Thinking about personal histories and childhood bonding (a personal post)

Normally I’d prefer to use this blog to point to writings, films, and other sources of what I consider interesting information and ideas. When I started this project, it was my intention to remain relatively private with my personal business, seeing as how my face is now attached to my words online. And everything written on this Internet feasibly becomes permanently part of the public record.

But I was just struck with some thoughts again tonight that tie into the ongoing talk on “evil” and the sickness of our society. Not ashamed of who I am or most of what I’ve done, so I might as well share a little about who I am so as hopefully to make more clear my perspective.

Earlier a couple of commenters on my “Why I’m No Longer a Feminist” video comment section brought up Dr. Faye Snyder, someone I’d never heard of before. Searched for her on YT and listened to the first few minutes of a man reading her piece titled “I Am Adam Lanza’s Therapist.” Then my own thoughts crashed in, because while the RAD acronym is new to me, thoughts on this topic are not. How you are brought up and how well you bond with others is so supremely important. I do know this, to where it’s easy to take as granted that others, on some level, acknowledge this as a truth as well. People who are deeply traumatized as children grow into broken-spirited adults. We Americans live in a society that has grown socially toxic over time, and it’s because we the people are broken, coming from broken homes and broken communities. All that leads to broken dreams, broken spirits, broken hearts, and, in some cases, broken minds. This I do believe to be true.

“Reactive Detachment Disorder” — guess that’s one way to label the symptoms of broken lives. Where do we think all this depression is stemming from? All this anxiety and self-destructiveness? This cowardice? I get it. Personally refuse to speak in DSM lingo, but I do comprehend some of this heart-breaking problem we have today. It’s everywhere and we’re all observers and participants. So too do we all play the roles of victimizers and victims.

It deserves to be stated that social complexities are mind-blowing because unlike with physical and chemical sciences, there’s really no math to explain it or experiments that can control for all possible variables. And the social and psychological sphere is constantly in motion, never at rest, always moving on through time and Ages. We tend to think of the bulk of human history simply as “progressive” (but it depends on one’s definition there). When you add in ponderings on physics and imagine how that all might tie in, life becomes so big, so amazing, so wondrous and beyond comprehension that to me it justifies being referred to as “God.” It’s not merely chemical and physical and biological processes — life is bigger than that, especially for us humans in our ongoing struggle to make sense out of a life as beings separated from the jungle and tribal conditions that marked much of our evolutionary history. So many metaphors exist pointing to this space in time when humans became more than animals, which is to say more complex, more consciously aware, cast out of the animal kingdom to proactively determining our own destinies. Thinking in this way, the social realm becomes no trivial matter, nor can it be easily explained and put into neat language for others to digest on-the-go. But I’ll try my best at breaking things down as I see them, from my own perspective, as this blogging project unfolds.

Returning to the topic of Dr. Snyder and talk of the Sandy Hook massacre while reflecting on so many that came before. The Columbine massacre occurred when I was 17, and youths of my age group were caught up in the goth fetish and/or violent rap music and/or heavy metal (as was I, to an extent). Thinking back, we were an angry lot, teens of the ’90s. And I can’t speak for where others lived or who they hung around, but I bounced from state to state as a teen and wound up dropping out of high school to start working. The people I befriended included some very angry people, very pained and training in how to pay it forward. Tried to avoid those characters, but they’re out there.

One boy I dated when I was 15 and he was 17 had been sexually molested by his father, as had been his sister and he suspected his younger brothers were enduring it in his absence. He was one messed up individual. The abuse had required a surgery when he was very young, under 6, and left him wetting the bed from there on. This is just a boy I met and wound up dating for a few months who unraveled these details over time. We parted ways and 5 years later he called my stepdad, asking for him to give me his number. Talked to the boy two times on the phone, and in the second conversation he told me he was being accused in the courts of sexually molesting his very young daughter. I walked away and want to hear no more, because after briefly knowing him I’m sad to say that he maybe could’ve done such a thing. He was a broken individual on such a serious level that his life will forever be fucked up. That is such a sad truth, seeing how serious dysfunction breeds dysfunction for the young going forward and their young too, somehow, some way.

Met a lot of people over the years, most of whom I don’t keep in contact with. Met plenty at schools and at coffee shops and, later, at bars. All kinds of people. But the people who particularly interested me were those closest to me, members of my own family. I grew up watching my Papa (grandpa) suffer inside, knowing he’d suffered his whole life, abandoned and abused. I related to his pain and he to mine, much as our circumstances differed. He was a long-time alcoholic, and it hurt his kids. One of his kids was my mother. I do not know of my biological father, nor he of my existence. I was born out of wedlock to a 19-year-old single woman who lived with her parents in a trailer in a small town in Mississippi. My mother is not right in the head for reasons I’ve never been able to understand completely, but talk with my Grandma over time leads us to believe she may be this way because of head injuries sustained as a baby in a bad car accident.

Let me say right now that my Papa is one of the most important people in my life, and I love him and his memory forever. He was not what I would call a fully good or fully bad man. He was a complex man with pain in his heart and wounds that would not entirely heal, so he lived as an alcoholic until he was 50 (and I was 9). It’s been said that he could be physically abusive and I’m well-aware of how he could run his mouth. But he’s the closest to a father-figure in my life, and we shared a strong bond. He has certain qualities of character that I look up to and respect immensely. For example, through him I learned someone can be afraid, truly afraid, and still summon the strength and guile to stand up and confront people when needed. He had pride and a heart. He didn’t believe in kicking an underdog when they’re down, unlike lots of other people in our town. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to authority and tell it like he saw it.

But underneath all of that, I occasionally glimpsed that little boy in him that was injured by the people he was raised by. In whispered conversations in the kitchen in the early morning hours, my Grandma used to tell me stories about Papa’s past, about how his mother left him with his grandfather when he was 6, screaming “You can keep the little bastard!” I cry just thinking about that, about how it must feel carrying that around in one’s heart for 65 years (he died at age 71 in 2011 — may he be resting in peace now). She told me of how his father and stepmother yanked him from his loving grandfather and essentially made my Papa their slave, working him hard at physical labor, pulling him out of school after the 8th grade and regularly severely beating him until the age of 17 when he escaped by lying about his age to join the National Guard. He met my Grandma a year or so later and they immediately began creating a family of their own.

My Papa was an alcoholic throughout all three of his kids’ upbringings, and he was an angry man who saw injustice everywhere. In a number of ways my and his personalities are a lot alike.

I spent half of my upbringing with my Grandparents, and my infancy was probably redeemed thanks to them and their care and support for me, particularly up to age 4 (which is when I was moved away with my mother and stepfather). I bonded with my Grandma especially as a baby because she was the one who tended to me the most, and she’s very loving toward babies which is a blessing. Papa too, at least by the time I came around — he just lit up and we bonded. Some of my favorite memories are of riding around in the little pickup truck right beside my Papa, him prompting me to chat on the CB radio to his trucker friends, feeling like such a big girl going with Papa to do his day’s business. He’d show me off to his friends like I was really something. I would’ve followed that man anywhere. To some he might’ve looked like a worn-out man in a cap, spitting chew and talking shit (lol), but he was the biggest man in my universe. None have yet to compare with his originality.

But unfortunately the pain and suffering he endured isn’t some anomaly. So many people running around deeply hurt by their pasts; plenty hurt bad enough that they got problems, emotional, psychological, social. One could argue that in today’s society we’re all touched by the pain, somehow, some way, directly or indirectly through our media and our shared culture. We’re touched by one another, figuratively speaking (or literally, as is sometimes the case). I see as I look out on people I love and also on strangers that early childhood trauma, abandonment, and abuse leaves a hole in people’s hearts. It can’t be helped and it may never be completely restored. I don’t know and won’t make definitive claims, but this is how I see it. And that pain tends to pay itself forward, somehow, some way.

This is another reason why I decided many years ago to not birth children of my own. I wish for the cycle to discontinue so far as I’m concerned. People can tell you all the self-help info they’d like, but there comes a point when the risk isn’t worth it, that it’s better to acknowledge that more nurturing and attentive people are better suited for parenthood. And that’s fine by me. There’s plenty else to do besides breed — one of the great joys of living as a woman in this moment in history when I have the option to make this choice thanks to technology and cultural transformation.

I’ve tired of typing about this right now, so let’s just leave it there. Part of me cringes revealing such personal information about myself and my family, but it represents part of who I am as one individual out here, one drop in the collective bucket.

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One Response to Thinking about personal histories and childhood bonding (a personal post)

  1. Christoph Dollis says:

    “I bonded with my Grandma especially as a baby because she was the one who tended to me the most, and she’s very loving toward babies ….”

    Nice.

    “He’d show me off to his friends like I was really something.”

    Nice!

    “He didn’t believe in kicking an underdog when they’re down, unlike lots of other people in our town. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to authority and tell it like he saw it.”

    Nice.

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