Unfolding the Map
This post will be my second personal "letter to the daughter I will never have" in this series involving William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) and a teenage runaway hitchhiker traveling with him to Green Bay. I'll touch on issues of abuse, based on the quote from Blue Highways. The ribbons at right represent awareness of child abuse (blue) and sexual abuse (teal). Fifield can be found by a quick trip to the map.
"At Fifield we went east toward Minocqua...'Can you tell me why you took off?'
"'Angus lost his ass in a taco franchise and things got really bad at home I mean, you know. The business got worse, and me and Kevin started catching hell worse.'
"'Who's Angus and Keven?'
"'Black Angus is my dad. Kevin's my brother. Anyway, like Angus was losing it. I mean, he'd always find an excuse to beat up on us like maybe a low grade or using a buttertub lid for a Frisbee in the house, so he'd punch us because he was losing his ass...Anyway, the night his partners and him gave up the franchise, Black Angus's face started twitching like it does when he's tense. Mom told us to look like we were studying even if we weren't. God. Two days later he was trying to parallel park, and Kevin didn't tell him he was getting close to a pole, and Angus dented the fender. Right there in the shopping center, he starts yelling and slapping Kevin. Kevin didn't say anything then, but he ran off that night. He's in New York now, but I'm the only one that knows where. He's into Hare Krishna."
Blue Highways: Part 7, Chapter 12
This post will be a continuance of a letter that I am composing to the daughter I wanted to have but, because of life's circumstances and my own inaction, will not. The catalyst is LHM's rider in Part 7 of Blue Highways, a young girl named Stacie who is running away from home. If you want to see the first part of my letter, please see my Blue Highways: West of Minong post
Letter to the Daughter
I Will Never Have
You may wonder why before I made reference to things in my life that I didn't explain more clearly. Well, it's because I had a hard childhood. Had you existed, I would have done everything in my power to protect you from any sort of harm so that you could grow up with an unmarred, positive, strong and secure sense of self. That sense is what I, even at my age, am still trying to develop.
There are lots of broken people in the world. I am one of them, and it is that brokenness that has also possibly been a reason I was never able to get my act together so that you exist in my life. The thing I've learned about brokenness is that it hardly ever just spontaneously materializes. Of course, there are some people who have troubles that get the best of them without any prior exposure. However, most of the people who are broken were harmed or marred by someone, who was probably harmed or marred by someone before that. Much of the brokenness can be traced in a remarkably tight and strong chain back through generations.
My story is no different. Born as the result of an affair, given up for adoption at birth, put into a happy home only to be taken from it when another child was born, put into another home where I was raised and where my adoptive father was an alcoholic and a pedophile. He taught me many lessons, including that adults did bad things too. When an adult, the person who says he's your father, tells you that you can't tell your mother what he is doing to you, you know that there is something wrong even if you are only 5 years old. When you can't tell anyone what is happening to you, and you have a deep, dark secret that can't be shared, you reside in your own special kind of hell.
It's not worth dwelling upon except for the fact that it, and the other family dynamics that swirled like a horrible emotional maelstrom, shaped much of the rest of my life. I became the fixer, the mediator. I became very dependent on displays of affection directed at me. Inside, I felt like I was the worst person in the world. I felt undeserving of love. Outside, I lapped up displays of affection whether they were real or not, even though inside I waited for the eventual disappointment and the loneliness.
Thankfully, I didn't get involved in bodily harmful addictions, such as drinking or drugs, to ease my pain. I didn't become a malicious person, though I've done my share of manipulating. I did develop a "rescuer" mentality, which meant that I tried to fix other broken people's lives. It never worked. Broken people cannot be fixed unless they are willing to be fixed and I was like any other of those people. I understood what being broken was, but I was unwilling to let people rescue me just as others were unwilling to let me rescue them.
I have gotten into trouble time and time again because of this. There are broken people who have become malicious, abusive emotional bullies who prey upon broken people who are rescuer types. They give rescuers false affection, play to their needs, and when the rescuers are hooked into their stories or emotionally invested, the abusers begin to belittle, manipulate and play emotional games in efforts to control them. Abuse happens to both children and adults, and it takes the same form. It starts with candy, and ends with bile.
You'd think that adults are better able to guard themselves, but we can't, because often situations or relationships take us back to our childhood desires and fears, and we play out harmful situations over and over again. I've been there...even recently. The key to breaking the pattern and therefore breaking the unbroken chains that seem unbreakable is knowing oneself, knowing how one responds to those "triggers," and ultimately being kind and gentle to oneself. That is what I'm learning to do.
I don't know whether having a child would have helped me earlier in life. Perhaps I would have discovered what I needed earlier and gotten helpful guidance. Maybe being childless was something that needed to happen so that I could work on mending myself.
Regardless, I know that if I'd had you, I would have protected you. You would have never had reason to fear from me. There would have been no emotional mind-games played upon you. I would not have manipulated you, or gotten disappointed if you didn't meet some kind of "ideal" that I would have expected of you. Ultimately, I would have hoped that you would have someday been proud of me and what I came through, and how well I parented you. I would have reveled in the knowledge that you knew you could talk to me about anything - that there would have been no deep, dark secrets eating away at us and our relationship. Above all, I would have felt accomplishment in raising a balanced and happy child into adulthood.
If you want to know more about Fifield
Next up: Minocqua, Wisconsin