospel. The organization is not for everyone, nor was it intended to be. However, there is no encouragement to change orientation. As for suppression of orientation, I suppose if one believes that not entering into a same-sex relationship is suppression, then North Star must remain guilty as charged. North Star has made no secret that the organization exists to support those who desire to remain faithful and active in the church, and at this time that does require abstinence from same-gender sexual relationships. Other than that, however, I am unsure of Mitch Mayne's meaning when he accuses NS of encouraging suppression, and as I choose not to make unfair assumptions, I will limit my comments to that which I have said.

The second of Mr. Mayne's assumptions is blatantly false. As one who has been a member of discussion groups and who knows well the purpose of North Star's inception, I can say without reservation that the opposite is true. Those who participate in the organization are encouraged to see the beauty of who they are, to seek for purpose in their lives as they live with same-gender attraction, to find self-worth, and to use their unique situation to help others. One of the attestations in Ty Mansfield's first book, In Quiet Desperation, which served to infuriate one or two leading reparative therapists of the time was his sincere belief that the Lord loves him as he is, and that his task in life is not to change his orientation, but to seek the Lord's will in his life, and follow it. Ty met with similarly believing people and in time, North Star was formed to help individuals who wished simply to follow Christ--not to agonize over homosexuality or feelings of shame.

The purpose of North Star has been skewed drastically by Mr. Mayne in his blog post. I am unhappy about this because I believe that the organization serves a genuinely positive purpose for many SSA men and women who find support and love there as they continue to serve faithfully in the LDS church. It has also been of great benefit as parents and friends within the organization learn of ways to remain close to their SSA loved ones, regardless of whether or not those loved ones remain in the church, leave it, or choose to seek a same-sex partnership. Those family members and friends are given a place to talk of their fears and hopes and learn from each other. As they feel supported, they are better able to love without judgment and continue valuable relationships with homosexual children, siblings, spouses, and friends.

In reference to Josh Weed, Mr. Mayne says this:

"Mr. Weed’s message is routinely co-opted by many within our faith as the preferred path for LGBT Mormon youth, despite his insistence that it may not be the path for everyone. "

Unfortunately, this is not incorrect. Many within the church, for countless years, have decided that the best way to "cure the gay" is to get married. This has had disastrous results for many who have heeded such counsel--but not all. Most of us who live happily within our mixed-orientation marriages say nothing. One reason is that we understand that this is not something that will work for everyone, and we don't want to fuel the currently existing misunderstanding within the church. Another reason is that we don't wish to have our marriages placed beneath the public microscope. We simply want to continue living with our spouses, enjoying them, fighting with them, sleeping with them, and basically just being married to them, without comment or judgment from people who know nothing about us. 

And finally, we say nothing because we're aware of the derision that comes to us from the gay community. We've heard all that "stuff" about not being true to ourselves, and living lies, and how our kids will turn out screwed up because of us. We're not immune to the hate-filled statements aimed at us, and while we understand that many of those come from spouses and children who have been deeply hurt by mixed-orientation marriages that have not continued, we would still like the opportunity to make our own choices without being called "evil" by those who do not know us.

So--while Mr. Mayne's assertion is not necessarily wrong, it is unfair to place a gag order on Josh because he chooses to speak about his experience with mixed-orientation marriage. My hope is that as he does so, he continues to caution church members not to assume his story belongs to anyone but him, and remind people of all faiths that marriage is always difficult (there is a reason for our rather high divorce rate).

But my problem with the blog post is that Mr. Mayne cites information about families rejecting SSA children and suicide rates and depression, as if he somehow believes that information is linked to North Star's representation at the Circling the Wagons conference, and Josh's speech, which Mr. Mayne has yet to hear. From my previous statements about North Star, it's clear that the purpose of NS is to prevent such familial rejection and help alleviate depression and combat current rates of suicide, and anyone who has been a reader of Josh's blog understands that he desires those same things--and in fact, once devoted more than one post to helping a suicidal young man who left a plea for help.

Mr. Mayne's assumption that including North Star and Josh Weed in the Circling the Wagons Conference will be detrimental to the inclusive and open-minded stance touted by previous conferences is premature and smacks of small-minded ignorance. Indeed, he is making assumptions of a nature similar to those in the church who lump all SSA individuals into one large group of "evil", or who assume they will molest their children, or who believe being gay is a choice...

Which brings me to my point, I suppose, which is that anyone, regardless of how free-thinking or progressive  he might believe himself to be, can be just as judgmental and bigotted toward any individual or organization who/which does not fit into his cookie-cutter mold of how life should be.

"Should" is a word which Tolkien Boy suggested to me, a long time ago, be omitted from our ideas about life. Instead, he believed we might simply look at what is. That takes a great deal of courage. I believe that's what those who are producing the Circling the Wagons conference are doing--looking at what is happening now, allowing those currently existing people and organizations a voice, and trusting those who hear to choose for themselves what best fits their lives right now. Some will reject North Star and some will reject Josh Weed, but they'll do so after hearing their voices and knowing more about them, and that's much better than doing so out of blind ignorance and fear.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"What the mirror presents as true has no authenticity." ~Sri Sathya Sai Baba

I'm a little bit surprised at myself.

I began this journey nearly eight years ago. I began chronicling my journey in a different blog about six months after it began. I'm not really sure why I ended that blog and began writing in this one, but I believe it had something to do with a subtle shift in my persona. I became someone I did not intend to be.

My life has been ruled by logic. This is not to say that I've not had emotions, but I am not an emotional person. I don't immediately feel empathy for someone or for a situation. I look at the facts, ask questions, then decide if the emotions I'm feeling are helpful or not. And sometimes I recognize that my involvement with a particular person or situation is counterproductive, so I find something else to do.

I have, in the past, been cast as unfeeling or callous. I am neither of those. However, I clearly see the difference between emoting for the sake of emotion, and genuinely lending support when needed. This means that I feel completely within my rights to walk away from a potentially emotionally dependent situation without explanation or apology.

However, about four years ago I lost all perspective. In the midst of reclaiming remnants of myself, I forgot to retain my customary balance of emotion and logic. Add to this the immersion of my life in Murphy's Law, and I was completely unable to maintain equilibrium. The result of this is that I became for a very long time, an emotional mess.

I tried to link my unregulated, intensely emotional reactions to my current situation, or my relationships, or PTSD, but although those things played a part, they were not the problem. The problem was that I was buying into the "feeling" part of myself for the first time in my life, and there was definite compensation in spending time there. But each joyful delusion was accompanied by insistent dark feelings, reminding me that something was terribly wrong.

I felt deeply connected to people in ways I could not remember experiencing. This was offset by a depth of fear and insecurity explainable only if one is strong enough to recognize that perhaps such connection is not intended to be a normal part of life. I was angry that friendships are allowed to wax and wane and no one seemed to care about that except me. Tolkien Boy hinted that I would eventually outgrow my anger and join the throng of mankind, recognizing that most relationships are not meant to be a daily thing; which naturally  made me angry with him, believing that he thought I was some freak of nature who had never gained the necessary maturity most adults enjoy.

I felt a depth of loneliness I had never before encountered. I supposed it to be recognition of my past deficits, of basic human needs left unmet throughout childhood and adolescence and then ignored when I reached adulthood. I believe now it was simply a reaction to losing that part of myself that brought balance and equilibrium; the part which allowed me to feel without being overwhelmed.

I experienced panic attacks and feelings of stress beyond that which I was used to. These did not wane with time, nor did they abate when I took steps to alleviate their intensity. I supposed they were side-effects of the difficulties I was encountering in my life--and perhaps that was part of it. But mostly I think those things became more frequent and intense because I could no longer do anything but feel. I could not think clearly, nor could I reason effectively. I was trapped in a whirlwind of feelings that could elevate me one moment and plunge me into despair the next. This is not healthy for anyone.

Last weekend I bottomed out. I lost the strength to manage any part of my emotional life. For days I wept and wondered why I was so terribly sad. Then I decided to take a deep breath and return to the person I knew I was--the one who searched for answers rather than conceding defeat--the one who could ask questions and look at situations and make decisions.

Today I finished my research.

I'm left a bit shocked because I never believed I could become "that person." I've always believed in my ability to act responsibly in any situation. I did not know that I could so firmly buy into the desire to feel to the point that I was no longer able to reason. And the thing that surprises me most is the length of time I've spent in this state.

Today I did not time my run. I simply ran until I was finished thinking. Ten miles later I finally remembered who I am.

I'm left in a bit of a quandary. If I am completely honest, I will admit to being a bit addicted to deep, unregulated, passionate feelings. There was something that felt liberating in allowing myself to yield with abandon to any emotion, buying into it, and remaining there indefinitely. I deluded myself, believing I was sorting through past emotions, allowing them expression, and moving on. But I was not moving on. So regardless of my wish to retain those emotional experiences, and even repeat them, it is time to move on.

Today at 3:15 p.m., I was able to eat for the first time in five days. I'm mortified that I had to wait that long before regaining control of my eating disorder. However, I'm also grateful for that horrible part of me, for had it not been for the triggering of the disorder, I have no idea how long I would have continued in my emotional dysfunction. I required some manifestation of that sort to let me know I was in trouble, I suppose. How odd that I was allowed nearly four years of turmoil before my body let me know it had had enough.

And so I am releasing my need to become immersed in feelings that are unnecessary and often invalid. It will take a great deal of practice because replacing a deeply ingrained habit takes time, but I am very good at practicing. It's time for balance to again rule my life and for me to rediscover the person I truly am. It's also time to regain management of nightmares, irrational feelings, fear, and my eating disorder.

I feel a bit as if writing in this blog has somehow figured into the development of the emotional imbalance. I'm not exactly sure how, but I plan to ponder the possibility. Should I decide this is a truth, I will likely cease writing for a little while. However, I may also feel that writing will be helpful as I practice becoming whole. Today, though, I'm simply enjoying the fact that I no longer feel insane and I do not intend to return to that state ever again.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" ~William Shakespeare

In August, when Tabitha went to the managed care facility where she now resides, I told people I would need a couple of months to regroup and recuperate. I told those to whom I owed some responsibility that I'd be feeling better toward the end of October. They acted if they believed I was exaggerating my need, but said they'd check back with me then. They are going to be disappointed. I'm going to need more time.

I understand their skepticism. Most people have only heard of the difficulties I've been experiencing for about four or five months. They have no idea that the stress began about two years ago, and that for those two years my life has been one day of uncertainty and/or trauma after another. They don't understand living with the knowledge that at any moment there can be an eruption. In it's own way, the situation I've been dealing with is very much like that of a person who lives with an abuser and I've had no idea how to deal with it. The resources we turned to were lamentably unhelpful. We simply did not have what we needed to remedy the situation.

Some people have said they would not have allowed the situation to escalate as I did. I wish I could believe that their ideas about managing teenagers would have worked in our case. But I don't. I believe those techniques would simply have caused the situation to worsen more quickly, and I'm not certain, had I employed punishment and grounding and other restrictions which had nothing to do with Tabitha's behavior, that she would be alive today. I believe her self-esteem would have diminished, and depression increased to the point where her attempts to take her live would have become more extreme and more frequent until she finally succeeded.

Of course, we'll never know. I did the best I could as a parent and I'm willing to be judged by those who have never experienced similar situations for the simple reason that they do not know what they're talking about. All problems are solved quickly by dispassionate observers.

I had hoped that I would bounce back, that having a break from the constant daily stress would help me become myself again. I'm finding that the stress simply morphs into something else. Please don't misunderstand, there is definite relief in knowing Tabitha is safe and receiving the treatment she needs. But I miss her; and not a day goes by when I don't wonder what I could have done more--or differently--for my daughter.

And now that I'm focusing on the practical parts of our former hell, the financial stress seems too daunting to deal with. I'm faced with testing to qualify with the IRS to continue to prepare taxes and I don't even know, if I pass the tests, if I'll be eligible to prepare because I used the funds saved last year to pay our taxes, to pay hospital and doctor and therapist bills. The IRS lady was very sweet when I called to explain the situation (probably because it's difficult to be mean to a sobbing mother who explains that her daughter has become suicidal and all the money has gone to care for her needs), and gave me an extension until next month, at which point, if the bill is not paid, she will put us on a payment plan. However, in order to be cleared to register as a tax preparer, I'm not supposed to be in arrears on my own taxes.

This is just one example of the problems I'm currently wading through. I'm ignoring the other ones. My day consists of me looking at each item and then deciding if I can deal with it or not. If I can, I do. If I can't, it goes back on the pile to earn more interest or cause angry phone calls or just collect dust. I have never, at any time in my life, been in this situation, nor have I felt less capable.

For most of my life, I have lived a collection of wonderful days filled with minor ups and downs, interspersed with an occasional very difficult day. Now I have day after day of very difficult, interspersed with an occasional day of happy. On those happy days, I'm filled with energy, I get a great deal done, and I feel hope. But there are not enough of those days.

I read things about how one's outlook on life is simply a matter of changing one's attitude, or being grateful, or serving makes me feel sufficiently guilty that I wonder why I'm still trying. Except, sometimes when the world stops spinning so fast, I do feel happy and certain that somehow I'll figure out the impossible difficulties I"m now faced with. I'm not sure that I have a bad attitude and I know I'm grateful--the blessings in my life every day are genuinely beautiful. And I try to serve others. I try to help when friends are feeling sad. I do volunteer work a few times a week. I do things for my family and serve in my church.

I think everything is just going to take more time.

And in the meantime, I cry. A lot. I cry because I'm frustrated and stressed, and because I miss my daughter and this is not how I thought our life together would be. Sometimes I cry because I want desperately for someone to call or chat or just hug me, but then, moments later I don't want to talk to anyone and I feel there is no one I can trust and I'm pretty certain that loving me is impossible. And most of the time I cry because I'm just not managing PTSD symptoms well at all which leaves me confused and anxious.

I wish there was help for me, but I don't even know what that help would look like, nor would I dare ask for it because I'm pretty certain the burden of sharing my life right now is more than anyone should shoulder.

This is not a very fun post. But the good news is that I'm due for one of those rare good days and when it happens I'll talk about it here. Good things are meant to be shared.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not Angry Anymore

My mother taught my siblings and I how to sew. It was required--and on my part, unappreciated. However, it became a means to an end for me. My mother taught us to sew with such perfection that, when entered in competitions, our finished products won prizes, and that meant money. I liked that part. I didn't love the part where we had to do live modeling of the clothing we made--walking, pivoting, posing, smiling...being graceful...but that brought more money and I was definitely willing to make more money.

My sisters and I began modeling when I was five or six years old. My mother was an amazing seamstress. She designed clothing and lingerie, then held sales parties to vend her wares. We modeled the designs while she talked about the details of each item, and then took orders and measurements. I didn't love it, but I did it anyway.

When I was nine, my mother decided it was time I made my own clothes. The sewing lessons usually ended in a power struggle and I remember doing things wrong just to spite my teacher, but in the end it suited my purposes to learn, enter the competitions, and pocket the prize money. I was very good at what I did--because my teacher, my mother, was, as well.

I suppose I'm walking down memory lane tonight because yesterday I went to my parents' home to do some work in my dad's office. I stopped in the living room. My mother had finished a quilt top. It was stretched between frames, waiting to be tied. I couldn't stop looking at it. The corners didn't match--some were lamentably mismatched. There were puckers and places where the bias was overstretched. The quilt top looked ungainly and amateurish.

My father stood next to me. "It's not her best work," he said. Silently I nodded. He added, "A year ago, she would never allow those mistakes to be made." Again I nodded. Then he said, "I suppose it's tangible evidence of her condition..."

Her condition.

My mother's brain is deteriorating. It's not a disease. It's not senility. In her early sixties, she is still suffering the effects of physical trauma from childhood abuse. The abuse caused tiny spots of brain damage which interfere with her memory, her emotional control, her judgement and logic, and now her ability to create. The dead spots in her brain are expanding.

For a very long time I hated her. I hated the way she physically abused my siblings and me. I hated her encouragement and approval as I was devoured by anorexia. I hated her inability to go through one day without screaming in anger at her children. I hated the names she called us, the ways she undermined our self-esteem, the sarcasm and negativity.

I remember, as an angry teen, fantasizing about my mother's death and wanting desperately for the things I imagined to come true.

And then one day I decided that I would not live with her anymore, and I left. I was seventeen.

When I had my first son I knew I was at risk for perpetuating the longstanding tradition of physical and emotional abuse. I took steps to circumvent that. I got help. I read books. But mostly, I remembered. I remembered how I felt when I was a child--how I was afraid of my mother. I remembered the feeling of humiliation and terrible sadness when the abuse took place. Then I held my sweet DJ and promised him he would not ever receive such treatment from me. I keep my promises. But I was very, very angry with my mother for instilling the impulses and setting the deplorable parenting example.

I worked very hard to be the best parent I could be. My children do not have memories of rampant yelling and constant physical punishment. Darrin and I have lived by a different set of parenting rules, understanding that while we need to allow our children to learn about choices and consequences, and to teach them self-discipline, there is no place for derision or shame and humiliation. We've chosen to exclude corporal punishment and while the alternative requires a great deal of self-control and ingenuity, I believe the outcome is preferable.

And in the meantime, my mother has found treatment for chronic depression and extreme anxiety. She has continuously begged forgiveness for her treatment of me while I was in her care. And when I told her that she was never to harm my children physically or emotionally, she has agreed and complied. I've watched her try desperately to change her behavior and I believe her when she says she's deeply remorseful.

Except, now she's disappearing. Three years ago my mother had a tiny stroke--the first warning that something was wrong. When the neurology report came back, all those tiny spots of brain damage were discovered, and no medications seemed to be able to stop their spread. And so as the spots grow by the millimeter, they take away pieces of my mother.

She tries very hard to pretend everything is okay. She smiles and chats and does what she can to maintain a semblance of herself. But she can't combat the mounting evidence--forgetting her way to Walmart in a town stretching less than 10 miles in any direction; imagining phone calls and emergencies which never happen; buying the same things several times in one day; repeating herself because she can't remember whether or not she said something or just imagined it; embellishing or fabricating facts about family members or, worse, talking about extremely confidential matters in public settings, often with complete strangers.

And finally, the tangible evidence in the form of a disastrous quilt top from my master seamstress mother.

The quilt is a graduation gift for my niece. She won't notice the mistakes, and she'll love it because it's from her grandmother. And I realized as I looked at the unfinished product in my mother's living room, that all the anger and resentment I've felt for my past treatment is gone. As pieces of my mother slip away, so does my desire to hang onto any rancor. Instead, I find myself feeling grateful for the skill she passed on to me, and I'm grieving her loss along with her.

My mother wanted lots of children and she wanted to be a stellar parent. But she lacked the tools necessary to parent effectively and instead, perpetuated the abusive childhood she, herself experienced. Probably the childhood damage to her brain, unnoticed for fifty years, had something to do with her inability to deal with the stress of raising children. And in this moment, when the anger has gone, I have to admit that, given her past, she probably did the best she knew how. Under the circumstances, it's likely she did not have the ability to control her behavior.

And so I will spend the remainder of her life remembering the things she did that were healthy and loving. I'll remember that she read to us nearly every day, and she loved to sing. She provided us with music lessons and taught us to draw and paint. She insisted that we learn to sew and cook and clean and care for ourselves and others. She taught us about God.

My father asked me why I was looking at the quilt top for such a long time. I shrugged and laughed and said, "It's just so unlike Mom. It's kind of sad." But that wasn't the real reason. The quilt top had portions that were neatly matched and lovely, surrounded by the ungainly, ugly portions. I thought how it was very much like my life with my mother. And while the quilt top is now finished, I am not. I can still smooth the corners and match the points and finish my life without the scars and wounds of abuse. I can concentrate on the beautiful parts my mother gave me and continue to make memories with her until such time that she no longer remembers me.

I'm not angry anymore. I suppose there will always be sadness and regret, but while I believe that's understandable, I'm also grateful that I can now choose where my emotions will dwell.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"...the farther you go beyond the appearance, the nearer you will be to the essence." ~ Meister Eckhardt

Darrin and I spent last weekend with Tabitha. She seems to be well and is working toward learning the skills necessary to cope with life. It was good to be with her again.

We were also able to spend time with some wonderful friends. We've not done that for awhile and it was wonderful to see so many lovely people. Darrin and I were given a key to the home in which we were staying and allowed to come and go as needed. This was hugely convenient because our schedule was changing constantly. I am forever grateful for friends who welcome me into their home and treat me as family.   We also got to spend some time with Josh and Lolly. I've not seen them for more than two years, and I think it's been almost four years since Darrin saw them last. All in all, it was a delightful visit.

As my therapy visits have become less frequent, so has my opportunity to interact with loved ones who live far from me. I've missed our monthly lunches and conversations and frequent hugs. Online contact is not the same. However, the long stretches of time between visits also mean that I'm learning to manage my life on my own--and I can say this with a great deal of confidence because in the past 18 months I've lived through some rather hellish moments, and while I may not have done so with a great deal of grace or dignity, I still did it without running to Therapist for help constantly. There were some brief phone calls and a couple of emails, but those were mostly just to update him on what was going on, or to make sure I was looking at things correctly and choosing proper ways to cope--reassurance is a good thing.

So while there are things I am celebrating about not having to make long trips to get my head checked, there are other things I miss a great deal. I'm realizing that so many things I've embraced and enjoyed are ending, and while I applaud change and understand the place it plays in our lives, I'm mourning some of those losses.

We are in the process of trying to procure more funding for Tabitha. The current source will run out this month. It has been recommended by her current psychiatrist and therapist that she remain in treatment for six to eight months. The funding source suggested she stay in treatment for two months, then return home for intensive therapy, including group therapy. The stipulations of her follow-up treatment are impossible for us to meet in our current location. So Darrin and I will once again be doing all we can to provide what Tabitha needs. Our first meeting is tonight. We'll see how things go. I'm desperately hoping we don't have to fight as hard or as long this time, to find funding.

While I am feeling better daily, I'm also feeling increasingly isolated, emotionally. I no longer wish to share feelings or ideas or anything, really, about me. The belief that no one can ever really know me--nor should they wish to--and why would they?--is very strong right now. It makes no sense if one compares what I am living with what I am feeling. The imbalance of those two things are causing me some distress. It seems I have forgotten, once again, how to connect with people and the struggle to find any semblance of emotional intimacy is too difficult.

Therapist reminded me that the state of emotional intimacy must be desired and created by all involved individuals. He suggested that perhaps it has become a struggle because it is one-sided--I desire it, but the other person is comfortable without it--and in such a case, it might be best for me to mourn the loss of closeness and move on. And he's right--and I will--but not today. Grieving is a process which requires more stamina than I now possess, so for a little while I believe I will just pretend that nothing's changed and when I'm stronger, I'll deal with all that I've put off.

The days have been glorious lately. We've had enormous thunderstorms, brilliant sunshine, and muted gray days. The leaves glow with color and my volunteer flower garden is spilling beyond its boundaries. Yesterday I found more volunteers growing in my lawn--which simply means I need to mow more often, I suppose.

Today I will run, attend rehearsals, teach piano lessons, and play with my uncooperative chokecherry jelly which wants to be syrup. I will read, talk with Darrin, spend time with Adam, and remember that life is beautiful.

Because it is--confusing and frustrating and sometimes lonely--but still, beautiful.