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It may seem strange for me to say at this point in my life I would not look back and bemoan any of the abuse of my childhood IF — IF it had not harmed me in my development in such a way that I am a different person in a different body than I would be IF that abuse had never happened to me.
There was a time, a very long period of my life, actually, when I was completely oblivious to the truth that I had experienced abuse in the first place. When I walked out of my parents’ door into my adult life one month after my 18th birthday, the world I entered was full of strangers. I had so thoroughly learned how to behave as a person that I was able to walk among those strangers as if I knew who/what they were and I was.
I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue I didn’t. I simply did what I had always done. I walked forward and I never looked back. That’s all I knew HOW to do. That’s all I knew of being alive.
I think of the edict Americans seem to have not yet forgotten about the separation of church and state. I can translate this for myself to mean a separation between what is private to me and what is public. When I left the overwhelmingly abusive environment of my first 18 years of life I was not aware that I carried that hell privately within myself right out of my old life into my new life. I was unaware THAT hell had ever existed at all.
My only personal memories I kept alive were of my relationship with the Alaskan wilderness and OH, how I missed it! But walk forward I did as an immigrant into a universe I knew nothing about.
I look back and wonder how it was possible for me to so fundamentally disconnect my past life from the life I walked into at 18. My first world was evidently so separate from my next world it did not exist for me at all.
It’s like I went into a coma. I could walk around and talk, but my selective amnesia only grew over time as the woundedness of my being disappeared behind closed, sealed doors. I never ONCE thought about my prior life in any way except to miss Alaska.
And I stayed that way. I had a daughter, married and divorced and married again and had another daughter….
I had moved in my traveling wanders from Alaska to Baltimore to San Diego to Rhode Island back to San Diego to San Francisco through Hawaii to Sacramento to Ohio to North Dakota back to San Francisco to Minnesota — with many side trips in between — before I was 23 years old, long before it began to bubble up to my awareness that not only was something very wrong about me in my life — but most importantly that there were resources available to help me. I had just turned 29.
Yet I even walked through this amorphous door of so-called ‘recovery’ being completely blind to the terrible ongoing abusive trauma of the first 18 years of my life.
The treatment center I entered ‘diagnosed’ my childhood of victimization and my depression, both of which are connected and have been the underlying chronic factors that have influenced me so greatly all of my life — even when I had no clue either one existed.
What I know now as I near my 61st birthday continues to fill the cyber pages of this blog. I have lived in my current house (rented) for six years this November, the longest period of stable time in one home in my entire life. I am now a five-year survivor of what was diagnosed as advanced, aggressive breast cancer. And yet I sit outside this morning writing this in my thriving garden still asking myself two questions: “Linda, who are you? What do you want?”
I have no answers.
Maybe it is the most enduring consequence of having been formed in and by an environment of nearly complete chaos and psychotic abuse from birth and for the next 18 years that leaves me without my own answers to my own questions.
I seem to only know of myself where I’ve been, and what I need, both of which have been governed completely by HOW I am in the world and by WHAT I do. Any real sense of who I am and of what I want still seems to be so sealed away in some inner private place that my answers do not seem to have ever existed at all.
I see an inner image this morning of myself in a large empty classroom upon whose walls surrounding me are black chalk boards. I have at times drawn upon them my own life journey although most of what I put there once has been erased. There are traces of chalk dust and a few faint lines here and there. But most of what I once knew about how to get along in life — all that I had taught myself about pretending I was just fine so I could get along and get by in my life – is gone.
The biggest part of this erasing began nine years ago as my youngest child left home right before his 19th birthday to enter the Air Force. For the prior 35 years (I had so spaced out the birth of my 3 children) I had always been the mother of a dependent child in the home.
His leaving was followed by my losing my business followed by my having to walk away from the home and land I had been buying. And then — came the cancer.
The stress/distress of all of this loss and turmoil, coupled then with the devastating impact that chemotherapy had on my memory of how to pretend I was OK in the world, has all but wiped the previous versions of Linda out.
I mostly live today as a stranger to myself interacting with a world full of strangers. i have forgotten how to believe ,as I did before the cancer hit me, that I have any answers to end the repeating loop of my questions.
“Who am I? What do I want?”
I am re-addressing these concerns as I approach a brink of change that I anticipate as another life-changing difficult time for me. I have recently mentioned the deteriorating health of my dearest friend, the man I have been in love with for these past 12 years.
Although we have never ‘lived together’, we do share the meanings of our lives. As he may soon leave this earth I cannot help but wonder what the loss of this deepest attachment will do to me.
As this next doorway of change begins to loom ever larger I feel myself to be in a kind of suspended animation as if the world I know is soon to disintegrate into chalk dust itself, leaving me for a moment — for one brief instant in time — poised above an abyss that will then swallow me up as if I have never existed at all.
What will be left of me once my dearest friend has gone? Into whose eyes will I search for a sign reflected back to me of who I am?
(Yes, this reflecting should have happened long ago in my mother’s eyes so I could have begun to find myself THEN — so I could find myself NOW. It never did.)
I know it is true I have a glimmering sense of my eternal soul who has traveled through my entire lifespan thus far — the one of me that will keep on sailing once the boat of my body crashes on this earthly shore as my friend’s body is not long from doing.
Maybe the disadvantages of my life have given me this advantage — this vantage — this view — of my eternal soul self that has always been with me — but resides like an angel always separate from the Linda who moves through life in this body sitting here with me in it — now.
Some part of me shames me for daring to write these words. For daring to part the heavy draperies between silence and non-silence.
How dare I write a word tainted with complaint when so many others suffer in this world?
Yet I do dare. I am daring. I am saying, “I wonder where the line is between BEING and WELL-BEING.”
How can I make my own choices for well-being when what I know about myself is that most of who I am remains behind those walls upon which those chalk boards hang?
I am not ‘what I do’. I am not ‘where I am’. I am not ‘who I love’. I am not what happens to me. I am not even what I know. I am not what I don’t know.
I am ‘something else’. I am ‘something more’. I am connected with Creation. I am a part of the Great Mystery.
What matters most tome is the fact that I have never been nor am I now nor will I ever be — alone or unloved. My core inner self knows this. The rest of me mostly forgets.
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