She was freedom and restriction
Passion and stillness
Love and fear
Silence and noise
Future and past
Hope and desperation
Magical and unamusing
Present and distant
Everything and nothing
Opposite and sameness
She was …
She was freedom and restriction
Passion and stillness
Love and fear
Silence and noise
Future and past
Hope and desperation
Magical and unamusing
Present and distant
Everything and nothing
Opposite and sameness
She was …
“You gave to me, all of my life to do as I please, I owe everything, I have to you.”
It’s a beautiful song. I believe Neil Reid sang the song and won the Opportunity Knocks contest with it in 1971. He was 12 years and 9 months old at the time. The record sold 2.5 millions copies globally.
I loved the song; so did my mum, and so did my stepmum, Carmel.
I remember the inner conflict I felt with the lyrics of the song, even at 11 years of age, though I didn’t understand the conflicting feelings, they were powerful, a rush of “yes” and “no” as each beautiful line fell from Neil’s mouth.
I still feel the “yes” and “no” as I sit here writing, and as my mum lays in a hospital bed in Preston, having suffered a massive and depleting stroke, just over three weeks ago.
I love my mum, but it wasn’t always easy to like her. She was my friend. She was someone I could talk to about anything and not be judged. She was open-minded, accepting of my quirks, my need to speak the truth, my attempts for us to have a real relationship, my independence from her and any control or say so that she might want to have over my life and choices; she gave up that right when she left me and my brother when I was around 5 years of age. . .
She never did try to control me. I imagine she was afraid to. I was fierce in my independence from her. It’s only now, as she lays paralyzed, without a voice, unable to eat or drink, dead but still breathing, that I realize the fierceness was my protection; protection from ever being abandoned by her again, loving her, always, with a wall between us, a coldness and detachment that kept me safe and her punished.
If she could take my call now, I would want to share this with her and she would listen, because I would preempt it as I always did when I needed to have a real conversation with her by saying, “mum, I need to talk to you,’ and she would respond, :well, go on then.” She would listen and I know she would be grateful that I was sharing these words with her. I believe they would somehow set her free of any guilt or shame she might have felt for leaving me. I could even fantasize that she might cry and offer a heartfelt apology and deep regrets for how that must have impacted me and my life, that she understands I’m realizing only now that because she left me, I have been searching my whole life for the love she took from me when she made the choice to leave.
There was a period of time during my childhood, and my mums absence, that I would go to a pay phone each Tuesday at 6pm and place a “transfer charges” call to her phone number. She would always answer the operator, “Blackpool 379472,” (not the exact number) and the operator would ask if she would accept the charges, and my mum would accept them and we would talk. I honestly cannot recall a word of the conversation, though I recall the feeling I always felt when my mums voice was on the other end of the phone. I wanted something from her. I needed something from her. It was deep in the pit of my stomach. It was an ache. A void. A longing; a grasping for something from her that could not be found or latched onto through the distance of the telephone lines.
January 1st 2023,
Since starting this blog post, my mum has passed away. She left the earth October 24th. I was with her, holding her, talking her into the next world, painting a picture of who would be waiting for her, how she would be able to dance now and be free from pain, my hand on her chest as she exhaled her last breath, taking with her the love I had longed for my whole life.
It was a valid question – “why can’t you Suffer in Silence until we talk to — (our therapist.)” I immediately understood why they would ask the question. We were different that way. They didn’t open up easily to people. They had suffered greatly in silence throughout life. It saddened me to know of their suffering, isolation, the depth of disconnect from the people around them and the world at large. They had suffered greatly, and it mattered to me, deeply.
I had suffered in silence, mostly as a child, sometimes as an adult, and learned through lots of therapy that sharing hardships, problems, challenges, joys and life’s happenings, with trusted friends, family members and therapists, was healthy, was good for me. It allowed my suffering to be heard and not shut down in a place in me that still exists, but that chooses to connect and be seen. It isn’t easy. It’s a choice. It’s what I choose.
We were different that way; neither of us wrong or right, just different.
Suffering in silence – it’s what so many people do. Some of it forced, some by choice. . .
A mother nursing a sick child, a sick child unable to understand its illness, a husband nursing a dying wife, a dying wife worrying about her nurturing husband, a child being sexually molested by a parent, a parent molesting his/her child, a child being bullied at school, a bully isolated and hurting at home, a loved one living with an addict, helpless to make a difference, an addict living with an addiction, helpless to make a difference, a woman beaten by her mate, a mate who beats his partner. The silence louder than any audible sound.
At times Silence is Golden. I get that. I yearn for silence, I treasure silence, I need silence. I do though, choose not to be silent when doing so causes me emotional and mental suffering. I lived in that cage many times as a child with no voice. Isolated by so many things I was afraid, sometimes terrified to say. Living within a mental wall forced on me by my environment. A father raping me every day with the threat of, “if you tell anyone I will kill you.”
Learning to speak was a long, hard and eventually rewarding road. Risky, isolating, depressing, suicidal, healing, bonding, beautiful and life-sustaining.
I want to talk – to talk about things that aren’t said, the silence that lingers in the space that holds so much healing if only the words could flow, could find a platform, and prayerfully bridge the great divide.
What do you not say . . .
When she left, I floundered. Not for moments, minutes, days or years, but eternally! I searched for her face in a crowd, talked out loud and sat in silence hoping to hear a response, but she was gone. The silence was deafening, and my heart heard the void much louder than all of my senses. She had been my mentor, my friend, my confidante, my go-to person, my garden buddy, beach buddy, decorating buddy. She taught me how to fasten my first bra. She pushed me to stand up for my self. She loved her children and treated us equally, both emotionally and physically. She was in my corner and pointed out my errors if I was in the wrong. She could “see me” and “read me” with no effort on my part. She sat me on her knee, no matter how old I was. She wiped my tears. Listened to my fears. She taught me the responsibility of a relationship, to say sorry when I’m wrong, to never fight dirty with words and to always consider the other person’s feelings. She pushed me to do things that scared me and made me laugh at myself, even though it wasn’t easy. She exampled the ability to include people and instilled the same in me. She mirrored my heart and her presence offered all the comfort in the world. I could liken her to Lady Diana. She was intuitive and strong. She was kind to everyone and showed compassion in places that other’s may have turned the other way. She was big on forgiveness and was never too proud to extend the olive branch. I loved her so much for that, and for the example she set for my young and watchful eyes.
So when I say “I miss her;” I miss HER. I miss all that she gave me. I miss all that I shared with her. I miss being able to talk to her, and share life with her and wait in anticipation of her wise and witty advice. I miss the look of pride I used to see in her eyes when I had done well at something. I miss her hand on my arm, and the twinkle in her eye when she was up to mischief. I miss seeing and hearing her laugh with her brother Tommy, who could make her laugh like no-one else on earth. I miss her heartbeat and her tenderness. I miss her enthusiasm for change and her encouragement to try new things, her sense of adventure that was endless. I miss her fairness and integrity and her ability to balance her affection and attention to all who loved her. I miss her hugs and the smell of her perfume. I miss having her on this earth and the sense of knowing she was always out there somewhere, because she isn’t and she never will be. Sometimes, I say “I Miss You” out loud, hoping that somehow she hears. They are three simple words and yet so powerfully felt.
In her honor I would ask that if you have someone in your life you need to forgive, perhaps you might consider extending the olive branch, and see what happens. Life is too short and too precious to spend time missing someone, if forgiveness could make a difference.
I imagine there are many people, who like myself, were raped by their father each day, maybe many times a day, for many years, or many months, or many weeks, or many days. . . I imagine like myself, they struggled with self-worth, perhaps not even knowing such a thing existed, until very many years into therapy, after very many broken relationships, bouts with depression, one addiction after another (which fortunately for me, has not been my struggle,) walking through life in a haze, feet on the ground, head in the sky, total disconnection from their bodies; because to feel their bodies, to feel anything at all, would mean to remember what they have tried so hard to keep buried deep, deep, down below their feet that are walking on the ground!
For me, all of the above PTSD, ADHD, EMDR and self-worth became a part of my awareness in my late 50’s. I have a great doctor who mentioned to me quite often, “I think you are suffering from PTSD.” I blew him off for years, until one day I actually took the time to look on the web and realized very quickly that he was right.
I guess my resistance to acknowledging that I suffered (still suffer) from PTSD was tied into the “victim” role. If I acknowledged I suffered from it because of what my dad inflicted on me as a young girl, which is actually the truth, then it somehow sought sympathy, which I have never wanted and never been comfortable with.
So once I had read enough information to convince myself that it was okay to admit that all of what I was reading was actually my reality each day, my next step was to tell my doctor that I was ready to see this “friend of his, who is great,” that he had been talking to me about for years. I could never have been prepared for how this next step changed me, my life and my beliefs about myself…
See below for a very uninformed breakdown of what I randomly discovered online regarding all of the above…more to follow in Part 2
PTSD – short for Post-traumatic stress disorder.
ADHD – short for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
EMDR – short for Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
SELF-WORTH – another word for self-esteem. Self-esteem is an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride and shame.
Earlier this morning I came across a post that a friend in England shared on Facebook. It was a post from 4 years ago. I had gone home to England for the Christmas holidays and a bunch of the Avenham Gang – as we called ourselves – met up in a pub for drinks. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for years, yet the bonds between us couldn’t be denied. We were family. It didn’t matter your religion, which school you went to, how much money you had, we loved each other, we were friends, we played together, stayed over at each other’s houses, defended each other, fought with each other, went camping together. We were defined by the area we lived in. Proud of being from Avenham. Knew our friends parents, knew all the shopkeeper’s, the priests at church!
The night was magical for me. Old boyfriend’s, meaning boys I loved and dated, and also claimed as friends. Kisses on the cheeks, hugs, laughter… so much laughter, so much joy, so much care and compassion for each other, the love still there for all of them and they for me.
They were all my heart and soul during those years in Avenham; all of them. They each meant something to me. I knew them. Knew who they were going out with, knew what their home life was like, knew their siblings, their pets, their aunts and uncles. I valued them. Treasured them. Felt safe with them. Trusted them, and know they would have guarded me with their lives, if only they had known what I needed to be protected from…
Looking through all the photo’s that were shared in the post, my mind catapulted back to so many memories of those years. One in particular was of a Sunday morning in Carmel and my Dad’s bedroom. Carmel (my step mum) was sat up in bed and my dad was playing donkey rides with me and my three sisters, Anne, Karen and Sarah. My brother John was living in Blackpool with my mum at the time. Laughter filled the room, tears running down Carmel’s cheeks, all of us wanting another turn at a donkey ride, true happiness, family times, love, safety and preciousness.
During this morning’s memory, I could hear my dad’s laughter. It was a hearty laugh, a full of life laugh. He was fun. He was funny. He was kind and sincere. He was caring and compassionate. Thoughtful and witty. He worked hard for his family, would do anything for anyone. People liked him. The Avenham kids liked him. He would come out and play games with all of us. He would have the kids come to the house and play games. He was welcoming and inclusive; didn’t want for anyone to be left out. I was proud of him. Proud that he was my dad.
The complexity came to mind just thinking of how much my Avenham friends liked my dad. How so many people liked him. It was hard not to like him…
As an adult, and as I’ve grown through therapy and awareness into the full realization of the impact my incestuous relationship with him has had on my life, I thought this morning of my struggle in earlier years with sharing with anyone the truth of who he was and what was really going on in our household. What I struggled with was people disliking him because of what he did to me. I might have been protective of him, even though he abused me, and so if I shared anything about him and the reaction was negative then I wouldn’t share anymore with that person. I thought a lot about that this morning…
How I loved him so much. How much I miss him since he died in 1988. How the absence of his laughter and playfulness left such a huge void in my life, and I wonder do other incest survivor’s struggle with the same things? Do they see the harm that has been done to them, the internal battles, the relationship issues that it’s caused, the shame they might still carry, the addictions they might have, the fears they face, the isolation they feel? Do they see and feel all of this and question how and why they could still love and care about the person who harmed them?
That is the complexity for me. I am certain that had my dad lived until this time in my life, the forgiveness I gave him before he died, might not have been offered so easily. The parts of me that I reclaimed during EMDR treatment for PTSD would have demanded that he truly hear and feel my pain and anger for all that he robbed me of – a normal life, husband and children, trust and safety – not to say that my life would have turned out that way anyway if he hadn’t abused me, but I will never know. He put his own needs and desires first and for that I will always believe there was a price to pay!
Miss Walmsley was my favourite teacher. She was our gym teacher. I loved sports; she loved to teach sports. She was different. Attentive. Caring. Encouraging. She was someone I wanted to tell about my dad and what was happening at home…
Fast forward almost 50 years. A birthday greeting just the other day via Messenger…
I wish you a very Happy Birthday. I read your blog and was in tears, as I knew you during those times and had no idea and only wish you could have somehow told me what you were going through. I have the utmost respect for what you went through in your early years. I do remember you were in Shepherd Street.
You have crept into my thoughts daily, recently. And the utmost respect for what you have become in later life. A wonderful kind and loving person who seems to be there to care for fellow human beings. Well done Mich, with love Lynda x”
I was deeply moved by her message, beyond words really. I felt an affection for her during those times. I felt she cared about me. She helped find a way for me to go on a school trip to the Isle of Man. Something that never would have happened had she not made it happen. I have always been grateful for that.
There are many things she could never have known…
Like the fact that when my brother John and I were in Shepherd Street Mission ( a children’s home) my dad was actually in Whittingham Hospital (a mental institute) receiving shock treatments for his mental instability, depression, etc., He told me later in life that he had hoped the shock treatment would take away his desire for me. That he knew he was sick and wanted badly to stop it.
Like how the day I got back from the trip to the Isle of Man my dad was waiting for me in the living room, and rather than ask me about my trip, he had sex with me. The memories and fun and love that I’d shared with my friends and the teachers on the trip all banished to the back of my mind, because his desire for me was more important!
Like how when I went to her (Miss Walmsley) because I was bleeding and didn’t realize I had started my period and she sent me to Sister Mary, the headmistress, who in turn instructed me on how to use a sanitary pad and sent me home with one, and then when I arrived home and told my dad, he was angry about it and how he then started squirting white creamy stuff inside of me before he had sex with me and told me if I ever got pregnant that I was to tell people I had been with a boy when the fairground people came through town, and how he then knew before me whenever my period was coming.
Her message to me led me back to how I felt at that time in my life. I was 11, going on 12. I was isolated. I felt alone. Every friend I had, every move I made, everything I needed was a sexual demand or barter with my dad, a blow job, a wank, sex from behind. I feared letting him know I liked someone because I knew he would use it to have some kind of sexual interaction with me. Dinner money each day for school was usually a wank, playing out with a friend was maybe a blow job, a friend spending the night was probably sex from behind on the top of the cellar steps. The list was endless, the control oppressive; learning to stay one step ahead of him consumed my mind, when really I should have been this young and innocent girl who loved school, loved to learn, loved my friends and teachers…yet, I was really the young girl who became hyper-vigilant, watching his every move, just as he watched mine, could never relax and let my guard down, couldn’t take a bath without my dad watching me from his bedroom window (he deliberately did not put curtains on the bathroom window) slept at night with scissors under my pillow!
I wish I could have told Miss Walmsley all of it. I know it will hurt her to know more than she ever could have imagined. I’m grateful that she cared so much about me and still does!
Yesterday, September 6th, 2020 was 32 years since my dad died. My mum sent me a text message, she rarely ever sends me a text; it said, ” hi bonnie girl, my thoughts and love are with you today. Much love Mummy xxx.”
I called her today; this was our conversation:
Me: I don’t grieve over my dad anymore mum. He affected my life in ways that he shouldn’t have.”
Mum: Mine too!
End of conversation…
It speaks volumes about my mum. Everything is about her. Even her daughter being raped repeatedly (3 years) by her ex husband, is about her. She doesn’t hear ‘my’ words, only her own.
After the conversation ended, and as I continued my drive home, I pondered about mother’s. I know so many people who have wonderful mother’s, mother’s who might ask,”tell me what you mean by saying that?,” or, “i know that must have been so hard for you.” Clearly mine is not one of those.
The pondering goes on and on:
Is she this way because of her childhood?
Would therapy have helped her?
Does she ever question why she’s been married 4 times?
Does she miss her kids?
Does she know what that feels like?
Does she have regrets?
Does she feel that her world has been so small?
Does she know she’s a terrible mother?
Does she know that she’s not a mother?
Is your mother a terrible mother?
End of conversation …
Virginia Wallace was a certain type of friend. I was fortunate to call her friend for more than 14 years. I believe she felt the same way about me – felt fortunate to call me her friend. We were a certain type of friends. We knew each other, we knew each other’s hearts, thoughts, fears, insecurities, hangups, failure, worries, mistakes, embarrassments, best memories, failed relationships, first times of all kinds of things, we felt safe with each other …not so much our day to day, hang out at the house, what we like to eat, drink, etc., though I can tell you that she mostly ate grilled cheese and cheese quesadilla, rarely ate vegetables and puller her face anytime I ever offered or suggested to her something that was of a healthy choice.
I often told her, “I’m so glad I was not your mother. You would have made me crazy.” Her response would be, “well, you weren’t my mother and my mother loved me and thought I was cute, so there.”
Ever onary Virginia. Stubborn, independant, caring, thoughtful, tender, witty, determined, kind, smart ass, reflective, emotionally honest, vulnerable, playful, smart, compassionate, attentive, a good listener, honest at all times, diplomatic, never took sides, even if she wanted to.
She took up very little room in a friendship, you had to make her take space, not give her choices if you wanted to return a kindness, be prepared for push back if you ever offered help, be more wilful than she was if you could find that kind of courage. If she’s reading this, she’ll be looking at me and pulling her tongue out, shrugging her shoulders and thinking, “tough titty.”
She was a warrior for the safety and welfare of animals. She fought many a fight, rescued many an animal throughout her entire life. She worried through the night about a cat that was lost, or a dog that might have escaped during a thunderstorm. We shared that same worry. Collaborating on where the pet might be, at times even taking separate cars as we roamed neighborhoods in search of a missing dog.
She had a gun named Suzie. Carried her in the glove compartment of her SUV. Many a time she’d say, “Don’t make me get Suzie out now.” I was always intrigued that for such a tender woman, she wouldn’t have hesitated to use Suzie if life ever called for it.
She was a Florence Nightingale of Hospice nursing. A role that suited her perfectly. She shared many a story with me of her patients; the compassion she felt and showed all of them had to have made a huge difference in their transition from this world to the next. I imagine it wasn’t only her compassion that made a difference, her sense of humor would have helped enormously. She had a dry wit. She was quick with it. Always perfect timing.
She was an angel to many. She was an angel to me.
My certain kind of friend left the earth on July 14th, 2020. We did share a certain kind of friendship. It was unconditional love. It wasn’t perfect. We had our down times, times we didn’t keep contact, times we struggled for words to say, times we felt awkward, but we always found our way to the other side. She was forgiving of all of my “isms” that might have caused me to be less than a perfect friend, but her forgiveness was real, it didn’t linger or withdraw from you at a later date. It was thought out and sincere and offered in her own time and you could relax and feel safe in it and in her.
She was my One Sure Thing. I imagine she might have been that for so many other people. The void I feel in my daily life, is something I could never have been prepared for. I took her for granted. It felt like the right thing to do, always. She was always there, a phone call away, day or night, eager to listen, to respond, to let you know she heard you, she cared about you, she loved you. She was never going to not be there for you, until she wasn’t…
Ed Powers, My Muse called me today. I have been, for the last several months in a place of not knowing where I should be and what I should be doing. Today in particular was not going well for me on an emotional level. My energy is low from working gruesome days and hours at work with very little down time. I had taken a walk with a friend and shared with her how lately I can’t see a future and how I’m not quite sure what that means. I said, “sometimes I wonder if it means I’m going to die and there is no future.” She asked me if I was taking any antidepressants. I explained to her that I’m not depressed and that since my EMDR therapy over the last couple of years, I am a changed person and that the life I’ve created for myself doesn’t fit anymore with the person I have become. I didn’t expect her to understand and I really don’t expect anyone to understand how that feels to me, but it’s a constant feeling for me. A feeling of not belonging, of not fitting in, of feeling uncomfortable in most places in my life.
I came home from the walk and grabbed my gardening gloves and went outside to plant some bulbs. Digging in the dirt helps calm me and clears my mind. At one point I raised my head to the heavens and said, “please help me. Please give me a sign that will show me what I need to be doing with my life and what my purpose is.” When I came back in the house I let the dogs out to pee and came back into the living room and plopped down on the settee. I picked up my phone and saw that I had a missed call and voicemail from a 310 area code number. I knew it was Ed. Even though the number obviously isn’t saved in my phone as the number I have for him, I just knew it was him. I listened to his voicemail, “Michele, this is Ed Powers calling. I just thought I’d give you a buzz and see how you are. Call me if you want. Thank you.”
When he answered the phone, his voice was that of an aged man. I haven’t spoken to him in several years and clearly he was in a very different place than last time we spoke. His first words to me were, “I’m in a place where there is no-one I can talk to. I don’t know anyone in here.” He is in a nursing home that he said his daughter placed him there. He wanted to know all about me, but primarily he wanted to know if I was writing. “It’s a gift you have Michele and I’m going to encourage you to write.” I started to cry and told him how I have been feeling lost and like a misfit. I told him that I haven’t been able to write for a long time, and I asked, “I don’t know what to write about?” He responded, “you write about your feelings, like all that you have just told me, you write about that. It’s important that you keep writing Michele, you have a gift and I want to really encourage you to just keep writing.” I cried the whole time he was talking and told him, ‘Ed I really needed to hear this today and I can’t believe that I was just out in my garden asking God and the Universe for a sign and you called me.” He got it, just like he got me all those years ago …
I met Ed in 1989 in Scottsdale, Arizona sitting around a pool at a mutual friends home. He was striking in appearance, not handsome, but intense and deep. He dyed his hair and wore a hat. He was quirky and I liked him instantly, and he me. He told me he was an illustrator for a large publishing company in California. I was impressed. We started a very long conversation about my life in England and my incestuous relationship with my Dad and how I wanted to share my story to help others. I left him that day knowing I had met a life-long friend. I took with me his encouraging words, “just sit down and write. Don’t edit it or it will lose its feeling. Just write and write and write and then someone else can edit it.” It’s because of him that I wrote my book. When I had finished writing it, I sent him a copy and he called me the minute he finished reading it. He was crying. “Michele, he said, this book is going to be a movie or a television series, I see it on the screen.” He was so encouraging and I believed in him and his encouragement. I felt lifted in spirit, just like I did tonight when we were talking.
As we were saying our goodbyes tonight, he said, ‘Write Michele, it will lift your spirits. I know it’s hard to feel alone. I feel alone in here. Send me something in the mail. Send me a little of your writing, just please write, I encourage you, it’s your gift.” I responded, “I will Ed, I will. I love you Ed.” “I love you too, Michele.”
It was only in the moment when I sat down to write this that I realize he is my Muse … and so this blog is for Ed. It would make him happy to read it ….