Sunday, June 25, 2006

Positive influences in my life

Rossecorp asks: "Thank you for answering my question. Now I have another one for you: How have you managed to heal so much and become as healthy as you are?"

First let me point out that Rossecorp correctly does not ask how it is that I am healthy. I am on a journey and am some days quite unhealthy. However, as I see it: here are the factors that have contributed to my well being.

My mother:
My mother left my father for the first time when I was five and kicked him out for good when I was seven. She was lonely for much of my life, but she never brought another abusive man into our lives. I understood that my mother thought we were worth more than that. We deserved to be treated well and it was better to be lonely than to be hurt.

She always let me set my boundaries with my father. Well, not always, there is the famous dentist phone call, but most of the time. When I announced at thirteen (fourteen?) that I was not going to be visiting my father anymore she said, "Okay." She did not even ask why. I told her in a day or so what had happened between us, but she did not ask right away. That was important. It was clear to me that my not wanting to see him was reason enough. I did not have to justify it.

She always pushed me to take on a little more responsibility than I wanted. Much of this was due to the fact that she was busy and tired. When she said, "I don't know how to do that! Figure it out yourself!" she was not trying to build up my self-confidence, but that is what she did.

About half a year before my announcement that I was not going to see my father anymore my cousin, who is four years older than I, pulled me aside and told me about how our fathers used to drink together, that her father had stopped and started going to AA and that I should go to Alteen. I went for several years. I was the only kid there whose parents were not also in AA or Al-Anon. It was just the right thing at the right time.

Well, this is a mixed bag. Some of my religious experiences contributed to my feelings of guilt. I was also lucky that by the time I got to high school I found a good liberal church with a liberal pastor. He helped me to read the scriptures in a more rational way. His wife taught me that "feminism" was not a dirty word.

Other adults
My sister and I made different choices. At every point during my childhood I can remember someone who was an extra parental figure to me. I don't remember all of their names, but there was always someone whose kitchen I hung out in who had a loving and caring relationship with someone else. No one of them had an enormously powerful affect on my life. Together though they made it clear to me that it was possible to live in a different way.

If I have to pick out one thing that was most important I would definitely say it was my mother divorcing my father AND never bringing another abusive man into our lives. I cannot tell you how deeply I know and have always known that I should walk away from anyone who hurt me.


The "event" that happened with my father when I was about fourteen was really very simple. Having gone to Alateen for a while I knew that the way things were at my father's house was not the way it should have. I had not gone long enough to understand that changing things was not within my control. Calm and collected I went to my father and told him how miserable our visits had become for me. I cried every time I visited (which was one night a week). Trying to make him understand just how hard it was I concluded with, "Sometimes I think about just not coming anymore." His face went from sympathetic to cold and he said, also completely calm and collected, "If that is the way you feel, don't come."

I sat there in stunned silence waiting for him to say more. He looked at me with cold eyes until I left the room. Those were the last words we spoke to each other for the better part of a year. I finally called him, because I felt guilty! We met in a park and before I could say anything he started crying. He forgave me for walking out on him, for causing him so much pain. It was my first real moment of detachment. I looked at him and thought, "He isn't human. He looks like a human, but he is just not like the rest of us." It was the first time in my life when my father did something hurtful which failed to really hurt. At that moment I put up a wall which has never come back down.

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