Whenever I am stuck in a decision or dreading doing something, it is easy to remain frozen in that spot. Comfort can be found even in a warm stagnant place. Change, in any capacity can make people nervous and down right scared. I find that taking that first step is what makes all the difference. Take that step even though you are afraid or don’t want to move. In my novel, Pop, there were plenty of times that I was scared and wanted to hide. The only problem is that if you don’t make a move, you will just stay buried in the present. In order to have a future, you have to have action. Just put one foot in front of the other. I have found the first step is the hardest, but once you take that first step, the rest don’t seem so bad or so hard. I have waited long enough to hear from a publisher on my MS. It is time to send out another one. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and take that step. The only failure or coward is the one that does not try. Move. Move. Move.
In my novel, Pop, I have explained that we moved several times. In one of the places we rented, there was also an alcoholic that lived upstairs. My sixth grade year we lived on Spring Street in Peoria. We lived in the downstairs of a house that was converted into a duplex. The woman upstairs told Mom that her husband was an alcoholic and warned her to be careful. Apparantly, one time when he was drunk, he had his gun out (yikes, another drunk with a gun…Pop had one, too.) and accidently shot a bullet through the floor. Needless to say, my sister and I were scared. When we knew he was drunk, such as shouts and loud thuds and things breaking upstairs, we would go outside if it was nice. If it was late or bad weather, we would inch around the rooms with our back against the wall. We figured there was a smaller chance of a bullet coming through our ceiling where there was a wall, as opposed to the center of the room. Thankfully, we never found out. Also, in the first chapter of the book, I describe my sister and I hiding in a closet while our step-dad yelled and was abusive to our mom. Is it no wonder that I compare it to hiding in a foxhole, seeking safety from the shrapnel and exploding missles in our home? There is someting to be said for peace, especially for two little girls caught in the crossfire.
In my novel, Pop, I try to convey my feelings for my sister. When living in a dysfunctional family, the role of siblings change. Not only do the children become the parent in many ways, they become the biggest support system for their other siblings. Since I was the eldest, I felt responsible for my sister. I became the only stable parent figure my sister had. She in turn, provided me with the strength to carry on each day. The very first chapter in the book is entitled “My Sister’s Eyes”. Simply by looking into my sister’s eyes, I could see her confidence in me and the trust and protectiveness that I provided for her. In seeing these attributes, I drew the strength to follow through with what I believed to be right. When living with an alcoholic parent, siblings become extremely close and supportive of each other. They still fight, that is natural. But, more often pulled together and strengthened and supported each other to survive. Lots of siblings will work together to go against a parent or to deceive a parent. Being in an abusive household, siblings join together to protect one another and maintain their well-being. For example, I am only two years older than my sister, yet she would ask my permission to go somewhere or do something. If I gave my permission, she was trusting and confident that I would clear everything at home. In another chapter I explain how we had to hide this aspect of our lives from other children. Imagine the funny looks when a girl asks her sister to go to a friends after school and pleads with her, like she is a parent. I felt even more embarrassed when I would answer her like a parent, giving her a time to return home and reminding her she had homework. Small aspects like this, make big changes in the siblings relationship. They rely on each other, and are often closer to their sibling than anyone else. I honestly believe I would not have survived my childhood without my sister. Since I did have her beside me, I was able to endure and survive. I will always be grateful to her, just for being there.
Practice makes perfect. In order to improve in my writing, I need to write every day. I am trying to enter writing conests, about one a month. I have never won anything, but it is great practice. I am working on a story right now for Memoirs Ink. When I was in grade school, my great-grandfather had a picture and an article appear in the Chillicothe paper for rescuing a Morning Dove. It was January and the bird could not fly or even hardly walk. He took him into his wood-stove heated garage and fed him. This allowed him to recooperate until warmer weather appeared. It also taught me a valuable lesson in respecting nature, and taking the time to care for others, no matter how small. Part of the reason that I enjoy writing so much is that I get to revisit these memories (good and not so good. Whether these memories are positive or negative, lessons were learned from all of them. My goal is to get a novel published, but in the meantime, I will be thankful for the pure joy of just writing and remembering. Practice makes perfect!
Many people have asked why my mother stayed with an alcoholic, abusive man, especially when she had two young daughters. I cannot answer for her, but I can explain what happens. Living with an abusive person is not always apparent at first. Everyone puts their best foot forward in the beginning of a relationship. I’m sure there are subtle signs, but how often do we see them or pay attention to them when we are falling in love? I am not saying this is an excuse, but it begins like a slow leak in a boat. At first, you don’t notice. By the time you are busy bailing, it’s too late. The abusive partner is smart. While slowly becoming more abusive, he is also making the abused feel stupid, helpless, incomplete…etc. As he whittles down a person’s self confidence and self worth, he increases the control and the abuse. By the time a woman “finds” herself in an abusive relationship, she doesn’t feel she can be on her own. Couple that with a feeling of more abusive if she tries to stick up for herself, or leave. My mother often said that she feared for her life, if she left. I can understand all of this as an adult. As a child, I would have gladly killed him myself, in self-defense and been rid of him (that’s me and my black and white way of thinking). It is not easy. I understand it, yet it is just more excuses. If you want out of a relationship bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it work. Making excuses is easy. Finding the courage, sometimes losing everything, is hard. A parent must do it for their children, if they can’t do it for themselves. Otherwise, the child is left floundering, hating his life, his parents…etc. The child is the one with the least amount of control, yet suffers the most.
In my novel, Pop, I explain that during the six years we lived with our alcoholic step-father, we moved around 16 times. Although we only went to around 6 or 7 different schools, it seemed like we were always the “new kid”. This didn’t help my self-inflicted isolation of pretending to be invisible. The few times that I did make an effort to participate in school activities were soon squashed because of the constant moving. I took band lessons (drums) for two weeks in seventh grade before we moved. In sixth grade, I was the captain of the scholastic team “Battle of the Books” at Longfellow school. I really don’t know if we had to move due to difficulty paying the rent or from being evicted due to the violence or complaints. Maybe a mixture, but the end result was the same. The one mainstay I found was softball. I could pretty much join any summer league whenever we moved. I longed for stability and was jealous of the kids who had gone to the same school and had known most of their classmates since Kindergarten. Kids take comfort in stability and structure in their environment, including school. This was not available to me until I moved in with my Dad and stepmother when I was fifteen. I was able to stay at Princeville High School for all of my junior and senior year. It felt like heaven to stay in one place.
The greatest failure is in not even trying. You have to take the risk in order to achieve something great. Easy words, all true, but also very scary for actually following through. At church this morning, I listened to a life testimony given by Jack Lambert. It was a great talk by a wonderful speaker. Afterwards, I asked him if he had ever taken speech classes. He told me he had not. I explained about my book, and the fact that when (not if) it gets published, I will eventually have to do book talks. For those of you who know me, I don’t need to explain my quietness. His advice to me is to do like the Nike commercials, and “Just do it.” I would love the opportunity to do a life testimony or a talk. God has been paramount in my life. Does my book have to be published first? I don’t think it matters. Although, I am anxious for publication, promotion, and talks, I am still anxious about it. What if no one believes me? What if I say the wrong thing? What if someone disagrees with me? What if they think I am boring? All of these concerns are plausible. But, without risking that, how will I ever reach the kids who may really relate and need to hear my story? I guess Jack is right. I need to Just do it.