Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | February 12, 2012

February 12 Check-in Looking in Dark Corners

Despite wanting to hide from this check-in, I took to heart Matt Hofferth’s comment on my last check-in that I shouldn’t hide from my friends when things go awry.  Although I’ve only met C. M. Cipriani IRL, I feel that several of you have become very good friends.  So here I am.
The past few days have been a torrent of bad news, with one glorious, shining exception.  My brother’s mass has calcified, which means it is not cancer.  I needed that good news this week; it was wonderful to see the relief and hope in him.
I am also participating in an academic writing group, although my goals this semester are not writing, but packing, organizing the dissertation copies and relevant books so that I will know where they are when I get to Albany, then readying myself for the plunge back into writing.  This semester, Dame Eleanor Hull is organizing the group; Friday she had an interesting post about how she always made up stories in which she was the heroine. I realized when I read it that I was never the heroine of my stories; in fact, I was always the passive waiting-to-be-rescued character.  I was not waiting for rescue as such, but for love–early on, parental love, then in my teens, romantic love.  Somewhere along the line, I stopped being passive and started finding my own rescue, but it dawned on me that I never learned to love myself. I will fight like a tigress for those I love, but I will put up with unconscionable behavior towards myself.
When my sons were 1½ and 2 1/2, my husband and I left our jobs and home in Seattle to go take care of my father-in-law, who had had a massive heart attack.  For several months, I stayed at their home taking care of him and my sons, doing the cooking, and cleaning, while my husband had found a job well below his abilities and former pay.  My father-in-law had another heart attack, which he did not survive. Soon after that, my mother-in-law told us we had to get out of her house within a week, suggesting that the homeless shelter was open.  Actually, I checked, and the homeless shelter was full.  I cannot forgive her for what she did to her son and grandsons, but I have no reaction to her doing it to me..It followed a long line of hateful behavior towards me, not only by her; a pattern of accepting so long that I didn’t feel I deserved anything better. It’s something for me to work through, certainly.
Test Mile: I have started to have days where nothing will come without effort.  My sense of being a failure, like a reverse Midas where everything I touch turns to dung (I’ll substitute a better term for my usual foul language) is bleeding into the writing. I do push through, sometime during the day, usually.
What Have I learned: I think the main thing I’ve learned so far this round is how much writing pulls out of the psyche, and right now my psyche is a mess.  I’m starting to feel that I am not ready to write fiction, but need to exorcise lots of ghosts first. However, Shan Jeniah mentioned in the comments on my last check-in writing through pain, and that may be the way for me to go at first–perhaps I can write a a story where I am the heroine, finally.
I am learning slowly that I do have friends who will put up with my moaning and crying; I want to tell all my friends on my other on-line community how much I appreciate them, as well as my virtual friends here.
I’ve also learned that I am a tough old bird, and that I don’t stay down for long.  Maybe I can use my reverse Midas touch for the postage-stamp garden I will have in Albany.
Please go encourage the ROWers here.

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Responses

  1. And here I am, lost in my own sea and doing exactly what you are not- hiding from friends because it’s just too much to keep rehashing every time I pick up the phone. I am glad to hear about your brother and am sorry you are dealing with so much right now. Our move fell through and my husband is now unemployed. We’re sitting in a pile of boxes trying to decide if we should pay our rent or try and move and where to move to, dealing with various help agencies that say we’re not destitute enough yet to help us. It’s a mess and a half and I think you and I need to go out again. Since the kid’s dad is home, my schedule is pretty open. Call me.

    • Crystal, I don’t know what to say; I feel for you. I know what you mean about rehashing the story to every friend and relative, having been in your position myself. I will call you today. Take care of yourself.

  2. You are a good person and you deserve love. Your mother in law was a bitch but just because she treated you like s**t doesn’t mean you are s**t. There’s a couple of books I could recommend; one is called something like “The cinderella complex”. It’s all about how fairy tales encourage women to be passive and we buy into that role. The other one is called “The woman’s comfort book” and its all about doing something every day that is just for you and makes you happy.

    • Thank you for the support, Janet. The Cinderella Complex is a great book; I would suggest it to anyone who feels socialized out of her own identity. I don’t know the other one–I’ll have to look for it, as I would love ideas on how to pamper myself.

      And thank you for the kind words about my not deserving what I got from my mother-in-law. I think that it followed years of neglect and emotional abuse from family members, employers, and boyfriends so that it sneaked past my defenses. I won’t put up with that anymore. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. I am sorry to learn of your troubles. Mean spirited people steal our confidence – only until we realize that they aren’t the authority! It does take time to exorcise the haunting echoes in our ears, and I’m cheering for you to take it on. You are strong.

    I can only say that if someone in my life treated me so, I’d cut them out. It sounds harsh, but I view that sort of negativity, meaness, ______(insert your word here) like disease. You must get rid of it.

    Does your husband know about all this? My husband, though sometimes I’d like to brain him, would ‘flip-shit’ (I always wanted to use that term….ha!) if anyone ever treated me or our kids like that! If he doesn’t, tell him.

    Just remember, don’t repay evil with evil….repay evil with kindness. Then, if you are not accepted, shake the dust from your feet and move on. Hope it helps, even if only as a show of support from a fellow writer. Your friend, Nadja

    • Thank you for your friendship, Nadja. It means a lot. I agree with you that such meanness should be avoided, treated like an infectious disease. I didn’t tell my husband for the longest time, not wanting to cause strife between him and his mother, but to be honest, it ate at me enough that I finally had to tell him. He reacted like your husband would, by the way.

      Luckily I learned early on that repaying evil with evil rebounds in a horrible way; dipping one’s hands in that black pool leaves stains that never quite disappear. Also, since I am a Pollyanna at heart, I always hope that returning kindness might just find a little spark of light in that evil and grow there.

      Thank you for your encouragement; it does help immensely.
      Your friend,
      Elizabeth

  4. I can so relate to your feelings. One the hardest lessons in life for me has been that people’s treatment of me is not a reflection of who I am or my worth. I see that here. You have to be your own champion. You are worth that effort. Hoping your find your way soon. Glad you chose to share rather than hide. That is a blessing.

    • I appreciate your stopping by and sharing, Yolanda. It is very hard to learn to be one’s own champion, especially if one was raised to be an old-fashioned Southern Belle, as I was. The truth is that no matter how many protectors and friends one may have, the grit has to be internalized.

      • I am familiar with Southern Belle Syndrome. For that reason, I have banished the words “good” and “nice” from my vocabulary, at least in terms of the type of person I choose to be. They encourage doormat behavior in me. As you say,”the grit has to be internalized.” I love that. Big hugs and best of luck.

  5. I’m so happy to hear the good news about your brother. That’s just awesome, and I know it was such a relief to you.

    Hey, don’t let people get you down. You are a great person, so don’t let other people tell you anything different. Love yourself because you’re worth loving. And the next time you write a kick butt heroine into your story? Be that heroine! Don’t sit on the sidelines, be in the middle of your story, strong and brave. I know it’s hard to change the way you’ve been thinking for years, but know that all your friends are here to help you with whatever you need.

    • As always, Lauralynn, you offer such good advice. I am grateful for your friendship and support; I love the idea of being my kick-butt heroine!

  6. Rough road, but know that you are not alone. Stay with the positive and let others wallow in the muck they try to fling, you need not join them in their self-indulgent miseries. I say this from long experience, as a friend. You have a great heart and much to offer the world – stick with that. The news about your brother is outstanding and I’m happy for all of you.

    On the writing, let me ask a question. If you could go on a grand adventure, what would it be and who would you want to be on it? Write that when nothing else will come. This is what I do on the same days you describe, because sometimes the darkness just will not let go. So I walk into the darkness and at times find interesting stories that I can delve into later once I’ve drug them back into the light.

    May peace walk beside you this week, Elizabeth *smile*

    • I appreciate your support and friendship, Gene. As may not surprise you, I am more a Pollyanna than a Grinch, so staying positive feels more natural, although it seems I have to disgorge the negativity sometimes to be able to return to my positive self. Thank you for your kind words and the wish for peace; I did find some this week.

      I really like your idea of writing an adventure with myself as the heroine; I’ve started thinking through several scenes, and I’m finding it immense fun.

  7. “There were abusive incidents in my childhood, but I wasn’t abused.”

    Yeah, I used to say that. Some people would contend I’m pretty smart, but it didn’t seem even a little paradoxical, at the time.

    No wonder my heroine (and it’s no coincidence that her name is in mine) tore out her mother’s throat in the prologue of Blood and Breath……

    Jeniah is tougher than I am, and more action oriented, She silenced her mother.

    I am more compassionate than Jeniah is. I’ve silenced my mother by simply choosing to not be where she is. Since she’s not willing to travel the few hundred yards between our homes and surrender what she sees as her power base, that solves the problem, for the most part.

    Jeniah never really saw or understood that her mother had been broken by life. I know that about my own.

    It makes a difference. If not for her, for me, I will not let her or anyone else treat me badly anymore. But I don’t need to think that it has as much to do with me as it does her own pain, pain she hasn’t faced yet, and so must fling outward….

    I don’t know if any of this helps. I know that I’m close to Albany, and ready to listen or hug or offer happy moments away from worry. I know that I’ve been in the emotional space you’re in, and, somehow, I’ve found my way to a place where I do love me (I’m the only one of me there has ever been, after all). I’m not always comfortable with it, but it’s there, and getting stronger.

    I know that July may well find a shakier me – July is emotional chaos for me. Annalise’s birthday is the 8th, and Elijah’s is the 13th. My late fiancee was born on the 22nd; that’s the say, in 1995, that we buried his ashes. The 25th is the day Elijah died, and then my birthday is only 4 days later, on the 29th.

    Last year, on July 9th, right before what I call “Elijah’s Days”, my father pressed his finger up against my tooth, and told me “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

    And, in that instant, I was done. I could feel the switch flip inside of me. It was not OK for him to treat me that way when I was a child, and it was not OK for him to treat me that way – and in front of four children – then, at age 41, either.

    I walked away, and I will not walk back. I deserve better. Everyone does. No one deserves to be the repository for another’s rage and pain.

    When you come to Albany, perhaps we will become real-life friends. And, if we do, I will value you for all those amazing qualities I already know are there. And, just as I have friends who help me love myself better, I will maybe do that for you.

    I send love, and strength, and healing, and a hearty upstate New York welcome your way. I wish for you to revel in the good news, and breathe through the less so until it can be absorbed and coped with.

    I send you the knowledge that your beauty, kindness, and thoughtful presence come through in the words that you write, perhaps far more strongly than you know.

    I am looking forward to meeting you face to face, because I already like you!

    Guess I had some strong feelings about this! =D

    • Shan Jeniah, it’s perfectly normal to have strong feelings! I have had to absent myself from some family members, both in my family, and in my husband’s. It does help somewhat to see what broke them, but it doesn’t overcome the inability to deal with the venom.

      I’m not in the place you are, but I am working toward it. I appreciate your willingness to help; I’m glad that you think I have some good qualities (as I am still rather blind to them), and may be able to help me see them more clearly. It helps a lot to hear the hearty upstate New York welcome; I’m shy enough to have some trepidation about moving, so knowing some folks there is very helpful.

  8. Elizabeth, I’m truly sorry to find out what you (have been and) are going through; I know there are people out there (even your own family) who can be vindictive and evil and I get extremely angry when they abuse the trust and love someone, such as yourself, have invested in then directly or indirectly. You are a strong woman -your compassion gives you that strength so hang in there; a light will shine through soon -just like the wonderful news of your brother; I’m pleased to hear that.

    I can imagine it being extremely tough to be motivated to write; but I’ve found writing has helped me pass through a very dark passage in my life and some of things that I wrote has been extremely good and others, though gritty and lacks finesse, gives a research starting point for my characters. All experiences (good or bad) are worthwhile, use them to your advantage and instil them into your characters; make them stronger, you can do it.

    Stay positive & keep writing (be it just for yourself or a community).

    • Thank you for the encouragement and kind words, Oz. I do try to write when I don’t want to bother with it, but it does help to write through the anger and the hurt. I agree with you that my characters will be stronger and more three-dimensional given some of what I was writing.

  9. (hugs) You are strong. And you are learning from where you’ve been. That’s how we truly succeed. And all of that darkness in our past can lend depth to our writing.

    • Thank you for the hug, Sonia. It helps so much that so many of my fellow ROWers have stopped by with encouragement and kind words. I do think that the darkness will makes my characters better.


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