Today began with the most pleasurable conversations; first with my sister Liz, and then with a childhood friend I’m blessed to have reconnected with through Facebook. We’ve been talking a lot about our grade school teachers, and I was mortified to learn that I could remember just two teachers, while my friend Marilynn had them listed in perfect order. A mutual friend, Cindy could also remember all of her grade school teachers. It’s both maddening and frightening that both my long-term and short-term memory are failing me. It’s the down side of aging, I guess.
Another friend Kathy, posted old class pictures on Facebook. This is a photo of me taken when we were about seven. Marilynn said it was second grade. That’s me, the Greek child, a head taller than the rest of the class. But when I saw it, I started to cry. It’s the second childhood picture of me posted on Facebook that had that effect. I grew up feeling fat and ugly. I remember distinctly waking up crying in the middle of the night when I was just seven and when my mother came to tend to me, me saying “I’m so ugly,” over and over again. Now I see from the pictures that I was such a cute little girl. What was wrong with me? Why am I so self-deprecating? Today, I admitted to myself that I have known the answer all along.
Beauty is not skin deep. Beauty is all the way to the soul. If you want to destroy a child’s concept of their value, sexually abuse them. About the same time this picture was taken, the same season of my midnight crying, I was being molested by my next door neighbor. I think I’ve done enough damage in both this blog and my books by talking about the painful things we are supposed to suppress, so I won’t go into the details, I won’t disgust you. I guess that’s the beauty of a blog. You write it to qualify your existence, or to enrich a life, or to educate.
Mr. Mills, my abuser, almost ruined my life. The abuse left me with a sense of shame that persists to this day; it’s renewed when I read a bad review for one of my books, or something goes wrong with a loved one, or any number of things may happen to which I can place blame on myself.
However! I came out a victor after the fact because of many qualities I possess that I feel are directly related to the abuse. I’m compassionate, almost to the point of ridiculousness. There’s so much about me that is good; my intellect, my sense of humor, my capacity for friendship. The negatives of the abuse could fill a page, but I want to ignore those things because I know the source. When I am plagued with something negative, I try to confront it and deal with it. One method that is working for me is to bare my soul. If I lay it all out for you to see, it is no longer a secret. It has no power over me.
The good part of aging, of turning sixty-two, has been my ability to stop making excuses for myself. I certainly don’t have all the answers. There are still things I am powerless over, things I am obsessive about, and the worst; things I want to just bury and forget. One thing I am eager to change is to stop obsessing over the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Okay, I know I can write. I have had that validation from people who are real critics; those people who buy my books and my friends, not the readers who don’t get it or who hate my style of writing or my bad editing. Why in the heck do I keep going back for more torture? I need to discipline myself to just stop reading reviews. Don’t go there. Unfortunately, reviews sell books so I need them, good or bad.
So beauty of the soul is definitely something I want to cultivate. It means staying away from things and people who are toxic, giving of time, and not being afraid to take chances. Also, I think removing the stress those things cause might help my memory, and make me stronger.
My beloved sheep Slick, died last month. A friend asked if we were going to change the name of the blog from 2sheepinthecity. I don’t think so. When we left New Jersey I didn’t change it even though we are miles from any city here in the woods. There are cosmic connections from these woods that transcend space and time, joining my heart to my dear friends and family across the country. I have to believe we are in contact with our loved ones who have died, including beloved pets. So it will remain 2sheepinthecity. I love you!