Sunday, June 5, 2011

Where is my fight?

I'm watching The Color of Freedom.  It's interesting for me to watch this.  I'm sitting here with enormous privilege.  Oh dear God I am privileged.  I am rich, secure, safe.  I have basically nothing that I want or need that anyone can take away from me.  I am really a sanctimonious bitch whining about my suffering.  No part of this is rational.  Sort of.  My brother Tommy was hit by a car in May of 1989.  In my head I was 8 already, so in my stories I am 8.  I remember how old I am based on what birthday I'll have that year, but my birthday isn't till September.

That birthday was horrible.  My mom sent me to Aunt Vonnie's house.  So I was in Los Gatos.  I had a slumber party with all the girls from Lakeside.  Aunt Vonnie bought me a cake.  It really should have been a great party, you know?  But this was less than six months after Michael raped me.  Tommy had been hit by a car and I didn't understand what that meant--he was still in a coma.  I was supposed to put all that aside and act like a normal kid.  I wasn't allowed to speak about any of that.

So do you know how the party went?  I spent a lot of it crying in the bathroom.  I said awkward things.  I was weird.  The other little eight year old girls had in-jokes and long-standing friendships.  They didn't much like me.  I was this strange child.  I didn't know what was true and what was lies.  I didn't know what input from my body was real and what was imagined.  When I came home from being raped my mother beat me.  I felt like I was being punished.  I don't remember what I said to her at the time.  I'm very certain that I vomited at that birthday party.  My family was angry with me for acting out.  I was so ungrateful.  Every human being wants to be free from suffering and pain.

When I think of myself as a grown up, you know... some day I will grow up... there is a dignity to people who know in their soul that they are working to reduce the suffering of other people.  A peace.  At this point my suffering is only in my head.  I am trying to lance the wound so the poison can seep out, but I need to go do something to help it heal.  I don't know what yet.

I know that most of the things that are argued about on the internet really don't matter.  Is circumcision an injustice?  Yes.  Should people stop doing it to their sons?  Yes.  But they should stop because there really isn't medical benefit to doing it.  They shouldn't stop because they will be joining a monolithic evil cabal.  It's a shitty part of our culture and it should change.  It already is.  Rates of it are dropping like dramatically.  I think it is ridiculous to try to push through legislation banning it.  It's a waste of time and effort.  By making it illegal there springs up potential for an underground, illegal network.  People would still do it.  It is cultural.  You can't do away with culture by making a law.  Instead you will have people become intensely devoted to Their Right To Circumcise!!!  Yeah, like we need anyone jumping on *that* bandwagon.

Pretty much everything about attachment parenting.  I'm feeling very bitter.  I'm not able to do the super attached thing this time.  I feel bad about it.  I'm going to have a different relationship with Calli than I have with Shanna and a lot of it is that I literally haven't spent as much time with Calli.  I did not ignore Shanna the way I ignore Calli.  Calli has had to learn to get her needs met by people other than me.  I have mixed feelings about that.  On one hand, I feel like I have let her down.  On the other hand... she's happy and thriving and really loves the people she hangs out with.  She gets really excited to see people in a way Shanna didn't.  Shanna was a limpet.  She didn't warm up to anyone, not even Noah early on.  I'm so glad to not go through that again.  I feel freaked out even thinking about how much touch I endured then.  Right now I'm not sure how I managed.  But the reality is, right now I can't do that.  I loved it.  I mean, I did get overwhelmed.  But I thought Shanna was doing everything exactly right and I was happy to meet her needs.  Even though I got overwhelmed and cried.  Now I hand Calli off to Noah to soothe when she doesn't want to nurse and I hide and write.

I must say, when I go back into the house it's nice to notice how much they missed me.  Sometimes I have to fight the urge to burst into tears as I realize how much my kids love me.  Because I love them just as much.  It's actually hard to take the time to write.  I feel guilty for doing it.  I feel like I am abdicating my responsibility as their mother.  I feel like I am a stay at home mom so I should be available to my children 24 hours a day.  This is the job I picked.  And I want this job, kind of.

I have a compulsion to be more than this.  It sounds horrible to me for no logical reason.  Because I was told I was small and petty and mean and vindictive and angry and evil and a bitch and a whore and that I would die alone and bitter.

But I'm not.  I'm not mean.  I'm not petty.  I'm not vindictive.  I'm not evil.  I'm not a bitch.  I'm not a whore.  I am not alone.

I am angry.  I don't know if I'm bitter or not.  What does that mean exactly?  I am sad.  I am very sad that my family is not able to acknowledge what happened to me.  I am sad that they are still destroying one another.  I'm sad that Jimmy and I cannot heal together because he is not ok with me telling my story.  As I watch these movies about social injustice something I'm noticing is that, people don't go looking for a fight.  The truly great leaders are not people who went looking for a cause.  They can be helpful, think of things like union organizers.  Union organizers bring matches.  They light a fire where there is already a huge powder keg.

I need to stop looking away from my life for my reason for living.  I'm complicated.  A lot of things have already touched my life.  I moved away from all of those communities because they weren't my fight.  I need a fight.  That is how I will learn to be not bitter.  That is how I will grow past this.  I can't do anything about what has already happened to me.  But I need a fight for someone else.  I have to believe that I picked this life for a reason.  No one goes through what I did for nothing.  I can't let this be senseless.  If this is senseless, if there really is no reason behind my father raping me over and over from when I was a toddler until I forcibly stopped him at 16 then I really should kill myself because that is not something I can bear for no reason.  I just can't.

Thing is, I don't really believe in God.  Not really.  I kind of do.  I think there is something.  But I'm not sure if it is anything beyond plain old animal instinct.  I don't want to die.  I feel like a wolf caught in a trap.  I am flailing around blindly at a pain I cannot get away from.  It's like my life blood is leaking out.  I am trying to contain my pain in too small of a space.  Pain has to be transformative or else it has to kill you.  You might die very very slowly in inches.  Mostly your spirit will die.  People who are in pain are not pleasant.  It hurts and they are rarely all that nice about it.  (Caveat here: I do not have any real disabilities.  I speak here with the hubris of someone who is not actively hindered by my body in any way.  Well, I have inflexible shoulders.  But yeah, that's my limitation.  Someone else will have a different story here.)

So then there is the conflict.  A big part of what I'm trying to do right now is just figure out the parenting thing.  And I need to stop listening to experts.  I am sitting here in weird isolation because I read and read about norms and averages and obsess over whether I am doing things right.  When the truth is that my kids need me to hang out with them and not lose my shit.  Yeah, we should learn some manners eventually but if they fuck up at three... who gives a shit?  I need to find a way to balance the fact that I like being home and I like spending so much time with my kids but I really need to be part of a fight.

I can't just sit here and be the kind gentle mommy all the time.  I really can't do that.  I don't want to be that.  I have to do something bigger than this.  So I'm looking at my life.  The thing is, an awful lot of fights were brought to my door.  It depends on how intellectually masturbatory you want to be about it.  But I know that my sister is really not a healthy person.  I know what she has been part of in the past.  I know what she is capable of.  If I have this much rage and anger and fury inside of me... I don't think you can safely say that I am just projecting.  My sister lived with my father until she was 16.  He gave her a swimming pool for her 16th birthday.  He offered me a computer.  I wonder what she had to do to get the pool.  I wonder what he would have expected for the computer.

That's my mother's story.  She tells people I prosecuted my father because he wouldn't buy me a computer.  My dear Aunt Vonnie told me that.  Years later in a conversation.  She thought that I was lying about being molested and I prosecuted my father because I was petty and mean and I wanted revenge because he wouldn't buy me a computer.  I shit you not.  That is what my family thinks of me.  They are all MAD AT ME for prosecuting because I disrupted their lives and created drama.

This is my fight.  I am petty or vindictive in telling my story.  This is righteous anger.  I am really tired of being told I should just get over it and move on with my life.  No.  I shouldn't.  Because that is what allows me to move on and "be free" while my sister rapes another generation.  Do I know for a fact that she is doing that?  No.  I will, most likely, never know.  Because even if she swears up and down that she never did that she will say the same thing about raping my brother Jimmy.  And according to him, it was rape.

I am tired of being told I am bitter because I want to blow my family to hell and back.  I am not bitter.  I am angry.  I am not vindictive.  I am not mean.  I don't want to hurt my family because of what they did to me.  I want to do anything I can to prevent them harming another generation.  I stopped my father.  Prosecuting him was the right thing to do.  No one in my family is going to be willing to step up and prosecute my sister, even though she is a multiple repeat offender.  She participated in the sexual assault of her children.  Did she do all of it completely directly?  No.  She didn't rape her own son.  Quite frankly given how they stand near each other I'd be fucking shocked if they aren't having sex.  Or if they won't get to it some day.  When you live hard and do a lot of drugs you get uglier and uglier.  Soon you can't go out and find people any more.  When you can't find people to fuck and you have those urges, well... you know...

Do I know my family is doing this?  No.  But let's just say that I have seen enough that I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest.  And that's a problem.  If almost anyone says "I wouldn't be surprised if my sister fucks her son or if my mom and my sister fuck sometimes" that would be horrifying, right?  But I know what I grew up with.  I know what kinds of books I read and I know how graphically they portrayed incest.  I know that I learned to read those books because I was borrowing them from my mother and sister.  I know that my father raped me more times than I can count.  More times than I remember.  I know that he did the same to my sister.  I know I liked it sometimes.

So.  Maybe I'm not bitter.  Maybe I'm fucking terrified and angry.  I know how stressed out I feel in my life sometimes.  I know how very close to the edge of doing terrible things I have been in my life.  I know exactly what kind of monster I could become.  I don't walk down that road right now because I have resources.  I have people and money.  I have time.  I have the glorious luxury of time.  I do not have to earn money.  I can write because I feel compelled to tell my story from the depths of my soul.  Maybe some day I will get past rambling and find some truth.  Something that will alleviate someone else's suffering.

I'm a weird creepy shut in who cannot handle being touched by other human beings.  How can I go out and join the world?  There is a time honored tradition of people writing inflammatory things while isolated off in a weird bubble.  Maybe that is the only fight I need to be looking for.

Because you see, I'm trying to learn how to do the marathon thing.  The thing is, I want my children.  I have a lot to give children.  I have a lot of love and ability to keep people safe.  And I need to know that some day there will be two people walking this earth who grew up in absolute safety while being taught to care about other peoples pain.  Shanna is deeply empathetic.  She gets other people.  I want to know what her spirit will look like if she is allowed to chase every dream she has.  She will be educated to within an inch of her life.  It won't be (much) in a brick and mortar building, but I promise you she will be well educated.  The act of learning will be what we do.  I believe that other people can do this with their children in a traditional school setting.

But we've all learned that I'm special, right?  Special little snowflake, that's me.  But I am.  My needs and dreams are different.  Not better, not worse.  If you spend much time looking at actual human history you will see that as long as people are given love and the basics, they can turn out ok.  I mean hey--look at me.  I'm "ok".  I lead a more functional life than an awful lot of people.  But I don't think my life can look like other peoples lives.  I don't have the same rhythms.  I wasn't raised in that culture, not really.  When I read about other peoples lives/causes/whatever I feel like I am being sold a product.  I feel like I am supposed to conform to being like them.  If you look back on my family life, you can see why I have a lot of issues with conforming.  If I am told that something is a rule, the first thing I want to do is break it to see what happens.  I shit you not.  I don't do it (mostly) because I have a highly developed superego.  I should really read some psychology people other than Freud.  It might be good for me.  I like Logotherapy a lot.  It seems to be my approach to life.

And I'm looking for my meaning.  I'm trying to figure out what I have to say that might actually help someone else.  I have no idea.  It's 5:45 and I just noticed that the birds are chirping like mad.  I can see the sky getting lighter.  It's not going to really get bright today because of the clouds.  But morning is pretty clearly here.  Today I need to patch the drywall in the garage and paint Sarah's room.  Those are the things that I can't do here alone with the kids without a big fight.  And we leave for Europe in 6 days.  I think I should cancel the second therapy appointment on Thursday because it will wipe out most of the day for me in terms of productivity (trips to Oakland do that) and child care would be tough.  I like this lady, but she'll be here when I get back.  For me to prioritize therapy over getting ready for this trip is for me to derail my life right now.  I will have a ridiculous amount of anxiety over losing a day of prep time. Things are already slipping in the schedule because Noah really needed a day of rest yesterday.  We all need rest.

Noah is nervous about the trip.  He's worried about how stressful it will be.  He has (only half-joking) asked about rerouting and spending part of the trip in Amsterdam so I won't be so stressed.  It wouldn't honestly make the trip much more expensive.  Ha.  And that's the kind of thing we can talk about, casually.  That is what I mean by privilege.  I feel guilty that I have such enormous privilege at this point in my life.  I feel guilty because I feel like I don't deserve it.  Just like Aunt Vonnie.  Aunt Vonnie is going to die penniless and stepped on because she supports the whole lot.  Although, I don't know.  If Auntie is lucky she will take her kids and move out of state to a place where they can be more secure financially.  That will only be lucky if she leaves my mother and sister behind.  Otherwise they will follow and be a barnacle on her until she dies.  Then they will find someone else to leech on.  I married a rich guy, who in the hell am I to judge?  Right?

I don't know.  I don't know if I should judge or not.  But I know that whether or not I judge them, their actions are not honorable.  My sister and mother both "borrow" money as often as people will let them.  I know that part of the problem is that my mother spends money she doesn't have spare on frivolities because she wants to.  And then I talk about doing the same thing.  But spending the money that way isn't going to hurt my life.  The only debt we have is mortgage and that will be paid off by the time I am 40.  At that point I don't know what we will do.  I know that I am in this position because I live in a small house and I fix a lot of things myself.  We lived with one car for years.  I am not rich because Noah makes such an obscene amount of money, though he does make plenty.  I am rich because I look at our income and I make choices that look like they belong to a lower tax bracket.  That is a lot of why I have the freedom I have.  I know my limits.  I don't know where or why I learned that sense.

But my family thinks that I have money in the bank because of dumb luck and that I don't really deserve it so I should "loan" it to them.  They feel entitled because they "supported" me when I was growing up, don't I owe them?  My impulse now is to promise publicly that I will send them money some day to prove that I'm not bitter.  I've started and deleted a lot of text going in that direction.  Fuck 'em.  I don't have to prove I'm not bitter by doing what they want me to do.  Down that road lies madness.  So what do I do instead?  I go to Europe for a month.  I want to say I saved up for it, but that's only sort of true.  I keep a lot of cash in reserves.  but on my birthday in September I'm being given a check for $35,000.  That is the final check on my annuities.  I am going to pay off the Disney Vacation Club mortgage (at 12%... ouch) and contribute some towards the college fund.  But I'm mostly going to rebuild the buffer because I have brought it frightening low (at one point we only had ~$3,000 in cash in bank accounts.  I almost had a heart attack from fear that month.) and it's only back to about $16,000.  That's not high enough you see.  If the buffer drops below $20,000 I feel like something terrible could happen and I would be screwed.  Yes, we actively invest.  If we were in any kind of trouble we could access lots of money.  But it never feels like enough.  So once in a while I blow a bunch of money on something like a big vacation and the rest of the time I control my emotional spending.

Maybe that's why I judge.  Because when it is my family saying to me that I have no right to judge them, yes I do.  Because it's not like I was brought up in some magical mythical land where money sense exists.  I grew up among them and I'm not like them.  I'm really tired of people ranting against the idea of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" because from where I'm sitting that sounds like the lazy cry of people who don't want to work hard enough.  But I have so so so so much privilege.  I am white.  I grew up in places where I learned what it was like to not be white.  I learned what it was like being white in poverty stricken Hispanic and black neighborhoods.  I was treated like a dog.  People chased me home from school throwing rocks at me because I was a freak.  I moved back and forth from Los Gatos to the slums.  I was expected to learn how to go back and forth between fighting kids off of me as they beat me up as the representative white kid they could take out their institutional rage on and the rich, sheltered white kids in Los Gatos.  I was sexually assaulted over and over and no one ever said anything to me about it.  I believed no one knew.

I had help in unexpected places.  I am alive because I have had subtle advantages.  When I was five I was attacked by a pit bull.  There were 117 stitches in my face.  At the time there was a lot of doubt as to whether I would ever speak normally and there was some damage to my jaw and teeth were knocked out.  Kind of harrowing, don't you think?  I don't even think the dog bite story made it to my list of big life events.  Ha.  That's telling.  It's ironic that it didn't appear in the timeline because it is such a huge part of my adulthood.

I have lived on the annuities from that settlement since I turned 18.  It has been almost the entirety of my income since I was 18.  I get $1200 every month like clock work.  Just think about what you could do with $1200 every month of tax free money.  Kind of nice, eh?  And I'm ashamed to talk about it.  My mother told me I musn't ever speak of it because then people will want to steal it.  Kind of ironic how often she asks me for money.

There are things here worth telling.  It matters to me that I tell this story and make sense of it.  It matters to me that this story become something that people talk about.  It matters to me that my family come under intense public scrutiny because I believe that is the only way to curb the sexual violence in my family.  It's time to clean out some closets.  I don't get any dirty little secrets and neither do they.  Maybe the fight will find me.


  1. Might comment more in a bit when I finish the post, but I had to address the attachment to Calli thing. I think you might have a chicken/egg situation.

    You seem to say that Calli has learned to get her needs met through other people because you haven't been available. I assume (scary word!) that you mean because of working on your past and your relationships with the people you grew up with and such.

    But waaaaay back when, you described Calli as a laid-back sort of baby. The type you can actually lay down for a nap. The type who doesn't need nursing to sleep every time. In short, the type who will happily get her needs met by others.

    So I'm thinking, that is what allowed you to be able to devote so much energy and time to the things you have needed to do for yourself.

    For once the universe didn't decide to kick you while you were down. You didn't get the shocking realizations when Shanna the Limpet was a tiny one, you got them with Calli the Cool.

    And near as I can tell, no one gives each kid, especially the second one, as much time as they'd like. That's why you get them other people, including an awesome big sister.

  2. I'm so very glad you aren't dealing with money worries on top of everything else. It's comforting to think that there is one secure area of your life.

    I think that if any of the leeches checks into a valid, accredited, good reputation, treatment center, then you should go ahead and contact that treatment center and arrange to pay a portion of the costs. Because that would be actively helping the whole world. Of course, I also don't think that will ever happen.

  3. Fuck. I hadn't read about your experiences in a treatment center before I posted.