I decided against leaving this event, or events, to the ages; nothing is quite as unsettling as nightmares based in reality. I wasn’t sure I would want to remember. But then, I thought if this happened to someone else, what would I say, how would I encourage them?
If this had happened to someone else I would say that this is triggered by dealing with Dad’s affairs and being forced to work with (or whatever…) my family. Sigh. Indeed, it is true.
I have three older brothers, all of us adopted. When people would say I was the ‘Princess’ and they protected me, I’d laugh and say, “No, I learned how to fight.”
The youngest brother, 18 months older than I, I’ll call Rebel Heart. The middle brother, 8 years older than me I’ll name Religious Heart, and the eldest brother, 9 years older, I’ll title Reluctant Heart.
In this mix of differing personalities and experiences, Rebel Heart was the one I dreamed about last night where, in back to back nightmares, I was trying to get away from him, as happened in reality, my life was at stake.
In real life, he was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde personified a hundred times over, kind when he wanted something and nothing short of a monster when angry. It was one of these enraged times I yelled back at him, “Go ahead.”
“Go ahead and what?”
“Kill me. You know you want to.”
It is a strange, bewildering place to grow up with a violent human being with whom you’d once been so closed to that people thought we were twins. To what extent does someone ‘get over’ acts of blatant cruelty? I wonder if there is indeed healing for some things in life.
So, dealing with Dad’s health and affairs a LOT of stuff is bound to come up. Dad and I have NEVER been close, I can’t say he’s ever had friends, but, Rebel Heart and him are quite a dynamic duo of toxic abuser and enabler, even with my Dad at 90-years-old. Personally I can’t relate to living in anything but being terrified all the time.
When I was in junior college I would get up before everyone, go to school and hang out in the Student Union Building, go to classes and then stay at the campus library until it closed around 9 or 10 pm. Home was anything but.
Twenty years later, I’m still running away from him, just in my nightmares that are always just as violent and disturbing. I struggle with a lot of feelings especially when Dad did nothing to protect me but acted like a hapless victim too…so somehow that made it sickly alright and allowed it to perpetuate.
I find it ironic my Dad’s life is in my hands, and that when he suffers I can’t sleep at night. Weird, huh. He never lost sleep over anything in my life. Ever.
These feelings, so many things bubbling to the surface. It is grief. It is unresolved pain. And perhaps, there are lessons to be learned and wisdom to be gained. Perhaps I can look at them as Pema Chodron suggested to a childhood friend of hers, that when she dreamed of monsters, she was able to look at them instead of being chased by them.
Perhaps, by abiding with the nightmares and not trying to shove the emotions back down in deep storage, maybe I’ll grow a little stronger…
There is still something deeply disturbing about growing up with someone close to you who is capable of cruelty to animals and humans.
If I were on the outside and a friend was sharing this experience, I’d tell her how remarkable it was she survived it all, didn’t commit suicide and didn’t go the route of causing other people harm.
And, I’d say, it was probably her own natural instinct of self-preservation that made her get sick every holiday season the family would get together. That’s a hell of a lot to go through and then have to act like some god-damned floorroom-shiny-Christian-we’re-perfect-there’s-nothing-wrong-with-us ‘family.’
I’d say good for her for never giving up, for discovering her own Resilient Heart in the harshest of circumstances.