I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Time out

I'm going to wait until next week to write about my mom, because I woke up last night and thought about all the comments I've received here and decided to address some of them. I am also considering the nature of my desire for approval. It's an insidious thing: I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not seek out followers and that I would write only for myself. Easier said than done.

Some of the comments have been thought-provoking, and some people have asked questions I want to answer. I also realize that I have created an opportunity here that can lead to personal growth, if I am willing to do it out here in public like this. And with the anchoring comments of my brother and sister, I have pretty much stayed on a nice linear path, getting out the main events that have shaped my life.

I sometimes spent an uncomfortable couple of days thinking about how to write down the hardest memories to recall, the loss of Stephen when I was so young, and the loss of Chris much later in my life. The memories I dredged up of my failed marriages were also hard to think about sometimes. But once I got here, to the present day, the content of this blog began to founder. I'm here, now, and I need to steer this boat into the direction I want it to go. One can't do that without some serious introspection, I've discovered.

So this "time out" post is basically for me to regain the momentum of what I began here: to write for myself and to answer some questions that won't let go of me until I answer them. The intricate dance of blogging and getting feedback, sometimes immediate, has given me a unique opportunity. We are in a very interesting moment in time and space, because the explosion of blogging and the blogosphere (and its impact) is a brand-new phenomenon.

Nancy asked if I feel any less emotion about some of these events now that it's down on "paper." Yes, it feels different, but my emotions are apt to change from one moment to the next. When I think about Chris, I don't feel the same way I did five years ago, but something will remind me of him: a story of another mother's loss reminds me of my own; a laugh in a crowded room that startles me because it sounded like his laugh -- and the pain will come flooding back. Now it's like an old wound that has healed up imperfectly and I live with it, but I will never be like I was before the injury. That's life. It doesn't matter who we are, we have to deal with loss and sometimes devastation. Troutbirder left a comment about the loss of his son 17 years ago, and I could feel his continuing pain. It never really goes away, and it shapes who we have become forever.

About my paternal grandmother, Mommy. Two questions were asked that I ponder the answers to: why did Mommy disown her only daughter? And why did Robert, my grandfather, walk out on his family? I don't know. These events were discussed over the years, sometimes with my parents when they were alive, sometimes with my siblings. Kids hear conversations not meant for their ears and wonder about it. The truth is, I really don't know why my grandfather left, because my parents could only guess themselves. Daddy was twelve, and I do remember the tone of his voice when he told me about his father: wistful and sad. He missed having a father.

The rumors about Aunt Edith were of a different sort. I never met her (at least not that I remember), since she was long gone by the time I was old enough to wonder. But the story I remember was that she was married with two small children, and one day she ran off with her lover, leaving her two children alone in their house, no one to care for them. Just abandoned them. They were alone for DAYS before they were discovered. Is this a true story? I don't know, but I remember the communicated outrage by whoever told me about it.

One thing about having alcoholic parents: you would hear plenty of stories when you became the willing listener while either Mama or Daddy reminisced about the past and their own histories. Once, long ago, I remember my dad telling me that I have a sister the same age as Norma Jean, the offspring of a young woman he was living with while overseas on TDY. I don't know if it's true or not, or whether my mom knew about it. But the shock of hearing it has never left me.

By the time you get to be my age (in your late sixties), you will have many memories buried by the sands of time. Most of them, I am convinced, are still there to be dredged up and examined. If that examination leads to self discovery, then I am all for it --  although a tiny little frisson of panic rose up in me when I wrote that.

When I was a little girl, I remember coming home from my Brownie meetings to listen to my favorite radio show: The Shadow. I heard the theme song in my head when I wrote that down, it affected me that much. The show began with these words: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows."

Maybe the shadow is what I felt just then.


CiCi said...

Hello, DJan. As always, your writing is real and honest. Refreshingly honest. Thank you for sharing your life stories. I think that your wanting to remain true to your original reason for starting a blog is valid and essential to your posts being written in the spirit that is healthy for you personally. I like it that you are not writing here for more followers. For me personally, I don't look at the followers or the numbers. I have my own way of writing about my past and I write about things of interest to me and then I am able to write another snippet of something from the past. I am no longer living in the past but am able to write with the feelings of how it was back then. I have not lost a child so I don't know how that really is but I can tell you that I put my online arms around you and hug you and will share in whatever way possible to share the loss you have experienced. I don't know if this is something you are interested in but my daughter sent this to me when I was at my lowest and in therapy. Go to the link and see if watching the short movie would be of interest to you.

Linda Reeder said...

Having read your story up to the present, I have pondered writing my own story, but I decided against it. When I thought back to my earliest memories, and then on through the years of growing up, I remembered too many bad or sad events. I decided I was not a happy child, and that made we feel blue. And it really isn't fair that I rmember more of the bad than the good, because there were good times too. The problem is more with my nature than with what others did. Being extremely shy and insecure for so long, I just kept quiet and seldom shared my real thoughts. They're not buried. I can still experience the feelings I had back then as I remember, but they are better off kept silent now.
I began to live my real life after college, and truly found myself and my voice at age 40. I loved being a mother to my kids, and a highly competent teacher. And my life now is wonderful!

Whitney Lee said...

I wonder if you aren't looking for acceptance more than approval? As if, maybe, you can accept who you are and how you got here if those around you tell you it's okay. I understand that this blog must be difficult because it leaves you so vulnerable, so exposed. If you are honest about your past and your life choices via a medium where it would be quite simple to paint yourself in a more attractive light then you leave yourself open to criticism. I have a feeling, though, that you are your own harshest critic.

This journey you have undertaken is not an easy one, and I am honored to have been asked to come along.

CrazyCris said...

I too was wondering what you'd right about when you reached the present tense. I think looking back at our life, its highs and lows, can indeed be hard, but looking into the deep dark unknown that is the future is even scarier! For me at least. Thinking about my future is enough to paralyse me and throw me into full procrastination mode... :s

The Retired One said...

I have always admired your courage in looking deeply into your past and dredging up feelings that could have stayed buried forever. I am torn between starting that process myself. I have talked to my brother and have some of the same misgivings about some of the parenting my parents did or didn't do...and yet in some memories, we perceived things quite differently. It ends up making me sad either way, and I get on the verge of some very deep, uncomfortable feelings that I just push down again. That, I know , is not healthy. But then the feeling swiftly passes and I realize I probably am not ready to do that yet.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

It's possible that you can't force a particular memory just to meet a weekly blog deadline.... Do you have some photos, or some other kind of mementos, that you could write about in the interim, and also to kind of prime the pump?

I have a book about journaling--somewhere around here--that I'm going to look up because I think it might prompt some great blogging ideas. Will share info about it when I find it.

Nancy said...

Thanks for answering my question, DJan. I have been thinking about this blog for the last couple of days. It has dredged up things I thought long forgotten. Do we pick them back up and put them under a microscope? Or do we let them stay where they are - under the sands of time? Do I tell my children these stories, or let them have the allusions about people they loved? I ask myself what good it will do, and I don't have an answer. But I do know that for some reason your blog has exposed something in me that will require more exploration. If for no other reason, it is a destiny whose time has come.

Jo said...

Oh, goodness, family stories. Yes. My mother had three sisters, with whom she had a complete falling out. All the year my brothers and I were growing up, my mother would literally hiss when she said her sisters' names. I never understood why. And then one day I found out that my mother's eldest sister had spread a rumor that my mother and father had never really married, and were "living in sin", with three children. I remember the awful shame I felt. My mother and her sisters eventually reconciled, but what pain those awful years caused. When my mother died, I found her marriage certificate in her safety deposit box. She and my father were indeed married, and not "living in sin" after all.

We go on to make our own lives, and our own families, and sometimes the bad memories are better left buried by the sands of time.

Leave a Legacy said...

You have certainly struck a nerve in many of us that have been following your every word. I think you have forced us all to look back in our own lives, and remember things that we had conveniently forgotten and then we wondered if we could talk about these memories so openly as you are doing. I admire you so much for telling your life story so truthfully. I would very much like to do the same thing as I remember my own very blessed life, but with some well hidden secrets that would surprise even my closest friends and family. Fortunately, I have too many relatives still living that would be devastated if they knew some of my deep dark history. Maybe some day, if I am the only living relative that would give a crap, I'll think about writing about it.Until then, these stories shall remain hidden in my own mind.

Buz said...

I have always considered you to be beautiful and honest and, more than anything, genuine and real. Perfection is not in the cards for any of us, but I believe you have always moved in the direction of compassion and love for others, and that's perfection enough.

Our experiences help to form who we are, and I've enjoyed learning more about my sister, reading along as you inspect a few of the layers that make up DJan. But I suspect that you have only scratched the surface, mostly inspecting the layers that have received the least attention over the years. I know there's so much more, many joyful layers, and I hope you will continue to tap into the rest of the onion because you have always been an amazing inspiration to me, and in reading your stories I have been celebrating your life all over again.

No pressure, though. =)

Buz said...

When I went to post the comment above, I was prompted to enter one of those "word verification" things, and the word I had to type was "preman." I took it personally.

Norma Jean said...

Most of us never really bother to inspect our inner feelings and question where they come from. So many things in our lives affect who we become...not the least being who we are and how we relate to the world. I know that our parents had many, many layers of who they were that we will never know about. The memory about a "love child"?...well, I remember watching Mom pack Dad's suitcase once and she put in condoms. When I asked her about them; she just shrugged her shoulders in that way she always did.

Far Side of Fifty said...

DJan, It will all come together for you. Best not force it out...just be patient. Remember this is your room..and we are only visiting here..you can write about whatever you want. This personal blog of your should be something you enjoy doing. I would love to start one..but like Grandma Nina..I have too many people that are still alive that might be hurt in their old age.
I like the analogy that Buz made..like an onion peel..:)

Lucy said...

It's Sunday morning. I am here by myself. (Dick's on mandatory overtime!) And I picked this laptop up to just read this blog. Your posts come to us like a breath of fresh air meant for each and every single one of us. Personal and up close. We all find connection with your words.

You are a huge success.

Please delete this from your post if you wish. This is your page and not mine and this is meant for you. If you feel it's of use in your blog post it. If not, just hit the trash can icon... I would agree.

Not to preach or take away from your own experience... I have a couple of statements about how I see my own past and I feel the need to share.

I had the best childhood of anyone I grew up around. We had more. Our parents treated us way better than my neighbors treated their kids. I was offered more in the way of thought and expectations. I was blessed.

Still, there were things really wrong and I've been screwed up by it. I've had tragedies and immense struggles because of my upbringing. There are things in that past of my parents that were odd and wrong and miserable. There are things in my past that shouldn't have happened to anyone.
Doesn't matter to anyone but me... they happened.
I can agree with writing this bog because you need to and I can read that it is bringing you peace. You've had a unique life experience and tragedies that no one should have to deal with. How my heart aches for you when I read this.

You don't need to look for our approval or our acceptance or our understanding. You simply have it because we've all had experiences too. If we were perfect, we could judge... So there's not ANY chance someone could look down on you.

To my mind, your term of 'failed' for your previous marriages is not correct. Those were short term relationships that had successes and growth. You loved those men and they loved you for a time. You had good times and marked your space. You had children. You had so many positive experiences.
Schwing your perception of those and see they were very successful. Whose opinion have you taken on to perceive them as failed? As I read your posts, I see that you touched lives in a positive way your whole life and still do so today as you write this blog. You are amazing!

Have you read the Celestine Prophecy? It helped me put some of the turmoil into perspective and I'd love to hear your opinions on the concept.

I imagine as I write this, you're writing another post for here and I feel the connection to you as I feel each time I visit.

Isn't that what it's all about? By opening up and speaking about ourselves, we help others? What an awesome thing to do! Thanks for listening!