Visiting Family

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

Well, I went back east for a week to visit my moms siblings, my dad / abuser’s sister and a bunch of cousins and second cousins. It went very well, and I got a lot of loving supportive connection and reconnection and lots of validating and useful information.

I’ve been researching sociopaths lately and am reading a good book on them by Martha Stout. I’m only partly through but it’s good. I am working on the assumption that my dad/abuser is a sociopath. I told my maternal aunts and uncle this, and they were receptive. My uncle looked up what a sociopath was on the internet and told me the next day that he agrees that my dad fits the profile. Very validating. I got to ask them all kinds of questions about my parents and they were very open to answering. I also explained about how I’d been injured in the rapes and how I now know that my mom would have had to have known.

This is now what I think happened.

I got raped and injured when I was little. Mom found out when she found the wounds. My father went into a big sob story about how it was because he’d been drinking so heavily and drinking hard liquor. (According to Stout, the ‘pity play’ is almost universally used by sociopaths, and a person who behaves badly toward you more than once or twice and tries to make you let them off the hook out of pity is likely to be a sociopath.) My mom forced herself to believe this and told him she’d leave/call the police/whatever if he ever drank the hard stuff again. He drank beer from then on. I remember this being a rule that he complied with that my mom had set, she told me she’d forbidden him to drink hard liquor. Since my dad was an incredibly sexist, arrogant, dominating patriarch, he would never have complied with a rule set by his wife for so long with a rule she set without a really compelling reason. Being a sociopath, he wouldn’t have done it out of guilt since they don’t have any. Also, it was the very same excuse he gave me in his letter he wrote me, that he didn’t remember abusing me but if he’d abused me it was because of the alcohol.

Now she feels so guilty she did this that she’s either blocked it out, or is unwilling to confess her guilt to me. I don’t think my mom is a sociopath, since she wouldn’t have stayed with my father if she didn’t fall for his bullshit, and I think she’s actually shown empathy, although she is very selfish.  She’s a workaholic, probably in part to keep herself from thinking about any of it, something I know from experience works very well. You can pretend you don’t even remember, although if you stop bailing constantly, that boat sinks instantly.

So I think this was her ‘deal with the devil’ to try and keep me safe while holding on to the status of being his wife, which I also learned was incredibly important to my grandmother. My mother had been groomed to be a rich guy’s trophy wife, and they thought they’d caught one, except my dad, although he’d been from a rich family, was never rich himself. Sociopaths are motivated differently (to say the least) from other people, and avoiding debt or providing for his family would never have been a big deal. My dad was motivated by exercising power over others and torturing people, so he didn’t need to be very rich to do that. His behaviour with money didn’t make much sense until I read that some sociopaths will just take the path of least resistance and sponge off of others. He worked just enough to maintain his status. My mom was a beauty queen, which also fits the profile, as sociopaths, since they don’t love anyone, tend to pick partners that iether support them financially or are high status in some way.

It’s all starting to make a lot more sense. I don’t need to worry about confronting him, because I won’t be able to affect him, he has no sincere connections with other people. I’m released from that. He’s probably also not interested in haunting me either. I was just a toy.  My father never loved me, which is good to know since it’s consistent with his behaviour, although I did do some grieving.

I had a neat pagan thing happen.

I was heading out to visit my father’s sister and was quite nervous, since they’re snobby and besides, they know I’ve disclosed the abuse. On the way out there, a stag leapt across the road in front of me, not close enough to be dangerous, but close enough to see him clearly. Stags are the symbol or embodiment of the God, the positive, brotherly, nature god of Wiccan belief and brother or consort to the Goddess. So it was this positive image of maleness,  who represents sacrificing that others may live like the meat animals or the grain that is cut for food, and not incidentally the polar opposite of my sociopath father, who blessed me on my journey to may father’s family. In a way it was like the really wonderful love and support I’d received from my mom’s older brother on my trip, who was very supportive and loving.

I got to swim in the lake I’d swum in as a child and spoke with my favourite cousin and met her kids. I found out a little  information, like what the age difference was between my father and his older sisters. My aunt was not someone I could ask abuse info from, but I may pump my cousin for info later, now that we’ve reconnected.

I went to all my grandparents graves and had a talk and a cry with them. I went to a florist and picked out flowers I thought each of them would like to put on their graves as offerings. It was good. My maternal aunt and uncle came with me to help me find the graves and then left me alone when I asked for some time to mourn privately. Since I hadn’t been at the funerals for any of them, it was important for me to do that.

My mom’s sister said their childhood was fine, with no abuse or neglect, although she doesn’t remember any of it (yikes). I didn’t point out what you will know is the obvious explanation of that. Perhaps some other time. She struggles a lot with compulsive/addictive behaviour, particularly to do  with food,  but there’s only so much you want to intrude on someone else’s process.  She was very welcoming and loving and willing to answer any of my questions. She even offered to talk to my mother and get some info from her on my behalf. Both my maternal aunts and uncles wanted me to make up with my mother at first, but once I explained I think they got it, and understand why I’m waiting for my mom to provide the info I asked for.

Anyways, it went very well, and I don’t seem to have much of an emotional hangover from it. I was very proud of how I handled everything, and felt so healthy. I didn’t even stress-eat. I brought my mp3 player and some noise cancelling headphones and listened to comforting music and relaxation meditations, which helped a lot too. I rented a car, and would sing pagan hymns or meaningful songs  to vent feelings and give myself strength.

Family Reunion

Don’t panic, it’s not MY family, it’s my wife’s. However, in the wake of my mother’s stalker-like note, I’m a bit twitchy about family. I normally like my wife’s family, they’re religious (in that gay-hating, women oppressing way, not the good way) but we stay away from that and they don’t tell us we’re going to hell or anything. They’re actually quite nice people, and there is a small but friendly non-religious contingent as well so it’s not too bad for a couple of lesbians all in all.

However this year is a milestone birthday for my wife’s mom, and everyone will be there I’m guessing, including one set of relatives I got my therapist to call social services about. I’m afraid of seeing them and probably discovering they’re still abusing and neglecting my neices and nephews and nothing has been done. Although, the Goddess works in mysterious ways, perhaps I’ll find out their kids have been removed to foster homes and they’re too ashamed to show up. One can hope. The only good thing is that their kids getting older and are leaving home, but they’re so badly injured psychologically. There are reports from other relatives that the kids steal from family when they visit, which is a sign of neglect to me, and also absorbing the values of their sociopath father. They’re skinny, needy and haunted when I seen them.  I wonder if I was like that. It’s a bit triggering to say the least. I suppose I should be a good survivor aunt and take notes to pass on to social services, and try and find out where they’re living now, but my inner child wants to stay the hell away from all of them. I actually think I ‘passed’ for normal quite a bit better than they do (I’ve been told I had a kind of quiet dignity, and a flair for the dramatic at times), which makes me really fear for what is happening to them.

It’s also getting close to my visit to my aunts and uncles out east. I leave next week. I”m looking forward to the trip, but frankly this is all a bit too much family at once for me. I’ve been working and packing non-stop to get ready for all this, so I’ve been overwhelmed. I’m one of those highly sensitive people who gets overwhelmed if I do too much or have too much stimulation because I process it all so deeply. It makes me a good writer, and gives me a rich inner life, which I wouldn’t give up for the world, but it also makes me exhausted by interpersonal conflict. I work for myself, alone most of the time, for that reason. When I see people I’m happy to see them, and I’m not a total hermit, but I like my space.

The wife and I will be staying at a hotel rather than with relatives, which should hopefully help, and we’re bringing our dog, which I anticipate will need a lot of long walks during the day.

Wish me luck.

Hand-delivered note from mom

I went out my front door and found the following note stuffed into my mailbox, hanging out. I recognized my mom’s handwriting at once. Here’s what it said:

“July 9, 2010

Hi [SDW] & [Wife],

A long time has passed. Maybe we could meet for “coffee” tea” soon.

Love Mom”

and then on a separate piece of hotel notepad paper (they were small, and printed with the hotel’s address and phone…).

“Just so you know, Joetta [her dog] died yesterday. I called B—- [the dog’s former owner], she came to see her. She developed Cancer that spread. She couldn’t walk. I had her checked at the xxxxx Vet Hospital. xxoo”

Why would she travel so far (to my town, a journey of perhaps 5 hours) to have her dog put down? Perhaps because the former owner of the dog lives here, or perhaps because my brother was here to offer emotional support. That seems more likely.

I’m relatively calm, but I had a sudden impulse just now to burn her notes. I spaced out a little, because when I went to find the notes to transcribe them here, I was surprised to discover I’d put them back in the mailbox. I instantly came in and wrote her a reply.

I’ve sealed the envelope now, but it reads roughly.

“Dear Mom,

I’m sorry Joetta died.

I’ve been waiting for a written reply from you to my letter. I would welcome a written response with some of the information I requested.

Sincerely,

SDW

PS: [my wife’s name] and I are doing well”

She’s having an emotional crisis and needs her mommy – me. Generally the safest way for me to be with her is ‘big sister/therapist’ since it meets her needs enough that she stays relatively calm. In fact I think she’d like me to be like this forever. She thought given the situation, the death of her dog, that I’d feel socially obligated to be nice to her and let bygones be bygones. I’ve let two Christmases and birthdays pass without contact, so she’s getting desperate perhaps. She was hoping I’d call her at her hotel and all would be forgiven. It creeps me out a little that she was here and I didn’t know, although my dog was barking quite a bit earlier today. Perhaps it was when I was out for breakfast, since I didn’t go by the mailbox on the way back. Yick.

I think my response sets the boundary I want to set: I’m not speaking to you unless it’s on my terms. Whether she abused me directly or not, she overlooked my father raping me so brutally that I had large tears on my vulva. When I remember that, I hold firm.  I expect I’ll have feelings later, and I’m going to leave my house in case she comes by again. Ick.

Music

I was listening to the audio recording of my last singing lesson (I’ve had three so far) and damn, my voice sounds good. I went online and purchased some sheet music for songs I’d like to do. The music store even transposes them to the right key. This is a big deal, as transposing by hand is really labour intensive.

In short. I’m happy. I’m learning new things and I’m feeling confident. I might even branch out into learning an instrument.

In about a week and a half I’m going to visit my mom’s sister and brother out east. I’m hoping to ask them some questions, and visit my grandparent’s graves, since I wasn’t able to attend their funerals.  My aunt gets it and should be great, but I’m trying not to worry. Only knowing that I can stay in a hotel if it doesn’t work out with her keeps me from getting anxious about it. I honestly don’t know how it will go.

I’m sure I will have lots to write once I’m on the road.

My wife and I are planning a trip for our vacation in a couple of months that might include my home town. I’d like to have a look at some of the places I spent time as a child, see if I can remember anything, maybe talk to some of my childhood friends. I must be doing a lot better because I’m not feeling afraid of running into my father. Instead I’m thinking I should practice up on my right hook so I can deck him if I see him. Then I fantasize about what the conversation with the police would look like, or if he’d even press charges  if I threatened “I will if you will”. I’m sure I’ll get nervous if it gets closer. We’re going to do some fun stuff too.

Expanding, letting life in

He really did rape me. He really did. He really did rape me. Over and over that’s all I think, suddenly. I say it out loud, to feel my own reaction ot my words, I am sobbing as I say it. I’m reading a book by an author that is hitting the nail on the head for me, I’ll give the name of the book later, and it occurs to me that I’m only reacting to this book about survivors in the way I am, breaking into tears of self-recognition every page or so, because I am in fact a survivor. There are things about my life that I don’t consciously know, details, but I have seen the scars on my vulva, I have seen them. They’re long and they are from a terrible wound, and all of this proves, he really did rape me. It’s old news, it’s new news. It’s feeling the same thing at a different level, letting it in, letting myself see myself.

I knew this fact as an article of faith, coming from my commitment to believe my own self, the feelings and memories, but somehow hard visual evidence, the picture I took of those wounds I didn’t see until a year ago, is so unalterably true that there is no layer of protective denial any more. Fuck my brothers’ arrogance, fuck his saying he always believed me. He doesn’t believe me even now. even now.

What more don’t I know about my past? What more am I shielding myself from?

I’ve been noticing, walking outside today that I have two ways of holding my eyes. I habitually narrow my vision, which has been deteriorating these past two years, to the extent that I need glasses again. Lately I’ve been experimenting with purposefully expanding my field of vision, using my peripheral vision, which makes all my sight more clear. Normally, even with my glasses off, I see as if I’m wearing glasses, noticing only what is right in front of me and relatively close. I don’t even realize I”m doing it, most of the time. Now I’m trying to learn not to, to see the whole big picture at once. When I do it outside, even on a cloudy day, my eyes water. The light seems overwhelming. It’s like I don’t ever open my eyes all the way. I believe I’ve been shielding myself from seeing the full picture, and it feels like I’m doing it because to see it all at once, the sky the tops of trees the buildings in the distance, to expand my focus from the close, the immediate the controllable, makes me feel overwhelmed. I worked with an affirmation of ‘it is safe to see everything’. I practiced looking around and feeling the slight overwhelm of all the information coming at me visually. Interesting that I hadn’t noticed this before. I’d noticed the two ways of seeing, but not this, not in this way, this depth.

Photocredit: Chaval Brasil via Flickr “Great view”

No wonder I”m emotional tonight after doing that so much today. I was successful at it too, tolerating it for quite awhile, eventually even my eyes stopped streaming. The book was talking about the difference between feelign numb and dissociated, barely alive really, avoiding all the closed boxes of memories and feelings, and choosing the risky process of living life with those boxes all open. I am opening. I am writing and singing and being creative and it is bubbling up. I want to see it all.

He really did rape me. He really did. Perhaps there is more too.

Adrenaline makes our vision narrow too, opening up my field of view feels unreal, to look at this suddenly panoramic view of where I am. When I do it, everything seems small, like I”m viewing it from a great distance.

ps: The book: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness by Martha Stout, Ph.D.