On Darkness, Negativity, and Other Broken Things

Okay, I had intended this blog to be solely my writing blog, something to help keep me motivated in my endeavors to write… But after quite a few responses offline and conveyed to me by TMiYC (The Monster In Your Closet) about my previous post (When you know a friendship is toxic), I now realize that there may be some merit in actually posting my own personal musings. Or perhaps all that internal dialogue may be useful to others… (And, yes, I used “dialogue” intentionally – it would be a monologue if it was one voice, instead of a myriad clammering simultaneously:”Why did you say that?” “Why did you x?” “Should you have done y instead?” “What if this choice has z effect?”)

Perhaps this blog can help quell those doubt-filled voices in my head. Or air them out to dry, so they’re out in the open and I can see them for what they are and not let those niggling doubts drag me down. Especially since I am a mom and my choices now effect that precious squealing ball of happiness that is currently napping spread-eagled in her crib.

Since I posted about NPD, I have felt as if this huge weight has been lifted from my chest. But that has more to do with my being open and acknowledging that I have negative feelings about someone. And that’s okay. For some reason, I have always hated speaking negatively about anyone. Whether they deserve it or not. I do want to be really clear about something – the friends I have, the real ones who are not NPD? You will never meet a more amazing, loving, thoughtful group of people. These are the people who banded together to bring me and my family food when my mom was dying, who took me to coffee, went on long walks, or just hugged me and let me cry during that period and YEARS before that when I finally confronted the fact that my mom was struggling with a mental illness that could no longer be ignored. Some of these friends may be a generation or two older than me, but that age difference does not change the fact that they have my admiration, love, and respect. Nor does it change the fact that they rock my socks off.

My discomfort about “rocking the boat” was really my fear of making a messy, awkward situation for my friends. Combine that fear with my discomfort saying anything negative about others? There is so much darkness and drama in the world, and I hate to cause any drama unnecessarily.

Perhaps it may help if I laid all my cards on the table. I was the victim of abuse. Sometimes, it seems so long ago and far away, I feel like it happened to a different person. A different little girl.

I watched my dad beat my mom on several occasions. I hid under the bed when he broke the bedroom door down to get at her. On one occasion, my cheek got cut when my mom tried to grab a wire hanger from the closet to defend herself (and she didn’t realize I was hiding in the closet at the time). I witnessed her get beaten while she was pregnant, and only later learned that I would have had one more brother had it not been for that attack. I am 32 years old and I still cringe when I hear people raise their voices in anger. 

Add that to watching my mother slowly lose her battle with a mental illness that made her increasingly paranoid such that I often lost friends because they looked at her wrong… Well, you can bet that I will probably be the last one to speak up if something is bothering me. I am so used to compartmentalizing, because, heck, how the hell was I supposed to know what was normal growing up? I got used to playing the peacekeeper with mom – stepping in and telling her that her long-time friend and my godmother was not trying to insinuate she was a second class citizen by saying or doing x, y, or z. No, the pastor didn’t intentionally look at her at x point in the sermon. He was looking at everyone. It was gut-wrenching stress for a child, but it was what I knew.

Then there was the other thing – the thing I used to never mention for fear of people finding out just how broken I was. Starting in the 3rd grade, I was molested by a family friend. For years, I told the court and my mother that he had threatened to hurt my mom and siblings, and that’s why I didn’t tell anyone that it was happening. This man came into my mother’s house (before the mental illness had really even done more than make her unpredictably irritable) and pretended to be a friend to her while assuming the role of the gentle father to me. My mom was elated. Finally, a father figure was taking interest in her second daughter ! The daughter whose actual father never remembered her (the same father showed up on her 7th birthday to take the older, favored daughter shopping for My Little Ponies. (Thank you, TMiYC for sharing them with me!). This guy, hereafter dubbed “Pervert” (as an homage to my mom who yelled this loudly while pointing at him whenever she ran into him on the street, in the library, or at a restaurant), used my mom’s brokeness against me. After that first time, when he touched me (and I knew it was a “bad touch” because my mom had told me about it), he asked what it would do to my mom if she knew what he’d done? How would she feel if she knew just how unwanted she was, that he chose me over her? Wouldn’t it hurt her, break her to know what she had let happen to her child?

I was very good at putting on a game face. My mom didn’t suspect a thing for years. Pervert and mom drifted apart naturally, and I couldn’t have been happier. I got to be a kid and do kid things without feeling like I was living double lives. My mom had finally kicked my dad to the curb, and he had finally been forced by the State to pay child support, so my mom wasn’t terrified of losing the house.

It wasn’t until I was 10 and at the Country Fair when Mom went to go get me lemonade and returned to find me sitting cross-legged on our blanket, looking up at someone with absolute terror etched across my face. She dropped the lemonade and dragged me and all our things immediately back to the car with no more than a “Get away from my daughter” as a greeting to the Pervert. Over a course of several days, she asked me repeatedly and quietly, “What did he do to you?” When I insisted he didn’t do anything, she refused to believe me. I had no idea what to say – what was I supposed to say? When I was 7 I started lying because I was afraid to hurt you? You were happy for the first time, and dad wasn’t hurting you anymore and all I wanted was for you to laugh and smile, because when you were laughing and smiling the world could be whatever we dreamed it could be?

In the end – I broke. I told her everything, with the slight tweak on my own little lie. And I watched with a broken heart as her world crumbled and shattered around her. She had given up everything, worked multiple jobs at the same time, buckled under her own feelings and accepted food stamps (she hated charity), pushed to get each one of us into alternative schools so we could have every opportunity, and then this. The Pervert was right. Where Dad had failed, he had won. She broke and she broke hard. Did she hit me when I finally confessed, like somehow the D.A. convinced her she had? Hell, no. She held me, cried and said “I’m so sorry, my poor baby” over and over again. The crying didn’t stop for several weeks. The number of times I heard “I’m a terrible mother” coming from her room, sometimes punctuated by a dull and rhythmic thud as she hit her head against the floor, well… That broke me. For many many years, I carried a guilt around with me. I blamed myself, not the Pervert. I should have told her after that first time, my so much smarter ten-year-old self tried to tell my seven-year-old self. It was the years of letting it happen that was what destroyed her. I had broken my mom where my dad had failed. Little me and my big lies.

Counseling helped, and boy did my mom choose a good counselor. But nothing helped quite so much as the entry into my life of one person who believed in me so fully, and whose gentle support and guidance helped me learn to believe in myself.  I don’t know how a 17 year-old boy possessed the wisdom, grace, humor, and comfort to bring the solitary Rambler out of hiding, but he did.  I am forever grateful to the love of my life, my husband, for that.

As a sidenote, I never did tell my mom about that big/little lie. Even as I held her hand and she breathed her last breath., there was always that lie between us. The guilt created a huge gap that I didn’t know how to bridge. Right before she succumbed to a three year bout where she gave in to her mental illness completely, and barely recognized us, my mom had walked up to me and begged me for forgiveness. I blithely hugged her, laughed and told her she didn’t need my forgiveness. She was my mom, I loved her, and she had done nothing that needed forgiveness. She looked at me with such sorrow, that it haunts me still. She begged that someday I would find it in my heart to forgive her, and everyone who hurt me, because forgiveness was so important. I wish I had said the words she so needed to hear. I didn’t understand what she wanted me to forgive, but she needed it. How hard is it to say “I forgive you”?

Anyways, this is a rather dark post because I have, like so many people out there, lived through some dark times. It has made me who I am. Am I emotionally scarred? Sure. We all have our scars, whether we choose to hide them, bare them, or flaunt them. I used to cling to positivity like a lifeboat. I had to believe people could change.  I hated how much people talked about my mom, and rather than lending a helping hand, they pulled her down with criticism. I hate to feel like I could be one of those people, standing on the sideline and judging someone as they struggle. It just feels ugly to dwell on anything negative. Add to that all the doubt of “is this just me being sensitive because of all this baggage?” The simple truth of it is that there is ugliness out there. Just as I try to deal with in my novel, there is darkness out there. It hides within us all, and we get to choose how much of it we let in and influence who we are and who we will be. While I may often choose not to comment on those glimpses of shadows I may observe in others, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. It doesn’t change the fact that I know it’s there.

I know now that speaking about it won’t make me a worse person. If anything, it makes me a stronger person.

 – The Rambler laid bare

When you know a friendship is toxic

Now that I have just one short week until I can begin editing Waking Dreams, I have been musing on a friendship that recently ended after quite some time. I have really struggled with this decision, and it did not come lightly.

Over the weekend, I was on a hike with an amazing new friend and we began to talk a bit about our pasts. Something this new friend said really hit me. She talked about how funny it is that we women are always so concerned about the effect our decisions have on the social group, that we often sit back and take a lot of BS for fear of rocking the boat.  A light went off in my head. I have been angry at this other former friend for quite some time and my fear of “rocking the boat” in my social group has had an effect on me. I sat silently and then reacted poorly to a lot of things, but now… I just don’t care. My family is more important. And I want it to be extremely clear that I do not condone the behavior of this former friend (hereafter “NPD”).

I struggled for a while wondering why NPD had behaved in the way he did. Why did he continue to harass my husband and I, in spite of my repeated requests that he stop? Why could he not go a single conversation without implying that my husband had terrible clothing choices, was inept at taking care of himself, and me and was going to be a terrible father? Why did he think it was appropriate to then turn to making fun of my daughter, who had yet to be born? Why did he think, even after we asked and told him to stop, it would EVER be funny to joke that he was going to have sex with our daughter? And when we responded with a “WTF?! Don’t EVER say that again” – why did he laugh at our response and say “What? I’ll wait until she’s 18”? And when we said that was still inappropriate, why did he continue and say “What? I”ll have had a vasectomy by then!” Apparently our horrified response was exactly what he was looking for, since he continued to make the joke another two to three times. Maybe he would have made it again, but we stopped seeing him by then.

I will not stand by and tolerate someone who takes me aside to tell me what a horrible wife I am (while I was pregnant!), and then makes me listen to him complain about how his wife is a psycho bitch. Then, when I defend her, have him rally and tell me I am being mean. At the time, I was boggled. I had no idea what end was up or down with NPD.  Sometimes he was so nice and charming, that I forgot about all the other crud. Then it would resurface and I would feel like crap all over again. When Nick pointed out that he thought our daughter came early because of all the stress of dealing with this person – well, that highlighted for me just how unhealthy the relationship had become. Now, I just don’t care. I am still a bit angry at NPD and partially at myself for being so slow to realize how toxic the friendship had become. Better late than never, right?

I do not know if NPD behaves like this with other people, but I know that this is how he behaved with us. Given how he’s twisted what I’ve said and what others have said to suit his own version of the truth (i.e. whichever version makes him out to be the good guy), I can’t trust him.  I do not know what’s real with him, or what he says just to get attention, since he seems to want attention all the time.

Mostly – I will not gamble my daughter’s emotional or physical safety on what I already know to be an emotionally unsound person. I will not have her think it is okay to make fun of people in the way this person thinks is okay.  I have already placed my friends in the awkward position, and I am truly sorry about that. I will see NPD at social events, but that’s it. Our interactions will be minimal, and I will never leave my daughter alone with this person. Ever.

The epiphany was that I do not need to hide my feelings. I am happier when I am open about who I am. I want to put my foot down now and let my daughter know that it’s okay to cut people out who hurt you repeatedly. I hope she would have the strength to walk away if she’s ever in a relationship with someone who abuses her emotionally and/or physically. Cut and run, because YOU are more important than any potential social fall-out.

So, what do you do when you know a friendship is toxic? If it can’t be repaired – accept the loss and move on. Profit from my experience! Don’t spend months mourning the loss and wondering what went wrong! Accept the fact that just like all those other vices (junk food!), they may make you laugh or feel good every now and then, but overall, if they make you feel crummy, you should probably leave them by the wayside.

Thanks for listening, and I apologize for the high drama content of this post!

-The Rambler

First Draft Complete!

As of June 24, 2012, the first draft of my very first novel is complete. In my excitement (okay, in my happy exhaustion), I completely neglected to post on this blog. So here is the announcement:  It’s done!

Starting next week, the editing begins. I will not lie – this will be a long and ugly process. There are many plot points that need complete overhauling. If I were tracking changes, this would be an UGLY redline.

I can’t wait!

-The Rambler

Beer and stories to come…

So, I am sitting down to drink some wonderful beer. It is pure bliss to a nursing mother who rarely gets to taste beer for fear of ruining the precious milk supply. But little girl is asleep upstairs, and I have cracked open the yummy Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout and am about to drink it all! Mwa-ha-ha! (Please don’t wake up, little girl.)

Anyway, I have been thinking about what I want to do with this blog and I decided that I will soon start posting some short stories. If folks so desire, they can get a taste of my writing style, offer thoughts, criticisms, or pour all the praise they want on my very grateful ears. By and large, the short stories will most likely be horror. There may be some fantasy, too. I may even write a collaborative short story with my very creative husband.

First, I need to finish up my draft of Waking Dreams. Now that I have posted this random little tidbit, off to write one of those final chapters. This time next week, I hope I am writing an update that says merely: “DONE!”

-The Rambler

Progress!

Well, I have finally broken the writer’s block that has kept me stumped the last few months. Hurrah! I cleaned up the piece of plot that apparently nagged at the back of my mind for these last months until I decided to just remove that plot line, and deleted all references to it and re-wrote the last chapter I had written. I have my next chapter outlined and now I just need to sit down and…write. I only have three chapters left of this monster, then I get to go through and do what I love best – EDITING!

In very important other news, my husband’s master’s thesis was just approved, which means he is done with his Masters in Neuroscience! Technically, his Masters in Psychology, since the Institute of Neuroscience is within the Psychology department at the University. In spite of the several challenges that faced him*, he did it! I couldn’t be more proud. You may not be able to tell, but if you listen closely, you may be able to hear me doing the happy dance and squealing with joy. I have my husband back! Woot!

Now, we are preparing for Phase 2 of Nick’s educational plans – med school applications. Groooooooan… I have every confidence that he’ll get in, it’s just such a long and nerve-wracking process.

Well, I think that ends this particular ramble, so I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

-The Rambler

*including the financial struggle of our family living on my small income, taking care of my mom while she was in hospice, taking care of me and my family when we fell apart after my mom’s death, helping us renovate and sell her home, buying our own home, and the birth of our very first child.

Whoops!

Well, thanks to my older sis, TMiYC, I now realize that I apparently had some goofy comment settings. I apologize to anyone who tried to comment and encountered word captcha prompts. I believe I have corrected the issue. Sorry!

Apology aside, I have been very productive. My sister and nephew are visiting for the long weekend, which has been awesome. I made apple spice cake. Hung out with friends. Celebrated the 70th birthday of a very dear, beloved man. Played with my little girl. Napped with my little girl. Heck, I even thought about writing. Quite a lot. That counts, right? Maybe tomorrow I’ll do more than think about writing… I mean, they do say “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

Okay, that’s really not my motto to live by, I swear it. It’s just a coincidence that it happens to be true.

-The Rambler

Real World Time

So, now that I’m all caught up on what I’ve been up to since my solitary 2010 entry, here we go “for realz”.

Back in 2010, I truly thought I would post weekly or monthly updates here. Not so! After a while of brutal neglect of this blog, my sister kindly reminded me that writing a blog does actually help the creative process. The reminder was quite public. You can check out her gentle and humorous nudge here: I’ll Love You More if You Blog

When I read the post (mind you, she ran the post by me prior to posting, since she’s responsible like that!), I laughed and then thought “Who has time for that?! I’m a new mom and I’m barely finding time to write anyway!” Of course, we make time for things that are important. And ever since I picked up a pen when I was 11 and began writing an atrociously plagiarized fantasy novel, I have loved writing. Deb and I, ever the duo, even came up with pen names at the time. I was “Raven (R.T.) Sangstrom” and she would be “Sarro Sangstrom” – these were also the pseudonyms we used for each other in an alternate universe we created for our then-Emo selves. Ah, those were the days! When dreams were as real as anything tangible!

I never did finish that novel. I got really close – almost as close as I am to finishing Waking Dreams, actually – but I lost steam. Mostly because I made a huge mistake. When I was twelve, I looked over the 130 painstakingly handwritten pages and realized that it was entirely rubbish. Wholly unoriginal. My little brother had read the whole thing and loved it, but he was only 9. Actually, he was really ticked off and threatened to burn or tear the pages of my book if I didn’t finish it. Luckily, he wasn’t nearly half the terror he pretended to be. He only hid the pages, he didn’t destroy them. Kind of like he hid my “Best of the 70s” tape rather then destroying it when I listened to “How Do You Do” and “Brand New Key” too many times.

Anyway, that’s a little background into why, after all this time, I am back into the world of blogging! If you find this blog wretched, you now know who to blame: my sis, TMiYC. Go to her blog and tell her I suck. (Not because I want you to deal with the wrath of my older sister. Nope. Not at all. Ok, maybe a little. I dare you.) If you like the blog, then it’s all me. 100%. I can be silly, I can be serious, and I do rather enjoy the nonsensical, so be warned.

Most of all, whatever your feelings, thanks for reading.

Love and Peace!

-The Rambler