Unintended Consequences -

This is the Introduction to my memoir, The River of Forgetting

I didn’t intend to become a writer or an artist. I didn’t in-tend to grab at an early retirement offer and leave teaching, a job that I loved. I certainly didn’t intend to find out about childhood incest.

These days I spend my mornings writing poetry or fiction, or painting abstract canvases. Those days, I got up hurriedly, checked my to-do lists, grabbed my briefbag already loaded with student papers and lecture notes, and headed off to the office.

I would not have moved from there to here without the raging crisis in the middle. It began with an unsolicited memory from age three. After the first memory came, I wrestled with doubt about whether anything at all had happened to me as a child.

I didn’t intend to spend several years immersed in the wa-ters of my psyche, but my emotions left me no choice. My lifelines were my therapist, my friends, and my creative outlets. My therapist taught me to listen to the voice of the little girl inside me who had been molested and who felt intensely abandoned by both parents.

Currents of ancient emotions swept through me. In therapy and in my daily life, I crawled through thickets of mistrust and bogs of shame. I was enraged at people who trampled my boundaries. And yet I functioned well at work and kept up friendships. Slowly, my focus shifted away from the misery and need of the child inside me. As I began to trust my therapist’s love and acceptance, I gained a sense of being a sturdy, worthy person who had already survived the worst.

I wouldn’t have called it creativity at first. I simply needed to write in my journal every day, keeping track of my feel-ings as they swirled. I’d sit at the kitchen table and let my pen race uncensored.

But words were limiting, too. When I was abused at ages three to six, I didn’t have words for what happened. Fifty years later I needed to involve the wordless, unscientific parts of my mind in the work of recovery.

I took up pastels and scribbled dark, angry pages full of red and black. And I took my body-memories and reactions to the dance studio to act them out.
Other people have written moving stories of childhood abuse, detailing the trauma of their early years. Although I have plenty of childhood memories, I do not have clear recollections of the abuse, only fragments and body memories. It’s the adult experience of healing, with all its human messiness, that is the core of this memoir. Because it focuses on self-discovery, love, and creativity, I hope this book will also be useful to many individuals with differing backgrounds who undertake the inner journey of self-knowledge.  
I am still my mother’s daughter—the persistence and dis-cipline, the stubbornness. I am still my father’s daughter—the quest for something more, dashing off on new projects, the inventiveness. But I am my own daughter as well, the beloved creative child.

This is the story of my transformation.

Love and Abuse

How do love and abuse go together?

My sister Suzie has Down Syndrome. She requires care and supervision 24/7. We were lucky enough that the State found a woman to take Suzie into her home and provide that care. This woman, “Rhoda,” was wildly enthusiastic about Suzie and improving her life. She took it as a great project to get new clothes, fix up a nice room, and take Suzie everywhere with her, shopping (above all), visiting friends, church, etc. When we talked, Rhoda would constantly tell the new things she was doing for Suzie and how Suzie was talking more, was doing better. And this was true; I saw the improvements with my own eyes—more liveliness, a new enjoyment. Although I did notice that  when we had lunch together, Rhoda did all the talking, without paying much attention to the Suzie who was actually there with us.

This past Monday I got a frantic message from my other sister, Kathy, and then a phone call from Suzie’s social worker. Rhoda had been seen at a large department store, yanking Suzie around and then leaving her for over an hour, while Rhoda went here and there in the store. It was all on the store's security videos. Rhoda denied it all and said she’d been right there, it must be someone had a grudge against her.

Love and abuse. I think Rhoda really loved Suzie, but she was also bossy and needed control, and was sometimes frustrated with Suzie’s slowness. I think Rhoda’s world centers on Rhoda, and my sister Suzie was…what? an object? a project?

I think back to my family where I grew up, and my father’s temper and his abuse. There was love there, that was the most confusing thing. But there was also abuse. My father loved me, but he failed to keep boundaries. As responsible adults we all have feelings of anger, impatience, and sometimes sexuality towards those we raise and care for. But it’s our job as grownups to have restraint, to know the feelings but not act on them badly.

Rhoda is no longer in charge of my sister Suzie. Suzie’s in a different home, a group home where she can be with others and be supervised by multiple staff, not depend on just one woman who probably was overwhelmed by the task. Right now Suzie is confused but she’s basically OK. The loss of Rhoda’s love makes me really sad for Suzie (and my own Inner Children are scared, angry, and grieving), but Suzie needs to be safe as well as loved.

Terrific New Interview with Marilyn Van Derbur

Colorado TV Station 9News.com just aired a wide-ranging interview with Marilyn Van Derbur, the former Miss America and author of Miss America By Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love.

"Her most important title: 'Survivor'" tells of the impact on her life both of the incest she experienced and of his disclosure to the public. She is inspiring, strong, and full of grace.

Thank you, Marilyn!

Book Promotion and the Inner Child

If I want anyone to find my memoir (The River of Forgetting) and read it, I need to do promotion work. That means Twitter, book blogs, networking, etc. I’m excited about that. I believe in my book.  It’s lyrical, honest, inspiring, hopeful, and painful. Readers tell me that the writing takes them vividly to the places of pain and healing, the journey that abuse survivors need to undertake in order to heal.

So yes, I am promoting the book through a Virtual Book Tour and many other channels, because it’s important.

And it’s a lot of work and outward energy. My inner children fight about it all the time. Eager Girl says, Yes! That’s great! Do it more! Good Girl says, You have to, you must. Meanwhile, quieter parts of me sit huddled in the corner and beg for attention. Please stop, please listen, please give me a long hug.

So I go on day by day, and some days I send lots of Tweets, some days I answer interviews, and every day I take some quiet time, as I need to today, to hold and rock the quiet Inner Child who just needs love and care. After all, caring for this Little Girl, my tenderest self, is what my healing is about.