"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When the other woman is a child

For a safe place, go to http://littleselves.blogspot.com/ 

     The worst came to light last. Of course I knew about the incident on the boat when I was 13--I had blanked out the substance of it but when I forced my mind to go there and fill in the blank, it did. (To my mother's credit, when I finally told her about it years later, she believed me and confronted him on my behalf.) I knew about the teenage secretaries--after all, they were my friends--and the errant babysitter.
     But for most of my adult life, something was not making sense. The symptoms I had, chewing my cheeks raw, cutting my arms, the suicidal behaviors, were not accounted for by the relatively mild abuse I had endured. One humiliating experience, one life-shattering paradigm shift--but only one and that late enough in life so my identity was set and I could be objective about it. And without penetration. I have friends whose lives were a history of multiple rapes over multiple years by multiple perpetrators. How could such a mild history have left me so sick, so crazy?
     I knew there must be more. Time after time I would sit down and demand of myself, Okay, what did my father do to me? The memory is within me somewhere. Help me find it. I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!
     What I was not prepared for was to be allowed into that memory the one time I finally came in as a friend. Instead of "What terrible crime did he commit against us?" I asked my youngest inner self gently, "What did you two do together?"
     And then she trusted me. We played games, she told me in the silence of my mind, sharing something private and precious. He told me this and we would do that and that's what we called it and we kept it our secret from Mommy.
     Where was Mommy? I asked. And knew. She was downstairs making breakfast, getting the boys off to school, grateful Daddy was willing to take over for her. Or she was taking the boys to church. A lot of it happened while they were at church. It was all at that one home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, our home for my first seven years.
     I had a history all right, I wanted to exclaim. Seven years of seduction--
     But when I let her share with me I have to be careful to see it through her eyes. He was her beloved daddy and it was the only love she got from him. It included whispers and touch and snuggling. It is precious to her. I know she wouldn't have wanted him exposed, humiliated, punished. She would have blamed herself if he had been sent to prison. She did want him to stop some of those things because they were yucky. They made her scared or uncomfortable--but she figures they must have been okay, if he wanted them. She wanted to make him happy. So she doesn't think about them. It wasn't his fault, any of it. It wasn't her fault either. There was no fault. She was at a place so early in development it was pre-shame. Everything was good and when I join her in that place, I feel her sense of perfect tranquility and wonder.
     I split at that point. Part(s) of me rejected her, blaming her for her participation, disgusted and horrified at her for the real pleasure some of it had given her. They felt dirty and bad because of the acts and ashamed of being involved in them. Then one of those selves split too-- into two selves who could manage to maintain a relationship with Daddy, one by becoming a boy and doing guy things with him, the other by becoming a "nun." In either case, sex could be a non-issue.
     But of all my selves, she is the most secure--in fact, "happy baby" is what she calls herself --and least conflicted. He was my daddy, she said simply. We snuggled together. We had fun. We had special times together. There were things he did, things he made her do which she didn't like and didn't understand. But she doesn't talk about those. She doesn't think about them. The others went off with those memories, those feelings. She just keeps the good ones. She likes the color green, because it is the color of new buds and grass and spring. She likes soft baby animals, real ones and plush. As I think about her right now, I think she would still be contentedly sucking her thumb if she could.

     No wonder I felt awkward around my mother. Awkward and guilty--never good enough to measure up to her (because I knew I was a whore) but judging her all the same. She didn't listen to Daddy. She argued with him, which never worked. She didn't know how to please him, didn't try. But I could please him. Keeping her at arms' length, never fully trusting her, I wouldn't let her get close, I wouldn't confide in her--except in letters when we could be physically far apart. Lonely and longing for her love as a two-and three-year old, I still resisted her love. I did everything for myself, didn't need her, wouldn't be held, wouldn't be helped--and was angry, very angry at her for--I had no idea what.
     For not knowing. For not protecting me.
     Finally, maybe just a year ago when that inner child freely handed me the "happy baby" piece of the puzzle I am, I understood the dynamics of my emotions.
     I loved my parents. I wanted them to stay together. I was devastated when I was 19 and they divorced. But did I want them to stay together so I could have my father? I was a parasite whose neediness required their being together.
     There was another woman in my parents' marriage and that other woman was--me.
     Only I wasn't a woman. I was just a child.

For a safe place, go to http://littleselves.blogspot.com/ 

Tonight I am thankful for moonlight.

1 comment:

  1. May the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds....