Thursday, 3 September 2009

Caring for Your Maisie: Instruction Manual.

One of the problems with a traumatic upbringing is that, even if you were lucky enough to have turned out fairly well-adjusted, it will come back to haunt you.
I sometimes joke that I have a demon on each shoulder. I know at least one of them is asleep. Sometimes, he wakes up.
I feel better today, so I am not going to document my twisted childhood. The bare bones of it are that my father was not a good one. He was never physically violent towards me, but he was incredibly emotionally violent. He did many deliberately twisted things to my sister and I... Things that sound quite incredible. And when I was forced out of my home at 18-19 years of age, he began to be physically violent towards my little sister too. He fucked us up, and he controlled, oppressed, and emotionally crippled my mother for 23 long years.
And my sister and I dealt with it. Not sure I can say got over it, but dealt with it, in our very different ways. My little sister is very stereotypically masculine, from her short hair to her attitude. She seldom cries, and will be hard, abrupt, and cold when she needs to deal with things. And she is not too hot on physical displays of affection, nor with the voicing of feelings, except with her young daughter. I, on the other hand, decided when I was a kid that I would grow up to be all about sharing the love. Because of how things were, I was very awkward about the thought of telling someone I loved them, of holding them in my arms... But the concept seemed so deliciously appealing that I went with it. You see the product before you today.
Anyway, as time goes on, I suppose you just learn to exist with your damage, until it isn't a crippling bother anymore. If they know what to look for, other people can sometimes see evidence of it being there, in your behaviour. But all things considered, my sister and I are quite well-adjusted people. Unconventional, but well-adjusted.
We even see our father occasionally, strangely, my sister more than I. She says that she neither loves, nor hates him, that he just doesn't feel like family. Maybe it's all for my niece's benefit. I exchange very sporadic text-messages, and see him once in a very blue moon, for a birthday dinner or something similar.
And you think everything is fine fine fine.
But once in a while, something will happen, and BAM, you are that vulnerable little girl all over again.
My father sent an email to my sister. A can of worms was opened. She showed me their correspondence. It wasn't a fun-read. It was almost as if I could tangibly feel the old wound opening up. It must seem weird, but the only way I can describe it is that I feel like I am retracting into myself. Like I am becoming a smaller person, and that the colour is being drawn from my cheeks. Not that there is much colour there in the first place... And I feel like a little girl.
Thankfully, much like stubbing a toe, you know the pain will fade relatively quickly. I woke up today, and I am back to normal.
But I did go round to Alistair's last night. I know he is depressed at the moment (no kidding!) But I really needed to be taken care of. He cooked, put on a funny movie, and I am grateful for that. But as I sat on the stool in the kitchen, straining to keep the tears down to one or two on my cheek at any one time, I felt like I was a burden. And of course, he told me that he'd have completely severed contact with my father years ago, and felt better for it. That's very normal. People with reasonably ok upbringings always say these things, and they are correct, but they don't understand what it is like to actually be involved. I said to him that I would try to straighten up because he hates dealing with trauma and crying. And he replied in agreement, that he doesn't, and he is not very good at it.
At times like these, what I actually need is a man's arms around me, holding me tight, loving me, and reminding me why everything is ok. The memories of my childhood won't go away, so I need to be reminded of why things are still good, and I am ok despite it all. And in some ways because of it all. When I am sad about my father, I don't need "What you wanna do is this..." or "I'd have done this ............... a long time ago". I know all of the options, I over-analyse everything. I know each and every beneficial action I could perform, and why (rational or otherwise) I haven't done one of them.
I may suffer from a case of the ditz every now and then, but I tend to spend my time noticing when people are sad and need to be built up. I listen to them and try to make it better. Sometimes I need the same.
But I have slept on it, and these days, when I wake up, the demon has fallen asleep again. So I am going to give myself a verbal hug.
Things are ok in spite of everything because
I grew into a kind, warm, loving woman.
I don't repeat patterns and become involved with men like my father.
I am well loved by a few good friends.
Despite being brought up to be a racist bigot, I was always a natural Guardian-reading, sandal-wearing, muesli eater.
Despite my father being incredibly misogynistic, and being brought up in a household where my mother "Should respect my authoritai." (actually, Eric Cartman said that, but it's appropriate), I am an opinionated feminist.
Despite being pressured to leave school at 14 (I kid you not) because it didn't do my father any harm, I now have a first class degree.
And *because* of my childhood, I know exactly what not to do if I ever have a child.
Because of my childhood, I am rarely angry and seldom raise my voice. I know how destructive anger and aggression can be.
I wouldn't change the past, since it has shaped me, warts and all, I just would never want to repeat it.


  1. For better or worse, those old wounds make us who we are. You're right to be proud. And everything will be ok. It always is.

    Besides you read The Guardian so you can't be all bad!

  2. I don't even know who my dad is, if that makes you feel any better?

  3. @mysterg: Where you been all my life?

    @Mr. C: I am not sure I can tell if that is better, or worse.
    Does it affect you, if you don't mind me asking?

  4. I don't mind you asking at all, that was nice of you. It was really difficult growing up because you feel inferior when every one else has a dad. To be honest, my best friends dad used to come home drunk acting like an asshole but I was always even secretly jealous of that.

    I went to a pretty rough high school where it was pretty common for a lot of kids to not have their dads around so I gradually got used to it.

    Now I still wonder sometimes who he is or what ever but I still tag him as a loser!

    by the way, I really liked this post of yours and it was interesting that you say you still wouldnt change the past, I can understand that for the most part. I luv ya maisie!

  5. Oh my dear, I wish I could give you a hug.
    The biggest testament to your character is that you are a warm, kind, loving person. You chose to be who you are, you were strong enough not only to survive, but to be absolutely wonderful. I am in awe of you.


  6. @Mr. C: I have quite a penchant for you and your blogs too.
    Things may not always have been ideal for you, but you have become a smart, funny, intelligent, and successful man. (I daresay you're quite a hottie too.) And there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from that, as I am sure you know.

    @Sally-Sal: Thank you. You are such a kind heart, and I think your words are as good as a hug.

  7. Hey, thanks for not commenting on my nerdy glasses...

  8. I usually link songs to posts while I read them (I mind is a multitasking machine) and all that kept going through my head was Alanis Morissette's "Mary Jane." But you know what? You aren't PROUD Maisie for nothing and you should live up to that name because from what I've come to know about you reading this and past posts, you are an intelligent, sensitive, strong (but not all the time which is a good thing), brave woman. You deserve the best and if dear Alistair can't comprehend why you need a hug, well, he's missing out on a special moment. I, on the other hand, never let those moments slip by so here's a HUGE hug coming your way, lady!

  9. @ladytruth: I'll be honest, that song has been very appropriate in my past. And I guess I still have those moments, but in many ways I'm better than I've ever been. A long way from perfect, but better.
    And thank you for the hug. You can never have too much hug, I say.
    As for Alistair. I don't always know whether I am being too hard on him. He is severely uncomfortable with diplays of strong emotion, of any kind, I think. I am a displayer a stong emotion. What do you recommend? A spot of boy-training?

  10. As far as I'm concerned all men need training to be emotionally mature enough for a woman. There are a rare few who come ready to rumble, but the chances of finding one of them are equal to those of winning the lottery or finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Just don't wait too long before you make a decision; happiness might just be passing you by in the mean time and you deserve every little bit of it you can find :)

  11. The glasses look kind of cute - the couch on the other hand.. looks terrible.

    You do sound like you've grown into a wonderful woman. And one who writes an entertaining and nicely varied blog (one of my favourites - not quite - but close!)

    Hope you got yr hug

  12. @ladytruth: Well, I am eternally optimistic... I know a fair few amazing men... who are spoken for. As for life passing me by, you are right. I detached myself a while ago, but lately have been foolish enough to get dragged back in. What I was doing before was the right thing.

    @LERMONTOV: Hey, it was the 80s, and my grandparent's house.
    Thanks, hun... I 'aint so bad. xx

  13. The best revenge is to live well.

  14. It sounds like you and I had similar childhoods. My sister is 7 years younger. Though I think I took the role your sister took.

    You're right when you say people don't understand the involvement. Even when you distance yourself, you're still involved.


You kiss your mother with that mouth?