Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spin Cycle: There is no Black or White, Just Shades of Grey

There are all kinds of ghosts and it seems that lately I have been more inclined to deal with the ghosts and hauntings of my childhood, of my young adulthood, and even of times not so long ago.

Everyone says all families are dysfunctional.

Maybe.

Go ahead and play the music video. You'll figure out why soon.



If you read yesterday’s post or have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I grew up in a home with a mentally ill mom with an addiction problem and suicidal behavior. So yeah. A bit dysfunctional.

My first day back in LA last week I arrived at the airport in the morning on a red-eye. By 10 AM I had my rental car and was tearing up the 405 headed north. I was on my way to the cemetery to deliver leis to the ancestors.

The feelings aroused by hitting the road on a glorious sunny Southern California day overwhelmed me to say the least. I had not been on my own on the roads of what felt like a past life in a couple of decades. I got off in Granada Hills to find the house where we had lived until I was 10, before we moved to the beach. While I was prowling the streets, looking for my first home ever, I was listening to a country music station and Miranda Lambert’s song, “The House that Built Me” came on.

Seriously. Sometimes the Universe has a perverse sense of timing.

My friend’s death (at 47 years old) the week before combined with the nostalgia for my past, and the remnants of my memories came flooding in like a hurricane. How can one describe the layers of all one’s former selves drifting in and out, together and yet separate from this person I’d become?

It was difficult to tell whether all the old me’s were the ghosts or if I had become a ghost just drifting through my past.

And there were still the ancestors to deal with.

My father’s death eight years ago was a difficult time for my sisters and me. It turned out that while we had all painted my mom out as the bad guy for so many years (a concept encouraged by both my father and his family), in the end, dad was no innocent. A much better liar than my mom by far and just as manipulative. For anyone harboring a life of lies, here's a warning. Death and dying sometimes have a way of bringing everything to the surface.

It took me a long time to truly forgive him. I wish I could say I was a better person, but the truth is I was mad at him for a couple of years, and those were his last years.

Even worse, I was left with a gaping hole in my long secure feelings for my Uncle, my grandmother, and all the rest. These loved ones had been my force of resilience through my childhood and teen years and I credited them for my coming out of it all somewhat OK. But I found myself upset with them for not protecting us from him. For encouraging us to believe that everything wrong was my mom’s fault. For their trusting dad to take care of us and do right by us when he was not capable of any such thing. He was their son, their brother, they should have known better....

I had spent my life putting these beloved ones on a pedestal and it was painful to feel abandoned by them, even though none of them were around to explain.

Does it make me sound like a horrible person to say this aloud? To write it, even anonymously?

Maybe.

Probably.

As a 53 year old woman I see what a narcissistic perspective I had at the time.

But it was more the 13 year old inside of me that was hurt than the middle aged woman.



The Eternal Valley Memorial Park is the resting place for my father, my Uncle (dad’s older brother and my grandfather figure), my paternal grandmother, my Aunt, and my Aunt’s husband (uncle by marriage).

I had not been back since my father’s funeral in 2003.

As I laid the leis on their resting places and said my prayers for them, all the love in the world came flooding back in. I knew I was loved, their love was what carried me through some crazy times. All the rest did not matter anymore.

Of course they had to trust dad back then, to give him a chance to do the right thing. It did not matter that he was not able to live up to their hopes for him. Giving him a shot was a generous and noble choice.

I felt a peace I had not felt the last time I was there.

Later, I thought as I headed back towards Santa Monica, later I may go by my Uncle and grandmother’s house.

The refuge.

Perhaps I might even stop and walk to the side of the garage to see if my three year old footprints are still in the cement there. If the owner of the house comes out, I'll explain I just need a reminder of a favorite memory.

For more ghost stories,head on over to Jen at Sprite's Keeper.

21 comments:

formerlyonlyamovie said...

This has me tearing up. That's all I have right now.

xoxo
Great song too.

oceangirl said...

The continual realisation how much we were loved can be paralysing, by emotions of regrets and longing to turn back time.

hillgrandmom said...

Tears flow. Peace to you.

TechnoBabe said...

What a healthy attitude about the past pains and disappointments. You rock.

Brian Miller said...

smiles. what a beautiful realization you had...you are loved...

Kathy said...

So many families have so much dysfunction that I wonder if there are any fully functioning ones.. I have unbloggable stories that I could tell, and can't for different reasons. You know that you were loved, that's more than a lot of people end up with. Hang in there.. and let us know if you go see your footprints :)

Linda said...

I'm glad you are finding peace. Hope you find your footprints and have a restful trip.

rosaria said...

In the final analysis, all of our lives are dysfunctional, in some ways. We all lie to ourselves and to our loved ones too, to keep up our fantasy in one piece, to create a world we can all feel protected in. Yes, I can relate to all you mentioned.

Now, in your fifties, you too have to sort it out, and weigh it out, and then put it behind, so to live your truth.
Most people don't bother to go through this analysis, to rewind and recycle through their emotions and try to make sense of them.
You are brave, and strong and most courageous, especially for driving on the 405!

Peace and joy to you across the waters.

Jan said...

"Does it make me sound like a horrible person to say this aloud? To write it, even anonymously?"

NO.

I spent four days last weekend having a VERY painful email exchange with my sister, who is probably the most malicious and manipulative person I've ever met. I was forced to relive a great many horrible things from my life, things I had come to an uneasy peace with, just so she could feel better about herself, before I put a stop to it.

You are NOT a bad person for admitting how you feel, because you're right - you were loved. That matters far more than any of the rest.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

It would seem there is a great maturity in the woman looking back now. An opportunity to find some comfort now. I hope so.

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Isn't that a fantastic song?

I really don't know one person who thinks their childhood was fantastic. Really we all have something. Sad that some children have to go through so much.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Freeing yourself from someone else's manipulation will usually cause pain to the aggressor, but you have to do it.
And you did. To feel an ultimate peace as you said your prayers, I'm sure they're thankful for it too.
Haunting.
You're linked!

Sprite's Keeper said...

Freeing yourself from someone else's manipulation will usually cause pain to the aggressor, but you have to do it.
And you did. To feel an ultimate peace as you said your prayers, I'm sure they're thankful for it too.
Haunting.
You're linked!

Nubian said...

No truer words ever written. "For anyone harboring a life of lies, here's a warning. Death and dying sometimes have a way of bringing everything to the surface."

Hugs to you. Looking back always stings, a little. xox

pegbur7 said...

What a very touching and hauntingly beautiful post! You brought me to tears. I guess we all have to come to terms with the ghosts of our past.

Great song too. I've always liked Miranda Lambert.

I hope you can feel this hug I'm sending you from GA.

Michele said...

It is perfectly normal to harbor a bit or a bunch of resentment towards those that should have protected you. Giving that resentment to the wind is the sign of a strong and wonderful person. I'd say you passed that test.

Kristan said...

First of all: Great song. It's been one of my faves of hers for a long time.

Second: What a beautiful post, Pseudo. Thank you for sharing. There's so much pain, and yet so much love, in your words.

"How can one describe the layers of all one’s former selves drifting in and out, together and yet separate from this person I’d become?"

I think this is a new fave post of yours for me.

otin said...

That's one of the ten best things I've ever read on a blog...period.

Casey said...

Wow Pseudo, just wow. This was beautifully written (as usual). I am so glad you had some stability in your grandparents but sorry you had to deal with shortcomings from your immediate family. It is hard to let go of that resentment... I still don't talk to my biological father and haven't since I was 18 and old enough to not have to.

starrlife said...

Oh Pseudo. Ah sweetie... You've reached the source, linger awhile, this is one of those things that get clearer and then fog up but once you've been there it's easier to get there again.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Knowing you are loved counts for a lot. This is a beautiful post, Pseudo. I'm glad you feel good about the trip and your family. And I really hope those foot prints are still at the house.
xo jj