Friday, July 21, 2017. WOW that was a tough day’s work writing my 500-word responses to the four storytelling conference questions on their application (I mentioned in my previous post). I decided that at best, I am truly a scrappy writer! Oh well! I did the best I could do, even though I am guessing I entirely missed the point of what this conference is all about!
I am posting these little essays here just in case someone wants to read them!
*Tell us a little about yourself (500 words maximum):
My parents (born mid-1920s) were proper, strict and obsessively private. At the same time Mother’s severe mental illness (undiagnosed) overwhelmed our family. Most destructive to me, she suffered a permanent psychotic break during her life-death fight to birth breech-me.
I believe terrorism used to control Mother from reporting abuse when she was young included her perpetrator threatening her into silence with, “If you ever tell anyone what I am doing to you the Devil will get you.” During her difficult labor with me her broken mind told her I was not human. The Devil had sent me to kill her while I was being born. Hence the terrible abuse I suffered for the next 18 years began with my first breath.
In 1957 Mother motivated Father to seek a civil engineering job in the Alaska Territory. While I believe she primarily needed to get me away from her mother’s ability to interfere with her abuse of me, Mother articulated her hatred of “houses made of ticky tacky,” suburban sprawl and the “keep up with the Joneses” mentality of the lower 48 as her reasons for our move to The Last Frontier.
We arrived in Alaska a month before my sixth birthday, and I loved everything about that land from my first step upon it. Before I turned seven my parents staked claim to our 160-acre homestead near timber line up a mountainside. We became members of the last wave of “free land grabbers” under the Homesteading Act created to “settle” the vast frontiers of America.
I spent the rest of my childhood both in an inescapable nightmare of hellacious abuse AND in cherishing an incomparable beauty that enabled me to fall in love with a nonhuman wilderness world. While we had no electricity or running water or secure road or telephone or neighbors — and lived in a small dark portable Army surplus canvas Jamesway hut — our family dared to live, according to Mother, The Great American Dream. Never mind the struggles. Mother had found her Shangri-La!
Yes, we went to school, and moved up and down that mountain over the years more times than I can count. Yet it was the spirit of the wilderness that saved me. I shared its land, sky, wind, water, plants, animals and seasons as this world resonated with my own invisible essential being – the one that Mother could not touch.
Just after my 18th birthday, suddenly and without warning my parents “decided to put” me in the Navy. A week later, having no preparation for life in the outside world, I flew five thousand miles away from home to boot camp. Within a year I was introduced to drugs and became an unwed pregnant teen ejected from the Navy.
Then, as happened with so many of my generation, I made my way forward in life – alone – in the company of peers. I’ve been doing the same ever since. Like the mountains, we endure.
*Tell us about a social or political issue you are particularly interested in seeing change today and how you are involved. (500 words maximum):
When I was in second grade, before Father figured out how to drag the pieces of the Jamesway hut up to our homestead, we rented an apartment in Anchorage. I was able, for the only time in my childhood, to attend Sunday school.
We heard Old Testament stories in the fall. In winter we celebrated Jesus’ birth in a manger. Then we learned about His life until Easter.
I knew in the spring our family planned to leave town for the mountain, so in the innocent way of childhood I told my Sunday School teacher that while I LOVED everything we had learned that year, we would be leaving in April so I couldn’t come back. I eagerly asked her what book they would read next! I’ve never forgotten the look on her face as she assured me there IS only one book.
I was so puzzled that these people had been reading this same book for 2000 years! I KNEW there HAD TO BE more books!
My life took many twists and turns over the next 12 years before I found that those other books DO exist. My psychedelic drug use ended as I realized no personal “high” matters. We must work together to elevate the well-being of the entire human race. We must serve humanity to make that happen.
This discovery changed the trajectory of my life. I am one of only five million Baha’is (followers of the light) around the world at this time, 200 years after the birth of its founder, Bahá’u’lláh, whose Name, translated from Persian means, “The Glory of God,” “The Lord of Hosts.” Bahá itself means LIGHT, and with this light comes truth I hoped was accessible to those who searched for love long enough to find it.
Bahá’u’lláh’s Teachings for the age we are living in tell us that all world religions have been progressively revealed over time as humanity matured by divine Educators sent to us by the One unknowable Creator God; humanity is one race, one family; the independent investigation of truth is obligatory to all (clergy is no longer necessary); religion and science are in essential harmony; men and women are equal as two wings of a bird; prejudices of all kinds must be eliminated; universal education is compulsory; the solution to all economic problems is spiritual; we need to choose one universal auxiliary language so we can communicate clearly with one another everywhere; we will be creating universal peace upheld by a world federation.
My task for the rest of my life is to encourage all kinds of people to talk to one another about what needs to improve for humanity as we build a better world for all! Our practical solutions will be as organic as life here is. Everyone has their own unique talents and capacities, all needed as we learn as a unified yet diverse species how to work together to build an advanced, just global civilization. This IS our destiny.
*Tell us how you identify with the term “counterculture.” (500 words maximum):
I cried all the way through Forrest Gump as if my heart’s life-vein had been sliced and my tears were flooding out. If I pair all the suffering I felt portrayed in this movie with my own during the 60s and 70s, I am left knowing that what matters to me is the potential for and the actuality of healing the terrible legacy of accumulated traumas that so heavily came to weigh upon the Baby Boomer generation.
Shortly after I married my second husband in 1974 I checked a book out of our small rural town’s library that so impacted me that I took the book out to read four or five times over the months that followed. I remember nothing of title or author, but I do know that his statements about young people being so wounded by a lack of love in their childhood that they especially used LSD in a desperate search to discover what love might be felt profoundly true to me.
Oh, that was me, all right! And while the circle of counterculture people I have met and known in my life is probably small, I never knew one of these people — sex, drugs, good intentions and all – who had not suffered heavily in their early years exactly from the absence of love.
While I wore a long simple hand-sewn cotton peasant dress and walked barefoot except when going to my prenatal doctor appointments when I was that unwed pregnant teen, I still really have NO idea WHY! I was too young, too naïve, too innocent, too traumatized, too troubled and too lost to be honestly transparent with myself. But I have worked hard to make progress in growing up.
I have known and still meet counterculture people who seemed to have been paralyzed somewhere along the line of their younger life so that now NOTHING new can enter the sphere of their existence. They are like a needle stuck in a record’s scratch, unable to detect how pitiful their lives might be.
One can only paddle so far along a river’s narrowing tributary, refusing to turn back to meet some part of the mainstream, before becoming lost. And yet I was raised in an obscure tributary myself, imprisoned and isolated in lengthy solitary confinements, prevented from ever having relationships with my siblings or any friends for 18 long years. I was brainwashed into believing about myself what Mother believed about me. What could I know about others or the world?
From the outside I would ask, were “those people” joining up with one another in a kind of anti-violence gang pattern that allowed them to be defined as much by what they were NOT as by what they WERE? Yet the era when many believed if enough acid was dumped into the public water supply all would change and be fine is long, long gone.
So who are we now? Are we who we started out to be?
* Tell us what connects you to New Mexico, your community and what compels you to live here. (500 words maximum):
New Mexico is the land of my soul’s returning. For all the times in my life of challenges to DO, coming to live in New Mexico feels like a transformation into a clear state of BE-ing — just being me. For every return here something has changed at my core.
My first episode here happened just after my 12th birthday. Mother left Alaska with her five children to “rest” in the southwest. Evidently she INTENDED to go to Tucson, but as she told the story she had given the road atlas to my younger sister with instructions for her to read the required turns to Mother.
My sister “made a mistake” somewhere, somehow, which Mother evidently didn’t notice until we entered Santa Fe. So we checked into a room at the Silver Saddle Motel and stayed four months. I entered 7th grade and was happier than I had ever been or would be again in the 18 years of my trauma-filled childhood.
For the first time in my life classmates LIKED me! I belonged! Of course, coming from Alaska made me an entertaining novelty. The warmth of their welcoming friendship was a new experience for me, adding something precious and vital to my life that I desperately needed so I could continue to endure the rest of my childhood.
Fresh desert air, brilliant pure blue skies, resonating warm earth tone buildings, temporary freedom from the worst of Mother’s abuse set my soul free so that, for the first time in my life, I could stand up straight, hold my head high, smile and stretch the palms of my hands as far into the air as I could reach – and higher.
And then – we were gone.
My return to New Mexico found me enrolled in the Art Therapy Masters’ program at UNM Albuquerque. I did not WORK through that program, I THRIVED through it. I even attended a week-long Storytellers’ International conference with workshops! And then – again — I was gone.
My next return was to Taos where I heard area stories over coffee of counterculture history too rich to forget. I lived in an old adobe complex of a sheep rancher’s family. My landlady Theresa graciously taught me how to build adobe, so I constructed an addition to her house I was renting as a gift to her, and then – yet again – I was gone.
I am blessed to have returned to New Mexico now! I have resumed my spinning and weaving, and offer a free fun art clinic to adults weekly in my home. I am hoping to offer my humble studio to families and children, as well.
I walk the streets of this inspiring town and visit about my time capsule ideas. My car is being repaired so I can greet the wilderness. I do not want to leave New Mexico – ever – again – but I do not know what my destiny holds. Meanwhile, I intend to do what I do best here: JUST BE ME!
Here is my first book out in ebook format as it provides an outline of the conditions of my malevolent childhood. Click here to view or purchase–
Story Without Words: How Did Child Abuse Break My Mother?
It lists for $2.99 and can be read by Amazon Prime customers without charge. A daring book – for daring readers – about a really tough subject.
Tags: adult attachment disorders, adult reactive attachment disorder, anxiety disorders,borderline mother, borderline personality disorder, brain development, child abuse,depression,derealization, disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorder, empathy, infant abuse, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factors, PTSD, resiliency, resiliency factors, risk factors, shame