Working to remember “My Prayer”

This morning I woke up feeling utterly unloved and hopeless, in a world where there is no spirit.  The song in my head is “Diamonds and Rust,” Joan Baez’s amazing song about her love affair with Bob Dylan.  I listened to it recently, but it was a couple of days ago. But yesterday I watched a woman talk about growing up feeling unloved by her estranged father, and after he died finding he had kept her high school photograph and a lock of her hair.  She realized she had always been loved, and it changed her life. I’m so jealous of her, because she found evidence. Never happened to me. This morning I’m feeling about as unloved and unlovable as I ever have in my life.

I couldn’t get “Diamonds and Rust” out of my head, and I remembered I had a prayer to say when I was feeling bleak. Don’t remember when I stopped doing that, but I knew it was in my blog, so I looked it up. It’s called My Prayer/Vision. I wrote it down to help me relearn it.

“I choose to trust that the wider, more inclusive, participatory, sacred cosmos is alive and intelligent and works with us to create a better world for all.” That’s the shortest version and easier to remember. It’s interesting that it went through several stages, which I describe in this post.

I had finished writing this, saved it, previewed it, might have posted it, but I saw that I had email. There was something from the Daily Good that is SO APPROPRIATE. It’s called “A Primordial Covenant of Relationship” By Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. He says:

This is the story of our time, this story of forgetfulness, this story of unraveling. Because the heart of the climate crisis is not a crisis of emissions—it’s not even a crisis of capitalism and greed. Those are all expressions of what happens when we lose the most essential nature of a connection, a relationship that has existed since time immemorial—the sacred connection between us, as human beings, and the living Earth.

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“Bombed-out Village,” reprise

Originally posted in November 2018

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thinking about talking with Erica about starting to tolerate — and even enjoy — the ordinary. For most of my life I was in too much psychic pain, I needed something fairly intense to hold my attention. Erica said something about “living on a battlefield.” Yes, part of me is keyed up, waiting for the next bomb to drop.  Reminds me of that session with Debbie when I became aware of the bombed-out village. The worst of it is that instead of having people around who are also in the bombed out village, so we can comfort and support each other, I am surrounded by people who are oblivious.

March 17, 1989 Work with Debbie

I told her about the sadness that I had been feeling, even read part of what I had written (and that sad high voice appeared, with some crying.) I also told her what I told a friend, that it felt like being part of a group of refugees leaving their bombed out village, and having to leave behind beside the road those who can’t make it — no time for mourning or burial, just having to walk on, dry eyed, because of the necessity of survival. Debbie said “That’s what your life has been, and now you’ve finally got to the place where you can mourn, and you are also sad that it had to be that way.” At first I felt resistance, no my life wasn’t that awful, and then I realized she was right, in the necessity of survival there had been no time or space for mourning my lost innocence, my crippled creativity, and no room for anger about my sabotaged power.

My memory of this session is that I was so confused when I left that I couldn’t remember Debbie’s name.  So it was a surprise to find that that didn’t happen until six month later.  Now I understand that it took that long for the understanding to percolate downward and become experience rather than idea.

September 8, 1989

At Beverly’s after “emergency” session with Debbie. Having trouble remembering. Couldn’t remember dream to be able to work with it, it became just a bunch of meaningless words. Images from other dreams perhaps floated through my mind and disappeared. I sat in the ruins of my bombed out house and cried. Still baffled. A fragmented

September 9, 1989

“A fragmented session with Debbie” I was going to write when distracted by Beverly…

The session with Debbie was very confusing. I told her the fragment of the dream, but it didn’t mean anything. Other dream-like fragments floated through my mind, but couldn’t be grasped. I felt the whole time like I was in two places at once, massive sense of deja vu — haven’t we already talked about this — then fragments of dreams — or dream-like fragments — dreams, memories of the past? “floating in wide orbits with no center.” When it was time to go I couldn’t remember the date, the year, or Debbie’s name when writing the check. I felt completely disoriented and fragmented and it persisted for a little while at Beverly’s. But I can’t remember what happened in the session well enough to write it down.

I think what happened was Debbie’s validation of the shift from seeing myself as a monster to seeing that my inner environment is what is monstrous — something I internalized at a very early age, something that felt a lot like living in a bombed out house. No wonder I had all those dreams of the A-bomb falling on our house, it matched my inner environment. No wonder the planes upset me so much, they remind me that I’m living in a bombed out house, a violated body, an invalidated psyche, and I’ve been trying all my life to pretend that’s not true.

The upset about the planes was my extreme reaction to the noise of the small planes towing the gliders out of Franconia Airport.  I suffered from it for 14 years.

At this point, in 1989, I had no idea that I had been traumatized, but the experience of the “bombed-out village” certainly suggests trauma. Amazing that as a child I had dreams of the A-Bomb falling on our house. I was three years old when it happened, but I somehow knew that it was some kind of major disaster for all of us.

“Floating in wide orbits with no center” was an early attempt to describe what happened when I fell apart. Probably in the 60’s when I was in California.

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From 1994: Mom playing “Good Mother”

November 1994

I made an appointment with a psychic and told her a little about what I was wanting, especially that I wanted to cut any strings remaining with mother.  Within the hour, the phone rang again and a familiar harsh voice said “Daiva?”  It was Mom, intending to call Jack.  It was a very odd conversation.  I said almost nothing.  She talked on and on, how good it was to talk to me, how sorry she was that she hadn’t called any of us, “I know I should have had a plan, but I didn’t expect to fall, and really, I just couldn’t think,” she said Jesse said we were all upset, “You will forgive me won’t you,” she said she was bruised all down one side (never mentioned the ribs) and her heartbeat was irregular (“I’ve never had any trouble with my heart”) so they kept her in much longer than she thought was necessary.  She kept repeating how good it was to talk to me, that she wished we could have a long visit, “but I know it’s hard for you to travel,” that she wished we could find a time to talk regularly on the phone.  (I made no suggestions.)  I felt bad to be unable to say anything, felt like I was being cold and rejecting, just kept saying “uh-huh,” I couldn’t think of anything to say that would be both honest and warm.  I kept thinking she would perceive my distance and be hurt, but no, she kept on talking, giving an excellent performance of a mother who’s been a little out of touch.  I realize that she paid no attention to me, to what I said, asked no real questions, was content with superficial answers.  It just amazes me that she can say how wonderful it is to talk to me when I haven’t said a word — but of course what’s wonderful for her is her own talking.  Well, I wish I could “behave better,” though I don’t know what that would be like, more graciously is perhaps what I mean, but then, she doesn’t really notice.  It’s just a duty call and she carried it off equitably.  What a shock when it was me instead of Jack!  Poor old Mom.  If she knew how much I pity her she’d be furious.

The next day: Thinking about it some more — I have to think about it a lot — Mom really puzzles me, she sounds so sincere, and then I feel guilty for not responding to what might be a real opening.  But this morning I saw that of course she enjoys talking to me, she is enjoying her own performance of what she thinks is a good mother.  She doesn’t really want to have a “nice long visit” or talk more often on the phone, she even makes my excuses for me.  She felt guilty because she only called me by accident and she can’t stand the image of a mother who only calls her oldest daughter by accident, so she has to do this fancy dance to recover her image.  The performance wasn’t even for me, because she didn’t pay any attention to my response, the performance was for herself.

What a brilliant example of not being met by Mom. No wonder I have attachment trauma. Very interesting that she called me right after I made an appointment to have the strings cut between me & her.

I notice that I give her as little information about myself as possible.  Back in the past, I remember deciding to “never give her a target again.” This is why I said as little as possible.

When a post is material from the past, I think it’s a good idea to put that in the title. sometimes people have been confused and thought it was the present.

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My Life as a “Great Adventure”

Written in writing group on April 24.

I remember how it used to upset me when people talked about “being grateful for the gift of life.”  I felt like the “gift” came to me smashed, it wasn’t a gift at all.  And my long struggle to “prove I deserve to live” also suggests that I didn’t feel it was a gift but something I had to earn.

That’s all changed.  It was just a couple of weeks ago when Alice said she liked the honesty with which I wrote about myself in the Residents’ Biography book.  I talked about my alcoholic parents and having been traumatized as a baby.  I remember someone in charge asking me if I wanted to take anything out, or if I was really comfortable with everything.  I said I was fine with how it was.  But nobody else wrote about anything negative.

The second thing was being introduced to the work of Nic Askew who filmed people in black and white and somehow got their real selves to appear.  Then there was something I was typing up from a month ago where I said something about “trying to be who I really am” and it was so clear that “trying” was not the way to get there.  So I just relaxed, and it was the most amazing thing.  I was able to experience myself as the person I really am and not Mother’s shadow that she projected on to me.  It’s been clear for a long time that the person other people see is not who I experience myself to be.  But that’s all changed.

Another piece was having the music to a dance pop into my head.  That was actually weeks before these other things happened.  The music was St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures, sung by Angelo Branduardi.  By “creatures” is meant all created things: Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Water, Fire, plants and animals.  The dance to it is simple and joyful and I started doing it, and it made me so happy.  So I’ve been so happy for almost two weeks now, and looking back my life looks like a great adventure not a dismal waste.

I think of the things I’ve done, and I feel good about them.  I wrote a book expressing the two sides of the brain on left-hand pages and right-hand pages.  The right hand pages are linear and logical with footnotes and bibliography which is the left side of the brain, but our experience is that it’s the right side of the body.  The left-hand pages are much more creative.  I also created a slide show which involved pictures I had taken of megalithic monuments and sacred sites in the Celtic countries.  It was a lot of work because I had two slide projectors and a fade-dissolve unit to crossfade the slides, music, and a script.  I had a career plan of taking the show on the road and selling books at each showing.  But I never got there.  Severe depression rooted in early trauma sabotaged my ability to carry it out.

Then I was part of Journey Into Courage.

And I built Neskaya.

Note: going back to look for the day Alice talked to me, I discovered that the previous post was “Choose to be Happy” in which I show how that attitude is not helpful.  Made me laugh.

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“A deep well of sadness”

Writing done in group on Monday, May 15

A well of unprocessed grief

“To be met!”  That’s what I said when I was doing somatic experiencing with Peter Payne.  He also did body work and I was sitting on his table with my knees drawn up.  He put his hand on my leg just below the knee and said “Push.”  I pushed and he held me, stopped me gently and pushed back.  I pushed forward again laughing.  He pushed back.  I laughed harder.  We did it for a while until I collapsed laughing.  Later I thought about it, why was it so wonderful?  I realized with Mom & Dad, they would either stop me dead, or not stop me at all and let me fall.  I had never been met, there had never been a conversation, a back and forth negotiation, mutual response.

I remember another time, it was about the Robert Frost poem where he says: The sun was warm but the wind was chill.  You know how it is with an April day…  I said one of the lines trying to join my father in something I knew he loved.  But we stumbled around at first.  Then he said “You started me off wrong,” and went on with the poem.  He had somehow missed that I was trying to join him in something he loved.

How do you grieve something that didn’t happen?  If you have something and lose it, you know what you’ve lost.  But if you never had it?

I remember when Erica started giving me positive feedback, detailed positive feedback, like “your hand is holding your face in such a gentle way.”  At first I wanted more, but then I couldn’t handle it and started saying Stop! Stop!  Erica referred me to Francis Weller who talks about what he calls the five gates of grief.  One is what we should have had and didn’t get.  Every child, growing up, needs positive feedback and support for learning unfamiliar things.

I have been feeling a lot of sadness this past week.  Sadness mixed with delight in the beautiful spring flowers, the greening grass and trees.

After I read it, I said it was “dead grief.” Judith asked what is dead grief?  what would it say? I think I meant grief that couldn’t be processed. I’ll have to explore it more.

I notice that when I wrote about it the next day, I said “a deep well of sadness,” and had to check my notes to see that wasn’t what Erica said. What’s the difference? “Sadness” is tender, a kind of dark background that can give depth to a bright present. “Unprocessed grief” sounds like a mass of stuckness — actually, unprocessed grief can be a source of depression.

I see that I’ve done some earlier posts about grief this year:
Needing to find a way to grieve
Let grief speak
A well of unprocessed grief

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From 1994: Needing to prove that I am “really sick”

From my journal for 11/30/94

 Talking to Dana this morning about the “unfairness” of having my life be so restricted by illness, and how unhappy it makes me, and how it would be easier if I could just accept it — but writing it down, I see that the real “unfairness” is that I blame myself, as though it were my fault that I’m sick so much, or as though I weren’t really sick at all but just morally deficient and lazy, that “if I really wanted to, I could clean up the house, get to sleep easily,” etc.  O gosh, it’s the old laziness/lethargy conflict again.  It just doesn’t quit.  When I can understand that I am really sick, I don’t give myself such a hard time.  

Read this piece of writing to Dana, who said that he thought that the desire to “prove” that I was “really sick” is something that just keeps me caught in the judgemental system.  It makes me think of Talking to Yourself where she shows the many ways in which the judgemental attitude can pervade all attempts to help oneself.  In fact initially I heard Dana saying that if I could just get rid of the emotional overlays on the issue of being sick, I would be able to see what was wrong and fix it — which wasn’t at all what he was saying.

I said that I could see that one thing that’s operating is the belief that left to my own devices I would never get anywhere, which is why I push myself, manipulate myself, and generally don’t trust my own process, my own commitment.  Dana said it wasn’t so much a matter of trust as of a belief that I don’t have the power to commit myself to anything and have it make a difference.  That phrasing was exactly right, I suddenly saw Little Jenny breaking her heart trying to get her parents to wake up, be there, respond to her, stop drinking, and learning that all her powers of energy and passion and commitment were worthless because nothing changed.  Dana also said that one reason I feel so compelled to prove that I’m physically sick is that physical sickness is the only excuse that will satisfy that judgemental attitude, and the corollary of that is that me and my own feelings are not important.

Actually sickness is the only excuse that would satisfy my mother.  I remember her saying “You can’t be tired, you haven’t done anything,” if she needed me to do something. Yesterday I was feeling hopelessly inadequate, which I think is the same dynamic. But yesterday I was responded to with love and gratitude, that what I had done had helped just fine.

Learning that all my “powers of energy and passion and commitment were worthless because nothing changed” is something that continues to handicap me. The things I managed to accomplish: the book, Journey into Courage, and Neskaya, were things where I had supportive help. In writing The Feminine of History, I showed my first efforts to my dream teacher, Charles Ponce, and he said “You’ve really got a book here!” Journey involved the other women and Bess O’Brien. For Neskaya I had Dana, and then all the people who came because it gave them something.

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Quote from Etty Hillesum and Synchronicity

“People sometimes say, ‘you must try to make the best of things.’  I find this such a feeble thing to say.  Everywhere things are both very good and very bad at the same time.  The two are in balance, everywhere and always.  I never have the feeling that I have got to make the best of things, everything is fine just as it is.  Every situation, however miserable, is complete in itself and contains the good as well as the bad — all I really wanted to say is this: ‘making the best of things’ is a nauseating expression, and so is ‘seeing the good in everything.’

She is writing this is Westerbork, a transit camp from which people were sent to Auschwitz.

Synchronicity — I was looking for a quote in Ritual Year, and when I opened Spring it was at this entry in May, titled “Real life is bigger than happiness.”  The writing is from May 93, when I’m having a bad time with the airplanes.  The full entry is here.

Do I want to leave this world — the world of goldfinches and apple blossoms — has it become “unspeakably dear”?  Or is it still a place of horror — a rotting corpse under the apple tree, and death-dealing planes sending daggers of pain through my heart — a world I would be glad to leave?  The truth is that it is both at the same time, and I am torn apart by the contrasts.

I offer myself to this process.  By an act of will I set myself to believe that there is meaning here, that the forces that tear me apart are divine, that the purpose is transformation.  Only by being eaten and digested does the mouse become eagle.

I feel a pain in my heart, enormous pain — I am afraid to give myself over to it for fear I would be ripped apart and die, and at the same time a part of me invalidates the pain: “Who are you to be unhappy?  A lot of people would like to have your life.”  “Why don’t you choose to be happy?”  “You’re just wallowing in your pain.”

And I say no, this is real life.  Real life is bigger than happiness.  Real life is to be torn apart by the contrasts.  There are corpses under all the apple trees, if you choose not to see them, then what do you have?  Mourning and rejoicing are both appropriate, death and life are inextricably mingled in the tapestry, you have to accept it all, or you get nothing.  “This beauty comes out of a great heart.”  Yes.  And that heart is open to include everything.

Later: I lost that glorious & painful sense of wholeness, that sense of holding together the two halves of the world: the corpse and the blossoming tree.  It occurred to me driving to St. Johnsbury that all the soil is made up of corpses, the decayed dead bodies of bugs, animals, plants, that all the grasses and blossoming trees are rooted in corpses.  And it occurred to me that the enormous sweet pain I feel tearing my heart open is love, love for the tree and for the corpse, love for life which is inseparable from death.

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“Both very good and very bad”

From my journal for Saturday, May 13

So much color in the world!  Flowering trees — dark pink flowers with dark red leaves, white flowers so thick they hide the leaves — alas I saw no bees today.  Tulips, so many varieties from the simple cup — two color, open with striped petals, double flowers.  Then all the wild things enriching the grass: dandelions, violets, lots of plants with a variety of foliage.  At the same time I’m aware that the lack of bees is a disaster, that the overwhelming abundance of white flowers may signal a tree getting ready to die.  There are trees which have only a few wide open leaves and mostly bare branches. They have worried me.  Now it looks like they are filling out, but again I worry that the tree may be near its end.  I look at Mocha and know that she is on her way out, and feel how much I love her.  Saw the waning crescent without any trouble, I just looked up and there it was.  I feel like I am in the place Etty describes: Things are both very good and very bad at the same time.

Note: Etty Hillesum is a Dutch Jew who died in Auschwitz in 1943.  Her complete journals and letters were published in 2002.  The quote about good and bad is in a letter to a friend, An Interrupted Life, p 254

Didn’t say how odd I felt watching A Man Called Otto in a friend’s apartment.  I was in her recliner and Mocha didn’t come near me, ended up on the couch.  My friend was at her computer playing a game.  I felt so strange.  Maybe a sense of a lot of beings in a room together and not connecting.  A sense of not being met.

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A Well of Unprocessed Grief

For a number of days I’ve been feeling really awful. Empty and meaningless, lost in a world where there is no depth or soul. In writers group on Monday I tried to describe it. I thought maybe I was picking it up from somebody. I read the piece to Erica on Wednesday, and she helped me understand what happened. I looked in my journal and found that the whole thing began with the folk singer who played and sang in the gathering room on Saturday night.

Here are the relevant journal entries:

Sunday, May 7
I’m having a strange uncomfortable feeling of being stuck in this place with all these old people and it’s meaningless, empty, waiting for death.  I picked it up last night at the folk music concert.  The guy singing was a fascinating entertainer, but he was billed as singing folk songs of the 60’s so of course I expected Dylan.  No.  He said one song was Bob Dylan sung by Joan Baez, but it was a sort of sentimental song that neither of them would have had anything to do with.  He sang the Sloop John B, and Charlie on the MTA, both of which I remembered all the words to.  And he sang Day-O as a tribute to Harry Belafonte who died recently.  He also had a fascinating mechanism that somehow added his voice singing harmony.  But I was disappointed and left early.

Monday, May 8
I’ve been feeling very strange.  I think it started Saturday night with the Folk Singer.  Haven’t been able to find words.  Empty and meaningless but in a different way from long ago.  It doesn’t feel like myself.

Writers’ group

the sky is pale like a thin haze covering the whole thing.  It seems ill somehow, weighs me down.  oppressive.  suffocating.  Life feels meaningless we just go on getting more and more tired and then it’s over, fading out, fading away, disappearing into the void.  Surely there’s something I can distract myself with, a murder mystery or solitaire.  Looking out the window gets boring fast.  When will something happen, something wonderful, exciting, full of drama and romance.  I remember how good my mother was at picking up the latest slang.  She liked to be “with it,” in with the latest, the newest, the most recent.  Deep slow thoughts are not “with it,” won’t catch any one’s attention.  I want to write a poem and don’t know how to do it.  words rise from the tide’s slow turning, and blood seeps from a volcano — but only a little bit mind you.  The day’s too far gone and fading into a grey night, without light, oppressive, suffocating.  Two people trade shadows, coming to the edge of what they share.  Empty is too clean a word for the blurred and jumbled mass of a fragmented life.

Note: The sentence that starts “I want to write a poem…” comes from a poem I wrote called Blood and Stone. In some ways that poem expresses how I felt as a child.

Tuesday, May 9
Judith thought it was a good piece of writing.  She said it conveyed an atmosphere, which was my intention.  She said there were a lot of people here at Kendal who felt like that.  I agreed.  I said it was a lot like my mother.  I just read it again and was struck by the people who trade shadows.  I had meant literal shadows, but I see that it could also mean psychological shadows.  Mother certainly projected hers onto me.

Dear Inner Teacher, I am feeling so lost and strange.  Please help me.
Dear Jenny, you will need Erica’s help with this.  Yes, it is some young part of you that somehow got tangled with your mother.  Remember when your mother took you to visit the Rogers sisters, who had been servants to her family, and you thought you were being shown how your life would end.

Note: They were living in a miserable little apartment that smelled of urine.

Wednesday, May 10
Talk with Erica:
Read her the piece I wrote on Monday
She was struck by the sky being ill — color of an alcoholic’s skin
Moves in and out of un-metness
* Disappointing *        Looking for what might have started it I found the “folk singer” who came on Saturday, songs from the 60’s.  I had expected Bob Dylan, songs with soul and depth.  No — we had Charlie on the MTA, and Sloop John B.
— can represent so much of my life
so much was disappointing in my early life — a well of unprocessed grief
also needing soulfulness in this community

It became so clear. I was dealing with “a well of unprocessed grief.” I wanted depth and soul, and was born into a family who, as Jung suggested, turned to alcohol because they couldn’t find spirit in their lives.

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From 1992: Jenny seen by Elizabeth Goudge

(Started in January 92, in Writers’ Group.  “I’ve been thinking of trying to write a description of myself as though I were an Elizabeth Goudge character.  That means with a lot of compassion, but no avoidance of weaknesses, and a large framework that includes understanding of the psychic and spiritual dimension.  She writes often of the way in which children are marked by the condition of their parents during the pregnancy, so I begin with my mother.”)

Jean became pregnant in November of 1941.  She had hoped that the coming child would exempt her husband from military service, and when he was drafted she was very resentful.  She was also frightened of being alone and of the responsibility of a child, but she concealed her fear.  But the fear and resentment left their mark on the new baby who had a sensitive nervous system and would be plagued all her life by allergies and mysterious illnesses.

The growing child was very intelligent and creative.  Sometimes her mother was pleased and proud, taking her child’s talents as evidence of her own excellence as a mother.  Other times little Jenny’s intense energy and desire to know the truth were too much for her young mother, who wasn’t willing to admit that she didn’t know the answers.

When little Jenny was three, her father came home from the war.  Their first meeting was a disaster for both of them.  He had been in Ireland when she was born.  On a transport ship in the Atlantic, in a tank in North Africa, moving up through Italy, he consoled himself with thoughts of his baby daughter, and how much she would love him, and how she would throw her arms around his neck.  At home, his daughter was growing up in a world of women.  She had been told she had a daddy who was away fighting a war, but the words had no meaning.  She had been shown his photograph, and naturally assumed that the square object that stood on her mother’s bedside table was her “daddy”.  So when he came in the door, the three year old child was confronted with a strange man, one she had never seen before.  She could feel the pressure from the people around her, but didn’t know what she was supposed to do.  Someone said “This is your daddy.”  But that made no sense to her.  “That’s not my daddy, my daddy’s upstairs” she said, meaning the photograph.  Her father, unable to understand what the world looked like from her three-year-old perspective, was very hurt, and felt rejected, and so he immediately rejected her.  For her part, she had very conflicted feelings about this person with whom she had no organic connection and yet to whom she was supposed to show “love”.  Their relationship did not change much down the years, but remained painful, characterized by well-meaning attempts to become closer or to understand each other that were always thwarted by feelings of rejection or fears of rejection.

As the other children came along, and her mother withdrew into the fog of alcoholism, Jenny found herself pressed into service to take care of the younger ones.  Not on a physical level, fortunately there were servants, for Jenny was of a dreamy temperament and not very competent in practical matters.  But she had a lively intelligence and a strong sense of moral context, she felt that actions ought always to be referred to some larger understanding and not be just what was convenient or expedient.  When she turned to her parents for guidance the answers were confusing or contradictory and often she was made to feel that she should already know and not be asking questions.  But she still felt obscurely a desperate need for moral guidance, and she could also see that the younger children also needed guidance.  Having as role models a perfectionistic father and a mother who chose her moral platitudes to suit what she wanted at the moment, Jenny also learned to be critical and perfectionistic, mostly of herself but also of her younger siblings.  Because she deeply distrusted her mother’s platitudes, which sounded noble but hid shallowness and expediency, she turned to intellect and reason, and “figuring it out” from a theoretical viewpoint became her main strategy for dealing with life.

(I’m not really happy with this — but as a beginning it’s not too bad.  I want to write about the difficulties of adolescence, and how my parents left me to my own devices.  Can I put in something about sexual abuse at age 12?  I have no idea how Eliz. Goudge would deal with that one.  She barely touches on alcoholism.  I also want to put in something about how mother’s brother died when I was what? just over a year? — how she wouldn’t have let herself mourn, how her repression of that grief passed it on to me so I’ve had to deal with depression for most of my life.)

What else?  I didn’t want to make it hugely long, perhaps should check the Mary Montague chapter in The Dean’s Watch, since that’s what I want it to be most like.  How my temperament naturally went toward fantasy, play with animals, Oz books, how I was dragged away from that, how my lack of competence in practical matters, and my parents’ willingness to rely on my intelligence and sense of responsibility combined with their inability to give me guidance and support — how this left me curiously bereft, unable to see my strengths and painfully conscious of my weaknesses.  Oh and then I get furious again, to see how my strengths were exploited and my weaknesses mocked so I was left with nothing on which to build a sense of self-esteem.  Well, my strengths that they could exploit — intelligence, sense of responsibility, wish to help — they used and my strengths that threatened them or were painful reminders of their own suppressed vitality — my creativity and my passionate desire to know the truth — were sneered at and mocked: I was “showing off”, thought I was “so great”, thought I “knew it all.”  And so, since intelligence and responsibility can to some extent be commanded and directed by will, but creativity, in order to come to flower, must be allowed and nurtured in some kind of safety, the balance of my life shifted to intellect, and creativity got left on the fringes, like bulbs in a dark room trying to grow.  Well, I’ve said all this before.  Boring boring.  Once again blaming my parents for my own failure.  Actually, I’m trying not to, but even this examination of how I internalized the early conditions of my life, looks like blaming to people who’ve been conditioned to think that way.  Just as I’ve been conditioned to think of my efforts to express myself and share my discoveries as “showing off.”)

Jenny was singing and dancing and her mother yelled at her to stop showing off.  Perhaps there was some other person in the room for whom it was necessary for the mother to appear good.  “Haven’t you taught her any manners?”  The child learned that expressing her vitality by singing and dancing was not acceptable.  This was not an isolated incident; there were many such.  Disapproving looks and scornful comments occasionally gave way to overblown praise which did not make her feel encouraged or supported, but only like she wanted to hide.  Being an intelligent child, she learned very quickly not to do those things which brought forth scorn or confusing praise, she learned to shut down, she internalized the scornful voices and yelled at herself much more harshly and often than anyone yelled at her.  Her standards were very high so she could see many more things to criticize, and she was desperately trying to figure out how to “do it right”, assuming that it was because she always “did it wrong” that she was not treated with any respect or consideration.

What she did not know, until it was too late to prevent the damage, was that her parents’ lives were in bondage to alcohol, that they had both the grandiosity and the perfectionism associated with alcoholism.  She perceived that her parents were reluctant to pay attention to her, unwilling to put any effort into trying to understand her or help her with her little troubles.  But she interpreted their neglect as a consequence of her being unattractive and uninteresting instead of a result of their dependence on a drug.  She tried very hard to be ‘helpful’, since this seemed to be what they wanted, but she never got any inner satisfaction from being helpful because her natural tendency was to want to share the beautiful and magical things she discovered in herself and in the world of nature.  But she learned to be ashamed of this desire by the time she went to college.  She had also decided that she was not talented because it was less painful to think that she was untalented than to understand that she was talented and had been thoroughly inhibited and crushed in her effort to express it.

But in spite of this her talent and creativity kept breaking out, like bulbs kept in a dark room, like a piece of firewood that suddenly sprouts leaves.  She began a journal when she was seventeen, and continued all her life because the privacy of a journal gave her both an outlet for her expression and a means to conceal it at the same time.  She had the lead in the Senior Class play in high school; but she never understood why she had been chosen.  In College she turned to science, hoping that understanding the basic laws of the universe would give her some grounding truth out of which she could live her life, believing that teaching science was the best way she could be helpful.  She was accepted for dance group, again surprised that she qualified, but happy to have this means of expression open to her.  She continued her interest in theater, but retreated from the stage into doing lighting because that way she would not be exposed to an audience.  In her Junior Year, feeling tired and bored with all her science classes, she fought to be allowed to take a studio art course, even though she hadn’t yet taken any history of art courses that would win for her this privilege.  (The Ivy League women’s college she attended saw the arts of painting, dancing, sculpture, theater as peripheral to their purpose which was the education of the intellect.)

I guess that this was as far as I got in 1992. At that time I had learned a lot about how alcoholism of a parent affect a child, but I didn’t know that I had also been traumatized. For an example of Mom & Dad’s behavior, see the 4th of July Monologue for a directly written transcript of a weekend at home with them.

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