Krissie: History & Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Ever seen “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”?  (And Virginia forgive me if I spelled the name wrong).  That was my upbringing.  Sometime I’d love to do a reading of the play and do Virginia, just to get all that anger out of me.  My mother, Virginia, was a vituperative bitch.  My father was a drunk, clever and charming and easy-going.  An interesting note — he hit her once, and she had two black eyes.  He must have been very drunk, and she must have been raging “go ahead, hit me, I know you want to” was heard in my childhood.  So he hit her, and was so horrified he never touched her again.   This was in the 1950’s or early ‘6os, before anyone paid attention to battering, but I think it’s interesting.  They always say if they hit you once you leave and never come back because they’re going to hit you again.  He never did.  But that was after at least fifteen years of marriage and my mother was the vicious, hateful one (in behavior) in the relationship, though my father could definitely take cheap shots.

My family has been haunting me.  I dream about them at night — trying to take care of my mother, screaming for my brother to help me (there was a dead body in the dream).  I wake up and wonder where one of them is — my sister or my brother or my parents.  Fortunately my nephew isn’t haunting me.  I think of him with love and grief but I don’t wonder where he is.  I know he’s okay.

But the others are creeping into my sleeping, dozing hours, and they won’t leave me alone.  So that everything around me brings back memories and history.  That corner was where the police found Dougal passed out behind the wheel of the car a couple of days before he died.  That was where my sister went shopping and she drove too fast on Halloween.  That’s where my mother lived.  My father’s been gone a lot longer than my nephew, Stuart, and yet it’s my father who appears in my dreams and my memories.

I was feeling sad, driving home and suddenly dixieland music came on the radio (a great version of “I’m Walking”, btw.)  My father’s life was dixieland music — he was a drummer and he lived for it.  I bore it, thinking about my father and the fact that he never made it New Orleans and how unfair that was, and then came Neil Young singing “Needle and the Damage Done.”  My father and brother and favorite cousin died from their addictions, though with my cousin it was the long term aftereffects.  I hit the off button so hard on my new car I almost broke it.

The interesting thing is the papers.  We’re trying to empty one of our storage areas and it’s filled with my mom’s papers.  So I had to go through them (this is after the dreams and the radio, mind you).  The place was costing us too much money.

One box was easy — professional awards, her retirement dinner, etc.  You have to be brutal at this point.  And her writings.  She was an award winning writer who didn’t write, she mainly rewrote.  I have most of her stuff on a zip drive, so it’s safe, but I didn’t want to read her stories.  Right before she died she sent me the most vicious story about a mother very much like her who wanted to get revenge on a daughter very much a combination of me and my sister.  The revenge was for ruining her life, and when the daughter gets a HEA the mother goes for a drink.  And the mother is the protagonist — we’re supposed to sympathize with her.  I never knew my mother had so much rage and resentment toward me and my sister.

So needless to say I wasn’t going to read any more of her short stories.  Those got tossed, most of the letters got tossed.  But I looked at some of them.  My favorite was from her, and I couldn’t find the date but I know she was hospitalized when I was in the third grade and other times as well (family secrets, of course).  Anyway, the letter started :

“Darling, I feel magnificent!  I think this new combination of Benzedrine Sulphate and Phenobarbitol is really the thing.” And my mother wasn’t the one strung out on drugs.  Sigh.

But I didn’t want to read their love letters — I skimmed a few, and quickly found out my father was devoted and drunk and doing what his parents told him to do and my mother was obsessive.  He even wrote her a letter from Officer Candidate School (it was WWII) and said he was worried about her intense reactions, both positive and negative, to things.

It gave me insight into the rages of my childhood, but I really don’t want to remember those times.  And yet, along with the ghosts, they keep coming back.

So my mother loved bennies (already knew that — she took my diet pills away from me and took them herself).  My father tried hard but he was a drunk (letters with apologies for drunken phone calls even back then).  My grandfather committed suicide (sympathy letters and then letters coming up with alternate explanations — they would have been good spin doctors).  And then I just put all the letters in the trash.  She didn’t keep any letters that reflected badly on her.  I’m sure my father would have written her often when she was in the hospital, but there aren’t any letters, and I don’t need those questions answers.  I can’t understand my parents and what caused them to do what they did.  I know it was alcohol and bipolar illness with my father and depression and narcissism and some kind of rage syndrome with my mother, who might have been abused by her father.

(I thought about keeping them.  It would make a fascinating book, you know.  Two very troubled people, the twists and lies.  It could make a magnificent book about a doomed marriage and doomed lives in the last century.  But then I realized I would never, ever want to immerse myself in it to write it.  So they’re going in recycling.)

But anyway, that’s not my life.  I can’t fix it (and God knows I tried all during my childhood).  It’s too late, let them rest in peace, amen.

But can’t they let me rest in peace?

(yes, I know, none of this is really interesting or stuff that matters to you guys, but in the work of remaking my fabulousity it’s stuff I have to deal with, and you get to witness it.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about my new commitment to healthy eating and it’ll mean more to you).

Krissie: Huh?

Photo on 9-28-13 at 8.40 AM Well, Good Godfrey! What’s everyone been doing, me included? I think Barbara and Toni might still be locked out — I’ll have to check — and Jenny’s been having a root canal and god knows what I’ve been doing. Oh, writing. And holding my BFF’s hand while her infant grandson has been going through a medical crisis. Fortunately that seems to have been resolved.
And I start out the morning holy and then begin eating like a pig and miss dinner all together. This weekend I’m going to finally get my 2012 tax stuff together and then we’ll be terribly depressed because of the money we have to pay in taxes (we were so broke last year we could only send a token amount in the quarterly estimates) and then Richie will brood and i’ll get upset and …

I have a new goal in this life. Midweek I had fallen asleep on the sofa when I heard Tim come in. When I woke up I was dying to ask Richie what kind of mood Tim was in. Because if he was in a good mood I’d be happy and relax, which is fine and dandy. But if he was angry or upset I’d worry.
Which is crazy. When he was young and going through The Troubles I would ask Richie what kind of mood he was in every morning. We would brace ourselves or relax. We learned not to do that, but it seems to be hard-wired into me. So I fought it all evening and didn’t ask Richie what kind of mood he was in.
But I’ve got to work on that. Because there’s not a goddamned thing I can do about my kids now. I can’t make them happy, I can’t fix what’s troubling them. Nor with Richie either.
You know, when I’m driving through Montpelier or Morrisville (nearby towns) and I see some kid (or even adult) walking alone and looking vulnerable I start getting upset. One reason I seldom get angry at anything (like drivers or people in stores). I imagine they’re people like my children and just made a mistake or were distracted.
Some people area assholes. I don’t know why, but some people really insist on being unpleasant and troublesome no matter how nice you are. Jenny has a neighbor like that (though most of hers are wonderful) and I’ve run into similar people. I think it’s a form of adrenaline addiction. Like rage addiction (something an old friend of mine has, and something my mother had). They need the juice they get from a confrontation just like a junkie needs a fix.
But I digress. Most people just fuck up from good reason — they’re doing the best they can, or at least that’s what I prefer to believe.
There was an episode from the original Star Trek about an Empath (it was an alien race) called Gem. She took on the pain of people, almost to the point of her own death, which you know, I’d do. I think most of us would do that for our kids — gladly take on their troubles, even die for them, if it would spare them.
But it doesn’t. We’re not like Gem — we can twist in torture and even die and it doesn’t make a damned bit of difference. Worrying about how Tim is feeling is a waste of time — he’ll feel what he feels, and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with anything but how he slept.
A caveat — Tim has been doing really well. He’s doing landscaping for his father-in-law, who’s the best forester in the area, he’s given up cigarettes, he’s blown away by the baby.
But part of me dreads calls from my daughter, for fear she’ll be weeping (that happens far less often than it used to).

I gotta learn to let go. For some reason I don’t like the stuff i’ve read from Melanie Beattie, the co-dependence expert, but maybe it’s simply her prose style.
Meditation. That would help. Meditation focusing on letting go. I’ve got enough keeping my own life afloat. I can detach with love. I just seem to be having a hard time doing it.

I’d better dive into the taxes (I hope I have the software). Pray for me.

Krissie: Good, Solid Goats

I need new glasses. I brainstormed with Jenny and Lani last night, and it was a huge help. Jenny got me straightened out on my villain and then Lani clarified my hero. Well, I did, with them asking the questions. Worth their weight in gold, my sisters are.
But it started out with one of them saying my heroine needed strong, solid goals, and my bad eyes saw it as “strong, solid goats.”
I’ve always had rotten eyes. I got them from my father, but since I didn’t get his addictions that’s good. Got his music, not enough of his charm, unfortunately.
But I digress.
So I’m fairly blind, and it’s been too long since I’ve been to the eye doctor. I have to take off my glasses and put stuff right up to my nose, which trust me, is a royal pain when it’s a five pound cookbook.
The sister-in-law went from toxic to Maleficient in one day. What she’s doing to my darling Richie is so heinous, and it’s all about money. It’s disgusting.
However, that’s the lawyer stuff, so I won’t go into details. But I’m going to sue that bitch’s ass and then dance on her grave.
So anyway, it’s a lovely Wednesday, and I’m going off to Costco because that’s the only place to get really good fruit and veggies (their buyers must be brilliant) and because during the long drive I can think about what Lani and Jenny said. I’ll take my digital voice recorder with me (assuming I can find it) and talk to myself about the book too, which always works. I hate to leave Richie alone but he’ll be in the garden, working on the blueberry bushes, so that will be good.
And I’ll go over to WTF and complain about that.
In the meantime, I have soggy oatmeal to eat (I put the stuff in a sieve and got most of the water out).
I’m counting on you guys to raise bail money.

Jenny: The Family You Make

I met Anne Stuart online first through the GEnie RomEx boards in 1993.  My first book was just out; she was on her . . . I don’t know, fiftieth maybe?  Of course she’d been publishing since she was eight (not kidding), and I didn’t publish my first until I was 43, so she had a headstart.  She was a role model and a mentor; she talked me through bad times, gave me great career advice, and told me who to get for my first agent.  She was wonderful.   Continue reading