*What a strange and unusual week it has been! Full of one-off events, random happenings, exciting possibilities and future developments …. I have been working on Ellen Lacter’s book “A Coloring Book of Healing Images” and in particular the chapter on strength and determination. She writes
“The solution is to fight, to fight to win, to fight to reclaim the memories of one’s life, to fight against the silencing, intimidation, control and oppression of one’s abusers, and to fight for the right to happiness. In this fight, anger can be a survivor’s friend. It is hard to feel angry and afraid at the same time. Anger largely over-rides fear. It is hard to believe the destructive messages of one’s abusers when one allows oneself righteous anger. Anger properly channelled provide powerful momentum for healing.” – Ellen Lacter page 137
I have been fighting to reclaim my memories, in particular those about my afather. It’s a struggle, I’m resisting, so being gentle with myself, letting things resurface slowly, using places and photos to jog the memory and bring things to the surface. There is so much to examine. I remember his mood swings, his depressions and highs, how he wouldn’t speak for a week and then become vociferous, loud, irrational, enthusiastic, embarrassing and a pain in the arse. Today he would have been diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder and medicated. He was a genius. A creative with metal, wood and any material that could be moulded, machined, sculpted, carved, inked, cut, glued, constructed and made into a beautiful or useful object, large or small, domestic or industrial. He was admired for his precision, his skills and his inventiveness. He won awards and medals, competitions and even perhaps wars. He never talked about what he did in the war, it is suspected he worked on tanks or arms with his special skills and expertise. He made his own way in life after leaving school at 13 and going to work to support himself, as did his siblings during the tough times of WW1, a Depression and another set of wars. His strong opinions were diverse, pulled from many philosophies and beliefs, scattered with quotes and watch-words that appealed to him. He had a thirst for knowledge, a never-ending enthusiasm for new ideas, inventions and concepts. Although he died many years ago, I still haven’t completely stopped wondering what he would have thought when some new invention appears that I believe would have particularly appealed to him.
Tragically, although he had fought to adopt me, refusing to accept the rejection by the Agency, which he challenged in a face to face interview, he eventually rejected me. Perhaps he only liked little children and babies and was not comfortable with girls with opinions and ideas. I tried to be a good daughter to the end, but he betrayed me, told lies behind my back to people who fortunately knew they were not true. He threatened to change his will, leaving me disinherited, a profound insult and not about the property or possessions, which in many ways proved to be a millstone. He did not intend for me to know about it until he was dead; a real slap in the face, which was defused by an old friend, who told me about the plans which eventually came to nothing, probably because the friend dissuaded him or was not supportive of the idea. Maybe it was inertia or wild phantasy, which disappeared once a bi-polar ‘high’ was over or my imagined wrong was righted. His undiagnosed illness left a mark on my life, a wound of rejection, disapproval and it forced me to ‘go it alone’, feeling I had no parental support, approval or understanding. It reinforced my long-held feeling of being the only one who was there for me at the end of the day and that in my view was a bonus! Tough love? Maybe. I learned to be resilient, self-reliant, decisive, independent and to make provision for myself. I have for instance never kept a joint bank account with anyone and always earned and managed my own money. I have taught my Daughter to do the same and firmly believe that if all women kept control of their earnings, spending and savings they would retain a great deal of their self-determination, control their own lives and be unable to subjugate themselves financially to a partner. That giving up of the power to manage the very basics of our own lives is to me the corner-stone of our survival or inability to survive. Many find it embarrassing, somehow repugnant or distasteful to discuss, as if money is somehow sacred or taboo. It is of course what we receive in exchange for our hard work, our efforts in the world and as such requires respect. We therefore need to respect it by valuing what we have and what we do with it and who we give the control of it to. If we are wise and sensible and especially if we have children to support, we give that control to no-one and make our money untouchable. Of course we pay our share of expenses, costs and try to be generous and not mean-spirited. How many of us have imprisoned ourselves in a dead or abusive relationship because we believe we don’t have the finances to leave/escape/depart/separate/run away? We surely can do better than fashion a prison for ourselves from which we convince ourselves escape is impossible or we won’t let ourselves escape? Money or lack of it makes us fearful, dependent, vulnerable and not good at decision-making. Perhaps my afather knew that all too well from his own childhood and it was a valuable lesson to be passed on. We have learned the lesson well and thank him for it. Those of you who like to talk about the ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ of adoption will no doubt know which category to put this one in – I certainly do not!
Around all of this learning and discovery there have been some precious experiences, sights and delightful outcomes – a flight of Ibis lifting off from a nearby wetland, photos of the much-loved Sacred Lotus taken by a FB friend at our own Botanic Gardens, the beautiful female koala who lives in our big gum trees changing trees ( clumsy on the ground and agile and adept at disappearing into the leaf canopy), a beach outing with a loved one, a trip to the newly opened Miss Gladys Sym Choon by the Sea where a delicious, rose-covered, Summer dress was purchased amid talk with the owner of the ‘old days’ of the area which we remember as children. And to top it all, my favourite Crème Brulee tart* from the best bakery in the area which has taken on new life, is thriving, vibrant and breathless with anticipation about whatever is coming next….. Exciting times!