Personalizing

One of the books I read a while back, that really hit home with me and I felt the need to recently re-visit was “My Parents’ Keeper: Adult Children of the Emotionally Disturbed (Paperback)”.  I bought it shortly before I started this blog back in 2006…   and before that point, I never heard of an ACMIP (Adult Child of a Mentally Ill Parent).

Up until that point, I hadn’t really taken the time to look Read the rest of this entry »

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Positive Recollections – (a book tag…)

I’m it!  Here’s a fun little “tag” from Kate at “One More Thing“…

The game goes like this:
“Find the nearest book, turn to page 123, start at the fifth sentence and type out the next three sentences.”

Sounds easy enough….

I’m at my desk… in my little home office.. directly to my right, is a book shelf… full of old and new books of mine… ranging from “Calvin and Hobbes” to “Mark Twain collection” to gawd only knows what.  Nearest  at hand, though, is a book I read not too long ago… Read the rest of this entry »

To me… when I was 13…

Whelp… I’ve been tagged… by Rebecca from her “Fictional Reality” blog.   The idea is to write a letter to yourself when you were 13.  This was her post – “Tag! You’re it!, and is a good read that leaves one wondering… “what exactly happened at her cousin’s wedding anyway??”.  =)

It is funny that not too long ago, I wound up writing a post called “If I could go back in time… “.  In that post, I wound up writing about what I would tell myself if I could go back 6 years ago… when I was pregnant with my 2nd son, had a 5 year old son, and was taking care of my dieing father.

I didn’t plan to write it… it just rolled off…  and the really weird thing is that only a couple days later, I wound up face to face with a pregnant woman – pregnant with her 2nd son, and she has a 4 year old son, and she had just lost her mother.  I wound up in a deep conversation with her, even though we hardly knew each other… and, saying many of the same things to her that I had just written about.

Anyway – now, I’m faced with writing to my 13 year old self… Read the rest of this entry »

Forgiving Mom…

Linda Athis stumbled in here recently and commented on my blog… which led me to her blog called “Forgiving Mom” (http://forgivingmom.wordpress.com/).  I was amazed and intrigued by the many similarities she and I seem to have.  But, the one glaring difference, is that she has lost her mom… and she’s feeling the pain of that.  Still, she talks of coming to terms with things and forgiving her Mom before she died.  It made me wonder how I will feel when my mom is gone some day?  But, I still didn’t know if I felt the same “forgiveness and understanding” she wrote of…  

 But, between reading her blog… and all the soul searching  and reminiscing I’ve been doing this past year…  and talking to my good friend til the wee hours of the morning the other weekend…  and the post I wrote recently about Christmas and how BOTH my parents made sure we had good ones..  I realized something….

 I need to forgive my mom. 

I have said that I did, because I believe she is/was sick, so I could…  but… did I really?  I don’t think so. 

I know I have a lot of resentment bottled up in me towards her… I fight it all the time… She makes me angry… crazy…. hurt.  It’s hard to squeeze forgiveness in there. 

But… I think… I finally do.  I think I finally can. 

All this researching… reflecting… has taught me a lot.  Not only about myself… but also about my Mom.

 For years…  I’ve tried to make excuses for her… and tried to forgive her and love her in spite of so many things about her that still made me upset.   I wanted to but, I don’t think I really could.. or did.   

But, now… I see things differently for the first time.  I still think I had a right to feel the way I did towards her… but, I finally feel like I can start to let those angry and bitter feelings go. 

For years, I saw my father as the “good parent”… and the “martyr”.  I still see that… but, for the first time… I am really seeing that my mom not only TRIED her best to be a good parent too… but, that all in all… she really was a good mom.  It took two to make our family work at all… and my mother.. was also a “good parent” and “martyr”. 

She had her battles too.  When I think about just how much she was dealing with that I can probably never understand… and I think about my childhood and how she was… and still is with my brothers and our children…. I realize…  I was actually pretty damn lucky.  Some of the stories I’ve read about mentally ill parents were much MUCH worse than anything I had to deal with.  However, I bet my mother could relate to some of the worse case scenarios because of HER mother that was in and out of institutions her whole life.  What a rotten childhood SHE must have had.  I never really understood that as much as I do now. 

So, yeah… she was a religious nut and is a bit whacky at times.  But, you know what? She really did love me.  She really DOES love me.  And she tries her best to show it.  Looking back, I see that she really did everything she could to try to be a good mom and be there for us.  And she was.  Even with her illness and the religious BS… she was probably a better mother than a lot of women out there.  Losing touch with reality a little… and dealing with her past…. ??  That had to be hard for her.  No wonder she was/is a religious nut.  Maybe that was/is her saving grace?  Maybe without it, she’d be in much worse shape and need meds and hospitals too?  So, she didn’t always measure up.  So what?  Who does?  Ya know what?  I finally realize that she did damn good. 

Yes, I still look back at some things… and think, “that wasn’t right!”… “that shouldn’t have happened to me!”.   I still believe that.  I think I NEEDED to validate those feelings… and grieve a bit for myself…  but, I think more importantly I need to learn and deal with those feelings.  I feel like I finally can do that. 

When my parents fought (which they did a lot)… my dad always use to say he was only staying with her because of us kids.  She use to say she was only staying with him because her relgion didn’t believe in divorce.  Hearing this, use to make me wince and again think my Dad was doing something great for US…  but not her.  She was only there for religion….  

 But, looking back… I think I had this wrong.  Regardless of what she screamed at him…  she HAD to have stayed all those years for a number of reasons probably (as did he probably!)… and myself and my brothers just HAd to be one of her main reasons too.  I think, deep down, she knew my dad was a good father.  Maybe she didn’t want to admit it… because it was confusing to her since he was an atheist and all.  But she also didn’t want to deprive us of that.  I think she did want us to grow up with both parents… and that she DID have our best interests in mind.  Regardless of if she ever said it. 

Using “religion” as her excuse – was just that.  An excuse she could rationalize out and readily admit.   I mean, let’s face it… she has used religion for an excuse to support anything that she ever really did… or didn’t want to do.  I think, that had she REALLY wanted to get divorced and leave him… you can bet your bottem dollar that the Holy Spirit or God would have appeared to her and told her it was okay…. and that she SHOULD.  This never happened until we were all grown.  Why?  Because she didn’t really want to leave him!  Why am I just NOW figuring all this out?!

I am just now… at 41 years of age.. realizing that she also sacrificed for us kids… she also was a martyr for us… she also not only TRIED to be a good mom… but, WAS.  All things considered… she did pretty damn good by me…

And I’ve been a mean daughter…  Resentful.  Angry.  

I am so glad I am discovering these feelings before she’s dead and gone.  I am finally realizing how lucky I was/am to have her in my life.  I am finally realizing I need to let go of my anger and resentment towards her.  I am finally seeing her for the couragious person and loving mother she was/is…  

I need to tell her these things…  that she was a good mom.  I don’t think I’ve ever really told her that and meant it.  I really mean it now.  I need to tell her.

To cry… or NOT to cry…

There’s another interesting read over on “The Naked Soul” blog, called “Pain and Suffering – Human VS Spiritual “.   Do we create our own pain?  Or chose to suffer? I started to reply to it…  but, felt my reply turning into a book – so, decided to make a post here instead.  I often think of my father when I think of people who overcame and dealt with pain.  (He almost died in a fire when he was 12 – more details on that posted here).  He was never one to complain, though.   

When we were kids, we never even realized how much he had gone through, or still dealt with.  Pain was a constant for him.  He flinched with every step he took… but, he was too tough, and proud, to admit his pain, or to complain about it.  Even when he got really sick his last days on this earth… and had even more trouble walking…  he refused to let me push him in a wheel chair through the hospital to his appointments.  He said he was never going back in another wheel chair…  he walked… stopping every so many feet until we got there.  This frustrated me as I knew he was in pain, and felt it was “needless”.  It also inspired the hell out of me, and made me admire his will power and strength. 

As I got older, and saw him more as a human, and not just my Dad – I realized that much of his “toughness” was a big act.  He was a big softie on the inside…. but, you wouldn’t have known it.  I still have to respect him and admire his strength….  he sure was a tough old goat :).  He had to be to make it through everythig he  did. 

However, I do think his “strength”, and prideful commitment to it, probably went a little overboard sometimes.   He was so strong… yet he was afraid to express his real emotions/feelings. He was so afraid to look “weak”, that he didn’t/wouldn’t seek help that was often readily available –  and suffered more in the process because of that.  He taught us to do the same.  Is that really a good quality?

My brothers and I were strongly encouraged to hide any pain and negative feelings. Crying or showing weakness was shameful and flat out ridiculed.  I remember my father telling my brothers that they were “sissies”… or “crying like a little girl” when/if they cried (the words “little girl” said with a sneer of disgust, as if something terrible to be).  So, I didn’t want to cry… OR act like a “little girl” either.  Even though I WAS one! LOL  Nope, I wanted to be tough… and one of the guys.  And, I was.  To this day, most of my friends and family all perceive me as being much stronger than I think I really am.  I talk about that a little in my other post about here.  

We were taught to hide or repress our tears…  That it was shameful to feel sorry for ourselves…  or to act weak.  We were told to not make excuses for ourselves…  To accept responsibility… to look on the bright side… to not complain – even if we had something legitimate to complain about…  And we were taught that most things were not worth complaining about.  I can still hear my father’s voice saying, “If that is all you have to complain about, than you shouldn’t be complaining!”.  Much of this logic… I still completely agree with.   However, I know it went too far.  I have to take a step back and watch how I treat my own boys…   I remember being afraid of the dark when I was very young… but also being petrified to seek comfort and admit I was afraid.  I was more afraid to go to my parents and say I was afraid, than I was afraid of the dark.   I don’t ever want my boys to fee like that.  I want them to run to my bed in the middle of the night and know they will find protection from whatever bad dreams or darkness they fear. 

I remember being teased by my brothers, and really being upset… and running to the bathroom and dabbing tears so as not to let them fall from my eyes…  making sure there were no signs of a tear before facing them again.  

I remember physically getting hurt, and being able to choke back the tears… and then be rewarded for doing that.  (what a brave girl!)   If I did cry… I felt like a big cry baby… and didn’t want anyone to see. 

I remember  a lot worse things that I care not to write about that I never told anyone.   Even things that I knew then were “wrong” or not fair to me, I still kept to myself because I somehow thought it was “my own fault”.  I blamed myself… and didn’t want to admit it to anything… even if it wasn’t really my fault.  .Better to suffer and hide it, then to have anyone else know how “weak” I was.    I know I applied this in many areas of my life…  blaming myself… and repressing negative feelings… putting on a good front.

I remember the first time I cried in front of a best friend… we were 18… and had been best friends since 3rd grade.   She had never once seen me cry and she was utterly shocked.  She didn’t know how to respond to me.  Matter of fact, she said “Oh my God!  I’ve never seen you cry.  Please don’t cry.  You can’t cry!  Don’t cry!”.  ??  As if I wasn’t allowed to.  ?! I  still hate to cry in front of anyone… but, I’m not as bad as I use to be.  On of the best friends I have now, is one who I can cry with occassionally.  (When we are not too busy laughing our asses off, that is 😉 )  I actually am a person who usually has fun no matter what… who always looks on the bright side…  makes others laugh… see’s humor in most things… and I am glad I am like that. 

So, anyway… I’m not trying to whine here…  (sorry! LOL) , but rather state that regarding the whole “people should be responsible for their own pain” issue… ??  Well, like many things, I have mixed feelings on this topic.  While I don’t want to dwell on the negatives… or let pain or suffering consume me… I also am fairly recently learning that it’s okay to acknowledge pain,  or mourn or grieve for oneself, and to cry.   Sometimes, pain (physical or spiritual) is very real… and very deserving of those tears. 

Matter of fact, I am reading a book that rather insists that one NEEDS  to do this (acknowledge your pain and suffering, and grieve) rather than live in denial of it, and rationalize things from your past (or present).  It claims that until you do so, you can never really understand yourself and grow…  That you need to do feel sorry for yourself.. grieve… mourn whatever it was you never had or lost, or what you are dealing with…  so that you can then move on.  I suppose that’s the trick, right?  Knowing when to “move on”… and then actually being able to do it, right? 

~smj

My teen life in a musical youtube nutshell…

I was mulling over my last post…. and, my teenage years in my head. 

My teen years marked the beginning of my dual lifestyle…

One one hand…  I was starting to doubt and reject a lot of what I was being taught by mom and church in general.. but, I was still going to church 2-5 times a week and singing in the choir, where I’d basically be partaking in a lof of this:


(“Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” )

Then, on the days I wasn’t playing the part of the good little Christian girl, I was skipping school, jumping out my window, and staying over my heathen friends houses a lot in order to sneak to rock concerts and parties, and banging my head to the likes of this:

(“Running with the Devil” – VanHalen)

Explains a lot, doesn’t it???

=)
~smj

All is fair in love and conversion…

Another post at “de-conversion” got me thinking.  The post is called “My life of proselytization“, this time from HeisSailing…   

In his post, he said:

 “I witnessed the Gospel of Jesus Christ for most of my adult life”. 

Now, I was much younger  than he was when I was a full force believer.  But, I believe I felt just as strongly.  I believed it all.  I went around trying to “save” all the kids in my neighborhood… but, my main mission was to save my own father.   

HeisSailing made a comment about getting his mom to come to church:

“I would try to convince my mother, once a committed Christian and now a practical atheist, the error of her backsliding ways. I even got her to go to church with me a few times, but not before informing the pastor that I was bringing her and if he would not mind directing a word or two of his message her way.”

This really reminded me of how when I was a young girl, I would be pressured into singing or doing “specials” in front of the church.  Then, I would be asked to put the pressure on my father to come to church to see me.  After all, I was “Daddy’s little girl”, didn’t he want to see me perform?  So, he did come… for at least the first few years of “specials”. 

Each time he said “yes honey, I’ll come see you sing” –  I would report back to my mother.  Then my mother, her friends, the pastor, and my brother and I would rejoice.  He’ s coming!  Hallelujah!  And we’d all pray hard every day until the day of the “special”, that when he came… THIS would be the time the lord would come down and bonk him on the head and turn him into the perfect Christian father and husband.  When it didn’t happen… we’d go back to plan A.  Try, try again.  Repeatedly I was put in this position of trying to save my own father.  For years. 

Eventually, my father stopped coming to every “special” of mine.  He knew the deal… and he didn’t like being approached by the pastor and pressured each time he came either.  It was like the whole church was looking at him when he’d come.  “Here comes that atheist husband and father!”.  They could’ve sold tickets to see the freak atheist!  LOL  So, I can’t blame him for not wanting to come – even at the time.  He probably also sensed the pressure being put on me, and didn’t want to be a part of that either. 

I know it was very hard for him to eventually start telling me, “no honey, I won’t come see you sing”.  I would then have to report back to my mother that I had failed.. he won’t come… I’m sorry.  She would then freak out and get very upset.  She made me feel terrible when he didn’t come.  She’d make me ask him again and again.  And, then they’d argue and she’d try to make him feel guilty for not coming,  and make ME feel guilty and like he didn’t care about me in the process.

Eventually, I didn’t WANT to keep singing either.  (surprise surprise!).  Mostly because I didn’t want to keep pressuring my dad and going thru this.. and because I was starting to have my own doubts about all of it.  Not only about my beliefs, but I started wondering if I even had a good voice or not!  (loletinf!;)  When I finally stood up for myself and said that I didn’t want to do a “special”, I suddenly didn’t feel so special anymore.  Not just my mother, but the church leaders also made me feel really bad.  Like I was a quitter… giving up… back-sliding… and, they then put pressure and guilt trips on ME asking me over and over when I would sing again.  My mother even said something like, “how is your father ever going to be saved now??! “. 

Looking back, I can’t believe how much plotting and scheming it all was.  The pressure, fear, and guilt used! Unfortunately, since I was in it, I understand their thinking and putting the pressure on my Dad.  They really felt it was their duty and apparently rudeness, politeness, respect, and common courtesy fly out the window when you are trying to save someone’s soul (and do your Christian duty ).  This is bad enough. 

However, what really gets me (and I don’t want to sound whiney here, but) is how could they do that to me?  I was a little girl.  A little CHRISTIAN girl who wanted to believe all they were teaching.  They played me.  They used me.  How could they put that kind of pressure, guilt and fear on me?!?

 And, when I say “they”, it was NOT just by my mother.  It was also her friends, the pastor, the choir director, the church leaders.  What kind of people scare the crap out of a little girl telling her that her father, (who she loved wholeheartedly and was a GREAT Dad) was going to burn in hell?  Tell her that over and over?? Which is bad enough… but, then tack on the, “unless YOU can save him” part.  ??  And we prayed.. and prayed…  And I cried… and cried…

I just don’t get it. I don’t get how adults, in their right minds, could think this was an okay thing to do.  ??  The “RIGHT” thing to do??  It makes me mad still when I think about it, and leads me to the only logical conclusion I can think of, and that is that they ALL were not in their right minds! 

HeisSailing wrote:

” I then became exhausted from witnessing. I was exhausted and drained from believing that I and my small sect of Christian brethren have the exclusivity on truth and everyone else, no matter what their beliefs, are going to eternal torment. I was sick of believing that I was on the narrow path of righteousness, and my loved ones are on the wide path leading to destruction when in many cases, they are just simply much better people than I am.”

This is a huge part of why I eventually didn’t believe and don’t believe in any one religion, or in religion or God at all really.  Not only because I can’t fathom the idea of my own father going to hell (which is a biggie, I admit), but, also ALLLLLL the other people.  It can’t be.  It makes no sense. 

HeisSailing then wrapped up his post by saying:

“Then I became sick of that guilt, I became sick of that arrogance of exclusivity, I became sick of looking at our life as a trial from God to see if we believed the correct doctrines, and I refused to accept it anymore.”

Like him, I also “became sick” of these same things…  The eternal dangling carrot, and the constant fear of hell. I am glad to be rid of them.    

PS – If you haven’t already – I suggest you go read HeisSailing’s post in full, as he writes much better than me and makes his points with much better reasoning…

Take care,

~smj