Memoir Excerpt

This excerpt of my memoir-in-progress was published in Mothers Always Write this week.  I told this story at a Boston Moth live storytelling event and after taking first place, I went on to perform it at the Moth GrandSlam the following year. It is the story of reconnecting with my alienated mother. The Stranger I Call Mother

Parental Alienation is a form of pathology in which one parent alienates the child from the other parent, typically after a divorce. I have been writing and speaking on this topic as a way to spread awareness and education and to be a voice for the alienated child.

More information on Parental Alienation can be found here:  Dr. Craig Childress blog and here: Dr. Childress on Parental Alienation Dynamics

If you or someone you know has been cut out of their child’s life, please educate yourself on this pathology. Do not assume the parent has done something to deserve this alienation. It is important to understand that a child rejecting her parent is a sign of the brainwashing that occurs in the child psychological abuse that is Parental Alienation.

 

 

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. 

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