Giving Up the Story

“The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that.”

–Eckhart Tolle

Identify a story you have told repeatedly that keeps you locked into an identity you no longer want to define you. It can be the story of your alcoholic father or your violent husband, the abuse you suffered as a child or the time you lost your money in a Ponzi scheme—or any other story that keeps you locked into identifying with a time in your life that is now over.

While there is definitely a time in our lives when breaking silence and telling our stories can be empowering, there is also a time when repeating the same traumatic stories keeps us locked into the hurt and anger those stories represent.

Choose a story you are ready or willing to let go of. Make the commitment, now, to never tell it again, to never use it as a way to define who you are. But before you let go of this story, tell it here one last time. Make the commitment to us–and to yourself–that this is the last time, that you will never tell this story again.

Begin with the words, “This is the last time I will ever tell this story….”

Comments

  1. says

    This is the first time I am ever telling this story. (it’s probably not the last…yet…but in the hopes of beginning to release it, I will tell it now).

    I never had a voice growing up. I was the youngest–and a girl (god forbid..) and was swamped with four others who were convinced that they were the holy grail. So I grew up in the shadow of four people who could not see past their own egos long enough to recognize that perhaps they weren’t as great as they thought–and perhaps I was. I was not a castoff, a second rate thought or the “youngest girl.” I was my own person and I was determined to let everyone know.

    Obsequiously, my parents actually encouraged that fire. I joined the debate team, argued politics vigorously, got straight As and shined at just about everything I did. Now, at 40 years old however, I am realizing that my quest to “be the best” at everything literally left a deep dark hole within me that I am now searching to fill. I now try not to be the best but to do things in more meaningful ways. Instead of always “winning”–or coming out “on top,” I sometimes purposely “lose” just to see what it feels like. (Perhaps I’m being a genius by liberating myself from that “winning” spirit but perhaps I’m just sabotaging my own success–I don’t really know..) I just know that I no longer want to be a shell that collects trophies and medals but then feels nothing when I accomplish them. hmmm, maybe there’s a better way…(perhaps I can still shine but still leave room for meaning..) anyway, the search for my identity continues..

    So, I guess this wasn’t so much of a story as much as writing down some realizations. I just wish I knew where to go from here..

    to be continued..

    • Debbie says

      You are asking such great questions – don’t stop. Perhaps it is not a black and white answer; “winning” and empty versus “losing” and fulfilled. Maybe part of the meaning is that you do shine…. Thanks for starting the story with us.

  2. Carol Harper Phillips says

    It is important to keep telling your story, over and over through time. If my grandmother hadn’t done this with our family history and all it’s many deep dysfunctions I never would have been able to put the pieces together of my own life. Educating others is important, and if telling your story can help others and you are comfortable sharing, then why not? It doesn’t have to take over your life, but it does help to define to others, and yourself, who you are and how you got to be where you are in life. That’s my $.02!

    • Laura Davis says

      Hi Carol, I understand what you’re saying about family stories. It’s essential that they get passed down. But some of us carry stories of trauma in our bodies and in our psyches that limit and define us by the ways we have suffered. While it is important to claim those identities and to take all the time it takes to heal, there comes a point when walking around with, “I am Laura Davis and I’m an incest survivor” no longer serves us or enables us to move on in our lives. Sometimes the same stories that can free us when we breakt silence later become a coat of armor that keeps us oppressed and limited. Only the individual can know when its time to move on from identifying with having been hurt or victimized, but in everyone’s life there comes a time that we want to be more than just what happened to us. We want our lives to be more than just a product of the bad things that happened. That’s what I was referring to in this prompt. That’s why I wanted people to post starting with the words, ‘This is the last time I’ll tell this story….”
      I was not referring to family history but to the kind of trauma that can limit our own perception of who we are and what we can be in our lives.

      • Carol Harper Phillips says

        I got your point the first time! Silence and cover ups are the best friend that perpetrators of abuse and domestic violence have. This is a theme I keep running into over and over. Family histories that have cycles of abuse can and often are repeated through the generations, as I’m sure you are aware. Some stories should be told over and over through time so history doesn’t repeat itself is my point. If you stop talking who will know? certainly not the next generation, and the cycle continues.

        • says

          I get your point as well. But there’s a difference between being silent and pretending something didn’t happen or didn’t matter and no longer identifying as a victim. I readily tell people I was sexually abused if it comes up or if it seems necessary, but it is no longer looming in my windshield. It’s something that shaped me that happened a long time ago, and at this point in my life, I can see both the strengths it brought me as well as the significant losses. I like to say it’s in the texture of my cloth, but no longer in my forefront. And it’s never how I would introduce myself anymore–though 28 year ago, I pretty much would introduce myself to everyone that way. “Hi, I’m Laura Davis and I’m an incest survivor.” The identity was necessary then; but it isn’t now. I’ve truly moved on.

          • Ilana says

            Carol and Laura- I think this is a very important conversation to have here and I am glad I read it. If I may share my thoughts as well… I, personally, have had many stories that I needed to let go of throughout my life. It was very difficult but once I did I was free of them. However, I think that which stories we let go of is a very personal decision. It is a very difficult decision which must be made alone. No one can tell us what stories we should let go of and we must not make that decision without careful consideration. Sadly, the story I have chosen to tell this week is not one that plagues me continually. The stories that currently hurt me, do me damage, still remain unresolved at this time. I dream of one day being able to say that the incest is “Just something that once happened to me.” As are the stories I have given up, that once hurt me deeply. For now, though, it is not a story I am prepared to let go of. Thank you both for your thoughts and for sharing this conversation with the rest of us. I have gained hope and strength from it. IM

          • Ilana says

            Carol and Laura- I think this is a very important conversation to have here and I am glad I read it. If I may share my thoughts as well… I, personally, have had many stories that I needed to let go of throughout my life. It was very difficult but once I did I was free of them. However, I think that which stories we let go of is a very personal decision. It is a very difficult decision which must be made alone. No one can tell us what stories we should let go of and we must not make that decision without careful consideration. Sadly, the story I have chosen to tell this week is not one that plagues me continually. The stories that currently hurt me, do me damage, still remain unresolved at this time. I dream of one day being able to say that the incest is “Just something that once happened to me.” As are the stories I have given up, that once hurt me deeply. For now, though, it is not a story I am prepared to let go of. Thank you both for your thoughts and for sharing this conversation with the rest of us. I have gained hope and strength from it. IM

      • says

        Ilana, I agree wholeheartedly. The decision and the readiness to move one from an identification from that which has hurt us is completely personal. And it’s a tricky balance because all the way along the way, people will tell you, “It happened in the past. Let go of it.” And that’s never why you should let go. It’s only when on the inside, you feel the readiness to shrug off the heavy coat you’ve been wearing and move into something new. For me, it took many years of healing before I was ready to do that–and it had to be completely on my terms and in my own time.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Thank you for this prompt, Laura. You’ve really got me thinking. As I’m writing my memoir, I am a bit stuck on how to proceed with it. If I can say … I’ll never tell it again after my book, is much easier. I recently realized that I have been stuck and that only this year things have really shifted in my awareness. My current writings are screaming out: “I am an incest survivor. I am a rape survivor. I was a severely-abused child. I slashed myself, overdosed, and fought depression and despair and sometimes still think about giving it all up.” While I am occasionally overwhelmed by all of that, I feel much less intensity about it now. So, with that said, I’m looking for a story that I really won’t tell again. I love the spirit of this challenge!

  3. Kim Tyler says

    My 1950′s Abortion

    This is the last time I will ever tell this story. The climate for women surrounding birth control and abortion when I was a teenager was grim. The birth control pill was not yet available. Women were often tried and jailed for having had abortions. Girls who got pregnant in high school were shunned and ridiculed.

    In this context, my own story left indelibly etched memories. One memory is of the sting of rubber on my cheek when my mother, in a rage, grabbed my bedroom slipper and walloped me across the face. In a rush of energy I wrestled the slipper from her hands and, with all my power, slapped her face with it. Her fury, coming at me full force, subsided like a deflating balloon. She dropped her hands and left my room in tears.

    We were in my upstairs bedroom. I was 16 and pregnant, in 1959. This was more than she could bear. She called me a slut, a whore, a tramp, said she would have been happier if I had killed myself instead of this. She kept screaming “what will people think of me?” “What will I tell them?” “How will I face my mother?” She was beside herself with indignation. As for me, I felt that she had utterly stopped loving me

    I spent endless hours alone in my bedroom that week. I hid there, gazing out the window, looking down the long lane of leafy green maple trees, for it was spring. I lay on my pink chenille bedspread until the pattern of it pressed into my skin. I did not join the family for meals. I endured the bursting visits of her rage, like grenades exploding in my space, the shouting, beatings, and fury. Hitting my mother back was the one moment during all those days when I felt alive. The rest was a dense fog of despair.

    By that time my life seemed like an impossible tangle of lies and deceptions. I had been lying to my parents about my active sex life, even when confronted with my mother waving my dirty underpants in my face and telling me “I can smell it, you are having sex!” She began reading my diary and steaming open my mail, listening in on telephone calls. My boyfriend was away in college for his first year, and so there was plenty of snooping opportunity.

    In those days I knew nothing of birth control or abortion. My minimal sex education was mainly thanks to dirty jokes I heard at school, and from one thin and uninformative book my mother had handed me when I was 14. But within a few months, I began to realize that I was pregnant. My periods stopped, and I knew that I was in trouble.

    My boyfriend’s mother took me to her doctor to verify the pregnancy. After the exam, she took charge. “I’m taking you to your father’s office” she told me kindly. “You have to tell your parents right away.” I would rather have signed up to be tortured, but she drove me directly to my Dad’s workplace. On the way there, she gave me a script. I was to tell him that I needed his help right now.

    My Dad was taken aback. His work was about 30 miles from our home and I was supposed to be in school. I assume that he quickly guessed what was happening, but I waited until we were driving down the highway in his old salmon-pink Nash Rambler before I told him, “Dad, I’m pregnant..” My father started sobbing as he drove, and I could see his dreams for me crumbling before his eyes. It was devastating.

    I was sent to a psychiatrist who sat stiffly behind his desk and explained to me that I could have an abortion but we would have to say that I was suicidal, even though I wasn’t. In those days, abortions were only legal if a doctor confirmed that the woman’s life was in danger. He was willing to lie for me, but I was not ever to tell anyone.

    Of the actual abortion, I remember very little. When I came home from the hospital, the lies began again. My parents told my brothers and relatives that I had had an ovarian cyst removed. My mother was in an ongoing rage. I had nobody to talk to about what had happened, and for years afterwards I never did talk about it. The emotional pain had nothing to do with the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a possible child. It had everything to do with the loss of my parents’ love and trust, especially my mother.

    From then on my body felt like someplace I visited on little trips, but not like someplace I lived. I had both men and women lovers but felt detached from my physical self. Secrecy became habitual for me. My sexuality had brought me so much pain and rejection from my parents. From then on, I felt that acknowledging it was too risky. I had no idea of how to ask for what I needed.

    As soon as I got out of college, I moved across the country. I kept a huge emotional distance. I rarely phoned. I wrote bland, guarded letters, carefully hiding anything too personal. I visited rarely, and for short time spans. I felt free of my mother.

    It took years to realize that instead of being free of her, I was completely living in reaction to her. I was so angry and hurt inside that I learned to use a new measuring tool. How would she feel about this? I’ll do the opposite of what she would do. I ignored my own red flags (and there were many). Does she hate this guy? Great, then I’ll marry him. Does she worship thinness? Well, I’ll be fat. Would her house be neat as a pin? Fine, I’ll be sloppy. Whatever it was, in all my major life choices, she was still in charge. I had no idea of who I was or what I might have chosen if she had not occupied all of my decision spaces. Like a huge nautilus shell, her power surrounded the tiny “me” inside. I was living a revenge life, but it was not my life.

    When I woke up I was nearly 40 and broken-hearted to see what I had done to myself. I saw that all of my romantic relationships, as well as those with friends, had been driven by the equation: be good, or this person will stop loving you (like your Mom stopped loving you when you were bad). Being good meant that I always had to figure out how to please another person, no matter what else was going on. It was the perfect way to ignore my own inner voice, and constantly seek approval from outside. I could also see what this had done to my three small children, whom I was struggling to parent alone after I separated from their alcoholic dad. They had not seen a strong mother, only an angry, reactive and lost one. They did not know their grandparents or their cousins. And so, humbled and frightened, I set out to discover myself at last. I had little comprehension of how to begin. What did I want or need? How could I learn to say no, and even harder, how could I learn to say yes?

    • says

      Kim, thank you so much for being the first person this week to have the courage to really respond to the prompt I gave. I hope that you will give others permission to do the deep work required to decide it is time to let a painful story go. In addition, as your writing teacher, I am so proud of you. This is beautifully rendered piece of writing. I loved so much in it, but especially the line, “From then on my body felt like someplace I visited on little trips, but not like someplace I lived.” Boy, do I know that one! So again, I commend your personal courage, the mature insight communicated in the piece, as well as the craft with which you told your story. Bravo! And I hope this truly is a milestone in being able to finally, finally after decades, let it go. You have a new life now and this no longer has to be the root cause of all the choices you’ve made.

      • Kim Tyler says

        Thank you Laura for these words. They mean so much to me, and I especially appreciate the permission today to take a huge step and let that story sink into oblivion! It has truly played in the background of my life for too many years. When I pushed the send button this morning, I felt as if I had shed a heavy skin that has been dragging along behind me! When you gave that prompt, it spoke to me powerfully and I knew immediately that this was an opportunity to move forward. It is so true that that old story no longer has a defining impact on how the world is for me today. Being in your group has been immensely liberating, even though I don’t always write what I wish I would in the moment. Thanks for all you give us.

        • says

          You’re completely welcome, of course. Your response–that feeling of freedom–is exactly what I hoped this prompt might provide. I’m glad it did so for you. I’m so very pleased.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Kim, this post says so much to me! I can’t thank you enough for writing it. It makes me sad to think of your pain back then. I do celebrate your release of it. Freedom is oh so fine.

      • says

        Here’s a clue, Terry. You don’t have to pick the worst things to let go of. Pick some simpler, a small piece that you can give up. It doesn’t have to be the traumatic childhood. Maybe you’re not ready for that yet. And that’s fine.

    • Debbie says

      Kim – thank you for sharing this moving story with us. You have realized so much since you “woke up” and I am proud for you. I, too, posted about my mother in a story I need to leave behind me. Like you, I can look back across my life and see so many decisions where to gain her approval, to hear the “good job” that never came. Reading your post helped me to feel less alone. Thank you.

  4. Ilana says

    I suppose it’s about time I write down my response and finally post it. I actually chose this story the first time I read the prompt, an hour after it was sent out. At the time I didn’t realize why I was stalling but looking back I am absolutely certain. I had made a commitment to say goodbye to this story. It didn’t seem like such a loss. There are other things that haunt me much more intensely. Clearly, I did not want to tell this story for the last time, though. Otherwise I would have posted much sooner. So here, goes.

    This is the last time I am going to tell this story. It is the story of the first time Ilana had her heart broken. Again, all names have been changed to protect the guilty. It started in the summer, 1992. I had my first and second job that summer. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I taught swim classes to the sweet little 6 year olds, first getting into the water. The rest of the week I was scooping ice cream at a Baskin ‘N Robbins. I met him at Baskin ‘N Robbins. His name was (not) Doni. He was amazing; brilliant, sweet, shy and absolutely gorgeous. He was dark and muscular. I think that I had already fallen for him when I learned the awful truth. Not only was he not Jewish but he was Muslim. He had been born in Iran and moved here as a child. Please don’t take this as a jab at Muslims or Iranians. It’s just that I was not supposed to be interested in non-Jews at all, let alone Muslims. I couldn’t help myself, though. He paid attention to me. No one paid attention to me back then. I knew I was ugly, asexual and extremely unappealing so when this gorgeous, shy and brilliant man treated me like I was pretty I fell and fell hard.

    It wasn’t long before I got him involved in teaching the swim classes so that I could see him more often. So that I could see more of him? I don’t think so. I was extremely naive and prudish. Seeing him in a bathing suit was not any more exciting that seeing him in shorts and a tee-shirt. I’ve never been comfortable with nudity anyway so I certainly wasn’t going looking for it. This way, however, I got to see him at least twice a week, regardless of our changing schedules at the ice cream parlor.

    We spent the summer going on chaste dates; walks through the park, movies, lunch. We held hands and hugged each other when we met or parted but we never kissed. It’s not that we weren’t attracted to each other. His every touch sent electric shocks of pleasure through my body. We were both just too shy to initiate a kiss, so it never happened. I don’t know about Doni but I was far too innocent anyway. I was 18 years old and my first kiss didn’t come until more than a year later. We flirted, though, and talked about how much we meant to each other. The religion issue loomed over our heads and we felt a little bit like Romeo and Juliet; not in just the romantic way. I felt like I was doing something wrong. His people were killing my people but that was on the other side of the world. He hadn’t killed anyone. Being with Doni was scary, exciting, bitter and so so sweet.

    He was on his way to college and we would have to say goodbye at the end of the summer. I had one more year of high school. Not that it was any more likely that I’d have seen him if I was also on my way to college. He was ivy league material and I was just hoping to get into a big ten school. When he left for college it was the bitter sweet goodbye you’d expect. He still cared about me then, at least I think he did. I’m not sure when everything changed…

    He never returned a phone call or made one himself. I only spoke with him if I got really lucky and called when he happened to be in his dorm room. I always felt rushed off the phone and hung up wondering if I had bothered him. I did not want to be a nuisance. So I began counting the weeks, days and moths between phone calls. I thought about him every minute of every day and each day that went by without my calling him was a triumph. I was going to make him miss me. I remember thinking, ‘It’s been six weeks since I called him last. Now it would be okay. Six weeks means I’m not desperate.’ But I was desperate. I pined for Doni for months. Once I went out on a date with another guy. All I could think the whole time was, ‘You’re not Doni. I wish I were here with Doni.’

    Finally, one day the pain was too much for me. I called him one last time and lucky me, he answered. “Listen, Doni. I know you don’t like me anymore. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong but I think you want me to leave you alone.”

    “No. It’s not that. I’m just so busy.”

    “I just want you to be honest. I like you way too much and now I have to get over you. Do me a favor, just say it.”

    “Say what?”

    “Tell me you don’t like me, you never want to see me again and you wish I’d stop calling you.”

    “Iana. I don’t want to say that.”

    “But it’s true and for some stupid reason I can’t believe it until you tell me point blank. So please, Doni, just say it.”

    “Alright.” He sighed miserably. This conversation was making him terribly uncomfortable. He had been carefully trained never to say how he was truly feeling. But that was what I needed from him and I was not going to let him off the hook. “I don’t like you. I never want to see you again and I don’t want you calling me anymore.”

    “Thank you, Doni. Goodbye.” I hung up the phone feeling gutted but free. Never again would I count exactly how many minutes it had been since the last time we spoke and wonder if he was thinking about me. My relationship, whatever it had been, with Doni Keanery was over. There was a weight off my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, the depression didn’t lift for another six months. I still thought about him every minute of every day but at least I wasn’t wondering if and when I would talk to him again.

    I applied to five colleges and got into every one of them. I swam my final performance in the swans synchronized swimming club’s show. I graduated from high school and said goodbye to my friends. Then I spent my summer on an organized trip for Jewish youth to visit the concentration camps, ghettos and death camps of the holocaust. I studied P’rke Avot (teachings of the fathers) and prayed in unsafe hotel lobbies with an armed Israeli soldier protecting us; all with Doni’s beautiful face looming painfully in my memory.

    Then we went to Israel. We got off the airplane and kissed the ground, literally. For the first three weeks of our trip group 11 had been alone. We were the only ones who went to Europe. Groups 1 through 10 had spent the summer in Israel. We joined them there and a lot of our programming overlapped. In group 10 I found the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful man. To this day I hold only fond memories of (not) Jamie. To this day when I think of him I will smile and remember my first kiss. He will always be the one boy I dated besides my husband, who was not abusive. I will never surrender Jamie’s story so I will not tell it here. What I will share is that Jamie was kind to me and being with him, I was finally able to let go of Doni. Our healthy, wonderful, relationship came to an end because we simply were not meant to be more to each other than what we were. But he helped me heal my heart and I was finally able to move on.

    So now I have told Doni’s story for the last time. I make a promise here and now never to tell it again. From time to time I have wondered about him and in my weaker moments, used the internet to find out that he is now a successful and well published doctor. I promise you, my Writer’s Journey community never to do that again. Goodbye, Doni Keanery. Goodbye.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you, Laura. It seems very few of us have been able to post this week. I almost lost my courage, too. But it was a beautiful experience to let go of this story and make a promise to you that I will let go of this man. What struck me most, as I was writing, was my thoughts on (not) Jamie. I do not need to surrender his story. He was a beautiful man and I wish him well. He will always have a special place in my heart. By stating my refusal to let go of him I am keeping the good while I throw away the bad.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Bittersweet but beautiful, Ilana. I haven’t let go of my first love yet. He was Muslim as well. Your description of those difficulties really spoke to me.

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – Thanks for telling the story of (not) Doni and letting it go. Now there will be more room for new stories and new wonderful experiences.

    • Ilana says

      Just wanted to share. On Friday, out of the blue, Jamie called me. He was in town for work and wanted to say hello. We had lunch, he met my children (we had been in touch until 8 years ago so he knew my husband) and told us all about his life now. He has been married for three years and showed us pictures of his beautiful wife. I am so happy for him and glad to be back in touch. Our lives are extremely different. He moves in the world of Broadway and show business, talking daily with people who’s autographs I would love to have. I would never want that life; the travel, the time away from family, the stress, but he is clearly happy and that is so good to see. Thanks for letting me share with you. IM

  5. Terry Gibson says

    Tears are welling behind my eyes as I fill in my email address, so I believe I found the right story for this entry. I might need to do two, if that’s okay. I’m giving up lots of stories this year.

    This will be the last time I tell this story.

    I need my mother’s love.

    I knew this all of my life and
    It is still true today.

    I need my mother’s love.

    She was beautiful and I would have told
    her so if I wasn’t so afraid she’d hit me.

    I need my mother’s love.

    I would’ve joined her to watch a show about
    Barbara Ann Scott and figure skating.

    I need my mother’s love.

    When she scooped me up in her arms
    After Dad kicked over the coffee table
    and scalded me, I knew it for sure.

    I need my mother’s love.

    I would’ve done everything right –
    I really tried with every ounce of
    Energy my little self could muster; if only
    the rules didn’t keep changing.
    I just couldn’t keep up.

    I need my mother’s love.

    When Mom let me go to a friend’s house,
    For the first time ever, I saw what a real
    normal family was like–laughter, hugging, and
    no yelling; they were so wonderful to me.
    I relaxed and was happy there.

    I need my mother’s love.

    Mom is the main reason I did not have
    children; I thought I’d be like her
    and knew I couldn’t live with myself
    If I did that to my kids.

    I need my mother’s love.

    After I was raped the first time,
    I called her, never ever
    thinking she might be involved
    “They hurt me,” I said, sobbing.

    I need my mother’s love.

    The time we were on a drive
    And they wouldn’t stop the
    car so I could go to the
    Bathroom, she laughed with
    him as hour after hour passed
    and I no longer spoke. When
    we pulled into the driveway at home,
    I couldn’t walk. I tried really hard to.
    He wouldn’t carry me upstairs.
    I was in bad pain so I squatted in public
    to try and pee, right beside my classmate’s house.

    I need my mother’s love.

    “I can’t for the life in me figure out why
    you kids let people push you around,”
    Mom said over a coffee at Tim Hortons.
    In an internal rage, I screamed long and loud.

    I need my mother’s love.

    Once, as we were all in the same
    city, I asked if she, Steve and I could get
    together. “No,” she said, laughing.
    A lump came to my throat.
    I knew I’d never lay eyes on her
    again and I didn’t.

    I need my mother’s love.

    The last we spoke over the phone,
    she surprised me by saying, “I never
    Thought you’d turn out to be so caring.”
    Come to think of it, I thought I’d be
    mean like them.

    I need my mother’s love.

    Thirteen years ago, Mom died.
    But I can’t seem to shake her
    Belief that there is something
    Really wrong with me, to be
    Rejected by the woman whose
    body gave me the first breath
    of life. Yes. Still . . .

    I need my mother’s love.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- I am stunned. Cannot bring myself to respond because anything I say would not do this justice. Please, just understand that you have touched me to the core, taught me, shared with me and affected me deeply. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana and Laura, thanks so much! I felt strong enough for the work, so I sunk my teeth deeply into it. Painful but strangely refreshing. Feels good.

      • Ilana says

        Ohhh, well spoken, “Painful but strangely refreshing. Feels good.” I second that! When I first read your piece I was too blown away to really respond. Each time you said, “I need my mother’s love.” It pulled at me because I am struggling with my relationship with my own mother. It hurt but made me feel a connection to the work. I also loved how you gave us just enough information to follow your emotional thread. It gave the piece a mystique that drew me in even more. The cadence, too, was startling and very effective. I cannot imagine the courage you must have to write about such pain and so beautifully. Again, I applaud you. IM

        • Terry Gibson says

          I love how you say things, Ilana. When I read it out loud for a friend, you should’ve heard the quivering in my voice. It was impossible not to snap back with that repetition. Felt like it tore my heart out. I’m sorry to know that you have struggles with your Mom too.

          • Ilana says

            What a complement, Terry for you to say that about my writing. It seems many of us struggle with our relationships with our mothers. It hurts to hear of yours, and other’s pain but it also makes me feel less alone. This is truly what it means when I call you “sister-survivors”. Thank you for standing with me.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – this is an amazing, brave piece of work. Not only was the writing style effective but the repetition of the line “I need my mother’s love” was evocative of the many, many times we seek to gain that which is not readily given. I also posted about my mother – and realized as I read your work – that I gave up somewhere along the way on getting my mother’s love knowing I would never be good enough. Sitting in the aftermath of reading your post, I think it is an authentic statement to say that I have learned to quell the need – but am still learning how to fill the empty space for myself. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Terry, thank you for sharing about your mom. It brings to mind my own mother. I already told my story here. It is getting easier now to distance myself from the little girl in the past. That said, I still need my mother’s love.

  6. Jessica says

    This is the last time I will ever tell this story.

    I had an eating disorder.

    had, not have.

    I did not eat enough. I worked out too much. I lost too much weight.

    I ate too much. I ate in secret. I gained more than I should have.

    I knew myself in numbers: calories. pounds.

    I ran every day. like a bat out of hell.

    I could not sleep.

    I threw up every day.

    I slept too much. could not get out of bed. would not.

    I hated food.

    “sure, I’d love another drink”.

    I wanted to be invisible.

    I wanted everyone to see how damaged I was.

    I got smaller and smaller. my wrists were tiny.

    I couldn’t have been more happy.

    I couldn’t have been more crazy.

    I was obsessed with becoming less.

    I could not get enough of myself.

    I sat on the steps sobbing.

    It was pouring out.

    Too much thunder to run outside.

    It is too dark out

    too dangerous

    you’ll get lost out there.

    I got lost.

    because I ran

    like a bat out of hell.

    It would have been easier to take hell by the hand

    let it scorch my palm

    and watch it heal,

    instead of run from it

    I had an eating disorder, not have.

    • Debbie says

      Jessica – my best friend taught me how devastating an eating disorder can be. Your post helped me to reconnect with that time. Thanks for your honest sharing.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Jessica, I’m happy you wrote this piece. It’s says so much. There was a line that jumped at me “I was obsessed with becoming less.” Thanks Jessica.

  7. Debbie says

    This is the last time I will ever tell this story… in that statement is a commitment to change that is both invigorating and intimidating. This is a story I have only told a few times in my life, to a select few. It involves so many emotions, mostly anger, betrayal and resentment. Those emotions linger to the present day continuing to poison a primary relationship and clouding objectivity; subjugating kindness to restitution and accountability.

    In truth, there can be neither. The time has past, the dynamics evolved, the damage done and it is time for healing. Without this healing, I will be slave to the past and condemned to inflict wounds that would never heal and from which I could never gain forgiveness.

    I was fourteen; coming in late from a date that had not gone particularly well. I walked into the living room of our home to find my mother crying on the sofa. I had never seen my mother cry. In fact, I rarely had seen any display of emotion from her at all. Everything in my fourteen year old body wanted to walk past this sobbing person, to my room and close the door. But I didn’t. You see, I was the oldest daughter. I was the responsible child.

    So I paused and asked my mother what was wrong. She told me a story that night which came to be repeated over and over throughout the rest of my teenage years – and sometimes to this day. My mother told me Dad was an alcoholic and had been for years. She went on to tell me in lurid detail about how much he drank, when and how he covered it up.

    And there was more, she poured out all of her hurt and rage at her own father for his drunken antics and meanness directed, and she is convinced to this day, solely at her because he hated her. She told stories of horrific fights between her father and mother, threats of physical danger and drunken car rides careening into the night. She complained bitterly about the failings of her mother. She was never loved, never nurtured – her mother thought only of herself and her needs.

    Turning to her young daughter, with tears in her eyes, she asked “How can your father drink, knowing how much it hurts me? How can he love me and do something like that? He should know, better than anyone, what his drinking does to me?” Fortunately, she didn’t really expect a response which was a good thing because I was reeling from this unsolicited disclosure about the father whom, until that moment, I had held in great respect.

    In the way of alcoholic families, we kept our secrets to ourselves. There was limited social interactions outside our family and no close friends. So, in the continuing dysfunction of the disease, I became my mother’s confidant. It was to me that she brought her marital strife, disappointment at each failure of my father to maintain sobriety and her fears, so many fears.

    At family gatherings my mother would wonder out loud what had happened to her outgoing daughter who had suddenly become so shy and withdrawn. Shrugging her shoulders, she put it down to puberty. And when at sixteen, my father tried to kill himself one night, I wanted to die, too. I felt that if he could not find the will to live, how was there any hope for me? Instead, I sat with my younger brother and sister that night, comforting them around a situation they did not fully understand, vowing to not do to them what my mother had done to me. I would not be the one to shatter their illusions and fill them full of fear. I was the oldest daughter. I was the responsible child.

    My mother continued to turn to me for sharing her darkest, most secret emotional needs until I finally escaped into what turned into an abusive marriage, likely ordained from that first night of revelation. I married young and made a very poor choice. One that nearly killed me. Or more accurately, one that nearly led me to kill myself.

    Over the many years since, I have often heard my mother’s tale of Dad’s drinking, of her horrible childhood, of her deep sense of being unworthy of love, of her mother’s callous, selfish nature. She has recounted each insult, each injury in excruciating detail as if it was the first time she had ever told anyone. She has continued to share again and again, my father’s descent into alcoholism and the devastation in wrought in her life. She continues to full of fear, insecure, needing constant reassurance of her worth and value. And it is never enough.

    Over these same years, I have tried to love my mother enough to make up for the wounds she suffered. Guilty that she had such pain as a child and I didn’t. I joined her in activities to facilitate meeting new people only to have those friendships falter through her constant fault finding of others when I tried to withdraw to my own life.

    A few years ago, she suddenly announced she and her husband were moving to be near me since I was the one child who would be taking care of her as she aged. At the time, it seemed like a sensible idea. It has come to feel like a sentence. Once again, she is setting her sites on me to be her emotional “other”, her confidant, her built-in “buddy”.

    Which leads me to the anger and resentment. Age has worn away any façade of selflessness that my mother might have had. I am seeing her the way she always described her own mother – full of fear and demanding all of the life energy she can absorb from me. Instead of feeling empathetic for the aging of her body and the toll it takes, I feel like I am being sucked back into a black hole of “neediness” that can never be filled.

    My mother constantly reminds me about losing weight because, as she has stated, she is worried about what will happen to her if I die before her. With the dissolution of my long term relationship, there is no sympathy for my sadness only happiness that there is no longer any barrier to prevent me from full time attention to her needs. She has announced that she is ready for someone to “take care of her” and that she is tired of having to deal with things.

    I am the oldest daughter. I am the responsible child. She will never understand the decades of time and dollars of therapy it has taken me to overcome the inherited paralyzing fears, my own lack of self worth and the crippling shyness that descended on me like a blanket years ago.

    I am releasing the sense of anger, betrayal and resentment that my mother coopted much of my young adulthood. Along with all of that, I am also giving away something else. I am recognizing today, and going forward, that no matter what I do, I will never meet my mother’s expectations. My choices, therefore, need not be based on what makes her happy but, instead, on what brings balance and sustainability to our lives.

    So I will never tell the beginning of this story again. But I offer no promises on the stories I may need or want to share about the tale yet to be told.

    • says

      Debbie, thanks for sharing this story here. As I read it, I felt so sorry about the burden your mother placed on you—and continues to do so. And of course, I fully understand. How to walk that line of being there for someone who has hurt or undermined us repeatedly. I remember a story in I Thought We’d Never Speak Again about a woman who was a hospice/end of life social worker and how she cared for her mother at the end of her life and yet set her boundaries at the same time. I return to that story in my mind over and over again.

      • Debbie says

        Laura – that sounds like a reference I need to look up! Maybe in her story I will find some clues for my own. Thank you.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie, I love how you describe your emotional processes in “clouding objectivity, and subjugating kindness to restitution and accountability.” I am glad you shared this. I don’t envy anyone in this position. Could I have put limits on my Mom? I imagine it’s really hard to do. I’m sorry you became confidante and it shut you down so much.

    • Ilana says

      I’m sorry Debbie- I wanted you to know that I did care to read your piece. However, it hits too close to home for me and I was so extremely triggered that I could not finish it. I, too, was my mother’s confidant in extremely inappropriate ways, especially regarding her relationship with my father. I can only say that I admire you greatly for putting this story down, for surviving it. You write beautifully. I pray for your continued success and triumph. What a strong and beautiful woman you are. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your writing with me. IM

      • Terry Gibson says

        Ilana, I’m sorry the work this week triggered you so much. Please know that I care about you and everyone here. This is such a wonderful community, I hope nobody minds my saying so. I don’t like knowing I might bring up pain for friends but can only trust that we take breaks when we need to, as I will too. Sending a big hug to my sisters. Keep on keeping on.

        • Ilana says

          Terry- Thank you for reminding me that I am cared about, by a sister who does not even know my name. How amazing is that? I am not sorry I was triggered. Triggers, though painful, are a powerful tool in my healing. They help me get in touch with how far I’ve come and what I have left to accomplish. I accepted six months ago that this journey was going to be a painful one. I am learning to draw strength from even the triggers, even the pain. Most importantly, though, I draw strength from those who stand with me, those who support me. Before I began this journey, I was alone. No one understood, no one cared. Now I stand with an army. With that many voices, one cannot help but hear. “Keep on keeping on.” Can you imagine anything more beautiful? As much as it hurts, no, I am not sorry I was triggered. Thank you, SIMZ (my real initials.)

  8. Debbie says

    Thanks Terry. I am looking forward to moving ahead without this old baggage. Meanwhile, you exquisite piece kept resonating in my head all day today!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Thanks again, Debbie. Will be thinking of you too. Getting rid of baggage feels really fine. While I’ve shared this story on my blog, after editing, I’ll never express those feelings and that need again. To focus on it, would be wasting precious energy that I need to live and be happy. That means letting Mom go. Take care of yourself too, every day.

  9. Bobbie Anne says

    This is the last time I will ever tell this story. I’d like to think that is true, but I know how much pain is involved. I do have the hope that if I release it here, it will stay contained on this page, never to darken my life again. My alcoholic abusive mother loved to go shopping. She also was pretty and she knew it. She was married but liked to go out. Personally, I don’t understand dating while you are married. It is just plain nonsense. She took me to a shopping mall. I was a cute little child.I think she met someone there. I can’t verify that, put I just had a feeling she did.
    It was the local mall. My mom told me she would meet me by Macy’s fountain at a certain time. I watched her leave, then I mostly window- shopped. Afterwards I headed toward the fountain. I had a sinking feeling my mom wouldn’t be there. I walked around the fountain , I waited by it. And waited. I went inside the store. I even went to the lost and found. I told them I lost my mom. They announced it on the speaker in the store. I started to cry. I was scared. I had been told I was too sensitive and cared too much. Well prehaps my mom cared too little. I called home. Imagine my surprise when my mom answered the phone. She told me I got there too late and went home. My dad got on the line, and told me he would come pick me up after he drank his coffee . They both were laughing and thought it was funny.

    • Laura Davis says

      Bobbie Anne, Thanks for the courage it took to tell us your story. It is truly sad and painful and I hope that sharing it here, with us, helps you let go of the grief and desolation of that abandoned girl.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Thank you Laura for understanding how painful it truly was. I could have been kidnapped or molested. I wasn’t, thank God, but I didn’t feel safe. Being abondoned for most of the day is a horrible feeling. I want to let go of the grief and sadness. I notice that after writing about it here I can look back at the poor lost girl and know that she is safe now. I hold her tiny self in my heart.

        P.S. When I went on to become a teacher, one of the projects in my children’s literacy class was to write about something that was personal to us, but would be something a child would learn from. Yes, I wrote about a story about how Marvin couldn’t find his mom one day, and he looked all over, feeling scared and wanting his mom. He finds her and he is happy again.

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