My friend Chuck calls garage sales “garbage sales”. Native folks always have a cheeky manner of putting things, especially when poking fun at white culture.
There’s not much to do in Havre and since moving here I have gone to many garage sales for entertainment. I am noticing the lower the socioeconomic level the more collections of useless cheap crap I see. I also see the products of what appear to be failed attempts at various pyramid schemes; many people try to sell their old inventory. I suspect poorer folks are especially susceptible to accumulating shit AND the pyramid schemes.
I think a lot about the source of this shit (cheap Chinese imports) and the resource extraction and how we are all fooled into thinking accumulating it brings meaning to our lives. It clearly doesn’t contribute much; otherwise I’d not see people trying to get rid of such vast quantities of it.
One of the last interactions I had with my stepmother she was upset because the body of her daughter’s friend had been discovered outside of Phoenix, shot in the head at point-blank range. She and her boyfriend had taken a drive up a forest road outside of Phoenix and encountered a Mexican gang. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time and executed. She commented that she didn’t understand how anyone could kill someone who was so “beautiful”, as if beauty somehow should grant you a pass to being murdered.
I was looking at photos of me at the age I was when Dad was beating me. I was “beautiful” too, yet she encouraged his mistreatment of me. Where was MY pass?
What if I were ugly? Would I have been beaten more?
For the first time in probably 20 years, I allowed myself to wallow in sentimentality and grieve not having a normal relationship with my father. We never celebrated Father’s Day but yesterday was a reminder of how some people do have good relationships with their dads. I wish I had that. But, it would require him to be a different person. He could have treated me worse than he did, too though. There’s always that. And, he wasn’t all bad. There was a lot of good about him. He could even be a good father at times, especially when I was younger.
Interestingly, there are no photos of the two of us together after my stepmother entered the picture and the mistreatment started. The last photo I have of us I’m about 12 years old. He was 43.
It has been over a year since the COVID vaccination and the neuropathy in my hands and feet is getting worse. New patches of ice pick or electric shock pain keep appearing on my elbows, hands, and feet. Other areas on my feet are now completely numb. This is problematic when walking and I have been falling more as a result. My other inflammatory symptoms that started with the vaccine have leveled off…but not this, which unfortunately is probably the worst symptom. I’m so tired of the pain and it interferes with everything physical, from washing dishes to putting on my shoes. And nothing I try for pain management helps. It all just fucking hurts.
I ventured out to the local greenhouse on a break from work today, planning to buy some zucchini plants. An acquaintance of ours, the guy who is working on the hops patent with the Jedi, was working in the vegetable area. His wife was at the cash register. Not being at all in the mood for small talk, I turned around and left, hoping they didn’t spot me.
Well, I survived May. It consisted mostly of processing the PTSD, finishing up my grad class work and freaking out because my boss quit. The flashbacks have ceased and lo and behold, the migraines have returned. I wonder if this means I have more processing that needs to occur. I’m tired of processing the old memories. It exhausts me and remembering the iniquity I faced is not helpful to maintaining a positive outlook or stifling a sense of despair/hopelessness. But, I’m not so miserable I’m seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland, so there’s that.
I earned a 100% in the Data Visualization grad class. That’s a relief (despite it not mattering what grade I received since it was for professional development) but the truth is it was laughably easy aside from the volume of work and time it required. If other grad classes are structured like this one no wonder we are churning out people with advanced degrees, lousy work ethics and the inability to navigate intellectually out of a wet paper bag. Still, I did learn something and am more confident working with Tableau software than I was. I still absolutely despise the program though and wish I didn’t have to work with it. Unfortunately in the world of data analytics, that’s THE data visualization software everyone uses.
Went mushroom hunting in Thompson Falls, a 6-hour drive from Missoula. I was ambivalent about it this year, uncharacteristic of me. I didn’t even bother to weigh my haul. The Jedi dried my mushrooms for me and they filled a gallon Ziplock bag. Should last a while. 3 ounces of dried mushrooms equal one pound of fresh, so at some point I guess I could calculate an estimate from that. Found a few pounds of “wild” (escapee from European settler-planted) asparagus outside of Havre along the dirt roads which excited me a little more, but many patches had been sprayed with pesticide by ranchers (telltale curling and deformities). That dampened my enthusiasm and inclination to eat any of it, even the stuff that looked fine.
The 1996 diesel Passat we called the “tractor-car” with over 600,000 miles on it broke down on a forest road in Thompson Falls and we had to hitch a ride with friends back to Havre. We were very lucky they had decided to accompany us to the foray in separate vehicles; the outcome could have been much worse than it was. I am thrilled to be rid of that vehicle; we hardly drove it (I REFUSED to drive it), it was a constant suck on our resources, smelly, and took up an inordinate amount of room in our garage. The Jedi, however, is mourning it as he mourns every fucking dilapidated piece of shit vehicle he or his family have ever owned. I do not understand his fixation to inanimate objects and his need to hoard them.
My mom sent me papers from the court-ordered psychological assessments from the custody battle. I was 14-15 and my brother was 10-11. Dad had not started to physically abuse either of us yet but the relentless brainwashing had certainly begun. I recall the barrage of tests they put us through but was still surprised to see they had administered IQ tests. My brother scored in the 99th percentile and I scored in the 97th.
I provided them to my therapist. He was shocked to see how much testing had been administered and how my brother, Dad and I had fooled all of them. He commented also on how expensive those tests were and how highly unusual it is to run such tests in circumstances like ours. After reviewing the scores he was perplexed how the psychologists administering the tests didn’t indicate any suspicion of brainwashing or lying in his notes. To him it was obvious that there was deception because the scores indicating trauma that we were claiming at the time (at the hands of our mother) were lower than even an average non-abused person would score.
We certainly lied about how we had been treated by Mom and we had definitely been coached about what to say to the psychologists. Dad worked on us quite a bit to fabricate stories about her abuse and our stories therefore were consistent. They were not complete fabrications; that’s the beauty of it. They were exaggerations based on partial truths. Mom WAS abusive to us, just not as violent as we were schooled to describe. At the time of the psychological evaluations we had been separate from her for months and subject to daily brainwashing by Dad.
I recall that despite passing the tests with flying colors and obediently doing everything I was told to do, I was brutally punished by Dad afterward because one of the psychologists recommended reconciliation with Mom. Dad had put the responsibility of our family entirely on my shoulders because I was the eldest. It was actually after those psychological assessments that he started being physically abusive to me; probably around the time of the ballet class incident. He got much bolder, probably because the assessments on him picked up on zero of his psychopathic traits. I was also shocked by that; how the person described by the psychologist’s notes was entirely the opposite of the person Dad was with us. Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I always knew my intelligence was higher than most people’s because of how easily things came to me compared to others in school. But, it was still a shock to see it on paper. I used every ounce of my brain starting around that age simply trying to survive and fabricate to survive. It was hell. It explains why I turned out as relatively stable as I have, but I spent all that energy on survival and none of that energy on pursuing what I could have pursued had I had resources. My brain no longer functions how it did due to my health condition. I wasted my brain on survival when I was healthy instead of what someone who was not abused (and has adequate emotional and fiscal support) could focus on. It’s too late for me. My brain does not operate the way it did when I was young. It’s average or below average now. That explains why I resent the Beanies so much. They represent everything I didn’t have and illustrate how far stupid people can get when they have resources and emotional support that I didn’t have.
It’s too late for me. I have to resign myself to the fact at least I’m free and can choose to live how I want to in terms of relationships. I don’t have to be responsible for the welfare of an entire family. I don’t have to behave in an inauthentic manner to support a narrative that is untruthful. I no longer have to lie to survive and there is no longer any pressure on me to be responsible for anyone but myself. But, what a fucking waste of my beautiful brain. Had I only been able to use it to focus on something other than survival and healing.
Most of the time I don’t mind listening to other people vent about their problems, no matter how trivial they may seem, unless they get overbearing about it.
My tolerance for Other People’s Bullshit has evaporated since the PTSD started. I suppose this new intolerance should not surprise me too much. The PTSD is one more fucking thing on top of the other shit I was already struggling with. I may be handling it” fine” because despite all the shit I went through I am remarkably and inexplicably mentally stable but it’s still torture and still unwelcome.
I don’t want to hear about Other People’s Bullshit right now. Torture is torture, misery is misery and it comes in all forms, and it’s what one makes of it, right? But, let’s toss that bullshit aside for a moment. There’s only one person I know who has worse issues than mine…and she is planning her assisted suicide in Switzerland because she can no longer live with her Ehlers-Danlos. She’s 51 and the average lifespan is 48. SHE gets a fucking pass.
Therapist told me to be easy with myself and indulge in self-care. Most of me doesn’t know what that even fucking means. But, considering what is draining me right now I think that translates to making myself scarce for a while. People are exhausting me, even the ones who typically don’t.
But hey! I have experienced no migraines since the PTSD started! Funny trade-off but I think I prefer the mental pain to the physical pain.
The reality of what happened with my dad contradicts the family mythology. I have never told anyone on that side of the family the gory details of the abuse, although I told them abuse happened and they believed me. I have always avoided the details because I could sense (or imagined) them recoiling in response, even to the most benign things, like us going without food or Dad using my social security number to open utility and credit card accounts.
My dad’s family don’t lie or steal. They also don’t starve their children or beat them or expose them to inappropriate sexual activities. They don’t squander their money. They always have money and are giving it out to others instead of taking it from people. They don’t get in trouble with authorities and they finish what they start. They don’t use people; people rely on them instead. They keep their jobs. They conform. “Fine, upstanding members of the community”.
They aren’t perfect. My dead aunt and my cousin, her son were/are alcoholics. Outward appearances are paramount, but they also are very reluctant to drop that facade in private. It is almost comical to watch my proper aunt and cousins (and uncle, when he was living) pretending everything is perfectly fine whilst my cousin behaves like a drunken, belligerent fool in front of everyone.
My aunt and cousins always said they love me and they love Dad and were sorry about what happened. I don’t expect them to say anything more than that. But, I always feel guilty when being truthful about Dad unless it’s something positive. I feel guilty for making them think about it. They are ashamed of his behavior. I think it’s because it contradicts what we think about upper middle class people…so his behavior is a reflection in some way on them. I felt the same way. Abuse and poverty implies “low class”, and of course I thought I deserved the abuse so it was a reflection of my character. I also think they feel guilty they didn’t protect my brother and me from him. I should NOT feel guilty; what happened to me was not my fault. But I do feel guilty nonetheless.
Interestingly when the Jedi and I visited a few years ago, my aunt had a copy of The Sociopath Next Door displayed prominently on the bookshelf in our room. She was uncomfortable discussing it but it described Dad to a T. It was not a coincidence she had it in that room. She wanted me to find it and read it.
My family were visiting my stepsister in Phoenix. We decided to go inner tubing on the Salt River. My stepmother was a very tiny woman; just 4’9″ (which was funny considering my dad was 6’4″- they looked comical together).
The designated “landing” area happened to have a swift current and was deep. None of us were wearing life jackets. My stepmother lost her footing and the current pulled her under. She screamed for help and gurgled and choked. I grabbed her with one arm and my inner tube with the other and dragged her to the bank. She was pretty banged up by the rocks and both of us were covered in her blood. She threw her arms around me sobbing and told me I saved her life. My dad very formally and stiffly hugged me and said, “Thank you for saving my wife’s life”.
I don’t know how I managed to do that. I was about as small as she was.
She and Dad both kept hugging me. She reached out and patted my arm affectionately during the car ride home and told me she loved me. I told her I loved her too. I sucked that affection up like a sponge. I remember glowing with relief, feeling hopeful they would be kind to me again after that. They weren’t.
I wish I had not grabbed her. The woman deserved to drown.