Monthly Archives: May 2013
(Below I use the abbreviation ATI. Advance Training Institute. I’ll explain this in a future post but in the mean time it was the home school program I was raised in. If you can’t wait for me to explain it search for IBLP or Bill Gothard).
Somehow, even through my early childhood I knew I was never enough, good enough, perfect enough for my dad.
I was 9 when my parents got a piano and I started lessons. I loved it. I practiced hours and hours. Around age 15 my dad told me he wanted me to make a CD. I hadn’t written my own music and my dad had no clue about copyright laws. I tried to explain but he didn’t get it. I think he even said he wanted me to do it by the time I was 18.
I felt like he wanted me to be like the people who had CDs in the ATI program – some of them my friends. I looked at them as successful, beautiful, talented people – they were what my dad was comparing me to. And I didn’t measure up. I failed. I wasn’t perfect.
My dad would make us memorize verses and chapters of the bible. I was at least 15 when, as a punishment or before I could do something I wanted, I had to memorize 1 Cor. 13. I had already memorized Matthew 5, Psalms 1, 23, 8 and most of Proverbs by default.
By default I mean I’d heard 1 chapter of Proverbs every day since I was 4 or 5. Wisdom search was held at 5 or 5:30am. My dad would make us get up, sit at the table and read 5 chapters of Psalms and 1 of Proverbs. I was young enough that I learned to read after my dad started doing this. If we read it wrong or couldn’t read it we had to figure it out. Or get yelled at. Or get a spanking. At 5:30am.
I have no good memories of ‘wisdom search’. My mom would let us go back to bed some days and those mornings of snuggling with my mom and siblings are shadowed by the fact that it only happened because we had to get up so early for ‘wisdom search’.
My dad talked frequently of how he wanted us to memorize more of the bible. Yes, I did memorize Matthew 5. But I didn’t memorize Matthew 6 and 7. Like all good ATI kids did. And I didn’t memorize Psalms 119. Like those people on stage did at Knoxville for several years. Again, I was a failure. I didn’t measure up.
My dad made sure I threw baseballs the right way; not like a girl. Not like a girl was the theme of my childhood. With a brother just a few years younger than me I was good at cowboys & Indians, legos, lincoln logs, army, guns, climbing trees, using slingshots and carving guns out of tree branches with moms kitchen knives.
It was somewhere around 9 when I learned how to jump start a lawn mower. An old Gravely riding lawnmower. My brother and I cut our neighbors yard and to start the mower I would park it in front of the cars in the driveway so I jump start it. At age 9.
Not long after that I learn to change a tire and back the car up the driveway. We lived in the middle of nowhere a mile from the closest gas station and 30 minutes from the closest grocery store.
I learned from my dad how to use a hammer ‘the right way’ (not like a girl) and a power drill and table saw. I loved being important enough to him to teach these skills to. I loved the attention and feeling like one of the boys.
But the fragile feminine side of me was crying for attention also. I played paper dolls with my brother (somehow it always ended up being ‘wedding’) and dress up in moms closet.
Around age 10 my dad took a woodworking class and would bring me with him sometimes. I loved it. When I was 20 and decided to take a cake decorating class (which I paid for myself) my dad couldn’t understand why I would want to do that.
Also around age 10 was the first time I wore make up, 12 when I didn’t ask my dad about wearing colored nail polish and got in trouble, 14 when I asked to wear clip on earring (permission was grudgingly given) and 16 when my mom let me wear make-up.
Looking back I realize that my parents were holding me back from what they saw as worldly distractions of beauty, but what I wanted to experience as a female. At the age of 14 I was biologically an adult female, not allowed to wear make-up, talk to boys, wear pants or sleeveless shirts or anything with a v-neckline, cut my hair (not to mention dye it), get pierced ears and my parents still spanked me.
The little girl in me never came alive. I don’t remember being told I was beautiful. I do remember asking my dad every Sunday morning ‘How do I look?’ for as long as I can remember the reply was always ‘good’ or ‘ok’. I wanted to be delighted in, to hear I was beautiful and for my dad to love me not based on what I was wearing. I never heard that.
In my teen years I started feeling I was too much. I started realizing how different my family was, my dad’s anger problems, my mom’s hording problem, my inability to talk to people outside of ATI, how weird I dressed, how I couldn’t make friends… I was too much for people.
I remember asking my dad on multiple occasions if we could go out to breakfast on Saturday mornings together. He usually said yes but I was never able to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about. There was always a fear that I still can’t figure out. May be it was a fear that I would disappoint him.
By my late teens I had figured out how to make myself be okay with whatever decisions were made for me. If I didn’t like it at first I would convince myself how good it was and vice versa. I didn’t express emotion to anyone, only talked to my best friend about anything personal, didn’t try communicating or having a relationship with my parents anymore, told my dad to stop using me as someone to talk to about his marriage problems with my mom and told the same to my mom about my dad. I still wanted so desperately to be loved but kept it all hidden so I wouldn’t get hurt.
The summer I was 24 my dad and I spoke only a few times. I had decided to move to the midwest and he was not happy with that decision. I remember feeling very calm as I explained to my dad that my mind was not going to be changed – it was something I needed to do for me. In the years before we had yelled at each other most of the time but that summer I was done with the yelling, with being a disappointment, with not measuring up. I firmly told him I was moving and didn’t ask for his help. I bought a car and a trailer, I packed up my stuff and left. And then I sobbed as I drove down the road.
Sometimes I wonder if I could have been better or done more to make my dad love me. The little girl in me still wants to be told she’s beautiful, she still wants the attention and validation. And that’s okay. The adult girl has discovered she’s beautiful, she’s wanted, and she’s delighted in.
Today is Mothers day. Since being on my own and recognizing my own adulthood Mother’s Day has been weird for me. This year, for the first time ever I stood up in church when all the moms were asked to stand. I’m not pregnant and seeing as we plan to live in our current living situation for a while, don’t hold your breath on grandkids. But there are people in my life I consider my kids. We take care of them, they rely on us, we have taken legal guardianship at one point of one and we have rescued another out of crazy situations multiple times.
Yesterday I got a ‘Happy Mothers’ Day’ call. Today I got a flower at church.
This week memories came back of my childhood. Sad memories. Memories I would rather not remember but have to because they really did happen. And I don’t know what to do with them.
I put words to a memory that I’ve been dealing with the trauma of for several years. When we were little, I was probably 5, 6, or 7, we would be shopping and start misbehaving. You would get angry and march us to the car. I need to stop and say that I’ve been shopping with little kids and it’s hard and I’m not saying you were not stressed out and we weren’t hoodlums. But you would take us to the car, throw us in our car seats and drive around the parking lot. Fast. Really fast.
A few years ago I started reacting to Micah’s driving. I was scared he would crash. I noticed that when I rode with other people this fear was much worse. To the point that I do not ride with people anymore. It took me a while to figure out what caused this crazy fear in me. But then I remembered…you used to drive us around the parking lot, yelling at us and I would be sobbing telling you we would behave next time and to please stop driving so crazy.
The words that came to me this week were ‘my mom tried to kill me’.
This week I remembered something else. I was 10 years old. I don’t know why but one day, we lived in _______ at the time, you left us. I called the neighbors across the street and they said you weren’t there. You were gone for several hours. I remember standing over my sisters crib wondering how I was going to feed her. Later you told me you had gone to another neighbors down the street. I still don’t know why you left but this week I remembered the fear that 10 year old me felt.
I don’t know why I’m writing you this. May be because I didn’t call on Mothers day. I couldn’t, not with these memories in my mind. I don’t think I could have faked a pleasant call.
I don’t know what I want you to do with this either. I’m figuring out how to work through the memories (with the help of therapists and friends) and the pain. May be I just needed you to know.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom
We’d only been married a few years when I lost my wedding ring. It was a specially ordered engraved ring. It took months for my (then) fiance to find one I would like and to have it made.
In the several years since I lost the ring it has been replaced with a cheap ring with ‘spend my whole life with you’ written on it. The words faded off but I still wear it.
Several months ago I found a gold wedding band online. It was cheap. In a moment of impulse that I don’t want to remember I bought the gold wedding band. I told my husband ‘I bought my replacement ring!!!’. He wasn’t excited. He didn’t say anything but I could see the hurt on his face.
The wedding band ended up in the car with my ‘need for work’ pile of jewelry and I forgot about it. Until a few weeks ago. I had been talking to my husband about getting a thumb ring for a few weeks and emailing him ideas when I came across the gold wedding band still in the car. I tried it on. It fit my thumb.
In the past few months I’ve had people give me small metal objects for specific lenghts of time. God spoke through them to say things like ‘give up the crap in your life!!’ and ‘stop resisting and accept the love being offered’. These little reminders pissed me off to no end. I’ve hated each in turn and accounced my hatred for them to the people close to me (and to the people who loaned them to me).
And yet I’ve replaced each with something that reminds me of the lesson they have taught me.
I’ve tried for years to wear a thumb ring but they were all to big, loose or tight. The gold wedding band fit perfectly. It’s stayed on for several weeks now. It speaks it’s own message to me.
It reminds me that I’m the girl who bought her own wedding ring. That on my own I really fuck things up. That I need help and I can’t do this journey on my own and there are people surrounding me that I can ask for help.
My replacement wedding band? I told my husband that, instead of me taking care of me to the point of buying my own wedding band, I would like him to replace it. With the engraving that was on my original wedding ring.