Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Portrait of the Writer as a Young Girl

Yes, that's me. 1958-ish. Obviously winter and obviously dressed to the nine's with my muff, matching hat and burgundy coat.

In case you were worried, I still have that chair I'm sitting on.

So how, do you ask, did a cute little thing like me with devoted, kind, intelligent parents end up depressed and suicidal in WAM-ville?

Oh, wait, let's see if I can get Rose and Frank's pic in here too.

There they are. Wedding day. September, 1948. (Go ahead, check the dates. They were married years before I came along).

Q: Lara, didn't you KNOW that WAM was a possessive, nasty, control freak? You dated him for 3 years before you married.

A: Remember this and remember it well: abusers chose their victims with care. They are as persistent and well educated at reeling you in as Captain Ahab. You will almost never see through their screens. I had a few bad feelings in the pit of my stomach, which I didn't listen to...and my dad never liked WAM, which I didn't pay attention to. Perhaps standing back listening to my "little voice" and paying closer attention would have helped.

Q: What about your parents? Did you recreate your family home like so many do?

A: Nope. My mother was an excellent role model. She had her own stuff, maintained a job, took no crap from my dad, who was mild-mannered, more on the reticent side and very respectful of women. My mother had me read Thoreau’s “Essay on Self-Reliance” when I was 13. So, bottom line? No. I jumped into a whole new nightmare that I have to worry about my children recreating.

Q: So what did your Mom say when you told her about WAM?

A: Well, both my parents became ill after I got married. My mother died 366 days after I got married, my dad a year after that. So I really couldn't dump my horrid marriage on them. When I did mention to my mom that that marriage wasn’t EXACTLY what I had anticipated, she told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t to take shit from anyone. She didn’t raise a daughter to cow-tow to some two-bit moron. I was to value my own intelligence and self-worth above all, and basically bag anyone who didn’t subscribe to the same agenda. My dad concurred.

Q: What happened?

A: Maybe because I lost them so quickly and so close together, I dropped into grief and mourning and didn't have the strength to deal with WAM. Or eventually the strength to leave him. I became the antithesis of who my parents wanted me to be. I was frightened, abused, petrified, numb. I felt stupid, useless. I told Anne that in WAM’s eyes, I was FULS. Fat, ugly, lazy, stupid. That’s how I was treated and that’s how I began to see myself.

Q: Why did you believe him? You were 30 years old -- had been on your own, traveled, had a good job, had many friends, came from a strong background.

A: When I married WAM, I loved and respected him. His opinion mattered. When I realized he thought I was worthless, I became worthless in my own eyes. (Can you say "co-dependent"?) I couldn’t see that his perceptions were a result of his own problems, his own issues with women. I couldn’t imagine that I had made a mistake falling in love with him or marrying him. I was the epidimy of the saying “A woman will do almost anything to avoid facing the truth about the person she loves.”

Are you getting the idea that I was a mess? I was a mess. "Was" being the operative word.

Q: So why you? Why WAM?

A: I used to joke and say: The planets aligned, Saturn's rings were in the 7th House of Usher, we met, we got married. But the truth of the matter is, if I hadn't met the WAM-ster, I wouldn't have Sean and Erin. Motherhood is the absolute best thing that ever happened to me. I've told both my children that because of them, I know that God exists in the universe. My parents and my cousin (who lives far away) were all the family I had and after my parents passed away, I felt disconnected and groundless. Having Sean and then Erin, especially since WAM didn't want children (there's another story) was a gift. A true and real gift from God.

And you know, things might have turned out differently. If my dad had discovered the actual true nature and personality of WAM before he passed away, WAM would have been dead, and my dad would have been in jail. If the timing of this well-justified murder was bad, I might have missed out on having my kids. Sometimes, you can just feel the hand of God on your shoulder.

Q: And what about now?

A: Now, I have my kids. I have my cousins. I have friends. I went to hell and came back stronger. I really did. I am living proof that sometimes, as pitch-awful as it is, we just have to let the bad stuff happen.

Then, when we are better, when we are healed, we can extend a hand to those who are where we once were.

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