Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Freeing Question

(Conclusion . . . )
The time of abandonment came and went. It lasted only a year, but affected the rest of my life. Until recently, I’ve feared that I’d unwittingly do or say something that would cause friends to cast me aside.
            My parents returned from Parsons, Kansas, a month before I began first grade. We then moved to the Missouri farm where I grew up. Right after I turned seven everything changed again. Something horrific happened in April 1943 that wiped away all memory of abandonment. One fear supplanted another.
            From that time to February 1976—a period of almost thirty-three years—I had no memories of my early life. I did not plan to abandon it. But a new fear filled my life. The old fear went underground. Forgotten. Unseen but insidious.
            For those many years, I thought I was simply a jealous being who wanted to be the center of everyone else’s existence. A demanding being who panicked whenever friends weren’t what I considered attentive enough. I feared being discarded but had no understanding of the why or wherefore of that fear.
            The cats with whom I lived consoled me. Their unconditional love comforted even as fear nagged.

Noah, Eliza, Laz, and I

            Then in February 1976, when I was thirty-nine, a Minnesota psychiatrist adroitly asked a question that unlocked my early childhood.
            By that time I’d entered and left the convent, worked in three different states, gone to graduate school, and seen three psychiatrists: two in Ohio; one in New Hampshire.
            The Minnesota psychiatrist was the fourth with whom I sought to discover the patterns of my life and the experiences that created them. The first three helped me, but something always eluded us. That something was abandonment at age five.
            You wonder, “What did that fourth one ask that freed the past?” I can’t remember. I know only that sudden memory flooded back. I sobbed until I had to take deep breaths. Sobbed so forlornly that she rose to enfold me. She called that kindergarten year the “seminal experience of my life.”
            Hearing that did not banish my fear overnight. What did happen is that I began consciously to explore that kindergarten experience and its implications. I began to see how it had tainted much of my life. Nevertheless, I’d forget what I knew and fear would inundate me again when I became overly stressed.           
            With this knowledge I began also to see why again and again throughout my life I abandoned friends. Work. Place. I ended my art lessons in high school. I walked away from the convent. I left New Hampshire. I decided to quit a freelance job because of minor criticism. I ended a relationship with two friends. I moved from Minnesota to Missouri. All done on the spur of the moment and done without explanation to those left behind.
            It is not the leaving I regret. It is that I left behind hurt feelings and misunderstanding. I’d never learned how to leave without hurting others. I was never able to explain my actions. My childhood had provided me with only one way to handle an untenable situation—to turn my back on it and walk away.
            I needed redemption from the past. And yet it rode me unmercifully for most of the rest of my life. Only recently have I known the peace of loving myself graciously.
            My coming to that peace is the story of my coming home to myself. It is the warp and weft of all my future postings.


  1. That is very profound, Dee. I hope that you now realize that walking away and closing your mind was the only way you knew how to cope. I am so glad to know you are now, finally, at peace with your beautiful cats and your blog posts. Your writing is clear and compelling... I'm glad I found you.

  2. For those who have been abandoned as children, it becomes so much easier to be the one who leaves. And it is so hard to trust that we have something within us compelling enough to make someone else want to stay. Such painful, lonely realizations, and they take so much time and effort and patience on the part of others to help convince us that we are worthy. I am so pleased that you have come to know and love yourself on your own terms. That is such a difficult task under the best of circumstances.


  3. I believe very few people know the peace of loving themselves graciously. You've worked hard for that benefit. You own it. ~Mary

  4. Just TRY to cast me aside--I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE!! We are friends & we're going to stay friends (even if we occasionally piss each other off)! Got that? Good!

  5. When you haven't been able to deep down count on your parents...if even your parents don't love you the way you think you should have been loved...then it is hard to believe you are worth loving...and hard to believe that you can truly trust that anyone else could truly love you or can be counted on. In that case, leaving first seems like an emotionally logical thing to do, right? Even if it is an unconscious decision. We all protect ourselves the best way we know how. We just have to learn to forgive ourselves for all those times we didn't know any better.

    Knowing that deep pain of feeling abandoned and unimportant as a child has given you that precious empathy you have that was able to honestly touch the lives of those inner city kids. It truly is the worst events in our lives that can end up being the most tremendous blessings. When you've been to hell and back, as they say, you learn your strengths and weaknesses--you have opportunity for tremendous growth. It's obvious how all these events in your life have honed you into the caring, soulful woman that you are today. I am so glad I found you out here in cyberspace!

    And I love the picture of you with your furry companions!! :):)

  6. I see everyone else ahead of me has leapt right in with profound observations. I'd wanted to start by commenting on how wonderful it is to see a recent picture of you! Of course, we'd seen Dee, the young child and Dee, the young woman, but it makes things so much more personal to see you as you are today, an attractive 'older woman' with beautiful greying hair and very few wrinkles! I can still see some of the little girl in you, which shows how well you have aged (and that is a compliment!). Your cats are beautiful and obviously well-loved!

    Once again, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness reading today's post, realising just how deeply you were affected for such a large portion of your life! It seems so unfair, but I realise that life very often isn't fair. All of those confused and insecure thoughts and behaviours that plagued you for so much of your life seem so at odds with the incredible person we have been getting to know! I am sure who you are today is who you always were and that's what makes the whole situation even more tragic, since at that time you obviously had no idea of your worth and you spent so much energy attempting to hide from yourself and everyone else in your life. What a blessing it was for you to finally be able to make the connection with your forgotten past and to be able to confront the source of all your fears. I am looking forward to following the miraculous journey your undertook to get back to yourself through these pages.

    Thank you so very much for all of your comments on my blog. I appreciate every single one! You are an incredibly special, loving and observant person who has touched the lives of all of your readers and those of all the bloggers whose blogs you follow! I hope you NEVER feel alone again!!!

    Big hug xoxo

  7. The break through was so liberating, and I silently thank God for the therapist who was able to ask that question.
    Healing can only happen when that locked door gets opened.
    God Bless you now and always.

  8. Oh, Dee, how you've suffered and how hard you've worked to understand what has so profoundly affected your life! It's not surprising that you have found so much comfort in your cats. Animal companions love unconditionally and rarely abandon us. Sometimes we feel safer and more comfortable in the company of animals (which is why I offered an animal-assisted therapy option in my private practice). How wonderful that you finally reached that breakthrough moment and now have the peace of loving yourself...and you know that you're well worthy of that love!

  9. I agree with fishducky--I'm not going anywhere either.
    I'm so glad that you found the “seminal experience of my life” and are feeling at peace now.

    I LOVE that picture :0)

  10. Oh, Dee. What a story yours is. You give me hope that it's never too late for healing and grace. I hope for you that you are better able to find joy in your life and your relationships. I loved seeing the picture of you with your cats. :-)

  11. I had to come back and read this post again. Your words are just as impacting the second time--beautiful.

    P.S. I meant “seminal experience of -your- life,” not "my" LOL! Talk about a typo! :0)

  12. You are a beautiful person Dee. You are not getting rid of me either so I guess you better get used to seeing me around! Love ya bunches

  13. Dear Dee,
    It has been such a rewarding experience to read your story. Your honest and introspective tale is one that I can relate to. I have never thought of the reason I have abandoned friends was related to my own childhood abandonment issues! You have given me much to think about tonight.

    I also enjoyed seeing a picture of you with your lovely cat companions!

    Thank you Dee, for your inspiring and encouraging comments on my blog. I look forward to reading your responses.

    While I may not have "met" you face to face, I think of you as a dear and special friend.

  14. "Only recently have I known the peace of loving myself graciously."

    I'm so glad you have found that place.

  15. Wow! Thank you for bringing your life to us all. I feel honored...