Lectures from my parents, teachers and priests, as I was growing up, instilled certain values in me. Being introspective by nature, I figured even more out for myself. I have always been a loner, taking long walks in the woods, watching the flow of a body of water, studying crops in the field and watching the limbs and the leaves of trees in the spring as they matured and learning about life from nature.
One of my earliest memories was in Beulah, North Dakota. I was lying in the dirt with my two older brothers. I was about three or four. We were playing “trucks” one of our favorite things to do. We fashioned roads, used Popsicle sticks for bridges, sticks for trees and whatever we could thing of that might add to our miniature creation. However, what I remember most about those days is watching my mother as she worked in her flower garden. From the look of pleasure on her face, I deduced that working brought rewards.
My maternal grandmother sent us periodic packages from her home in Bovey, Minnesota. Packed tight with handmade nightgowns, knitted socks, homemade cookies, special gifts for whoevers birthday was approaching and other tidbits of enjoyment, it was as if Christmas had arrived. It always included a long letter that mom read to us once dad came home from work. It made us love our grandmother even more. From this, I learned that giving was better than receiving.
When I lived in Marshfield, Missouri, I had a friend who walked to and from school with me. One day, as we were approaching Dixie Farms, the local grocery store, she saw all the empty bottles on the back loading dock. Knowing that we would get a nickel for every empty soda bottle that we turned in, she stole a handful of them saying she was going to turn them in for money. She urged me to grab a handful as well. I knew from my Examination of Conscience booklet that I always studied before going to Confession that stealing was wrong and told her no. We got into an argument and it cost me my friendship. I learned that it is better to be alone than to have a friend who tries to get me to do wrong.
You would think from all of this that I would have turned out to be a near perfect person. Not so. When I was much older, I remember telling friends (with a certain amount of undeserved arrogance) that if you took sex out of my life I’d be a perfect person. I learned many lessons that caused me harm in later years. I learned to put other’s needs first, but that lesson brought me resentment as I grew older and saw that the real me was getting lost in all of this. In witnessing the obedience of my mother to her dictatorial husband, I set the tone for my own marriages. When I was married to my first husband if I cooked for dinner a dish he wasn’t fond of I immediately cooked something that he wanted instead, even if it meant walking to a local store to get more groceries. If he wanted me to change the channel on the TV and get him another beer, I did so, even if I was in the middle of doing three different things already. I told a friend of mine that I was frustrated because my husband didn’t come home for dinner if he was down the street drinking beer with a buddy. She did something different. When dinner was ready, she’d holler at her husband to come home. If he didn’t, she walked down and told him again. If he still didn’t she picked up his plate full of food, walked down the street to where he was and shoved it into his face. She then went home, gathered up her belongings and her kids and drove to her mother’s house where she stayed till he apologized. He never did that again. I didn’t have that kind of courage. Besides, something about it didn’t seem right.
Inadvertently we set up our own relationships. Too many people had trained me to not think of my own needs, to know how to set healthy terms for my marriage. Because of my parents abuse I developed extremely low self-esteem and had difficulty making decisions. How could I, when every time I made one of my own I was disciplined or punished. Being raped in the middle of the night as a teenager made me hyper-vigilant. Thinking sex was the only value I had, I used sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance even while those very acts filled me with self-loathing. Unable to trust, I was afraid to ask for help. All of these and more became the qualities I wore like a set of clothes, clung to as if they were the truth; they became my undoing and not until I entered recovery and discovered I was a co-pendent was I able to get on the right path to healing. To learn more about co-dependent characteristics and patterns go to their website at www.coda.org.
We are not all created equal. Some of us were sexually abused.