If I Could Wave a Magic Wand: Arachne’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Arachne” is a pseudonym. Arachne blogs at Past, Present, and Future.

A new year is about to start. I am looking forward to it.

This is a new development. I spent years making suicide plans for New Years Eve. The holidays were the worst time of the year for me. That has changed. I survived. I never thought I would, but I did. The hell is over. Gone. Done. I can look forward now and I can be happy. Breathe, even. I guess all the therapy, psychiatric medications, hard decisions, tearful conversations with friends, and general struggles have finally paid off.

I started praying again.

It doesn’t hurt anymore. Of course, my idea of prayer is now very different from what I was raised with. Not so much with the trying to atone for my innumerable sins and the sins of the world. I feel like I have a relationship and connection to Divinity. I am loved and accepted.

I have plenty of anecdotes I could relate. There was the semi-cult at a super traditional Catholic church with a whole gaggle of denim jumper wearing homeschoolers. There was being the eldest child and being female in a strictly patriarchal large family. There was the father who broke the dining table chairs into pieces when he was angry. An emotionally manipulative and unstable mother overwhelmed with the life she believed God commanded her to live. The leather belt they both used. It goes on, but for me, those days are over and those people are no longer in my life. So what comes next?

I don’t know. There’s no plan. It’s terrifying.

If I could wave a magic wand and erase the past, I would.

Trust me. In a heartbeat.  I think about it over and over. What would I have been like if I’d had a decent education? If I hadn’t been abused and controlled by the people who had total power over me, where would I be? Did I ever have a chance at being “normal”? What the fuck is normal? I will never know. At some point, I have to step away and live my life now while accepting who I am and how I was shaped.

There’s only so much I can leave behind, and I’m not saying I’ve moved on. I doubt I ever truly will. I can’t forget my entire childhood. My body is covered in scars from my struggles with self-injury. Depression and anxiety will likely stick with me, even though they are managed now. Catholic guilt fades but doesn’t seem to ever quite go away. There will be many more times when I break down and cry over the past.

All I can do now is figure out how to work with what I have now, and when I take inventory it feels incredible.

I have two wonderful kids who are being raised totally different from how I was, wonderful people in my life, a brain that has some quirky wiring but that still works pretty well, physical health, a spiritual path that has taken me places I never dreamed of going, and so much more.

I have strength. I have freedom.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

On being a broom (and why I can’t just relax and enjoy shit)

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on December 31, 2013.

I realized why I have a hard time relaxing and taking actual vacations and even enjoying the holidays. 

As a child all of the times that most children have “off” to play and relax and do their own thing, I never had. We never had summer break.

We took Nov-Jan off every year instead, and during those two months we never rested. During those two months, my mom made lists, my mom kept us running ragged either baking or crafting or “ministering” to other people, or doing deep seasonal cleaning. I remember, vividly, begging, all of us, begging to keep one day in two months free so we could just watch a movie and relax and not make cookies (or make cookies that we actually got to eat instead of for everyone and their aunt).

We had “parties” that I don’t ever remember being fun, because the entire time leading up we spent deep cleaning, and cooking, and setting up, and then when it was party time I had to help mom keep the party and the guests organized and on-schedule, and I had to make sure the dessert came out of the oven at the right time, and often was interrupted with some kind of care-taking need in the middle of a group activity.

My mom hated it when I planned my own (graduation) party and I told her she couldn’t do anything and that I had no plans, and we were just going to hangout, maybe watch a movie and order pizza. Even then she still tried to dictate what happened when. I was still pulled aside. It was still stressful.

All I remember my mom doing during breaks, and actually for the majority of my childhood, was sitting in her recliner: writing us lists of things to do, and getting upset when we didn’t do them all fast enough for her.

Her version of helping and “being productive” was sitting there, after giving us our lists, watching us do the things on the list and telling us what we were doing wrong or should do differently, or coming up with more things to do simultaneously.

There is no pleasing my mother.

We had “breaks” solely so we could do chores and things we couldn’t have done while we were “schooling”. Forget that we didn’t school on Fridays, because Fridays were intense cleaning days, you know, on top of normal cleaning all week.

Even my dad, my mom would write huge “honey-do” lists for on his one week off (you know, when we kids just wanted to play and have him rescue our toys from the packaging). My mom was a slave-driver who bred her own slaves.

And yes, I do feel like I and all my siblings are just slaves in my mothers eyes. She wouldn’t say it that way, but that’s exactly how they live(d) and practice(d), and people wonder why I have horrible self esteem issues.

I mean, I was told, outright, for years, that my purpose and job in life (while I was home) was to serve my “family” (i.e. mom). I felt, literally (I cannot emphasize this enough) like I was just a broom with arms, legs, and a heartbeat. I remember standing in the kitchen one day, fighting back tears, devastated as I was doing two things at once, that I didn’t have 8 arms, because I could. not. keep. my. mother. happy. I could not physically clean, and cook, and hold the baby, and do the laundry all at the same time. I was human, I ONLY HAD TWO ARMS, and yet, there was my mom, in her chair in the next room, berating and harassing me because while I was cleaning the dishes and cooking and had a toddler draped around my leg, I hadn’t yet started the laundry, or brought her snack.

If I was “caught” doing anything that loosely resembled “relaxing ” that was immediately rectified with other tasks (unless it was bedtime, or the like 90 minutes of “free time” I had that rapidly shrank). I feel horribly guilty if I am not doing some kind of mundane work when I could be, because I was never allowed to breathe.

I wasn’t a person until I ran away.

Before that, I was nothing more than a breathing, walking, broom.