Tempting Fate

I am always amazed when I read childhood memoirs. Not only at the vast array of experiences in people’s lives and the way children interpret things with their developing minds, but at the ability of the storyteller to conjure up such rich, detailed images of things that happened so many years (often decades) ago.

Other than the family stories that have been told and retold and a few snapshots that I have seen hundreds of times, I have no memories of my childhood before 5th grade. I can recite the story of my first day in Kindergarten where I was too short to hang my coat up on the hooks mounted in the hallway and was rescued by a classmate who would become a treasured friend. I can’t tell you what the hallway looked like or what color my coat was or what the weather was like outside. I also couldn’t tell you what the rest of the day was like, or even if I attended full day or half day Kindergarten classes. That story came from my mother.
I have several other “memories” like that – that were witnessed by others in my family but resonate with me no more than they would with you if you heard the story several times. I know the names of my first and second grade teachers, couldn’t tell you who my third grade teacher was if my life depended on it and am only marginally certain who my fourth grade teacher was because there were only two to choose from in the entire school and I think I got the mean one. Or was that my brother?
For most of my life, I thought that was normal. I didn’t realize that other people had vivid memories of times in their childhoods and it wasn’t until I had my first flashback nearly sixteen years ago that it occurred to me that there was a reason I didn’t know anything about my life as a child. I don’t even know if I can properly call what I had a “flashback.” It was more of a still photo than anything else. From that memory came a clear knowledge that there was a song associated with that period in my life – the period during which my sister and I were repeatedly sexually assaulted by the teenage son of the woman who watched my sister after school until I could come get her and take her home.
The only other clear memory I have is of the day when our adopted brother was taken away from us. I have searched and searched for the post that completes the story I began with the above link and it appears I never did. I guess I know what my next post will be. I have to finish that story now that I feel as though I have more memories of it. Sorry – stay tuned for that one and in the meantime, go back and read the first half so you’ll be up to speed when I post the finale, as it were.
For the last several years in therapy, I have examined the themes and patterns in my fears and anxieties and have found them to be mostly related to abandonment issues, control issues and not feeling as though I am worthy of unconditional love. I have often questioned where these strong issues come from and, several times, have wished I had more concrete information about my childhood. That wish is very quickly followed up by a resolute slamming of that door in my head. No f*ing way! Stay out of there. It could undo you.

Today as I practiced yoga I once again wished for some more clarity about my history. And instead of succumbing to the knee-jerk response that admonished me to Shut.The.Door., I asked myself why. What was it that I was hoping to gain from having these memories? I realized that what I want is to know who to blame. Who can I legitimately be furious with for screwing up my life? I have done a lot of work around forgiving the boy who abused me and feel as though there is a light spot in my heart because I have let go of most of that. And, while that is certainly trauma enough to cause me to lose memories, I know that none of that happened until I was at least in the 3rd or 4th grade. There is more. I know that.
I was so surprised at my ultimate reason for wanting to recover these traumatic memories that I nearly fell out of my side angle pose. Do I really want someone to blame? Yup. And even though I know that I will likely not find any easy answers or any justice, the idea that someone other than myself is to blame for what I experienced is huge. For years I have carried around the notion that I was unlovable, incapable of deserving nurturing attention, the person who blew things out of proportion simply to get attention and I’m tired of that story now. I was a kid. I deserved love and affection and care and comfort. And knowing that someone else should have been responsible for that and dropped the ball lets me off the hook a little bit.
That’s not to say I’m not freaking terrified of these memories. And a friend of mine who suffers from PTSD and has had flashbacks has warned me that I have no control over whether or when I might get them back, in any case. Personally, that’s the part that turns my knickers inside out. I want to know and I want to know on my terms. But like they say, if you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans. Still, I feel as though I’ve tempted fate by simply writing these words and I suspect that I ought to have been more careful what I wished for…
10 replies
  1. Michael Ann
    Michael Ann says:

    Hi Kario. This really resonated with me. Not only in my own life and experiences, but my best friend, who grew up in a very troubled home with abuse, and is resisting the therapy that brings up memories. It's too hard for her right now. I don't think it is wrong to want someone to blame. But when you figure that out, you have to move through the hurt and anger and then find forgiveness. THEN you learn to give yourself what you didn't get in your childhood. Tough stuff all of it!

    Thank you for sharing this. I wish you luck on your journey.

    Michael Ann
    Thinking in My Head

  2. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    HI Kario,
    When I read the first part of your post, I was thinking along those same lines. I have some random memories of pre 4th grade, but nothing like many of the memoirs I've read. I always wonder, "How do they do that?"

    You were brave to open up the flood gates when you spoke of the abuse you suffered. I sure understand they wanting to blame someone. Yet, as Michael Ann commented "it's tough stuff".

    While I know what my issues are, involving abandonment and control, (or lack thereof), it doesn't make it any easier to turn around and face them. I've been in therapy for years, and gone around and around and thought I'd faced the demons, only to have them resurface when I least expect. And, I've been kind of thinking about trying my hand at writing about some of those events, if I can bear it.

    I also wish you a journey that gives you peace, and that leaves you more content than you were before.

    hugs . . . Sandi

  3. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Dear Kario, Writing this posting must have been incredibly hard for it must have brought to the surface not only your desire to find someone to blame but also all your old fears and insecurities and desire to be loved unconditionally.

    I understand all this. I have had many more years than you–I'm 75–to sort through my memories and to find peace with them.

    It is this peace I wish for you.

    I went back to the two earlier postings you highlighted. These words especially struck me in the one on the potatoes: "We are not so different, my abuser and me. We are imperfect humans. I don't have to know why he is who he is or why he did what he did to my sister and me. That is not for me to know. I can acknowledge that I have allowed him to have power over me for far too long and thank the Universe for letting me learn to be strong and compassionate in the face of that."

    It seems to me in reading your blog for the past two months that you truly have become strong and compassionate in the face childhood abuse and all that springs from that.

    And the desire to blame seems simply natural to me. And yet I suspect that when once you bring all that past to light, you will find that the blame you let go off will be the blaming of yourself.

    You will find yourself as blameless as Cameron was for his living in an orphanage. On your journey, remember his smile and what it said to you.

    Be gracious to yourself. You are part of the Holy Oneness of All Creation and in that Oneness I send you the peace of knowing that you are dear.

    Finally, thank you for your comment on my Tuesday posting. In it, you said, "Although it is difficult, I honestly believe it is incredibly important to explore others' humanity in an effort to understand and forgive as well as come to some realizations about who we are."

    I say these words back to you. It is, I believe, an absolute truth that in the light of others, we find ourselves.


  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Good for you, Kario, for opening that door and seeing what's inside. It's only then will you start seeing new parts of yourself and help yourself heal those memories from years before. Still, we have to thank our brains for always trying to protect us and never showing us what we're not ready to see. Memory is a fascinating thing, isn't it?

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Kari, I admire your courage to write these words, not just referring to what happened to you in the past, but also admitting you just need to recover memories to find someone to blame. It takes courage to say that!
    Just know you have taken a huge step towards healing simply by writing this.

    Much love,

  6. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Dear Kario, It's Dee again, thanking you for commenting on my Thursday posting about my mom and dad.

    You are so much younger than I and you seem to be coming to peace with your childhood much earlier than I did. You must have worked incredibly hard to let go of the hurtful memories.

    I know you continue to work at this. But your honesty in speaking of the past reveals a generosity of spirit that is quite awe-inspiring.

    I want to thank you especially for the following line in your comment: "I am certain that your ability to understand them in this way gives you permission to be flawed and human as well and adds richness and depth to your life." That is so true. Thank you for helping me see this.


  7. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    I hope you'll share what comes next with the same grace, insight and wisdom you've written here.

    It's really not about blame, because those of us abused as children usually end up pointing the finger squarely at ourselves. It's more about, as you said here, realizing we were lovable and deserving of so much more than we received.

    You are a brave woman, and you will be rewarded for that.

  8. graceonline
    graceonline says:

    If I remember correctly, the statistic is that one in four women is abused at some time in her life. Yet I have known few women who were not abused, and given how tightly some of us keep the secrets, I often wonder if the true numbers are not much, much higher.

    Our society has not begun to come to grips with this terror. My own therapist, a woman I cherished and until then thought wise, counseled me to admit that I, as a small child and teenager "liked" being abused, had to have enjoyed it. That I could not begin to heal until I admitted that fact. I stopped seeing her immediately.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is time we all shared our stories, not only of the abuse, but of re-traumatization at the inept hands of our therapists, ministers, teachers, and yes, sometimes our own parents, the very people who should have protected us.


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