Last free night before the new quarter starts. I finished a book recommended by an old friend. (Thank you, Micheal) I don’t remember his exact words — they went something like this: a story about her seeing the world differently than the one she taught about while growing up. It was a story about her challenges he said. Indeed, it was a story of her challenges.
I managed to read the book in 4 days…. spread out over at least a month. I finally took to annotating it last night because I realized I was learning so much. Tonight were the first tears… where on page 321 she, the author, Tara Westover writes that she “surrendered” her grandparents (to an estrangement within the family).
I have lived a lot of stuff. Just stuff. Some of it very painful. Some of it very happy. Lot’s of it has been a searching for meaning. An explanation that I can comprehend. I can not explain it, if I can’t comprehend it. Ms. Westover and my, stories are no where close to one another’s and yet, in some ways they are one in the same. Toward the end she wrote that she had had a fractured mind. I was once told by a therapist that I had a fractured mind.
A child learns to live in the reality that they move in. When the reality changes, so must they. It is how we survive. If a child’s life is not stable then how are they to remain stable themselves? We build walls in our mind. To protect ourselves and to create stability, a reality that they can count on. As a young person, I spent so much time inside my head. No one knows. I never shared. It was my safe place where I tried over and over again to make things right, to understand.
We also cut ourselves off at the same time from feelings of the day, those too harsh for a child to live with, to remember, to explain. The feelings are left to lay on a rocky road to be tread on again and again. Lack of boundaries. Children are vulnerable. Children do the best they can with what they are given, they explain and justify, look the other way, forget, and forgive. Like any animal they try to not show they are hurt. In the world I grew up in, a Rowe never EVER showed weakness. It was forbidden. We have smiled when we should have cried.
Often those little children live on within the adult reliving the situations over and over again. When my mother quit talking to me in 1991. One of her threats was that she would cut me off from the family. My mother was still at the point, in my mind, an all powerful goddess — I was just beginning to question anything she ever had said or done. I was 32 years old and just beginning to really think for myself. I took the threat as a promise that it was a done deal and I stayed away from my family for years! Literally YEARS. I figured that she was telling family stuff that she’d already told my sister–that I was obsessing over the subject at hand, that I put ideas in my child’s head— God only knows what else. Hearing that was enough… there is a chism between my sister and I that probably will never be crossed by either of us. To push at all would be a push too far.
My grandfather had passed away. Both my grandmothers were alive. But, the one I stayed away from was my maternal grandmother. I assumed she hated me. I could not face that the woman that I adored and knew as my saving Grace hated me. (I could not imagine that she did not) I never saw her alive again. Months and months ago, my sister made a remark about how I could walk away from people and never feel a thing. I let her know…. that she had no clue. She doesn’t. She never will. But, the day my mother made that threat, I surrendered my grandmother— I surrendered nearly my entire life.
I spent years picking my life up off that road one piece at a time. All the while raising children, failing relationships, finding God, beginning a more formal education, learning to handle a job (again), an over 10 year custody battle ensues where my ex runs with my oldest and I do not see her for over six years. I maneuver through what was unknown to me at the time, as PTSD— I have had to face a lot of ghosts. I had to retrain my heart to hear the good voices. I had to learn to ask for help. I had to learn to accept graciously. I grew up all over again.
And yet… here comes this book, “Educated” (autobiographical, an excellent read by the way) and I am reading away. Somethings seem distantly familiar but in different ways. We each have our own stories to tell. A lot of it hits home. Some of it reads like I am reading myself. I will tell you what…. Ms. Westover and I, we have one thing in common (actually, I think we have a ton of stuff in common, but…. I digress)— to do what we have done…to survive at all is no minor miracle. My life has been a fight, and there are times when I still do not know when to put the gloves down.
I feel a kinship with this author. Two souls who could almost recite the others story….not because they are so super similar, but because our reactions though woven through differents times and a different place were nearly the same. She questioned the reality of her situation and began to learn about it and think it through. That is all I have ever done. If we do not shine a light on it, then we are most certainly either doomed to repeat the history, or pass it on to our children. I was determined to try and do neither.
I will probably keep this book like a treasured possession for the rest of my life. I can see it becoming a source for some unwritten piece of work.. some unspoken story… one that is still trying very hard to break free from the walls built strong and thick within. This story was really a gift. It is funny how life does that. You think you’ve beat that damn story silly–that you are done with it forever. Then something gets tossed in, or in this case, actually recommended. Not only does it help me to see things a little more clearly, it also helps me to feel seen… more worthy…. Micheal, through time and space, one relationship that I managed to not screw up. Thank you.