Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Survival, Awareness & Breaking Free - Part 5

So, the continuing saga. If you want to follow from the beginning, you can read parts one, two, three & four.

Before I get into the next part, I want to mention something that is, I firmly believe,  the only reason I survived. Throughout my whole life, God and Jesus have always been very real to me. They have never been just stories or ideas. I have known them - as distinct persons - from my earliest memories. I came to view God the Father as a distant, angry, impatient and disappointed father. It was what I knew. But through the nights when I couldn't sleep for the nightmares or the images that would flare up in my head, Jesus was always right there. Safety in the middle of terror. And yes, my personal experience is that Satan is very real, too. I've seen him in the eyes of those who act with malice against those who have done them no wrong. I've seen him in the eyes of someone taking pleasure in the emotional pain and confusion they are causing. 

But I've seen Jesus in the eyes of someone willing to listen to stories no one wants to hear - in detail - and hold my hand and say "Fight, little girl, fight!"

This isn't about bashing God or pushing God. It is just my life as I see it, and God is a pivotal part of that life. I think you can still get something out of this, even if you don't believe in God, or believe in Him in another way. 

So, I wanted to make sure, as I detail my journey, that you understand that I am not mad at God - or against Him. I am beginning to get an inkling of the loving Father He is. I have questioned Him - often. He tells me, with a smile, "Relax, and trust Me." But I am mad at people who play church and I am mad at people who use God to promote themselves, walking on people - destroying people's lives - manipulating the Bible and the offices of the church to control people - as they go, turning people away from God - leaving wrecked lives in their wake. That I am VERY mad at.

So... I moved into my grandparents house . . . with my mother . . . in the same room . . . in the same bed. This lasted for over three years. I slipped back into survival mode. But now, unlike when I lived with her before, I was also cut off from all of my friends except when my mother and I would drive the hour or so to the town we used to live in to visit my sister. My mother and her father never got along. He was emotionally distant and sometimes, downright spiteful. Was he a narcissist, too? I haven't decided yet. But there were definite tendencies in that direction. My mother talked about him in ways that would sometimes shock me - even for her. I believe she hated him. I think some of that went back to his behavior while she was growing up, but also I think a large factor in this hatred was that she was dependent on him to survive and that totally messed with the image of herself as the suave, independent, cosmopolitan woman that doesn't need anyone - an image that was hard to maintain while living with the father she hated.

So I spent 3 years and 2 months playing buffer between my mother and my grandfather. Oh joy. I so wanted freedom, but I didn't know how to get it. I didn't understand that it would require cutting my mother off. I retreated into books, an old, familiar refuge. And I retreated into a somewhat newer refuge - my computer. I played a lot of computer games - and wrote programs that did fun, but not terribly marketable things. Sometimes, I would sit at my computer for 15 hours straight just working on a program.

During this time, the pressure to do something with my life began building. I would overhear bits of conversation between my grandparents and whoever they were talking to - they just didn't know what was wrong with me. 

In a conversation, I  mentioned in passing, to an aunt who was a writer, that I liked Star Trek: The Next Generation. She said that they accepted scripts unsolicited - paid $25,000 per script if they bought it. Hmm... I decided to give it a shot. I knew they would give greater consideration to writers with an agent, so I researched agents who were part of the Writer's Guild of America, narrowed it down to 10 by various criteria, and mailed out letters of inquiry. Only one responded. One was all I needed. He took me on and I wrote two teleplays for the show. It was exciting. I was doing something. I didn't tell anyone what I was doing until after I had a contract with my agent. 

Short version, the studio read and liked my scripts - sent them back with a letter and said that they were sorry, but the show had been canceled and they did not need any more scripts for that one. They encouraged me to write for the new show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I regret that I didn't do that. But, I didn't know that show and did not have much control over what was watched on TV - I watched very little TV during those years. So, I gave up and retreated back into my books again. 

Actually, before I had moved in with my grandparents - before my sister had moved in with me - I had started an epic fantasy novel (yeah, really:). I had (have) over 150 pages written in rough draft. I sought the advise of my published author aunt. And got religion. She essentially refused to help me unless I wrote about what she thought I should write about - Christian fiction. Fantasy was evil and she discouraged me from it on every conversation. Honestly, it was the same old thing I had gotten all my life - whatever I got excited about trying was either too hard, too risky or, in this case, just wrong. I gave up writing. In essence, the message I received was that I was just wrong in my goals - I wasn't doing it right. What was wrong with me? This message was familiar - I had heard it from little. I was not conforming to expectations. I was out of line. I deserved whatever I got.

During this interlude, my dad moved back into the state and reintroduced himself back into my life. I felt obligated to give him a chance. And I have. His tack has been to pretend like nothing bad ever happened. That's not working for me anymore.

Anyway, dad was paying rent for my sister. An opportunity arose for me to get a job. It was a crappy job. QC in a factory - swing shift - $750 a month. Not enough to live on. But, if I took the job, my sister would let me live with her - freedom - or something like. I took the job. I remember thinking that when I moved out of my grandparents house, there would not be a buffer between my mom and my grandpa. That concerned me. But I had to get out. Dad paid the rent. I worked. Sis didn't. This lasted for a year, during which mom would come up and spend 3 nights a week with us - just as her and I had been doing before I moved out. Then I got laid off - was on unemployment for 6 months. Saw no point in trying to get another job. We were living in a crumbling down hole in the ground otherwise known as a basement - underneath a business in the middle of town. This place sucked. It was infested and was literally crumbling around us. But is was better than spending the whole week with my mom.

I had reached the point where I had no motivation - saw no way to be independent and had no desire to be my sister's financial support. So, again, I gave up. Things continued in this for about 6 months. Then my sister got married. Wonderful. Really, it was wonderful. It was a full blown, big deal kind of wedding. It was beautiful. A few days before the ceremony, sis took me aside and told me that I could 'take over' the apartment. She said that her and her husband were going to get their own place (of course) and that from now on, mom was my responsibility, because she was not going to come stay with them. I didn't say anything. I thought a lot of things. But I didn't say anything. 

Being angry at my sister's behavior toward me was not something I was able to allow myself - I am still trying to sort that one out. You see, as we were growing up, I spent a lot of time taking care of her. My attitude has always been protective and tending toward wanting to defend her. 

I believe mom stayed with me through their entire 10 day honeymoon.

What happened next happened without anyone consulting me. That has been a recurring theme in my life. My dad decided to move to the town we were in and get an apartment big enough for him, me, and sis and hubby. And so, I started living with my dad. I didn't know what to expect. I still did not feel like he approved of me or that I was good enough for him. I felt guilty about his 'sacrifice.' So, I started doing the cleaning and cooking dinner for everyone. 

The up side, though? Mom couldn't come and spend the night anymore. So she started coming up two nights a week, no matter what was going on.

And, just for something to do outside the house, and because a friend was pestering me to do it, I joined a service club called the Jaycees. They did fun things to help the community and it was a chance to make some friends - belong somewhere. Awareness kept trying to poke its head out of the cellar, but I was in no condition to hear - to see. I was still just surviving.

When I was really little, my father had been a Jaycee. So, when they elected me president, I thought he would be proud. He was not. His response to the news was not congratulatory at all. He essentially asked me if I new what I was doing. Again, discouragement instead of encouragement. I got the feeling that he didn't think I was up to the challenge. And it was a challenge. But now I felt like I had something to prove. And there was an oath taking ceremony - sworn into office with the rest of the board. I took that very seriously. Probably much more seriously that was normal. ;-) 

I served 2 terms as president of this organization. It was a 30+ hour per week job. It was a volunteer position. But I had a purpose - a chance of belonging to something - of being accepted. I believe I did a good job. I worked hard. We won a lot of awards on the state level. We even won a national award. The feeling I got through this period was that my dad was just tolerating this phase and mom was humoring me. I never felt like they were proud of me. 

My sister and brother-in-law were involved, too - on the board. There was some friction - disagreement on goals and purpose. And then the politics started. Looking back, I would say that a couple of couples that joined were MNs and their spouses. Things got really ugly - nearly destroyed the organization. I was an officer on the board of this group for 5 years. Toward the end of this, I started going to a church. 

I felt like nothing I tried was good enough - right. Okay. I will go back to the start and do it God's way. That was what I thought. That's is why I wanted to go back to church. I was still in survival mode, but I was searching for answers to why I was such a mess. I thought a return to religion was just the thing. It's interesting. Just before I started going to this church, I got the urge to start reading my Bible again. Once I started, it was like a starving man - I read it from cover to cover in 5 weeks - amplified version, mind you. ;-) Knowing what I know now, I'm glad I actually knew what it said before I went into this church.

I firmly believed (still do) that God told me to go to this church. I know, considering what came later - what this church turned out to be, that maybe doesn't make sense. There is sense in it, though. The purpose just wasn't what I thought at the time. We'll get to that later. So, still in survival mode, but desperately wanting truth, off to church I went.


krl said...

Wow. Again, I can almost script my own life (different details), using your story as an outline.

Ok. Working on stringing my thoughts together so I can post a comment or two. Bear with me.

Several times in my life I have wanted to write my own story...which has only lead to frustration. My attempts to 'get it on paper'...all of it....was simply to purge myself of it once and for all. My frustration has been due to an effort to find cohesion. I kept trying to write facts that made sense....events that happened in context...in short, 'good reading material'...even if the story was tragic. I would give up when everything came out jumbled and cofusing and seemingly unrelated to the last event. Arrrggghhhh. I figured I just couldn't write. Period.

NOW, it is coming to me....(after reading your story)....OUR LIVES WERE FRAGMENTED!!! No wonder I couldn't write it cohesively! My life consisted of a jumble of bones from a skeleton....each bone seperated from the whole, picked clean, and thrown to the wind. It had no 'connective tissue' to hold it together! Wow. Shivvers. Each discarded 'bone' is a story itself....a 'record' of abuse and a fragmentation of my life. Why on earth I thought I could write anything BUT the 'fragments' of my life escapes me.

Well. Duh. I think I can write my story now. Give attention to each 'bone'....and begin the 'assembly'. Something is reminding me of Ezekial...The Valley of Bones...I'm going to look that up.

I hope this wasn't too random and obscure...but I just had to write to thank you, Katherine. I am getting some glimmers. I can live on glimmers, ya know? You are courageous....I can't say that enough.

Katherine Gunn said...

I get it. This is the first time I have been able to make a 'cohesive' story-line. There is so much I have left out...

I'm glad this is helping you. Really. Thank you.

The passage in Ezekiel is in chapter 37. ;-)

You're welcome. I get the 'glimmers,' too. It gets easier. Still scary, still painful, but easier.