I suffered a lot of physical and emotional abuse growing up. I have wondered why my father thought that yelling at me and hitting me a lot was a good way to raise a child. I have wondered why my mother didn’t intervene, because I think she knew that frequent, harsh, corporal punishments for innocent childish infractions was harmful, but she never stuck up for me, at least not in my hearing. What that told me was that I was horribly bad, flawed, and there was just no hope for me.
I have heard stories of childhood trauma that was worse than mine. Some people were just abused horribly, neglected, starved, raped, beaten really badly, parents fighting all the time, divorce, abandonment, being orphaned. I grew up with two parents who seemed to get along with each other. My brothers and I were always fed, and we had a fairly healthful diet. I didn’t have all the clothes I wanted, but I had enough. I am asking myself, why are you still talking about this? What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just get over this?
I would have liked to have had an apology from at least one of my parents, or at least an acknowledgement of what I suffered, but I ran into a wall of denial whenever the subject of the harsh punishments I endured as a child was raised.
When I started using some of the harsh techniques that had been used on me, such as spanking her, and shutting her in a room by herself, with my first child, my mother lectured me on the harm in doing that. This same woman had hit my brothers and me with a fly swatter, washed my mouth out with soap, and tied us to chairs with paper bags over our heads. How did she have room to talk?
She was right of course. Harsh punishments are harmful. Fortunately I listened and stopped doing it. But I never got the acknowledgement of the harm that was done to me, and it is not going to happen now because both my parents are deceased.
I was sexually assaulted in 2nd grade, and my parents never knew about it. A boy kept hitting me in the head with a softcover book. I kept asking him to stop. Finally he said, “I’ll stop if you show me your pee-pee.” I couldn’t understand why he wanted to see my pee-pee. Didn’t he have any sisters? I was 6 or 7, one of my brothers was 8, the other was 5. At those ages there was still a relaxed nudity in the home for the children. Our parents never exposed themselves of course, but my brothers and I were acquainted with the differences in our anatomies. I didn’t know anything about sexual intercourse or procreation, but I knew the difference between girl and boy parts. He said, “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” We were sitting next to each other in the back row of the classroom. I was wearing a dress. I showed him mine and he showed me his. I never had anything more to do with him. We eventually finished high school together. He came to one of the class reunions that I also attended. I probably said no more than two words to him during all of those years. If he ever again looked at me, I looked the other way.
That seems to be the way I handle difficult situations and difficult people. I go aloof. I just go silent and aloof. I did that with my father. I did that with this guy at school. I always do that. I get silent and I withdraw. There is no shortage of people in my life that I have withdrawn from. What’s harder to find are people that I actually have a relationship with. I’m just the silent type. I know it hurts people’s feelings sometimes. I’m a nonresponsive blob, and then I figure out what it was that I should have said or done much later. I’m still skittish from having had so much fault found with me when I was being shaped as a youngster. Everything I say or do is going to be wrong, so maybe I better say or do nothing. If I can successfully disappear, I can escape without a beating.
I can’t go back and redo the way I was socialized. I can’t change my bashful mature. But I can make choices to be different. I can be concerned about how other people are doing and feeling. I can pray for them. I can repent for being silent and aloof. I can try to come out of my shell. Speaking up still seems risky. I have to weigh the risk of speaking up with the risk of remaining silent. Silence can separate. Maybe I don’t want to be so isolated.
After one of my father’s beatings I would resolve never to be friendly with him again. That got to be a habit. I would be cold, distant, and unfriendly. I wouldn’t forgive him for his outrageous assault on my person. And this happened over and over. It got so I was locked into hate and resentment, not only towards my father, but the feeling spilled over into the other relationships I had.
I used to have nightmares of bondage, where it felt like I was bound up in some kind of rubbery black stuff, and I couldn’t move. My tongue was thick and I couldn’t cry out. I would feel one hand with the other. It felt thick and unnatural. I finally overcame the nightmares when I learned to pray. Now I think maybe the experience was a body memory of sharing the birthing ether given to my mother against her will when I was being born.
My sister has stolen my inheritance and gotten away with it, because I couldn’t afford legal help. I don’t want anything more to do with her, my usual coping mechanism of going aloof.
By the time she was born, 10 years after me, my parents had begun to understand something about the damage of physical abuse, at least my mother did. She had used some harsh punishments when my brothers and I were small, but then she stopped and started using a reward system a few years prior to having her fourth child. My father kept up the physical abuse until I was 15. Then one day I refused to submit to a beating without a fight. I was full of fury and he backed down. How foolish to continue hitting a child until the child is big and strong enough to present an effective defense. There are other techniques. It sure was a relief to see an end to the beatings. He never hit anyone after that. He never used foul language but he could still be plenty caustic and blaming.
My sister was never hit by her parents. I think my mother realized they had ruined their first three and wanted to start over with a fresh canvas. So they have three ruined children and one spoiled one.
What would forgiveness look like, if I could forgive my sister for appropriating the house my parents promised me? It’s not like she needed another house. She has a very nice house that she built on land freely deeded to her by our parents. The family home promised to me sits empty, it’s orchard and garden neglected. Was it fun depriving me just because she had the means to pull it off?
It is hard for me to understand the thinking of a narcissist. Everything for me me me. If someone else is being honored than I need to destroy it. I don’t think that way. My pathology is more like, I’m no good, I don’t deserve anything, I can’t have anything, I can’t do anything. But I am overcoming that with spiritual practice.
What does forgiveness look like? We have wolves freely ravaging the lambs. Does forgiveness allow the wolves free reign until every lamb is destroyed? Or do we make forgiveness contingent on repentance? How can we force repentance? There are people in positions of power who need to be behind bars. There are people behind bars that should be freed, others could be freed if they had the rehabilitation they need. How can we clean up this mess? I have more questions than answers. I know prayer and meditation is powerful, but is it powerful enough? I dedicate myself to do it all I can. The change I want to see in the world starts right here with me.
When I was in Community College, during my first semester, I had a blushing problem. Certain words seemed to trigger an emotional state that I apparently had no control over. It was completely mystifying how aroused my embarrassment would become over words that had nothing to do with me. Many years later I gained the insight into what was going on. I had some kind of an emotional knot of reactivity that, once triggered, made any attempt at a rational response impossible. It had formed when the words heard during a traumatic experience had become associated with the trauma. Later those same words elicited a perplexing emotional reaction. I learned in Vipassana meditation training, two years ago, that meditation can heal this sort of emotional blockage.
The first time I encountered something that seemed helpful was about two decades ago in a book by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. He called the emotional knot of reactivity an engram and recommended Dianetics counseling from the Scientology organization for relief. At the time, I thought the idea seemed promising and attended a Dianetics session at the Scientology center in San Diego. There was only one session for me, because I noticed that there were a lot of cigarette addicts among the Scientologists, which made me suspicious about their so-called clarity. More recently, I learned that mindfulness mediation is more effective for removing emotional blocks. Sharing with recovery groups is also an effective way to heal knots of emotional reactivity.
So anyway, fifty-some years ago, as a college freshman, I would turn crimson every time my German teacher mentioned his wife. It was beyond embarrassing. Knowing what I know now, I might speculate that my father may have yelled something about, “my wife…” while beating me, or shoving my face in a puddle of pee, when I was small, and those words became so associated with physical and emotional turmoil that the very words would trigger emotional turmoil. At the time I understood nothing of this, so I made arrangements to see my cousin’s psychologist about my blushing problem.
My cousin was in group therapy with a Freudian psychologist in the Pasadena area, where she lived at the time. Her psychologist told me I needed to lose my virginity, and his wife agreed. Now, I don’t think much of his advice, but at the time, I thought it was worth a shot. A few months after my 18th birthday, I met a man whom I felt was equal to the task. He could do what needed to be done without either of us falling in love. Of course my parents didn’t approve. They probably wondered what had gotten into me. I never told them about my meeting with their niece’s psychologist nor the advice he gave me. Who am I going to believe? A behavioral scientist or the people who lied to me about Santa Claus? As a result of my dad’s reaction to my spending the night away from the house (mind you I was past the age of 18), I no longer had a place to live or the means of continuing my schooling, thus blushing in school had become a moot point.
I missed the fall semester while working for a Hungarian restaurant in Hollywood, then became involved with a man who had 4 children. My cousin thought I needed rescuing and persuaded my parents to take me back, then persuaded me to go back. I enrolled in the spring semester at the community college, but dropped out after completing it. I had become a pot smoker, and my grades, which had placed me on the Dean’s list the first two semesters, had taken a nose dive. I had, however, learned about yoga and started to meditate. Later, I would go back to school to become a secretary, than an electronics tech, and more recently a massage therapist. Also, a little over a decade ago, I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Healing from Clayton College of Natural Health by correspondence.
The 1960s was a difficult time. I lost 2 very close relationships to the war in Viet Nam. Neither wanted to be a soldier. Both were conscripted. I couldn’t see why they couldn’t get out of it, and distanced myself from each in turn, once when I was 17, and again with the other one when I was 19.
My first love was 22 and still a virgin. I was 17, and a senior in high school. He was in my cousin’s hiking club, and she had taken me on backpacking trips in the Sierras several times with the club. After we became boyfriend and girlfriend, he had bicycled to my house in Fallbrook from Arcadia, 100 miles one way, for a short visit, twice. He spent the night in the boy’s room. At that time there weren’t as many freeways as there are now. There were lemon and orange groves along the route. After he enlisted in the army for two years to avoid being drafted for three years, he wrote me that he would call when he got out of boot camp, and let me know when to expect his call. Pathetically, I sat by the phone for hours, and he never called. I found out later he had dated another of my cousin’s friends and lost his virginity with her. I was devastated. I felt my whole world had crumbled around me. A year later, while I had a room at the House of Awareness near Hollywood and Vine, we met for an evening and night. We walked around Griffith Park, then spent the night together in my room. By that time I had a few notches on my lipstick case, but I refused to have sex with him. That would be the last time we were together or communicated in any way.
Half a year after that last meeting I had fallen in love again. The same thing happened. He was facing the draft and, rather than serve 3 years as a draftee, he enlisted for two, this time into the airforce. He came to see me at my apartment in Pasadena. We were both 19. He had completed some initial training and was shipping out to Viet Nam. I never saw nor heard from him again. I felt that my father’s military service, during world war II, was what had made him so heavy handed with my brothers and me. I did not want a military man raising my children.
Prior to getting my own apartment in Pasadena, I lived with my cousin in Altadena for awhile. One day while I was there alone, two guys came over. One of them was someone I thought was hot and had developed a crush on the moment I had first seen him. He had been there before at my invitation. The other was one of the guys who had been in a car that had picked me up while hitch-hiking. The guy I thought was hot was in the house by himself for awhile, while the other guy talked with me in the back yard. He said the day they picked me up hitch-hiking they were going to gang-rape me. But after talking to me, they decided I was nice, and they would each date me one at a time. Suddenly the pickup started and he ran to it and got in. I walked into the house through the back door. The front door was open. My cousin’s stereo and the speakers hand made by my uncle were gone! I ran after them, but they out-distanced me. I was unable to get the license plate or even the make of the pickup. I only knew the first names of the two boys. My cousin was hurt and angry with me. I offered to pay her 5 dollars every two weeks until it was paid off, but she wouldn’t accept it.
So I moved out. Then I met my first child’s father. No recruiter was going to get this monster! At the time that was number one on my shopping list. I worked, he didn’t. He was hard to get along with, I tried harder. We got busted for dope and jumped bail to his home state, Ohio. My mom convinced me to come back, paid my way both ways, and hired a lawyer to get me off. My grandmother gave me a thousand dollars, and then I went back to Ohio. We suffered thefts, vandalism and physical assault. We were bi-racial. After a couple of years I went back to California for a few months. My common law husband had seduced an underage girl and was facing a trial for statutory rape. I stayed with my brothers, who were heavy into the party scene. I got so drink once I had a gap in my memory. The last thing I remember was this guy was trying to seduce me and I was getting really irritated at him. My brother told me I really told him off. I couldn’t remember, and that was kind of scary. I resolved not to do that again. I missed my so-called husband, and hitch-hiked back to Wooster, Ohio where he was.
After nearly 5 years, I had had enough of him. My 6-month-old daughter and I got on a plane for San Diego. I had a broken finger and bruised thighs from being beaten with a pool que by the father of my child. My daughter and I stayed with my parents for several years.
My daughter and I became steady church goers. I did not, smoke, date or drink to excess. She and the church were my whole world. My parents were very nice to me. My dad even hugged me once in awhile. My sister was in high school, then she attended San Diego State, skipping over the community college experience. My brothers were living in their own places. They each got married a few years after I returned home. One time I took a hit on a joint when I was with my younger brother and his wife, but felt bad about it. The church I was in had a rather loose relationship with alcohol. They would have communion just about every service in which a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread were passed around with reverence and prayer. I thought moderate drinking was fine, and felt free to have a beer or a glass of wine from time to time.
As my daughter grew, I eventually was not needed so much by her, and had more and more time to myself. We moved to Escondido in a little house. I did factory work or office work. I was slow getting my driver’s license and biked with a baby seat on the bike to get her to childcare and myself to work. Finally, I got my license with help from friends in the church and then got a car. We lived for several years in San Diego with some other women in the church, then we got an apartment in Chula Vista by ourselves. She made friends with a neighbor, then I made friends with him too, and had a relationship with him for a year. He made me get an abortion, and I did, even though I wanted the child. Eventually, I realized it was not going to work because I wanted kids and he didn’t. He was also a beer drinker and a pot smoker.
I became disenchanted with what I saw as a lack of opportunities for women and withdrew from the church, then I met a man that recognized me from the South San Diego branch of my former church, while my first child and I were walking home from a meeting at her school, where she attended second grade. He became the father of the other three of my four children. We got married when our first child together was nearly a year old. He liked to smoke pot but could not handle alcohol. It took me a while to understand that. He would over-indulge on alcohol and behave terribly. Periodically, he would stop drinking totally, start reading to me from the Bible, Ram Das or some other spiritually enlightening article or book, and I would think everything was going to be okay. Then he would go on a binge again, a 12-pack of beer at a time, and behave horribly. So went ten years. I finally let him go in 1991.
I considered myself a moderate drinker. My three younger children’s father came to visit often. We had a little house that we rented in Fallbrook that had a citrus and avocado groove. As he came quite a ways on the bus, he stayed there when he came. I did not, however, renew our marriage, but it was important to me that the kids have a relationship with their father. After years of scoffing at the idea, I finally understood something about alcoholism. I finally understood that this man could never become a moderate drinker. Any alcohol at all would trigger a binge drinking episode. So I stopped buying it, brewing it or drinking it. That was January of 1992, and I have been clean and sober since. In April of that year, I discovered the Bahá’í Faith and it’s teachings of the equality of man and woman and the nonuse of drugs and alcohol.
Three years later, I fell in love with a man who died of a stroke after we had dated for 8 months. We were both 45. He was going to AA and NA, and was awarded his one year token around the time he died. Then a year after that, the boyfriend of my oldest daughter, who had lived with us for a year, died in a car accident at the age of 19. Then a year after that, a man, I had been close friends with, died of a heart attack at 57. After three bereavements in three years, I was almost used to it. The first one was the most devastating. I still feel a bond with the one that died in 1997 (the third one). I feel his presence quite often.
I experienced the loss of my father in 2000. I had been meditating a lot during the time leading up to his passing and after it. I felt I had worked through a lot of the difficulties of pain and forgiveness, and was able to support him in his transition.
My mother passed away in 2015. I was involved with her care from the loss of her mental acuity in 2003, particularly from 2011, when she lost the ability to walk unassisted. I dream about her practically every night. That we are so close now is a very enjoyable surprise.
13 years ago, I met the man I married 8 years ago. Michael and I are both nonusers of drugs and alcohol. We are both high raw vegans and natural hygienists. He helped me care for my mother during her decline. We lost his mother in 2014. We are both into sustainable living and are exploring various technologies and lore such as fitness, natural healing, meditation, fruit and vegetable farming, water purification, solar heating, solar electricity, tiny shelters, electric vehicles, basket making, wild food gathering, fog collecting, methane generating and so forth. We both support recovery from addictions and codependency. We are both musicians. I play strings and he plays woodwinds. He knows many of the traditional songs of his Kumeyaay culture. We both believe in the equality and the oneness of mankind, the periodic return of the Savior, and the importance of prayer and meditation.
The picture above shows a solar oven I designed and made. I play the guitar, viola, ukulele, plains Indian flute, sing, compose and arrange music. I have a blog online where I submit poems and essays from time to time. I have four grown children, six grandchildren, with whom I like to correspond on Facebook and Instagram. I have four step children and numerous step grandchildren. I have nieces, nephews, brothers and cousins that I keep in touch with whenever possible. I spend part of my day meditating, and part practicing music. I also try to stay fit. I am approaching my 70th birthday and realize I need to be prepared for my transition, most likely within the next two decades. Thank you for reading what I wrote.