Podcast: The Heart of the Alienated Child

Alas I have launched my podcast, The Heart of the Alienated Child. I have created this podcast as part of my contribution toward the solution to the family pathology of parental alienation. There are so many alienated children today who have no voice in which to speak of their truth and their suffering. I am grateful for this chance to be a voice for them.

*You will also find Episode One and all future episodes on the podcasts section of this website. 

Episode One: The True Position of the Alienated Child

The Whole of Writing

It was a busy and fulfilling spring with opportunities to speak in New York City and Boston at the Erasing Family Documentary fundraisers. In addition, I was invited to attend and speak at a meeting at the Massachusetts State House, and got to meet Dr. Childress, a psychologist renowned for his work in the trenches of parental alienation.

Now that I am back in my writing cocoon for now, I have taken inventory of what needs to be done next. If I take that all in at once, I am completely overwhelmed and feel certain to fail at accomplishing anything further at all. So I prefer to break it down in clear, manageable chunks and write it out. Here it is, along with my accompanying thoughts.

  1. When I first began writing my memoir, I included italicized entries at the beginning of each chapter. This entries were my present day thoughts. Partway through, I doubted this format and stopped adding those. After taking some space and time from editing this memoir, and doing some deep thinking about how to approach what is left to do, I have gained some clarity. I am putting the present day entries back in to the memoir, but focusing them on healing from old wounds, choice by choice.  This feels right to me, so onward I go.  Also regarding this memoir, I need to add my latest speaking engagements into my proposal, and start sending this updated version out into the world of literary agents. Secretly, (or not so secretly anymore) I’ve hoped that an agent or publisher would come find me, and I think that any writer who is putting herself out there in the world has every right to hold onto that hope, but we mustn’t depend on it! So onward with the tedious task of proposal writing and “hooking an agent” with dazzling queries and all of that. No matter how I come to find mine, I know she (or he) will be the perfect match for me and my writing. I cannot wait to meet!
  2.  I am preparing to create podcasts for anyone dealing with parental alienation. I am approached a couple times a month, usually by email, by a parent who is desperate to know what to do to reconnect with their child.  And recently an alienated father has sought my help in urging a trusted family member to somehow  bridge the ever increasing separation from his children “before it’s too late”. What I typically offer these people (who always seem like the kindest, most loving people who are absolutely deserving of their children) are suggestions for resources such as the blog and You Tube videos of  Dr. Childress, along with hope and my own thoughts and feelings and experiences from the point of view of the alienated child. Occasionally, we speak on the phone and I’ve gotten to meet a small number in person at various meetings or events. And nothing will replace those coffee dates I’ve had with a couple of heartbroken but amazing alienated moms who I now consider friends. But I’ve decided that it might be helpful for many, and in some cases more efficient, for me to create podcasts addressing the issue. As much as I would like to whip these up quickly, because there is urgency in this, I am feeling a bit compulsive about saying the right and true and helpful things so that the podcasts stand the most chance of being effective.  I want the first one or two to address the bystanders- the family members and society at large- the people who cannot change the alienating parent, but who may be able to do seemingly small things that could ultimately help the child and the targeted parent. I will also have episodes specifically for the targeted parents, and beyond that, I am not sure..maybe adult alienated kids (though I know the challenge in getting them to listen- or even know that this is relevant to them!) For those of you waiting for these podcasts, thanks for your patience, and I am on it! I will post them here for anyone to listen to and share as they wish. To the parents suffering (and I’d add to the kids too, but I doubt they are reading), I love you. I care about you. Even when I write about lighter things, because it is for the greater good that I keep my own heart light enough to move forward, you are on my mind and in my heart. You are all amazing because you keep showing up to life and putting one foot in front of the other, and you are always trying.
  3. Lastly, my oldest daughter and I are coauthors of a new blog, Highly Sensitive Material.  Mother is the common thread that is woven through all of my writing. The early loss of my mother (a living death if you will), did not stop my desire of wanting to become a mother myself, not at all. Somehow I knew it was part of my destiny and in fact the universe seemed to offer up all the love and resources that I would need to stand a good chance at this endeavor and maybe even heal at the same time. I think that the alienation from my own mother planted the seed in my mind of : For God’s sake, whatever you do, be a good mother.  Sometimes, oftentimes, this worked well, but I think if I am being honest here, I’d have to admit that  this is at least partially a fear-based thought. I am calling bullshit on the old adage What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  What didn’t kill me made me doubt my self-worth with every mistake. What if the whole point is to choose love more and more, including for ourselves? Maybe even especially for ourselves so that we can give it away. In my perfect re-do, I would have done all of my healing in early adulthood, faced the fear and the demons, and kicked-ass with personal growth. If that had been true, I would be amazing by now, at age fifty! I would be nearly perfect! And I wouldn’t have just been a good and loving mother, I would have been a perfect mother! But alas, this fantasy of mine must be set aside for the truth in all its imperfections. That is what my memoir is and that is what this blog, Highly Sensitive Material is about: Truth. It’s an honest, creative project that includes my life as a mother.

So this is what I’ve come to ask myself, day by day, in my writing and my life.  Is this choice out of love? Out of fear? Am I being truthful with myself? With others?  Will I ever get over feeling responsible for the reactions of others? And the fear-will I just act in the face of fear or will the fear go away some day?

My writing is my humble gift to the world, that makes me whole. It’s like putting myself back together, page by page.  It’s an act of love. Love can be scary. 

MOTH GrandSLAM story

I told this story live at the March 2016 Boston MOTH GrandSLAM.  After decades of being alienated from my mother, this is a window into our attempts at reconnecting. 

***

When my mother called me last September, I was surprised by how easily I still recognized the sound of her voice.  When I was four, my father had thrown her out of our home and out of my life.

My mother became like a family myth, an outcast who people only whispered about when they thought I couldn’t hear.

I saw her once when I was a teen. I didn’t dare tell my father.

I saw her again when I was in my twenties, a mother myself. She met my daughters who were babies then. For the next year we engaged in an awkward attempt at reconnection. We looked so much alike, yet we were strangers.

I had no idea how I would integrate her into my life, the life that did not include her, that in fact was very much built on her absence.

Besides, my father was still in my life and I didn’t know how to tell him I was reconnecting with my mother.  I could not find the words.

So I had pushed my mother away, because this seemed like the safest thing to do.

Devastated, she said “I think your father is controlling you just like he controlled me”.

“Well you’re the one who left me with him”, I snapped back.

Not long after this aborted attempt at a reconnection, she moved to Arizona

And then twenty years slipped by, just like that.

 

But last September she flew up to Massachusetts because her mother, my grandmother, was dying.

On the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend, she called me.  I asked about my grandmother and about my mother’s flight from Arizona.  I was eager to settle on a day that I would come see her, knowing this might be our last chance to reconnect. If not now, when?

I offered to drive to my grandmother’s house the very next day, on Cape Cod where my mother was staying.  She agreed, and then we hung up.

The next morning I went through my closet…what does one wear when they haven’t seen their mother in twenty years?

It was a beautiful, sunny day driving to my grandmother’s house. When my mother answered the door, I thought how lovely she still was.  And she was real, not a myth, not my imagination, Not someone to forget. She is my mother.

I saw my grandmother that day too, and my aunt, also casualties of my parents’ divorce; that whole family had been erased from my life.  Now they embraced me, welcomed me as if I had finally come home.

My mother and I walked and talked of the weather and of my grandmother’s end of life. We talked of my daughters, all grown up now, and of family resemblances and of the ocean and of her quiet life in Arizona.

I wanted to talk about the stolen years, to face everything head on, but I knew that even after all this time, her pain was still raw; I saw it in her eyes that filled with tears at the slightest mention of the past.

I can feel her regret that is so vast it could swallow her; I think her grief might turn her to particles, to the dust in the desert she lives in.

I want to say I wish you would move back to Massachusetts. I want to spend spend time with you, to make up for all the lost years.  I want her to know my husband and our daughters.

I want my mother back.  I don’t want her to live two thousand and five hundred and seventy-two miles away for one more day.  But I don’t say this.  Instead I ask “Don’t you miss the ocean?”

When it was time for me to go, we hugged goodbye and both said how happy we were to have had this day.   We agreed that we both wanted to stay in touch, but we made no promises, no unrealistic mention of all the time we would spend together, knowing she would fly back to Arizona, to her life there.

*We talk on the phone sometimes now.  We are still getting to know each other.

I usually keep the conversation light, because I know that’s what she needs.

But the last time we talked, I did bring up the past. I told her I needed her to know something. I said “I know you meant to bring me with you when I was four. I know that was your plan. You told me so back then. You were preparing me to leave with you; I remember”.

..There was a long pause…and some tears.  She was relieved that I knew this .

I love you she said. I always have.

I say I love you too. And then I ask about her day.

Parental Alienation Lecture in Ma

Previously alienated parent, Rod McCall, will talk about his book, “For the Love of Eryk” on April 21st in Newton, MA.

Details can be found here:     Parental Alienation Author Lecture & Support

You can find McCall’s book here: For the Love of Eryk

I look forward to being available as a voice for alienated children during a Q&A period, after the lecture. 

Inconvenient musing

It’s ten thirty a.m. and I’m making my way through an already crowded grocery store. I’ve listened to some news (all bad) on the way here and my heart feels heavier than the cantaloupe stacked high in the bin, an avalanche waiting to happen.

I have not felt this depressed since I tried to give up my morning coffee. I am starting to wonder if a weighted blanket might be a good idea. Don’t be ridiculous, I tell myself. But still, it is a comforting thought.

I want to grab all of the sugary things in bakery aisle, but I resist, knowing that self-destruction is not the way out. So I am left to deal with my raw emotions.

I am overstimulated because the crowded, noisy environment is competing with the thoughts in my head. I pull my carriage over to jot down notes on the back of my grocery list. It’s just a stupid essay, I think to myself, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in weeks so I feel the need to capture the moment.

Why does this always happen in the most inconvenient of places? In the shower, while driving, while grocery shopping. Rarely does the muse come while I am at my laptop, fingers poised to capture the flow of words. Nope.

Lately I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen, my insides vacillating between numbness and nauseous churning. No words come out. Nothing seems good enough or clear enough or worthwhile. A waste of time, all of it, petty creative ambitions gone underground while I wait for my heart to thaw. Why does the muse hate me so?  

But today my writer’s block is broken in Market Basket, halfway down the carb aisle. This is why I never leave home without a pen.

Back at home, I sign up for a daily action text.  I text the word DAILY to the number 228466 and am prompted to give my zip code. I will receive a daily text prompting me to make a specific call to my Senator, on behalf of U.S. laws, on Planned Parenthood, on all sorts of rights on behalf of the welfare of the citizens of the United States.

I sort of hate the phone, and initially I worry I’ll be caught in some endless loop like calling Verizona or my insurance company, but I get through on the second ring.  This is easy, and something I can do every single day.

Helplessness and hopelessness is what will keep me down, not action. Action is good.

I go to yoga class and breathe and sweat and stretch and get out of my head and back into my body and my spirit and that sweet space of presence.

But then my mind gets a bit restless again and I have to give it something to chew on, so I turn to books like I always do. I read books to help me understand what has happened and what my part is in all of it.  I read Hillbilly Elegy and I ordered a book that my father has suggested, The Authoritarians. The author, Bob Altemeyer, explains in methodical detail, the roots of authoritarianism and who the authoritarian followers are. The book can be downloaded for free at www.theauthoritarians.com. My husband reads it first.  He’s not typically someone who enjoys psychological analyzing but he says it explains a lot. I put it on my reading list.

I look for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. I want to understand, I do. The librarian tells me that there are a hundred and seventeen people in line for this book. I don’t think I can wait that long.

Then I decide I need to go deeper, much deeper. I need to rise above politics and read something that speaks to my soul.  Call me dramatic, but this is no small matter. I need an intervention here. I feel we have entered a dark night of the soul, as a country, and we are all in this together. I want to pull my weight. I’ve decided that means taking action toward what I know is right and remembering that there is plenty I could be wrong about.

I remember that I have Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in my bookshelf.  Before I begin reading it, I look the author up the on social media. I follow her on twitter, thinking she’ll be blissfully calm in the midst of the storm that is our political climate. Not so.

You know we are trouble when even Marianne Williamson is pissed off.

But anyhow, I start reading her book and it does bring me peace. I am willing to see the bigger picture, accept responsibility for my own feelings and actions. She says if you are in disagreement with someone, that even if you think the other party is 90% responsible, you should focus on your 10%.  It’s not anyone’s job to change another or even to change another’s mind. I agree with this.

So I take care of myself so that I am bringing light, and not more darkness, into the world. I save my energy for the things I can do and can change.  I try, and sometimes fail, to be more mindful of my words and my thoughts.

We can’t fight anger with anger or fear with fear. I knew this. I’d just forgotten for a minute. I got scared.

But I am back.  I feel lighter now.

And mostly unafraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s next?

Like watching a train wreck, I could hardly tear myself away from watching the inauguration on television. Honestly, I was both horrified and fully cognizant of the time I was wasting. I’ve felt a bit stuck in a game of mental gymnastics ever since, a roller coaster of optimism (over one million people showed up in organized marches, vowing to resist President Trump! This is empowering!) and doom and gloom (what is this presidency going to mean for our country, the people, my children, the world?)

Nothing very good comes out of feeling stuck and stressed, that feeling of wanting to curl up in a fetal position and wait for something to change. Fortunately, I know that behaving as a child stuck in dysfunction behaves- appeasing, accommodating, denying, self-blaming or escaping- will not work in this situation either. Fear will most definitely not work.

But what do we do?

We take care of ourselves and each other, because raising our consciousness as individuals and as families, will raise the consciousness of our country, our world, our planet. It sounds so vague perhaps, but really it’s simple.

Do the next right thing. Whatever is right in this very moment, no matter how small, is the thing we do. And then the next and the next.

When I look around me, it seems we are doing it. We march. We write. We speak up. We make the call, make the art, make the bed.

Go to work.  Take a nap. Hug a child. Go for a run. Eat your vegetables. Sweep the damn floor.

Be in this moment, taking a breath, and being true to yourself right now.

The little steps may clear a pathway for bigger ones, but sometimes the right thing to do is to just do the right thing without knowing what is next. The simplest, most basic right thing is underestimated. It’s the path to peace, to healing, to change. It’s the way to our own souls and our own souls are the way to the collective soul.

We can do this.

 

 

An uncluttered new year

As time passes, I become more and more aware of what a precious commodity it is. I don’t just notice how quickly the years pass, but also how quickly a day can pass. I am not someone who lives for the weekend, or for vacations or holidays. I try my best- and am grateful for this luxury- to make my daily life align with my heart’s desires.

I hear this awareness of the rapid passing of days from others as well and perhaps time’s limit contributes to  FOMO (fear of missing out). It tends to have the opposite effect on me though- it is quite clear to me that we will all miss out on most of what life has to offer. When you think about it, how many careers, events, or anything else that exists to partake in can one possibly fit into a single lifetime? In the big scheme of things, we will miss about 95% of everything! As soon as we grasp this, we can let it go. Then we can focus on what truly matters most to us, without wasting time focusing on the rest.

I am not suggesting that we dismiss things we truly want to do. Not at all. It’s all about choices. Clear the decks. Make room. Declutter your life of all that is meaningless, suffocating, or just not quite meant for you.

A few simple questions help me to determine if the way I am spending my time aligns with my top values.

Am I working on my writing goals and does my writing add value?

Am I doing something that supports or advances my well being, physically, mentally, or spiritually? 

 Am I nurturing my important relationships?

Life is too damn short to do everything. In fact, even the attempt to do it all will surely drown out those inner callings that quietly lead us down our own unique paths.

More of what we love. Less of what we don’t. Wouldn’t that be the best year yet?

 

 

 

Welcome

After decades of writing and blogging elsewhere, I have finally created a home base for my work and my thoughts. My posts will cover a range of topics, both broad and specific, from creativity and simplifying, to yoga, mindfulness, healing old wounds, conscious parenting, high sensitivity, and parental alienation. I will also post updates on my memoir, and eventually share thoughts on my other book ideas.

In my mind, these topics are all interwoven and fall under the category of authenticity. I promise to be real and true every single time that I come to the page. I hope that you will be as honest and open in reading and responding.  I would love to hear from you, to know who you are, but if you prefer to just stop by and read, that’s fine too. As long as I am growing this site organically, and creating a space where people can take what resonates, then I am satisfied.

If you would like updates on this blog as they are posted, there is an option to follow.  Thank you for visiting. I hope you come back often.

~Dana