I am convinced there are some things that need to be talked about. There could be a number of reasons for this. Maybe someone shares a similar experience and needs encouragement. Maybe someone feels lumped in with the abusers and needs reassurance. Maybe someone has the false impression that all abused women hate men and need to know that’s not true. Or, maybe it’s just to help me figure out some things. It could be for any number of reasons that haven’t even occurred to me yet. Whatever the reason, I feel pretty confident there will be some good come out of a discussion.
This post is a continuation of some things I have shared recently, regarding men and my trust issues. Men have been both a blessing and a curse in my life. In spite of the good, I’m still left with trust issues that creep up on me in a way that makes no sense sometimes. Although, maybe it would make sense if I could uncover the old memories triggering these reactions and deal with them somehow.
Today was one of those days. My niece has the sweetest young husband and I met him for the first time. They stayed over night with me as they are travelling back to Western Canada, they were easy to have around. We found lots of interesting things to talk about, it was a great visit. In the morning though, when it was time for them to leave, it was awkward. I wanted to hug them both good bye but I just couldn’t bring myself to initiate a hug with him. I cannot explain to you why that was, there was just something holding me back.
I am still beating myself up over it.
He could have hugged me and I would have responded, but he didn’t know that.
This is an ongoing issue with me, it happens all the time with my son-in-law, whom I love dearly. I want to hug him like I do the rest of the family, but I just can’t. He could hug me but I sense he has some of the same trust issues I do. It seems we end up hugging with a look.
So, getting back to the initial thinking behind this new post.
There is a question I have been asking myself for the last couple of weeks – how can I have empathy and distrust all at the same time? It seems like it should one or the other. Black or white.
For a short while, I was worried there was something emotionally wrong with me, and that was distressing because I didn’t want it to be true. The concern over this idea was quickly relieved when someone shared a video on Facebook about a five year old brother comforting his little sister. In a flash, it struck a deep cord with me. I realize I learned to love at a very early age, even while I was learning to distrust.
I am the oldest of three with two brothers. There are five years between the oldest and the youngest and there has always been a strong bond between us. Until now I have never really questioned why that is. I can see that I need to start asking more questions.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, living with my grandparents, I was asked to babysit, briefly, for several families with young babies. These were people I had never met. At the time I wondered why they would consider me, but it didn’t occur to me to question why I felt like I could do the job. Now it occurs to me to ask the question.
Why did I feel confident I could comfort a crying baby or change a dirty diaper? Why did Grandma have enough confidence to allow me to take the job? There were no babies in our life with her, any experience I had with them would have come from another time.
At this point, looking back on our family dynamics, I can see my mother pressing me into service with my youngest brother. I’m sure Grandma would have been aware of this fact. I have no memory of any of it, but then, I don’t remember a lot of things. It turned out I did indeed know how. I still do.
My youngest brother’s great grandson Jax. We’ve just met for the first time (a year ago). His mother took this picture.
Lately, I have been having conversations with my older brother about our life in the early years. He remembers some things I don’t (my mind has buried all of the painful parts) and hearing what he had to say tells me – life was even worse than I imagined. Among other things, he said Dad was not a nice man.
He told me a number of things about those days but there was one story that shook me.
It was about Dad driving on the railroad tracks running behind our property, he was playing chicken with oncoming trains. I had heard these stories for years and used to laugh, thinking it was something my crazy risk taking father would do. What I didn’t realize at the time – my brother was with him, scared out of his mind. That’s one of the reasons why Dad did it, it was his perverse way of trying to force this kid to grow some courage. It finally stopped when my 10 year old brother made up his mind he wasn’t going to let his fear show anymore. I’m horrified Dad would do that to a kid.
We also talked about another time I do remember. It was Dad beating my brother with a piece of hose, in front of all of us. A tool was missing from his work shop and he was convinced it was my brother’s fault. I can still remember the distress of watching this happen. I could never understand why Mom did nothing to stop it.
One thing I’ve learned, by first hand experience, boys suffer from abuse as deeply as girls. That is the genesis of my soft heart for men, surviving life alongside my brothers, recognizing the pain in their life.
My oldest brother is the reason I’ve left denial behind and have taken ownership of the abusive early years in my life. He adamantly insisted that I must, even if the memories were shadowy and I couldn’t remember the actual events. He wanted to know why I thought I would be the favoured one, to escape abuse.
All three of us have blocked painful memories, but deep inside, we will never forget.
Our story does have a happy ending in spite of the terrible years. All three of us have grown into well adjusted, productive, loving people. We’ve left behind the bitterness and rage. A miracle, really.
One thing I’ve loved about this process of discovery – the heavy load of old baggage seems to grow lighter with each breakthrough experience.